Energy Use

Power for the People!

Your water bill might not make you cringe, but energy bills can actually come as quite a shock – especially if you're a business owner.  If you haven’t heard, many utilities are getting ready to raise rates by as much as 30% due to rising fuel costs, and prices are expected to continue this upward spiral in the future. The question you need to ask your family or employees is, “Can we really afford to keep using this much energy if prices go up 100% in the next 5-years?” If not, what can we do differently?

Here in California our utilities are starting to generate more electricity from renewable sources, but our energy grid is aging and our usage is increasing – if we keep acting like energy hogs new renewable energy sources won’t be enough.  We need to decrease the amount of energy we use per person so renewable sources can cover a larger and larger share of our energy needs.

If we continue relying on traditional energy sources prices will continue to rise. The process of generating electricity from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas is the number one source of CO2 emissions, followed closely by transportation. See a common denominator here?  If not, let us point it out--fossil fuels. We are addicted to them. This is the bad news.

The good news is we have countless opportunities to start saving energy and using it more efficiently. We can kick our petroleum habit! Getting off the oil jones doesn’t take a 12-step program or an expensive trip to rehab.  What it does take, just like any addiction, is a serious commitment to adopting healthier habits – in this case building healthier communities and a stronger economy.

First Things First
Figure out how much energy you’re using so you can keep track of savings!
No brainers
  • Switch out dead incandescent light bulbs with CFLs.
  • Turn off lights when you’re done using them.
  • Use daylighting as much as possible at home and at work.
  • Use smart power strips where appropriate, and turn them off at night just like you do the lights.
  • Run appliances like dishwashers and washer/dryers during off peak-hours (early morning, evenings, and weekends).
  • Choose the cold water option on the washing machine.
  • Set the thermostat to 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter.
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees.
A Little More Time
  • Call your utility company and see if you can purchase “green power” – if not, ask them why not and if/when they’re planning to start offering this option.
  • Find out if your local high school, junior college or university has students that can provide a home/workplace energy audit.
Reasonable Investments
  • Climate Smart – If you’re a PG&E customer you can pay a small monthly fee (around $5) to offset the CO2 emissions associated with your energy use.
  • If you need new appliances or electronics purchase Energy Star products.
  • Solar electricity/solar hot water. Okay, admittedly this might not be a reasonable investment for everyone but keep in mind that there are a number of utility, state, and Federal rebates and incentives for both homes and businesses.
  • Use outdoor lights with a solar unit and/or motion sensor.
  • Installing proper installation is one of the most critical ways to save energy. Standard pink fiberglass has formaldehyde. Check out Plenty Magazine’s Home Renovator’s Guide for alternatives.
Taking Advantage of Rebates
Check-in with your water and electric utilities to find out about rebates for efficient lighting, refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, hot water heaters and other products.
Full on Treehugger
Purchase a Kill-A-Watt device and check out which items in your home are the biggest energy drains and try to avoid using them.