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Why is our electricity usage so high?

April 2012

So, we have a small 1950's house: less than 1200 sq feet. Our monthly bill is over $300 and we don't know why. We thought it was our in law with only electricity for heat, but we now have them on a separate meter. We have done the turning off of & on of appliances to see how fast the little wheel turns on the meter and are not getting any clear culprit for the energy sapper. Tried asking PG&E to help us evaluate it (considering they send us those graphs showing what horrible consumers we are compared to similar households) but they were not helpful. We have a hot tub, a small pond with a pump, the dog has an electric heating pad that is on all day, and an electric clothes drier.... nothing else out of the ordinary. We want to hire someone to help us figure out what is happening. Any suggestions? clueless


I don't know about the other things, but electric clothes driers use a lot of energy. Try figuring your usage (on the meter) for a week of laundry loads, then a week hanging clothes to dry, and see if that makes an impact. R.K.
I too get those notices from PG&E telling me what a bad consumer I am! But, I also lowered my energy consumption and received a discount. I found out that i did not get any 'points' for feeding two units with one set of meters (i own a duplex with one set of meters). I have lowered my consumption over time, though.

That said, a few thoughts:

1) only electricity for heat, that will cost you! I saw you said apartment is on a separate meter: make sure that the meters are truly isolated. I had permitted work done as part of utility undergrounding... turned out that a portion of electricity was actually charged twice ... some power coming out of one meter ran into second meter and this was not caught by electrical contractor nor the building inspector.

2) hot tub: minimally $50 per month, maybe more

3) electric heater for pup blanket: one can calculate the watts used. volts x amps=watts

4) pond pump: can also be calculated, is it running all the time? is it on a timer?

5) electric clothes dryer: turn to 'sensor dry' if you have this setting

6) other thoughts: sump pumps? computers, fans in the attic? the transformers used for chargers, some draw current when nothing is plugged into them

7) I also started replacing light bulbs with LED devices/bulbs(longer lasting and lower energy than compact florescent bulbs).

8) Also, turning off computers (and peripherals), satellite TV box... there are smart power strips that turn off, are on timers, etc. If you shut your computer off, remember to shut off monitor, printer, scanner, etc.

9) Installed a few dimmer switches as well (especially for high wattage kitchen lights).

10) There are devices that can check the numbers you are getting from PG&E, also devices than can be put in-line with an appliance plug to tell you the power draw of that particular appliance. Thanks for caring! oren


PG & E Bill averages $450 a month

Dec 2011

I need advice about if there's anything I can do to reduce my PG&E bill which averages about $450 a month. I have a two-story house. I live in the top unit which is about 1200 square feet, and I rent out the downstairs. The downstairs is a non-conforming in-law unit that does not appear on any official records (sssssh!). We have one shared meter for upstairs and downstairs, and I pay the utility bill as part of the rental package. I understand that my rates are being calculated based on what the average family in a 1200 sq ft house should pay and since we are probably consuming double that amount, we are charged in the highest possible energy bracket. Has anyone been in this type of situation? Can PG&E be reasoned with in terms of explaining that I am in the wrong bracket? I should be in the bracket for a 2400 square foot home, not the bracket for a 1200 square foot home.

Also, would it be a nightmare to get another meter installed for downstairs(I am afraid the wiring is interconnected between the two units)? Would that solve the problem from PG&E's standpoint? How much money is that likely to cost? I am especially interested in any strategies that have been used by folks in similar situations as we all know Berkeley is full of ''non-conforming'' in-law units! Thanks in advance for your advice. Perplexed


Hi there, I think you should get a second meter installed, and then when it is legally allowable, change the terms on the lease for your tenant/s. Additionally (if you haven't already) visit PG&E's website for tips for reducing your energy consumption. Smart Meters will also allow you calculate usage costs for specific appliances, perhaps you have something in your house that is draining gas/electric.

Just because Berkeley is ''full of 'non-conforming' in-law units'', doesn't make it right. I am not sure what obstacles are preventing you from legalizing it, but at least having PG&E coming out to split it into two meters will allow them to verify that there are no fire hazards or gas leaks.

Sincerely, Not a Fan of Illegal Units


I live in a 1500 sf home and our bill is about $120 a month. My feeling is that people who don't follow the rules for one thing (in law unit) shouldn't get the benefit of pricing rules that would take the unit into account, so the best option seems to be to have future tenants split the bill or find ways to reduce energy use. Can't have it both ways
Just because your duplex is not ''official'', it is not necessarily ''illegal''. It may be ''legal, non conforming'' You may want to do further research (with the city, county, building dept, and MLS) for future reference.

Many of our beautiful old East Bay houses are comfortable 8 months of the year with neither heat nor air conditioning. In the cold months, you just cannot heat every room with either your floor furnance or space heaters without running bills such as shocked you. You can heat one room for sitting and quiet activities, and bundle up with sweats and sweaters. When you are cooking, the stove, oven and activity keeps you warm.

Metering a legal second unit may cost upwards of $5K and it involves running new utility lines, a new meter, etc.

However, as a landlord you must provide a habitable dwelling for your tenants, and bundling up, or using one room may not be ''habitable'' for Florida transplants. Try to rent to people from Canada or Maine, and make sure that you charge enough to cover the utilities. You could give them an incentive, such as a rebate, if the utility bills are lower than expected. Good luck. Lynn


One thing I wanted to share is that the use of electricity for heating is very expensive. So, in addition to splitting the meters I would look into that. My bottom floor doesn't have functional heating. When I had my baby in my room I used a space heater. Just having that thing running every night added $100- $200 a month. Initially I was shocked but kind of got use to it. After running into that experience myself I read that PG&E gets at least one call a day about people experiencing big swings in their monthly bill and then realizing it was an electric space heater that caused the big price increase. Wanted to add that to the other responses you had received. - Electricity is Expensive

PG & E bill -what is reasonable?

