Energy Savings Advice Guide
Are you looking for ways to save more energy in your home? Here are some tips from one of our General Managers to help you save on your energy bills and plan for the future.
Solar has entered a newphase of net metering, called version "3.0." This phase is heavily dependent on installing batteries for storage and/or using the electricity as it is produced by the panels. Batteries are very convenient to store power but are quite pricey, sometimes adding $12k-$25k on top of the solar install. If you plan on installing solar and want batteries at some point, it would be most cost effective to install batteries at the same time as the solar installation. The federal tax credit of 30% covers all aspects of the solar installation including the batteries and will remain at the 30% until 2032. All in all, solar is a great option in most situations and incentives remain strong, especially as electric rates continue to increase. My recommendation is to get 4-5 quotes from trusted companies before proceeding.
Explore all options including cash purchase, PPA (purchase power agreement, you don’t own the system), and third party financing options to purchase the solar directly (some banks or credit unions will finance solar projects). Each option has its benefits. Also, when you get quotes, you will want to find out about service warranties and product warranties. Solar panels rarely fail, but inverters do fail. Ensure a 15–20 year inverter warranty. Pick a company you believe will still be in business in 20 years (can be hard to find!).
Heat Pump Water Heaters
Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWH) are becoming a popular choice in 2024. It may be an excellent option if you have plenty of solar that over produces each year or if want to get rid of natural gas water heating. Also, standard electric water heaters are very inefficient while electric heat pump water heaters are 3-5x more efficient. There are rebates available for heat pump water heaters as well as a 30% federal tax credit. I would recommend this option if you currently have an electric “tank” water heater. Also, if your solar panels that can offset a portion of the electricity use. I do not recommend HPWH if you have a tankless water heater. Heat pump water heater installs cost between $3,000-$4,000 and may require electrical upgrades.
Attic and wall insulation is a big deal. The insulation in your attic provides a barrier between the inside of your home and the attic space. Your attic is extremely hot in the summer and can also be cold during the winter. Little or no insulation means the inside of your home will be impacted by the hot or cold air up there. Customers usually notice a big difference when adding more insulation. Often the home is more comfortable, the air conditioning turns on less frequently, and in many cases you don’t need to turn the AC on until later in the afternoon. Insulation is measured in R-Value (resistance value) where the higher the R-value, the better the barrier. A total R-value of R10 is low, R20 is ok, R30 is good, R38 is excellent, and R60 amazing. Often more insulation will bury the ducting and save additional energy there. Over time, insulation will lose it’s R-value. What may have once been an R25 may drop to R10. Cellulose and fiberglass are the primary attic insulators, each carrying different R-Values. Do you know how much insulation you have?
Whole House Fans / Attic Fans
These are excellent options in San Diego’s climate. In the summer, an attic can reach 150 degrees! An attic fan does two things, it blows the hot air in the attic outside, and brings in cool outdoor air. This helps to recirculate the air in your attic and reduce the temperature of your home. Attic fans are usually installed next to a gable vent in the attic and often have a thermostat installed next to it. The thermostat will turn on the attic fan as soon as the attic hits a certain temperature, 115 degrees is my recommended set point. A whole house fan is different than an attic fan. A whole house fan is installed in the ceiling of your home. During summer evenings, it’s often cooler outside your home than the inside. With a whole house fan, you open a window (usually on the far side of your house) and turn it on. The fan will turn on and cool air will be drawn through the window and carried throughout the house, all the way back to the fan in the ceiling. It then pushes out all the hot air in the attic! So, it serves two purposes, bringing in cool air into your home and pushing out hot air. Whole house fans are often paired with timers, so you can set it to run for a specific time before automatically turning off. WHF’s are not used year-round, often 3-5 months of the year only. They can reduce your cooling bill by up to 90% by reducing the need to run your air conditioner during the hot summer months. One other advantage is that a whole house fan can remove smells (cooking/cleaning) and smoke when food burns.
