Electricity meters. (Maxx-Studio via Shutterstock) Credit: Maxx-Studio via Shutterstock

With a 50% increase in electricity bills looming for Connecticut customers of Eversource and United Illuminating as of January, consumer advocates are reminding residents there are ways to save some money on these sorts of expenses – including signing up with a third-party electricity supplier.

While customers with third-party suppliers have paid $300 million more than standard service customers since January 2015, state officials estimate that – due to recent disruptions in the energy market and higher than normal utility standard rates – third-party customers have saved a combined $10 million between January and September.

Here are 10 Realistic Ways to Lower Utility Bills, from Moving.com:

  1. Take Shorter Showers
  2. Cover Your Outlets
  3. Wash All Clothes in Cold Water
  4. Replace Your Air Filter
  5. Switch to Smart Power Strips
  6. Weatherstrip Your Doors and Windows
  7. Turn Down the Thermostat When You Go to Sleep
  8. Use Optimal Fridge and Freezer Temperatures
  9. Run Your Dishwasher At Night
  10. Put Your Computer Monitor to Sleep

“Additionally, in September, 78 percent of third-party supplier customers in Eversource territory, and 62 percent of supplier customers in UI territory paid rates lower than the utility standards service rate,” according to a recent consumer alert issued by the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel. “This is most likely due to long-term contracts that were locked in when energy prices were substantially lower than they currently are.”

In October, 7 out of 10 residential supplier customers in Eversource territory and 6 out of 10 in United Illuminating territory paid less than the standard offer.

The OCC is encouraging consumers to use the EnergizeCT rate board – a tool that helps residential and business electric customers compare standard services rates from Eversource and United Illuminating with those from licensed electric suppliers and registered aggregators.

According to the consumer alert, the board is the best way to compare rates, especially when taking into account how tele-sales and door-to-door sales can be “aggressive or misleading.” 

However, the OCC recommends also keeping up with utility standard rates as they update every 6 months, so a supplier contract may not be the better deal at some point. In addition, supplier contracts can go longer than that 6 month period so residents should be mindful of the expiration dates, and what rate they may be auto-renewed. 

The OCC issued another alert in December advising electric consumers of their rights, including: 

  • An electric supplier must provide a copy of a contract disclosing the rate and what circumstance under which it may change, and if it is a fixed rate, the provider must give 30 days notice before that rate expires. 
  • Consumers have 72 hours to cancel a contract without penalty 
  • Consumers must approve any changes to a signed contract 
  • Suppliers can not charge a cancellation fee 

There are options for those experiencing financial hardships when it comes to paying their energy bills, with Operation Fuel opening up their applications today for those needing help meeting utility and heating needs – electricity, gas, or deliverable fuel.  

“This program is available to 100 percent of state median-income households,” said Kayla Palala, communications and program manager with Operation Fuel. “The maximum grant amount will be $1,000.” 

Applications can be found at www.OperationFuel.org.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are many ways homeowners can save on their energy bills on their own, such as sealing any air leaks, covering drafty windows, unplugging unused appliances and chargers, and maintaining heating systems.

In Connecticut, customers can have an energy audit of their home done for $50 through the Connecticut Green Bank. A team will come out and make sure all the windows and doors are properly sealed and change out all the light bulbs to more energy-efficient versions. Then if bigger upgrades are needed, the Green Bank offers flexible, no money down, low-interest financing to upgrade things like your appliances.

Rudy Sturk, a spokesman for the Connecticut Green Bank, said that if you’re below 60% of your area’s median income then the home energy audit is free. 

When the audit is completed the team will leave the home with information about rebates, insulation, and upgrading appliances. He said some of the upgrades could save homeowners hundreds of dollars a year on their electricity bills.