It is summertime and with it comes not only soaring temperatures, but soaring electricity bills. Almost everyone pays for power, whether gas, solar or fossil. Other sources of energy used to create electricity include coal, nuclear and wind. A very small percentage uses Hydro-Electric to create energy, simply by the movement of water, as practised by Hoover Dam. Regardless to what source a company uses to produce energy, unless one is totally off the grid producing one's own energy, it leaves consumers having to pay to use electricity to power just about every household appliance. During summer time, hot temperatures and high humidity require the increase of or constant use of air cooling systems. As a result, many face higher electricity bills. The good news is that we can say goodbye to those climbing bills by following a few basic principles. There are some simple guidelines each consumer can adhere to that can significantly reduce the amount of power used and thereby lower monthly bills.
SWAP THOSE ENERGY GUZZLING LIGHT BULBS
Most of us do not realize the amount of energy used by the flick of the light switch. Incandescent bulbs are the greatest culprits. They are highly affordable but come at a high price in terms of power usage. Your average 60 watt incandescent bulb uses about ten times more electricity than a CREE 6 watt LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulb whilst giving as effective lighting without the exessive heat factor. CREE bulbs may run you about $12 to $13 dollars each as compared to the one dollar incandescent bulb, but you will notice a reduction in your overall electric bill.
LOOK FOR THE ENERGY STAR ON ALL APPLIANCES
With the focus on clean energy and energy efficiency, most appliance manufacturers are becoming more energy aware, developing products that aim to minimize power usage. The consumer now has the option, in most cases, to choose energy efficient appliances over the energy guzzlers. Southern California Edison funds and offers a great rebate program that reimburses the consumer for making these energy smart choices. It is estimated that upgrading to an Energy Efficient model can earn savings up to $180 annually. (You can earn up to $4000.00 for making these home improvements). That is significant. Just imagine the long term savings projection should we switch all our appliances to those with Energy Star rating. To sweeten an already sweet deal, they will even haul away your old regrigerator or freezer for free on top of the cash rebate. In California there are even lamp swapping events. Take your energy inefficient lamp to the venue and have it replaced for free, for a lamp that will make your electric meter smile.
Fun Fact: New dishwashers are designed to save water, using half as much at the older models.
IS IT TIME TO REPLACE THAT OLD WATER HEATER? POOL PUMP? CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING UNIT?
Think about it for a minute. Your water heater, pool pump and central air are the things that run, and run and run. During the summer months, that pool gets possibly the most usage of the year. Therefore the pool pump has to be kept running periodically, if not a minimum of six hours daily. Then there is the central air that is worked non stop during the brutality of the summer heat. Most consumers want to keep their homes at a cool and comfortable 75 to 78 degrees during summer. The water heater simply stays on so that we have hot water at the touch or turn of a faucet. So you may be wondering, how do I change these fixed variables? Again, it may require an initial investment of time and money, but the long term savings and investment are worth their weight in gold.
Most of us, blessed or cursed, depending on how you look at it, with a pool may have the standard, old, energy gobbling pool pump. Today there is now the Variable Speed, Permanent Magnet Motor pool pump. These energy efficient pumps produce less heat and vibration and Hayward EcoStar claims that their pump will save 60% to 90% on the electric bill! It is a no brainer that a pool does not need to run on a high speed, all of the time, thus having a variable speed pool pump, offers higher efficiency which can then translate to profit/savings.
We have agreed that the air conditioning unit, though a well loved necessity, through continuous summer usage, is one of the worst enemies when determining how high or low our bill is. Changing an existing high energy, air conditioning unit to an efficient alternative, the Evaporative cooler is not only encouraged but rewarded via SCE's $300 rebate for the upgrade. You can also research the Lennox Solar HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning)system. Their "solar-ready air conditioners and heat pumps can harness the power of the sun to reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to half". With these new solar supported systems, a unit can either be powered in part by solar energy or be completely off the grid, if one has solar panels set up to accommodate solar power generation.
Fun Fact: Get a tax break for going solar. By installing a solar-ready air conditioning unit or heat pump and attaching at least one solar module, qualifies a tax payer for both the solar and HVAC tax credits!
Energy Star states that, "heating water accounts for approximately 15% of a home's energy use and that high efficiency water heaters use 10 to 50 percent less energy than standard models saving homeowners money on their utility bill'. The Energy Star Qualified Water Heaters are therefore a must have for anyone who is working toward a truly energy efficient home. A great option to keep in mind is the Demand (Tankless) Water Heater. Since there is no storage tank keeping the water heated continuously, there are no standby losses. Water is simply heated on demand. Two other possibilities would be the Heat Pump Water Heater and Solar Water Heating systems.
Fun and Financially Frugal Fact: PG&E will offer a $50 rebate per unit for every High Efficiency Clothes Washer replaced. Note that PG&E has a list of CEE (Consortium for Energy Efficiency) and Energy Star models that qualify for rebate. Check list before purchase.
Fun Fact: PG&E offers two tiers of home upgrades.
Up to $2500. in incentives - "Three measures focused on your home's building shell, including ductwork and insulation and major systems."
Up to $4500. in incentives - "A customized and comprehensive plan focused on building shell, windows, water heaters, and heating and cooling systems. "
MONITOR DAILY USAGE.
Most power companies with online services as PG&E and Edison offer their customers usage monitoring through an online account and the installation of a Smart Meter. By a combination of these two, one can see current and projected usage. By having this option, if one's projected seems high, usage can be curtailed accordingly. The consumer can observe peak usage and through trial and error, determine what the true power guzzlers are. See usage soar when the washer/dryer is in operation. It can require from as little as turning off more lights at night or maybe doing fewer loads of laundry per week. The advantage of usage monitoring is key to keeping our power bills in the range we want them to be. Additionally, this service is free.
CHANGE OUR ATTITUDE TO POWER USAGE
It is an attitude change. For those of us who are aware of the environment, the state of non-renewable energy sources as fossil and coal, desirous of finding and using the greener, better-for-the-earth energy sources as solar and wind, it is a constant search for information. We make every power choice with the realization that many or most sources are non-renewable. This is not about the ability to pay a power bill. This is about energy efficiency and maximization of resources.
Do we really need to keep every single light on in the house?
Does the A/C have to be running below 75 degrees keeping the house like an ice/meat locker?
Do you have to wash two or three items of clothing? Can you not wait to accumulate a full load before running the washer/dryer?
Words of Caution: Investigate the installation of solar panels for your home but beware of companies that try to sell or rent you solar panels. It can get very costly and with some companies, you cannot reap the benefits for many, many years. Do weigh the costs of a long term loan for installation against the costs of simply upgrading your household appliances and lighting fixtures to more Energy Efficient ones.
Fun Fact: Southern California Edison will offer you a rebate, for as long as funds for the program are available, for replacing your old refrigerator.