Sept 2009

Our house is two levels. We live in the upper level and rent out the lower level. Basically it is three bedrooms, two baths, two kitchens, two washers and two dryers, no AC, and the renter not home a lot of the time. The electric portion of our bill is $200 a month. I think this is very high. Wondering if anyone out there would be willing to share what their pg&e bill is and if they believe ours to be high. I am beginning to think we have a problem with our downstairs fridge. Thank you. Anon


Your bill is definitely in the upper percentile for Berkeley residences. Summer usage is typ. 200 kWh, at about $0.18/kWh, or less than $40/house. (I happen to be the City's energy analyst, and do this for a living).

Things affecting your home's energy bills:

1. Lighting: incandescent light bulbs use 4x the energy as fluorescent. Use warm white (about 2700 Kelvin colour temp.) for bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms; bright white (aka Full Spectrum, or 5000K) for kitchens, baths, or areas where you need true colour rendering. The mercury is safely contained, and can be recycled when it is worn out. The mercury released with each kWh of electricity, plus lead, cadmium, and other heavy metals, are airborne from coal-fired power plants, and end up in our lakes, rivers and streams.

2. Refrigerators: older refrigerators are energy hogs. Turn settings down to either ''2'' or ''B'', depending on your dials. Same with the freezers. If refrigerators have chrome handles, woodgrain in the handles, or rounded shoulders, it costs more to use them/year than replace them. Use Consumer Reports and the EPA EnergyStar guidelines to find replacements.

3. Water heater: Turn temp. down to 125 F.(gas or electric). Tankless water heater? The electric sensor in it uses about 75 watts/hour, 24 hours a day.

4. TV/Entertainment Center, fastest growing category: cable box, satellite dish, TiVO, DVD, VCR, & TV all use energy even when off. Put them on power strips, and turn them off. This can save 200 kWh per day.

5. Computer & peripherals: Use the power strip again to kill ALL the phantom drain. It will not harm the computer, wireless router, monitor, or any other component.

6. Top-loading washers: Visit EBMUD website for a list of Tier III washers, & cross-reference them with the Consumer Reports. These also qualify for some pretty good rebates from both PG&E & EBMUD.

7. Dryers-A clothesline or dryer racks will save energy. We use ours year-round.

My personal electric bill is about 120 kWh/month. When we leave the house, the only things plugged in are refrigerator and answering machine, and a13-watt CFL porch light.

If you (or anyone other Berkeley resident) have questions, email me: Energy@CityofBerkeley.info, or www.CityofBerkeley.info/Sustainable. Visit us at the Spice of Life Festival on Sunday, Oct. 4th. Look for the banner, ''City of Berkeley Environmental Services''. Alice


Refrigerators can use a lot of energy, especially if their gaskets are leaking. You can test this by closing the door on a dollar bill. If you can pull it out, the gasket needs to be replaced. Also, refrigerator manufacturers have built more efficient models over the years, so if it is old, it is using more energy than necessary. To find out how much energy it is actually using you can borrow a device from the Pacific Energy Center Tool Lending Library. Perhaps a Watt-Minder would work. http://www.pge.com/mybusiness/edusafety/training/pec/toolbox/tll/form/index.jsp#results.

Keep in mind that it is complicated to measure since you want to know not only how much power the refrigerator is using when the motor is running, but also what percentage of the time it runs. PG& E offers a rebate to make it easier to buy a new energy efficient model. http://www.pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/rebates/recycling/ anon


PG&E bill seems WAY too high

Jan 2008

As I type, I'm on hold with PG&E because my bill seems REALLY high for our home. The woman at PG&E that I'm talking to told me not to compare bills with other people, but compared to our in-laws, etc (who live locally), we pay WAY more: bill in Jan was $503 ($195 gas; $266 electric).

We have a 1500 sq ft house, 2 BR, and generally keep heat around 64-65 degrees at night and 67 during day. The electric seems WAY high to me (we have gas heat; we have a 4 year old fridge, 3 year old washer/dryer, etc...everything is modern including gas furnace which was replaced last year and is supposed to be more efficient! We also have a tankless gas water heater that is supposed to reduce our bills). We tend to shut off lights, unplug computers (laptops), etc. We have a plasma TV but we don't watch much every day (usually about 2 - 3 hrs at night) and we have flood lights on the driveway that we keep on all night as a crime deterrent (our neighborhood needs it). The TV and the driveway lights are our biggest ''splurge'' in my opinion.

A problem: PG&E says when we moved into this house 4 years ago, the meter was broken so we were billed a minimum amount. They then replaced the meter last Feb., and our bills soared, but they soared it seems TOO much. How am I using this much electricity? The average annual total bill for PGE is $1500 (according to their web site) - I will hit that in 3 months.

I just put in a request to get the meter checked, but the woman informs me that PGE needs to ''justify'' a meter test and they may not find justification since the meter was just replaced. ARGH! Who says this meter works right?!

