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Electric utilities can help you give them less of your money

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Incandescent light bulbs are cheap to buy, but they gobble power and throw off heat.
Incandescent light bulbs are cheap to buy, but they gobble power and throw off heat.

Electric utilities may not seem like our friends when it comes to saving money, because rates just go up and up. South Carolina Electric & Gas, for example, has boosted residential rates by 50 percent in the past 10 years.

However, many electric utilities including SCE&G are surprisingly helpful when it comes to helping homeowners and other customers use less of the product they sell. Depending on your power provider you may be able to get free home energy evaluations, rebates on efficient new appliances, low-interest loans to make energy-saving improvements, or discounts on compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs.

Residential SCE&G customers should consider taking advantage of the utility’s deal on LED bulbs. The prices are terrific, and in addition to reducing power consumption, LED bulbs don’t throw off heat the way incandescent bulbs do.

Incandescent bulbs are being phased out nationally, but if you still have them throughout your home, remember that they add heat to indoor spaces as well as light. Remember the original Easy-Bake Oven? It used a light bulb to cook small cakes.

An LED bulb won’t cook your food, but it should last about as long as 25 to 30 incandescent bulbs, while using one-sixth of the power. They also last up to four times as long as a CFL bulb, while using slightly less power, and LED bulbs contain no mercury.

You may be familiar with these benefits, but have hesitated to buy LED bulbs because of the costs. Well, if you’re a residential SCE&G customer you can buy up to 15 LED or CFL bulbs yearly at steep discounts.

For example, you could buy 60-watt-equivalent LED bulbs for less than $3 each. You could buy 65-watt-equivalent GE indoor floodlight LED bulbs for just $1.50. They also sell specialty bulbs, such as might go in candelabras or bathroom vanities, for low prices.

You can buy bulbs from SCE&G online at sceg.com (click the “save energy & money” tab) or by phone at 877-510-7234. There is a $5 shipping charge.

SCE&G, Santee Cooper and Berkeley Electric Cooperative all offer free in-home evaluations of power use, aimed at helping identify improvements that could save you money. That’s a good thing to do and it’s free.

Santee Cooper customers in Berkeley County can find out more by calling 843-761-8000, ext. 3910, or by going online to santeecooper.com and clicking the “reduce the use & save” tab.

SCE&G customers should visit sceg.com or call 877-510-7234. Berkeley Electric customers should visit berkeleyelectric.coop or call the nearest district office.

For those doing major improvements, such as replacing an HVAC system, replacing or insulating ducts, or major insulation work, be sure to check with your utility company to see if they offer any rebates or special financing. Utility rebates could save you hundreds of dollars, and some financing offers are very attractive.

Berkeley Electric Cooperative offers loans up to $15,000 at 5 percent interest for energy improvements to members’ existing homes, under the utility’s HomeAdvantage program. Loan payments are added to the property’s electric bill, and ideally are offset by energy savings from the improvements.

Santee Cooper offers 5-year financing for up to $20,000 in energy efficiency upgrades, including insulation and replacement windows, with an interest rate of just 1.5 percent. For certain renewable energy projects, such as installing solar panels, the utility will loan up to $40,000 for up to 10 years.

So, when it comes to saving money on electricity, don’t forget to see what’s offered by the people you buy it from, because they often have some good deals.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552 or twitter.com/DSladeNews.

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