I always recommend LED’s for every home and almost every fixture. They come in almost every variety including 4 foot, decorative, and antique lighting. LED’s provide instant savings. LED’s come in a variety of colors (2700k = warm yellow, 3000k = soft white, 4000k = cool white, 5000k = daylight white) and Lumen (brightness). The higher the lumen, the more light output. I always pick the highest lumens for my lamps and prefer soft or cool white, unless it’s a very dark space I may choose daylight white. Some studies have shown daylight light improves cognitive performance and better concentration in schools. Overtime, a quality LED will pay for itself compared to older technology. In some scenarios, LED’s can make a huge difference. I have a storage room with 48 4-foot fluorescent lamps, each using 32 watts. 32W X 48 = 1536 watts! That’s about a 1/3 what an air conditioner uses. The 4 foot LED uses 12 watts, dropping the overall usage from 1536 down to 576, almost 1/3 of what I was using before. Similar scenarios are found with can lighting, chandeliers, or the sum of all the lighting in a home.
Ducting is just as important as a properly running air conditioner. I have a friend that purchased a home with the BEST air conditioner and furnace you could buy, all very high efficient. However, the ducting (channels airflow into your home) was completely destroyed. In essence, he was seeing almost no value from the high-performance system because none ofthe air made it into his home! Every time I see a duct falling off, or a hole in the ducting, or duct tape peeling off, I see dollar bills floating away into your attic and into the atmosphere. With the expense of air conditioning equipment and the expense to run the equipment (approximately 4,500 watts), be sure your ducts are operating the way they are supposed to, and no leaks exists. A technician using a “duct blaster” or similar equipment can verify the leakage of your system, if it’s poor, average, or excellent. Ducting can be patched, repaired, or replaced.
Air conditioning is the biggest consumer of electricity in residential homes. If you have an LED in your closet you forget to turn off, you’re using about 10 watts. When you forget to turn off your air conditioner you are using approximately 4,500 watts! The single biggest way to reduce energy consumption in your home is to reduce the run time of your air conditioner. Setting your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees are recommended to save energy, though everyone’s situation is different. Smart thermostat’s can help reduce run time while you are away home and keep an energy saving schedule. The size of the air conditioner (known as tonnage, 1.5, 2,2.5, 3, 3.5,4, and 5 tons) makes an impact on energy use as well. The bigger the tonnage of the AC often means more electricity used. Undersized air conditioners will often run nonstop (very inefficient) and oversized air conditioners will turn on and off much more frequently. A simple rule is this, each ton of cooling should cool about 600 square feet of your home. So if you have a 2,400 squarefoot home, you would need at minimum a 4 ton unit. (4 tons X 600 = 2,400 sq feet). Feel free to ask your Synergy Technician the tonnage of your air conditioner. Low refrigerant levels, dirty coils at the condenser, a dirty air filter, and a dirty evaporator coil can all contribute to poor performance of your air conditioner and should be inspected annually. The air filter should be changed every 3-4 months, sometimes more frequently if there is smoke in the home or you live in the country with lots of dust.
It’s important to know how you are charged for energy and when to use energy! Electricity and Natural Gas are fuel to power your home. Similar to a car, you consume the fuel with every appliance you turn on. Instead of a gallon of gas for your car, you are charged Kilowatt Hours (kwh) for electricity and therms for natural gas. The more you use, the more you pay. Just like gas prices for your car, the price of kwh and therms are always changing. There are seasonal rates that adjust the price. With electricity, rates often change throughout the day. Most SDGE customers have a “Time of Use” plan, this will be indicated on your bill as “TOU." There are different rate structures and plans, but here is the important thing to know - between the hours of 4pm-9pm, rates increase significantly. It is well known that electricity usage goes way up between 4-9pm as people come home from work or school and turn on the air conditioning. Just like a driver trying to locate the cheapest gas station, if we need to run our appliances we should try and avoid the most expensive gas station. Run major appliances during off peak hours if possible (after 9pm and before 4pm). Also, I would encourage you to try and stay below your energy “baseline” amount. If you use too much energy before the end of the month, you may be charged a higher rate for the remainder of the month. Over baseline and peak usage combined is expensive!
See the link below for more detailed informationand pricing:
- Casey Davis, General Manager of the San Diego Division Office