So my questions:
1) Does my bill seem SUPER high?
2) How can I ASSURE that my meter can be checked for accuracy (that the meter reads correctly as well as the meter is being read correctly)...because I'll pay the bill if that's how much power I'm using, ... But it seems CRAZY that I am using that much!
-- Would like lovely Rita to recheck our meter


I can't wait to see the responses you get because for 2 months in a row, we have had a PG&E bill of over $500. After the first month, I tried to really monitor everything. After the second month, I turned all the heaters off except for the one in our son's room (our house is now freeeeeezing). We have radiant (electric) ceiling heat, which I'm sure is costly, but our house is also only 1500 sf and each room has an independent thermostat so we don't even heat all of the rooms. The research I did on radiant heating all points to its energy efficiency, so I am even more stumped! I contacted PG&E via email and they responded with instructions for how to check our own meter...?!?!? freezing in marin
Yes, your bill seems to be very high - we payed about half of what you did in December and our house is twice as large. The major difference that I can see is that:

A) we have a heating system on a timer and it goes on from 6:30-8:00am (at 65 degrees) and then shuts off completely until it goes on again from 5-8pm (again at 65 degrees) and then it's off again all night long. I would suggest you buy yourself and your kids some extra comforters for your beds and fleece pjs and learn to live in a colder house.

B) we replaced 80% of our lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs. Yes, the color is a bit funny and they take a bit to warm up (so they're sort of dim when you first turn them on), but our electricity bills went down by $60 a month when we did this. We still have regular lighting in 2 bathrooms, the living room, dining room and kitchen. Hallways, basement, bedrooms, office, etc. all have the compact fluorescents.

C) put those floodlights on a motion sensor. It's not hard to do and you can either get an electrician to do it or someone who's relatively handy. My husband installed ours.

Good luck getting your bill down! Reducing our footprint


Your bills do seem too high. I have heard about similar sized bills in Walnut Creek houses that have been added onto and have dual heating and A/C systems.

Pushing PG&E to measure your usage and/or replace the meter seems smart if you can get them to act.

Community Energy Services in Berkeley can lend you energy measuring tools so that you could measure and log your kilowatt hours or the watts any appliance is drawing.

You may also find a home energy performance contractor in the area. You could find one through Home Energy Magazine in Berkeley. http://homeenergy.org/. Home Performance contractors audit, measure and assess the energy usage, comfort issues, mold and health issues in the home. They find the problems that lead to ''sick buildings'' by using building science. Good luck, George


Why do you run your heater all night long? We turn ours down to 50 every night. We dress our kids in 2 pair of pj's, one cotton and one fleece since they don't keep their blankets on. We have lots of blankets on our bed. Our thermostat has a scheduler so I have it set to turn on every Mon-Fri at 6:30am for 68 degrees (8:00am on Sat/Sun). It automatically turns the heat down when we go to work, back up when we come home and down to 50 in the evenings.

Also, I would call PG&E and ask them if they can send someone out to give you some tips on weatherizing your house or reducing your usage. They might be able to tell you what might be some things you can do to reduce your bill. Or if your house is very energy efficient...they might be able to request the meter to be checked. Anon


That does seem outrageously high! I'm just one person, so my situation isn't quite the same as yours, but my house is 1100 sq ft and I manage to keep my monthly PG&E bill in the $60.-100. range, much lower than most of my friends, even though my windows are old and drafty and my fridge is older than yours, by doing pretty much the same things you're doing.

I do keep my house a little cooler than you (I like it that way and have no problem with wearing a warm sweater in the house). I also turn off the heat entirely when I'm out of the house for more than a couple of hours, and off at night (I sleep with a nice down comforter, which suits me just fine).

The only big thing I do that you didn't mention is to have lined drapes on all my major windows. Also I don't have a big TV and I don't do stove cooking (gas) every night (I use my crockpot often) or laundry unless I have a full load .

I have an energy efficient low voltage garden lighting system which I program to go on at dusk and off at around 1am, but that could be left on all night and not use nearly so much energy as line-voltage floodlights (I professionally design and install garden lighting systems, if I may put in a little plug for myself!).

I had PG&E do an energy audit for me a couple of years ago, they made a few minor suggestions that I took and that I think made a minor difference. They pointed out a few places where I was losing heat (a cracked window, one door that didn't have weather stripping, and openings under the sink and tub) and told me to keep my fridge full to preserve the cold- when it's not full of food I put bottles of water in to fill it up. My big indulgence is full hot baths and long showers (otherwise I'm very conservative with water use). Cece


Ours: 2 bdrm, 1300 sq ft home with original (drafty) windows. Heat off entirely when out and at night (yes, we wake to a very cold house every morning). Never turn heater past 63 degrees. Only one computer, gas washer/dryer. Hardly any TV viewing, but my DH has a bad habit of never turning things off - I'll come home and turn off about 5-8 sources of wasted electricity every evening. Our bills average around $160-175 total - so yes, yours sounds way too high! Elena
I agree with you that the electricity in particular seems way too high. Our house is the same size, same type of heat (and temp) and our appliances are about the same age. Our bill is about $130 per month for both gas and electric - sorry I don't have the breakdown. The one question I would have is about your clothes dryer and stove, gas or electric? We have gas for both, and I would imagine that an electric clothes dryer would take lots of power. Final thought, any chance that someone is hooking up to your electric? I would request that PG&E come and check the box. Good Luck East Bay Mom
Interestingly, MY PG&E bill is also WAY TO HIGH! I have a 1700 sq ft house and keep the temperature at 66 at night and 68 during the day. My bills went from $150 in October to $320 in November and this last bill was over $400! We have all gas heat, but for some reason BOTH the electric and gas DOUBLED in the course of a month. Supposedly, PG&E is currently investigating the matter, but no one ever phones us back. One interesting note - our son supposedly saw the meter still running when we had a power outage a couple months ago. Seems unbelievable since they can only run when power is going through them. So, my husband shut off all our breakers and the meter was still running... when he shut off the MAIN breaker off, everything shut down. It sounds to me like someone tapping our power or something outside running that we don't know about. But what!? The motion detected flood lights? Please let me know if you have any resolution to this and I'll do the same. My dad suggested checking the crawl space/attic space to see if insulation was missing or wet, but we haven't had a chance to do this yet. Has anyone else had this problem? Lisa
Your bill is absurdly high. We have a 2400 SF house with four bedrooms, old appliances and water heater, and don't keep our house as cold as yours. And our bill hit $250 for December, which is our highest month in the past year. Something's not right, whether it's the meter or something in your house that is running nonstop and you don't know it. Lori
Trust not the PG&E. We live in a 1600sq. foot home (4 bed 2.5 bath two story). We wash everything in cold, hang dry, use CFLs and run the heat at night, if then. Our PG&E bill barely tops 100/month. Usually we are in the 50-60 buck range.

