Oct. 6, 2013

At a recent meeting of The North Texas Renewable Energy Group (NTREG), energy savings advocate Bill Neukranz presented a talk on the "Top Ten Steps to Cut Energy Costs in Half."

He started his research when his electric bill exceeded $950 in a month in 2006. His emphasis was that in order to cut energy cost, there is a hierarchy of things you can do, starting with "no or low cost and small efforts" to "higher cost and larger efforts." As a result, he created a list of steps that should be done in order to get maximum results with the least cost and effort. (Photo: Roger Taylor and speaker Bill Newkranz. Green Source DFW)

Here are the steps © Bill Neukranz, used with permission:

1. Aggressively manage electric utility rate.

2. Replace every incandescent lamp with CFL.

3. Change behavior/living style.

4. Turn stuff off.

5. Understand and measure actual energy consumptions.

6. Research what governments and utilities are offering.

7. Look very hard at heating and cooling the structure.

8. Replace items with Energy Star or lower power versions.

9. Put in automation controls.

10. Put in solar photovoltaic (PV) system to reduce grid power usage.

Here are some tips from Neukranz on how to accomplish the steps:

1. Aggressively manage electric utility rates. The information to do this in Texas is at Texas Electric Choice Education. But buyer beware, because there are lots of big surprises in the fine print. Having the lowest price does not make it the best deal. Neukranz suggested TXU Energy MarketEdge, a month-to-month plan that lets customers take advantage of the fluctuating price of natural gas. He notes that the cost of natural gas is not likely to rise in the near future.

2. Replace every incandescent lamp with CFLs that are amalgam. These bulbs last longer and do not have free mercury although they still require special handling when disposing. 

 3. Change behavior/living style.

  • Turn on/install ceiling fans.
  • Turn off dishwasher "heated dry" function.
  • Set hot water heater to normal or cooler.
  • Use only cold water in clothes washers. (Use cold water detergents.)

4. Turn stuff off.

  • Unplug seldom used items.
  • Put stuff on power strips to make turning off easy.
  • Install switch motion detectors, plug timers.
  • Turn off computers. Use laptops and off-site backup services.

 5. Understand and measure actual energy consumption.

  • Purchase/borrow a “Kill A Watt” meter to measures the electrical usage of appliances (or other devices) plugged into the meter. Cost is less than $30.
  • The Energy Detective (TED) (Electricity only – easier to install). The TED 5000-C electricity monitor allows you to view real-time electricity usage on both your computer and a handheld wireless display. Now you can perform your own household energy audits. The TED 5000-C package includes one set of clamps with a measuring unit (MTU/CT set) for the breaker panel installation, one gateway embedded with software and one sleek display. Cost under $250.

 6. Research what governments and utilities are offering. These are some examples but offers change and there a fewer and less lucrative offers now than there were a few years ago.


  • Tax credits for solar
  • Tax credits for geothermal heating/cooling
  • Tax credits for insulation  


  • Rebates for Energy Star-rated appliances
  • Texas Trade Up Appliance Rebate Program 

Local examples of past programs :

  • Plano: Energy Audit & Weatherization Program (2010)
  • Plano: Revolving Energy Efficiency Loan Fund (2011)
  • Utilities rebates for solar (Oncor)

7. Look hard at heating and cooling the structure.

If you want to keep your system:

•Maintain/improve HVAC system.

•Improve building envelope’s air tightness.

•Increase envelope’s ability to reject heat/keep the heat in.

• Determine when system should be replaced – make plans accordingly.

• Ensure everything is in good repair, change filter(s) at appropriate frequency, annual inspection.

• Find air distribution problems:  


   Inadequate air flow (fix obstructions, balance air flows, apply zoning)

   Look at adequacy of duct insulation.

   Contract for an energy audit to help prioritize actions.

• Sort actions into 3 categories:

   Increasing structure’s air tightnes

   Improving structure’s heat rejection/loss (insulation/shading

   Making HVAC system more efficient

• Finally replace HVAC with high-efficiency units if necessary. Neukranz went futher and installed a geothermal heat pump system.

8. Replace items with Energy Star or lower power versions. Examples include refrigerators, computers and servers, dishwashers, televisions, satellite/cable boxes.

9. Put in automation controls. Install a passive infrared motion-detector. Put into wall switches for lights, ceiling fans, exhaust fans and entertainment items so they are turned off automatically when nobody is in a room. 

10. Put in solar photovoltaic (PV) system to reduce grid power usage.

• Least expensive system type is grid-tied, no batteries. (Panels won’t work in sun without grid power though.)

• Winning strategy fundamentally requires:

  Unshaded southerly exposure

  Substantial subsidies

Interestingly, the lower your energy cost and usage, the longer the payback.

Resources: For more information, contact Bill Neukranz, Energy Operations Management Consultant, at bneukranz@verizon.net or 972-516-0909.   

See website for residential example. It also includes considerable solar PV and geothermal HVAC material.

The North Texas Renewable Energy Group is a 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer organization, and is the local chapter of the Texas Solar Energy Society (TXSES), which is the state chapter of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). We encourage (but do not require) our members to take part in the State and National American Solar Energy Society memberships.

Meetings are held the second Saturday of each month. 


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