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5 ways to save on your energy bill with SDG&E

Last month I got the chance to visit the SDG&E Energy Innovation Center up in Clairemont. I used to live down the hill, but haven’t been back over to the area. I was surprised and delighted to see that they’ve revamped an old shopping center into a pretty cool place. Just look at it:

And even cooler? They have solar panels in their parking lot that FOLLOW the SUN.

So I was pretty impressed with the setup by the time I got inside. And then I saw something that both of my boys would be gaga over:

That is a GIANT fan. So cool.

Anyway. The reason I was actually there was to learn about SDG&E rates and how we can save energy by making even small changes around the house.

To give a little background, your bill is calculated (very simple version) like this:

rate x usage = your bill

SDG&E does not make money based on how much energy we use. It has no financial gain in encouraging us to use more electricity. Instead it makes money on investing in its infrastructure (but still regulated by a formula). Utilities are HEAVILY regulated. They are given a set percentage of ROI.

But our rates ARE tiered, so they more you use the more you pay. And the top tiers (the ones using the most electricity) are subsidizing the lower tiers. This is also going to come into play later. Hold on.

Now, here’s where that regulation really comes into play. SDG&E can’t raise or reduce rates on its own. It’s set by the Cost of Capital proceeding. But because the last one was delayed, new rates (which are set in the General Rate Case proceeding are filed about every 3-4 years) didn’t go into effect at the beginning of 2012 when it should have. Because the commission didn’t get around to it.

What does that mean for us? It means that the year & a half delay in setting SDG&E rates is going to hit us on our bills. That 18 months or so is going to have to be made up somehow. And it’ll be made up in the form of higher rates (but spread out through 2015 so we’re not hit all at once).

And since the top 2 tiers (that would be tiers 3 & 4) pay 50% more than other tiers, it’s going to hit those with high consumption a LOT harder. If you want to find out more about the rates, you can go to sdge.com/2013rates to learn more.

I tell you that to prepare you for what’s hitting our electric bills in September. And I’m also telling you that so you’ll get serious about saving energy. Like, RIGHT NOW. If you do a few easy things, you can start to reduce your bill. And believe me when I say some of these are super easy to do. Here are FIVE super-duper easy tips to save some money right now.

1) First, sign up online so you can look at your bill on SDG&E’s site (sdge.com). Then you can download this SUPER COOL app that helps analyze your energy and see when your usage is highest, as well as see your usage over time. Do you do laundry during peak hours? (Stop it.) Your usage will probably spike a bit during that time. (Note: although you aren’t charged more for using power during the day, it is a peak usage time. And during “Reduce your use” days, SDG&E will ask you not to use major appliances at that time, change your thermostat setting, turn off lights, etc. So if you get in the habit now, you’ll have less to worry about on those days during the summer where high usage is a big issue.) The SDG&E reps showed us the app and it’s really sweet how much info you can see. I am going to do that right when I’m done with this post.

2) Replace your bulbs NOW. I hate CFLs to be honest (I use dimmer switches, y0). But considering that lighting can be up to 20% of home energy use, I’m going to consider going to LED bulbs instead. Yes, they are still a bit pricey. But they last a really long time. So your savings from not buying bulbs all the time and lowering your bill will help mitigate that expense.

I mean, look at the bulb choices! So much to use other than incandescent.

3) Use Smart power strips and save up to $300 a year by shutting down those energy vampires in your home. You know, all the computer & phone charges that continue drawing power when they’re plugged in? Things like printers that you don’t use all day, but there they are, plugged in, little lights flashing, sucking up your energy’s lifeblood like a Lost Boy. (If you don’t get that reference you are DEAD TO ME.)

This little puppy can save you some money (and it came in my Home Energy Upgrade Kit):

4) Adjust your thermostat to 78° during the summer months and 68° during the winter. We’ve all heard it, but how many of you actually do it? Save yourself $200 a year by just wearing a sweater during the cooler months, okay?

5) Use motion sensors with your outdoor lighting and save up to 50% on costs of running them. Turn them off at night (or use a timer to turn them off for you). Replace the high wattage security lights with LED lights, which can be just as bright but use a lot less energy. Install solar landscaping lights and save even more!

This is only the tip of what you can save. SDG&E has energy experts that can tell you more ways to reduce your use. And on their website, you can go through an energy evaluation that gives you easy solutions based on your DIY knowledge, time, and budget. No kidding! You can sign up for Reduce Your Use alerts and earn rewards for saving energy on certain days.

Oh, and one more thing. You can go and tour the Energy Innovation Center yourself – they’re open to the public and offer tours! I’m going to see if we can take my son’s class after school starts back up.

A big thanks to SDG&E for hosting us and giving us so much great information, as well as the Home Energy Upgrade Kit. All opinions here are my own, and if any of the info is incorrect, I’m the one that screwed it up. Thanks for reading!