But here is why I say be firm: our last home was smaller (and a one story) and our bills were out of control. I looked into it further (took months!) and learned that when we moved from our apartment to our first home PG&E never took our name off the account for the apartment. We hadn't lived there for 6 months but they were adamant. I had proof that I had called and cancelled service but because the nimcompoops who moved in after us (we never knew them) never put it in their name, it reverted to us and not the apartment complex. Took lots of supervisors, managers and a few carefully crafted messages to get it all fixed. Long story short, keep fighting cause your bills are crazy high. power girl!


my pg&e bill was also INSANELY high for dec - $400 - which is twice our ''normal'' winter month bill. and both gas and electric were higher. i am baffled. i am home more now but thought it might go down due to turning down water heater, weather stripping and adjusting programming on the thermostat. i haven't investigated - thought i'd wait for one more month. no real advice to offer but i'm feeling your pain!!!! jessica
It seems like you are paying too much (but to figure out what actual electricity you are using, it's better to refer to KWH and for natural gas, in therms. The rates do fluctuate (e.g., it seems from our bill that they read the gas meter more than once a month and add up the two readings, each one billed at a different rate). You probably have the same rate schedule as most residential customers, so that's probably not it.

You may have a current leak, i.e., some old wire has worn off insulation and touches on something (wood beam, etc), or a connection is bad, and an ever so small amount of current leaks to the ground. This is something you need to fix.

There is a way to test for leakage to the ground, although a hassle. You need to basically energize all the inside wire but make sure that you do not have any load on. For outlets this means unplugging everything, and for lighting circuits it means unscrewing all the bulbs, and turning the switches on. Then you go to your meter, and note the reading. If you come back half an hour later and the meter has moved, you have a leak (or you forgot to unplug that small cellphone adapter, alarm clock, etc). If you don't have a leak, then either you have an appliance that is defective, or you are using up too much electricity.

If you had a broken meter and were getting charged minimum usage, then, if you got a good new meter and you did have a leak all along, it would really show. Or you got a really really fast meter.

You may want to pursue both fronts: PG&E to test your meter, and an electrician to help you figure out if your wiring is not good.

We had a super-efficient forced air system installed also, but our therm consumption went up. But we had a floor furnace before (that heated only one room), whereas the new system heats up the whole house. Oh, and it didn't help that NG rates doubled right after we got the new system.

Good luck, and do make sure you get an electrician to look at your house. In the end, if you tell PG&E that an electrician looked at your wiring and thinks the problem is with the meter, maybe they will take it seriously. anon


holy crap, that's high. we're in a 1500 sq/ ft house with oldish appliances, one old-school TV rarely on, a computer that is on pretty much all the time (bad, me, I know), and we keep our heat at pretty much the same as you (preset to go back to 65 mid-day, but if i'm home and feel cold, i put it back up to 67 or sometimes 68). our bill maxed at around $230 last month. in berkeley
We too were shocked by a huge PG&E bill from December. However, ours was attributable to gas and heating costs. Our house is 2600 sq ft and a $298 total bill was shocking. Yours seems incorrect. There is a state agency where you can appeal a bill. I had a problem about 10 years ago with an incorrect bill. The state utility commission has an appeal process. I had to pay my bill and wait several months but I eventually received a refund. edie
That sounds high to me. There are web sites that show you how to read your meter. I'd start with that. No Fan of Pigs Goats and Elephants
We have like housing, but our PG&E average per month is $130 & I'd say we use more electricity than you describe. (Warmer home, more TV, lights/PC being left on...) Our bill for Dec was $230 & that's one of our more expensive months. Our highest monthly bill in 2006 was $230, 2007, $282. Even when we had electric heat, our bill rarely hit $500. It seems to me that there is something wrong, but I have no advice on what to do. Good Luck. Debbie
I also find my PG&E bill way too high and it goes up every October. I recently did the math and we pay an average of $110 per month (our range is $69-$175). Not too many years ago the range was $35-$110 for us! Can their pricing be regulated? Did you know that PG&E doesn't come out every month to read the meter? I was told that they sometimes skip a month and charge you an estimate instead, but then catch up with the next meter reading. (I don't feel good about that practice). Our house is about 900 sq.ft - one floor heater, gas stove and gas washer & dryer. I need it warm and get very uncomfortable below 72 degrees. Heat goes on for cold mornings, is off during work days, and goes on in the evenings as needed. No heat overnight. Our Edwardian windows could benefit from (ugly?) weather stripping, so could the front door. The fire place needs to have a shield for keeping the heat in. I analyzed all the bills: Property taxes increased by 3%, EBMUD increased by 6%, Homeowners ins. decreased by 2%, Earthquake ins. increased by 2%, but PG&E increased by 23.71%!!!! Legal? Upset with PG&E
Your bills are high, but there are many variables. I have a 4+ bedroom 2.5 bth 2600 sqft home and my last bill was $257. I added dual pane windows and insulated where ever I could and have similar age appliances.

