Energy costs are still rising. Geopolitics, supply and manufacturing issues, environmental concerns, and the long-lingering effects of the pandemic are all impacting energy prices, and the effects are undeniable.
As summer approaches, it’s reasonable to feel some anxiety about just how much we’ll all be paying to tame the heat again this year. From do-it-yourself general maintenance to tracking energy usage, there are some checkups and changes that homeowners and renters can make to ensure they’re getting the most value out of every kilowatt hour.
PG&E spokesperson Katie Allen says April is the perfect month to start thinking about summertime home electricity needs. Spring is the time to make routine changes in your home, such as replacing tungsten and fluorescent lightbulbs with energy-efficient LED soft-whites, and to take on seasonal maintenance tasks such as cleaning and changing filters on air conditioning units. It’s also a good time to pick up energy-smart habits like unplugging devices and appliances when they aren’t in use.
“These are actions that customers can take right now toward reducing their energy usage as we approach the summer months,” Allen said.
According to the US Department of Energy, home heating and cooling costs can make up to 40 percent of the average monthly household energy bill. Installing and setting a programmable thermostat can help moderate how your home uses energy.
Smart thermostats cost from less than $50 to more than $300, and come with a range of features, including the ability to set up climate zones inside a home and remote access through household Wi-Fi. The more affordable models still let you program different temperatures for different times, letting you take better advantage of time-of-use rates and save energy overnight or when the house is empty.
If you’re taking all the energy saving steps you can and still find yourself boggling at the bill, there are additional ways to monitor and reduce your out-of-pocket energy costs. PG&E customers can make an account at PGE.com, where they can monitor their daily energy use down to the hour and penny. This can help you isolate energy traps in your home. Track hourly energy demand to help determine which of your appliances you could consider replacing with EnergyStar-rated efficient models. Find out what it costs per hour to run the furnace as opposed to a space heater, or the air conditioner as opposed to a fan. Compare the price over a day with the air conditioning set at 72 degrees and the next at 76. You may be surprised at how little it can cost to stay comfortable.
Your household may also qualify for additional services, rebates and special rate plans. Community Action Partnership of Kern, as well as PG&E, offer a variety of services meant to help you keep your energy bills manageable throughout the year.
CAPK can help qualifying households with weatherization, including installing weatherstripping and repairing or replacing faulty windows and doors. CAPK also offers help with energy education, bill payments and upgrading household appliances. Kern County residents can call 211 to request an application for the CAPK Energy Program.
If you’re committed to turning your home into a fortress of energy savings and are ready to make the investment, consider hiring a professional home energy auditor to make a complete diagnostic assessment. Professional home energy auditors bring special tools and training to the job and can give your house a standardized energy rating. This information can help you make decisions about HVAC upgrades and maintenance, window and door replacements, and insulation installation and refreshing.
On the other hand, if it still seems overwhelming and you just want a simple, one-stop place to get started assessing your energy use, PGE.com offers a five-minute online home energy audit tool that lets customers quickly determine where their energy dollars are going. The PG&E home energy quiz can also give you a few quick tips to start keeping more of those dollars in your pocket right away.