Even though the temperature soared above 90 degrees in July, Carroll Stevens spent much less on her energy bills this year than any other summer in the past.
She unplugs everything that’s not in use. And when she says everything, she means it: Microwave, washing machine, dryer, computer, televisions and lamps, to name a few.
“I didn’t realize that leaving things plugged in still used energy,” said Stevens, a 69-year-old Berwyn resident. “So I thought I would try it, and it worked.”
Stevens lives in a two-story house with five bedrooms, two kitchens, two living rooms and a finished basement. In July, her ComEd bill came to $107 compared to $135 in 2008, before she began the habit of unplugging electronics. The cash she saves month to month makes the extra effort worthwhile, especially in today’s economy, said the self-proclaimed thrifty shopper.
“My bottom line is saving money,” Stevens said. “All you do is cut back on something, and you can use that to pay another bill or something.”
Stevens’ home is also equipped with one of ComEd’s Smart Meters, which allows her to track her energy usage in real time. The Chicago-based company has installed more than 100,000 of these meters at households throughout the west suburbs, including Forest Park.
Just as residents can view their current energy usage, the Smart Meters also “forecast what their bill would be if the usage continues in the same manner,” said Fidel Marquez, senior vice president of customer operations at ComEd.
“It shows you if you keep using it at this rate, this is what you’re bill would by the end of the month,” he said. “So customers are then able to take that information and manage their usage and thereby manage their cost.”
The Smart Meters are the foundation of ComEd’s new, pilot program called the Smart Grid Innovation Corridor, which encompasses the communities of Forest Park, Maywood, Oak Park, River Forest, Bellwood, Berwyn, Broadview, Hillside, Melrose Park and Chicago’s Humboldt Park. In order to study and improve energy usage, a number of projects are underway within this area, including the installation of solar panels in homes and the mounting of intelligent devices on wires, which would allow for quicker responses during electrical outages.
Overall, the program aims to help customers better understand how they are using electricity, Marquez said.
“And at the end of the day, it’s about saving money,” he added. “There’s also a direct environmental impact, too.”
For Stevens, adapting her habits around the house in order to save energy was not difficult.
“All of sudden you just do it automatically,” she said. “How hard is it to plug in the TV when you want to watch it?”