I would first do a comparison between summer and winter. This will tell you tell you what the heating component is. I would suspect that while you don't keep the house warm the heater runs all night long (gas for the heater and elect for the blower)and you have heat loss through the windows/walls. You can determine where heat loss is occuring fairly easily. Steve C


$503 seem high to me. about 10 years ago when I was living in small apartments my PG&E was only about $60-&75 a month. Well times have changed and it's a lot more now, but still maybe not that high. We were renting a house last year and had the same problem as you. It was approx 900sq feet, but PG%E was between $225-$300 in the spring/summer, mostly electrical usage. It just didn't add up. We had almost no electricity on during the day with the exception of appliances. NO TV, NO lights, NO computer etc. I also called PG&E and they said ''that sounds about right'' Which leads me to believe that they just gouge you any chance they can get.

Did you look into EVERY thing that could be eating up your electricity? Maybe disable the flood lights for a month and see if it makes a difference.

As it turned out the washer and dryer were pretty old at my house and were electricity monsters. I found that out after a 3 week vacation from laundry at my house. I suspected the washer/dryer and did laundry at my parents house to see if it made a difference. It did. $69 for 3 WEEKS! We no longer live there, and Our PG&E is slightly lower at the new place, but not that much. Good luck anon


I did not see your original message, but that sounds amazingly high. (The two of us live in a 1300 s.q. foot condo, and our winter bill is under $100.00 a month, but the place is well-insulated, which helps a lot.) Try unplugging any electrical appliances (TV, DVD player, washer and dryer--if electric--coffee maker, etc.) when they aren't in use. Turn off a room's lights, of course, when you aren't in the room or aren't planning to return to it within a few minutes. (I don't know if kids are involved, but you can get them to remember/cooperate by promising them a cut of your PG&E bill savings.) Good luck! Melanie
I didn't see the original post but we had a period when our PG&E bill was way high. Like $350/month in the summer when we barely had lights on, didn't watch t.v. and have no air conditioning. We had moved into the house 2 months prior and were wondering if it was because of the fancy lights the previous owners had installed but usage records showed much lower bills. Ends up our sump pump was malfunctioning and running 24/7. Once that was fixed the bill dropped to around $70 - 80/month. anon

PG&E reported me to credit company unfairly

Sept 2006

PG&E reported us to the Credit company. I called them twice, and two people told me two different versions: #1: “When you moved from Oakland to Alameda, in September 2003, you called, cancelled your service but never paid the outstanding balance of that month. We kept sending you the bills but you never paid, therefore we had to report you.”

Conclusion from that: why would they activate my service in Alameda knowing that I owed them from when I lived in Oakland? Couldn’t they have notified me then that I owed money?

#2: “You actually never cancelled your service. You left it “open” from when you moved out of your first place in Alameda. We kept billing you but never heard back from you, so you had to be reported.”

Conclusion to that: the 1st place we moved into in Alameda is currently nonexistent. Condominium was bought by someone and turned into Summer Houses. I wanted to have PG&E at my second place in Alameda, called them up, they didn’t say ANYTHING about me owing money, just said that they didn’t work with the area in Alameda that I was living at. Alameda power was the only one available. I’m sure I cancelled the service when I knew it wouldn’t be available. They said I didn’t. Why wouldn’t they cancel it anyway then?

Apparently, the bill was of only $100 and honestly, I would have paid them right away if I knew I owed them money. I always keep track of my bills. I would've known that I didn’t pay them if I hadn’t. Plus, if they didn’t offered service where I live, why wouldn’t they claim that I was the one who never cancelled the service? They said they kept billing me until they reported me.

Is it worth contacting the Credit Company? Would anything be resolved with them? I don’t have anything to prove my case with except the fact that the building I used to live in isn’t a condominium anymore, show dates and show that PG&E doesn’t work where I currently live. I don’t really have any money to hire an attorney. What to do? T


I'm wondering what happened to your closing bill and why didn't you ask for it? This is YOUR responsibility and everyone that is moving usually asks for their closing bill or gives their forwarding address. PGE does not want to send bills to collection. Contact PGE and tell them you somehow overlooked the final payment and send in your $100 asap, if you have not already done so. It would not hurt to apologize for your oversight; maybe they will remove the credit ding. And, stop grumbling about paying what you owe anon

Baffled by our high PG&E bill

May 2006

I know everyone is shocked by their PG&E bills and that energy costs have increased, but my husband and I are continually baffled at our monthly bill -- about $550/month (even on the adjusted plan that averages costs over the year). We have covered all the obvious bases in terms of conserving but still seem to have out of control PG&E bills. We are looking for someone who could come to our house and do an 'energy audit' -- i.e. help us figure out if there are any hidden drains of electricity or gas and make suggestions as to the costs/benefits of various energy saving upgrades we could still do. Apparently, PG&E doesn't offer this service. Any suggestions for finding someone else to do this would be appreciated. Valerie


