First Person: Cutting Energy Costs in the Chicagoland Area

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I find it somewhat amazing, but the utility companies in our area of Chicagoland actually offer advice on how to decrease usage and save money. Whatever the reason, I'm always up for a new way to cut utility costs or even make a few bucks back from these companies. Therefore, lately I've been checking out certain offers that these utility providers offer and have picked up a few money-saving tips in the process.

The following are a few tidbits from area providers on how to reduce consumption, take advantage of certain credits or programs they offer, and generally reduce what we pay for our natural gas and electricity services.

Energy savings

Our major electricity provider here in the Chicagoland area is ComEd. And while personally I wouldn't think that an energy provider would want to promote energy savings (since that's like a gasoline producer wanting you to drive less), ComEd does a pretty good job of educating people about and promoting such savings.

The ComEd website offers a variety of informative pages. From "Home Savings", where there are kid games, tips and guides, information relating to rebates and incentives, and even an online store, to "Business Savings" and "Education" pages, where there are additional resources, educational tools, and teacher workshops, there are all kinds of ways to learn about saving energy and reducing energy costs.

Personally, I find their "Tip of the Month" page helpful and have made use of the "Refrigerator Recycling Program" to earn an extra $25 (it's now $35 as of the writing of this article) and ditch an extra fridge that came with our previous home.

Natural gas savings

As our major natural gas supplier in the Chicagoland area, Nicor Gas makes it easy to track and have control over the information relating to our gas consumption. Through their website I can (and do) submit our meter readings when they would otherwise be estimated (every other month) to get a more accurate reading and avoid overbilling. We can view our bill online and on their "Managing Costs" page, I'm also provided with links that allow me to review our consumption history, get current and previous gas prices, find out what factors might affect our bill, as well as find energy efficiency tips.

How these sites help us save

It might seem that doing things like turning the hot water heater down during vacation to save on natural gas costs, or closing blinds during the summer -- or opening them in the winter -- to save on our electric bill would only account for a few pennies a day savings; and often, they do. However, not only do such activities tend to lead to other habit-forming and energy-saving activities around the house such as unplugging appliances, turning off lights, using a box fan rather than the air conditioning, or opening/closing windows and vents to reduce heating and cooling costs, but those pennies can add up.

As energy-saving knowledge increases, and in turn, we use that education to turn pennies into dollars, the savings can start to add up. We managed to cut the utility costs in our previous home by over $100 (about 30 percent), in just a two-year period by practicing good energy conservation and being aware of our usage.

So whether you live in the Chicagoland area or not, or use Nicor and ComEd or not, consider paying a visit to your energy providers' websites. You might find some useful information to help you reduce consumption and save money in the process.

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The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.

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