Check out the Home Energy Saver website, http://hes.lbl.gov. This web site has a simple-to-use format that allows you to enter simple parameters about your home and energy use patterns, and then kicks back suggestions on ways to reduce energy use, based on climate zome and other factors. I also have an extensive reply to the original posting that a collegue of mine at work wrote, since he is the technical editor for Home Energy magazine. It's much too long to post in the newsletter but would be happy to pass along to anyone who send me an email inquiry. Perhaps I can get it posted to the archives? Liz
To the person with high PG&E bills, I don't know how longstanding your problem is, but I'll share our story just in case it helps. We were also receiving very high bills, and it took months to sort out what was happening. The upshot was that PG&E stopped reading our meter without notifying us, because they changed their policy about dogs and would not enter our yard where we keep our friendly dog. I still don't understand why their estimated readings were many fold times higher than our regular bills, but they were. By the time PG&E finally read our meter, we had overpaid so much that we haven't paid had to pay a cent for months! I would call PG&E. Good luck to you. Dog owner
whoa. $550 is out of control. we had much lower, but still did the audit and associated fixes. two recommendations:

Sustainable Spaces (http://www.sustainablespaces.com/): they did our audit for a very low price ($250?) and produced a very good report. But, their rates to do the work were way to high, and some of their recommendations were off.

Applied Home Performance (http://www.appliedhomeperformance.com/) did the word for us. Good contractors all around, so more familiar with general home building stuff. And much more reasonably priced. They're overworked so it can be a pain to coordinate, but in the end, I'm very happy with them. Robert Mitchell is the head (and see if you can get Matthew to be the foreman -- he's great.)

Probably the best bet is to just start with AHP and have them do the whole thing. Jamie


Ways to cut winter PG&E bill

Nov 2005

I just read about the expected costs of natural gas this winter, and what it will likely do to PG&E bills. I know from past years how much of our home energy bill is driven by winter gas heating costs (we do a pretty good job on electricity, but the winter gas bills stun me every year). We do have a 3-year old forced air system with a programmable thermostat, but it's in a 1915 bungalow with rattling old single-pane windows. I know heat loss at windows can be a big deal, but I don't know what options to improve that would work best in our house. Similarly, we have attic and basement insulation, but I wonder if it could be better.

Are there services that can help us evaluate our options for cutting down on our heating bill? I poked around on the PG&E website, and while their information seems good, of course it's quite general. I'm also not sure I have the DIY inclinations necessary to take on much in the way of energy efficiency improvements myself. Any recommendations? Braced for the Bill


These ideas are not original by any means. 1) Wrap your hot water heater in insulation. You can get an insulation blanket designed for this at OSH for about $14. 2) Since you have an attic, install insulation on the top of the hatch, or make a hatch cover if you have pull down stairs. The rest of the attic is insulated, but this location probably only has a thin piece of plywood covering it. 3) Make a chimney stop if you have a fireplace and don't use it. You can either buy one online (for about $70) or you can make one out of insulation. Wrap some insulation up into a pillow shape, tape it together, and insert it up into the chimney just enough to cover the gap. Be sure to close the damper too and leave a string or rope with a notecard hanging down from it so you know it is there and don't forget about it if you want to light a fire or sell the house.

You can seal picture windows or windows you don't use with plastic wrap designed for this purpose. It's like saran wrap, just larger. You make it taut with a hair dryer and can probably get it at OSH or HD. Weatherstrip your doors and windows. Wear sweaters! We're still in the process of doing most of this, but we're on it due to the same reasons. Jeff


Here are some tips that came to mind:

The 3M company used to make a really cool plastic sheeting product that you stuck over your windows and ''blow-dried'' to make it shrink tautly across the window frame, helping to keep the heat in. This goes behind the curtains, and is almost invisible once you install it and blow-dry it.

Whenever I finish baking/broiling anything, I leave the oven door open until it's cool, allowing all the heat to come out into my apartment.

Buy flannel sheets and comforter covers, and pajamas for your family to keep warm at night. Turn the thermostat waaay down at night. Also, putting furry, flokati-type rugs over almost all of your wood floors, if you have any, can make the house warmer and feel cozier during the coldest months.

Open the curtains to let sunlight in if possible. Prune heavy tree branches away from the house to keep it out of the dark.

Hope these ideas help. Elizabeth


The most important thing you can do is insulate your house. Many houses in the bay area are uninsulated.

If you have attic and basement insulation then it is probably sufficient. You should check your walls to see if they are insulated. (The best way is to drill a 1/4 inch hole in a closet on an outside wall and poke around with a wooden skewer (the kind you put meat and vegetables on and put on the grill) See if you feel any fluffy stuff in the wall. If you can, try to pull some out. If it's pink or yellow it's fiberglass. If it's grey then it's cellulose.

If your walls aren't insulated you can have an insulation contractor blow insulation in.

After insulation, the next thing you can do is make your house more air-tight. (called air-sealing) This can be tricky for a do-it-yourselfer. If you hire a contractor to do it they should do a ''blower door test'' so they can determine where the leaks are. Windows are not always the worst offenders. Fireplaces with leaky dampers are often the worst. Also plumbing and mechanical chases can be bad.

Your ducted heating system may also have leaks in the ducts. A contractor that does air-sealing can also help you with this. Unfortunately, there are very few air sealing contractors in this area.

Look at the California Home Energy Efficiency Rating Services web page. (http://www.cheers.org) They certify contractors to do home energy audits on new and existing houses. Here is the only contractor that they list in the bay area:

George J. Nesbitt Environmental Design/Build 978 40th Street Oakland, CA (510) 655-8532 phone

Another obvious thing to do to save energy is to turn down your thermostat.

Here are some online resources for information about energy audits, and an online ''do it yourself'' audit:

http://homeenergysaver.lbl.gov/ http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/energy_audits/index.cfm/mytopic=11160

I hope this helps. You may e-mail me if you have more questions.

Jennifer


You mentioned that you have single-paned windows. Replacing with double-paned would be great, but if you can't afford that, there's this plastic covering that you can put up over your windows (sort of like Saran Wrap) with double-stick tape, then you use a blow dryer to shrink it for a tight fit around your window, which creates the same effect as a double-paned window. Probably not as effective as double-paned glass, but I'm sure it helps and is way less expensive! When I lived back East, it was available at hardware stores. I haven't looked for it here in CA, but try the hardware store first. Good luck! Elaine
We have the same problem(1907 unisulated house)and here's how we solved it to the best of our ability:

1. Go to Bed Bath and Beyond and look for their light blocking drapes. These are thick and white and cost about 35.00 for two panels.These are not pretty on their own so use them behind your curtains or invest in heavy curtains(Ikea has velvety ones and Bed Bath and Beyond have thick chenille ones or check around for better buys. This WILL drastically reduce the cold coming in and leaving from the windows. We can't believe the difference. You can bring them out every year and it's a great investment. Take them down in the warmer weather.

2. Don't forget to line your windows with weather stripping.

3. Bed bath and beyond also has door draft stoppers. They are thick rolls that you lay on the bottom of the door( or staple them on like my husband did) or if your thrifty just use a rolled up towel.

4. If there is an entry way and you can stick up a curtain separating your foyer from the rest of the house you'll also see a difference.

5. PGE can put you on an average monthly payment plan. We pay 60 bucks a month every month and they adjust it 1x a year if you use more or less(actually went down from 70)

6. Buy some carpets or look on craigslist for inexpensive carpet/rugs you can use during the winter-this will cut the cold coming from your basement or crawl space.

7. Weather strip you attic door-you'd be surprised how much cold air comes from there.

8. PGE will come out and do a free audit and tell you ways to s ave energy etc. good luck


I'm a renter in an old victorian with very drafty windows. It is freezing in my apt every winter, and since I rent I can't replace the windows with nice new double paned, fitting windows. When I used to live back East everyone put plastic over there windows to insulate them more. I do this now with the windows that I get sunlight in- at OSH they sell plastic specifically for this, you put it on with double stick tape then use a blow dryer to shrink the plastic to be clear and taut. This has worked well for me in the past. This year i am also trying something new, I made thermal curtains for many of my windows with this stuff clled insul-brite from warm company, they have a website with instructions that I half followed. They seem to be helping and I am hoping they will be easier to use and re-use. I havent turned my heater on yet! anon
Several years ago we had a PG&E person come to our house to do an ''energy save'' consultation with us. This guy walked thru our house with us giving us tips on how to save energy per room. Ie: particular kinds of window coverings, insulting the attic, caulking certain doors, etc. Times of day to use certain appliances and how to more efficiently set and use our thermostat It was very helpful adn helped cut down our heating bill. Check with PG&E to see if they still do that. It's free. anon
Do you have insulated curtains (just fabric curtains with an insulation lining)? I live in the exact same sort of house, have them on my major windows, and they help a lot.

I also happen to like my house on the cooler side, am happy at around 68, so don't use my heat (floor furnace) as much as many people use heat. And, I'm a fresh air fiend so often keep my windows open and bundle up- but that's just my personal choice, not good for many people.

The highest that the gas part of my PGE bill has been to date is about $55., we'll see what happens as rates go up! anon


PG&E recommends the payment plan where you pay the monthly average thruout the year. We are going to wear fleece indoors and warm slippers. extra blankies too. of course if you can afford better windows.... we are going to try the clear insulation film on our windows but it doesn't sound so attractive or useful to me. anon
PGE has a free weatherization program for people who financially qualify. It's in addition to their CARE program which takes 20% off your monthly bill. It's a great program for those of us who are struggling to get by, and you do not have to be poverty stricken to get on it.

They came and evaluated my house for the work needed, and are in the process of replacing 3 cracked and leaky windows, closing off a large hole under my kitchen sink that let a lot of cold air leak into the house, weatherstripping my outside doors with better materials than I had put on myself, and some other, mostly minor, work.

If my attic had not already been insulated, they would have done that, and if my refrigerator had been 10 or more years old, they would have given me a new one for free! They insulate water heaters, caulk leaky windows, and give you a few free compact flourescent bulbs. They offered me a new porch light fixture with a motion sensor which I declined since I am attached to my old, original one and use my porch light very sparingly.

I'm sure that there are people on this list who qualify for this great service. Just call PGE to find out about it and about the CARE program. anon


We try to keep our PG&E to a minimum too. My ideas fall into the ''turn your thermostat down'' camp mostly. We keep ours pretty low (63)
- Don't heat the house at night
- Heat only the rooms you are using (may not work so well with central heating)
- Stay warm by wearing a light hat (takes some getting used to but it really works), changing into dry socks and shoes/slippers as soon as you get home for the evening, wearing light layers (silk or synthetic long underwear under your tops and bottoms)
- Stay warm by doing lots of baking (not sure if this is a net savings on your bill, but it sure is tasty!), drinking warm liquids, keep moving (use a blanket when you sit still)
- If you have kids, get a rug for them to play on. Ours are so active they are warm even when we are not.

Other ideas:
- Dry laundry on a folding rack inside when it rains, or on a line outside when it is nice.
- Wash clothes on warm or cold instead of hot.
- Take shorter showers (or join a gym and shower there instead).
- Run full loads in dishwasher/washing machine.
- Let the sun in as much as possible, then close drapes at dusk to retain that heat.
- Trying to stay warm too!


EBMUD Bills


EBMUD Bill $1800.00

June 2011

Our last EBMUD bill, covering 2 months, was for $1800. The previous 2 month bill was $175. They came out and said the meter is correct and we must have a leaking toilet or something. So we are having the plumber out. But, does anyone have any advice or experience about whether this is reasonable? Can we be leaking 10 times the water as we used in the last period? They do say if we fix the leak (if the plumber finds one) they will give us back half the difference (around $800 I think). Thank you for any advice or stories that you have. Besides the cost, we are most worried about what if there's not a plumbing problem we can find? anon


This happened in our townhouse/condo complex and it turned out there was a break in the waterline coming off the EBMUD meter and into the units. EBMUD came out and fixed it and corrected the bill 100%. I didn't deal directly with them as the property has a manager. But, I would suspect something bigger than a leaky toilet--like a waterline leak. Another clue for us was the standing puddle that appeared in one corner of our yard (near that waterline). Good Luck! been there
We do have experience with this, unfortunately.

Several years ago, we were going to be away for a few weeks, and asked our neighbors (a couple) to water the yard for us maybe once a week if the weather was hot. At some point they turned on the water in our yard while preparing to leave themselves for a few days, and of course, left town without turning it off.

A couple of days later another neighbor noticed the water pouring out to the sidewalk and emailed us. In the meantime, he figured out that the hose was on, jumped over the fence, and turned it off.

I am not sure how many days the water was running, I think maybe 4 days, and the bill was just under $300. What hurt me the most was the thought of all that wasted water, especially given that we had gone to great pains to replace the lawn with drought-resistant plants, lots of mulch etc, just for that purpose.

So, if you have a significant leak I can easily see it going to $1800 (that's not all water consumption by the way. The bill includes sewer charges, etc, so it's not clear how many water units you actually consumed. 1 unit is approx 700-some gallons). That said, unless the leak is draining directly to some underground passage it's hard to imagine how you could not notice this -- this is not some drip drip of the faucet.

Consider yourself lucky that they are willing to go halfsies with you if you document the leak.

In our case we had to pay it all and the really rich part of the experience was having to listen to the couple who did the ''deed'' blaming one another over who forgot to turn off the water. Nick


Also, $175 for two months is quite a bit (teenagers in the house, perhaps?) Or, maybe you've had a slow leak for a while and it just got bigger?

We are a family of 2 + baby and a smallish yard and we never go over 4 water units even in the summer. But we are very water conscious (and we still shower daily, run dishwashers, laundry, etc

In our case, we did an audit of everything, installed low-flow toilet, shower-head, etc, and because our service had a pretty high pressure we installed a water pressure regulator (adjustable). Good luck. Nick


do you have water sprinklers? There could be a leak in the underground pipes. Also, if the water pressure has changed, it could be a leak in the main pipe to the house. I'm guessing the EBMUD rep would have check that in your house. eb mama
Your issue is easy. I had the same concerns. First you check for leaks. You do this by reading the meter at night just before bed with all water devices turned off (ice maker too and sprinkler system). You get up in the morning and go out to read the meter first thing (before you hit the toilet or shower or use a drop). It should be the exact same reading.

If it is different than the night before you have a leak. You can calculate the amount of change over the number of hours and figure out how much is leaking. The meter records ''units'' not gallons so it is a little tricky to calculate but EBMUD can tell you how to convert the meter readings to gallons. If there is no leak over night next check the meter for accuracy by reading the number on it and then by filling a few gallon jugs and re-read the meter. Convert units to gallons and see if the number of jugs you filled matches exactly. If you have a leak it can easily run your bill up as you describe. I too called EBMUD and was told it is almost never a bad meter and usually it is a leaky toilet or sprinkler system to blame running water constantly. I found them to be very helpful and it is cool they will share the loss with you if a leak is found which is 99.9% most likely in your case. no leaks anymore


bummer. you have a leak in the house, under the house, or in the garden. if you don't hear water running in your home, take a look at your meter. You can see a red triangle turning, or a needle showing flow rate if water is running (even small amounts). if the flow meter stops, then you have a timer or human controlled 'leak'... your volume ($1.800 bill) indicates more than a leaky toilet flush/fill valve, but it's possible.

i have helped folks find leaks, but your regular plumber can as well. we had neighbor A running a soaker hose from neighbor B's garden spigot... took weeks to uncover the source/ reason for neighbor B's $2,000 bill ... so much water was run that the street below had a huge puddle constantly, and down hill neighbor C did a major excavation of his basement because of june flooding (it was dry last june, remember?) funny thing: EBMUD tested water leak at flooded street and in neighbor C's house that was flooded... tests showed it was ground water... that is because treated water traveled about 300 feet before emerging from the ground... so water tested as ground/ 'untreated' water... a great case for the house detectives oren


We own a rental unit for which we pay the water bill. A few years ago the unit had a leaky toilet and the water usage and water bill skyrocketed, though not as much as yours, because our tenant told us about the leak and we got it repaired ASAP (i.e. before we got the bill from EBMUD). We notified EBMUD and they were very cooperative in reducing the bill. Sounds like you have a leak, and I hope your plumber is successful in locating it. Wishing you luck! anon
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