High Pg&e bill - advice for renters?

Do any renters have tips for lowering Pg&e bills? We are conscientious about turning off lights, and I don’t think we use a ton of energy. However our bills are consistently high and apparently we use about 40+% more energy than other households nearby. 

I've looked at Pg&e’s tips but I want some advice that’s more personalized to our situation. (We don’t qualify for the low income programs.) Anyone have tips that made a big difference? Or are there services for this type of thing? We would be looking for interventions that are either free or have a very strong/demonstrable return on investment.

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You need to buy (about $15) an electricity usage monitor. You plug it into any wall socket, then plug other items into it to see what energy they are drawing. Then you can see what is sucking all the energy. 

We discovered an older freezer was a big energy suck. We also discovered some items used way more than we thought, and now turn them off between using them. 

Great question--and it matters for decreasing your bills AND because decreasing load and shifting peak demand can help all of us with avoiding rotating outages and need for new (expensive) infra-structure.

As a renter, you have fewer options than owners--but look at how and when you use electricity..The BIGGEST loads are electric clothes dryers, electric resistance space heaters, electric vehicles...You can consider line drying clothes (ulp...)--another option--if you are on Time of Use rates (look at your PG&E bill and their web site--they do NOT make it easy to figure this out), you can run your high load appliances whenever rates are lowest...It seems minor, but LED lighting can be a good payback, even for a renter.  And insulation etc etc.

There are lots of resources out there on the web--I find PG&E generally the LEAST helpful--almost like they don't want to sell you less electricity, maybe????

Here are my go to super stingy energy savers.

Saving on Heat: Lots of people may mention putting up transparent film over leaky windows. But the problem is that the two sided tape nearly always pulls paint off. There is a special clay that is designed to seal cracks around windows and help keep out the cold. https://www.amazon.com/d/Weatherproofing-Products/Frost-King-B2WT-Caulki...

Saving on Light: LED bulbs are 80-90% more efficient than incandescent ones and last much longer. Start by replacing all the bulbs in areas you use the most, such as a kitchen.

Saving on AC: Stop letting sunlight in on hot days. Either close your curtains or put up reflective foil material to block the sun.

As a renter, there are things you do have control over and things you don't. 

For you heating and cooling systems, you have no control over the efficiency of the equipment, but you do control the thermostat. A lower temp setting in winter and higher cooling temp in summer (I write that recognizing that hardly anyone in the inner Bay Area has any cooling, but if you do) will reduce your bills. Do you have any obvious drafts, from around windows or under doors? You can DIY weather stripping and a door sweep for not much money. If you have accessible ducts, you checking for leaks and sealing them will get more hot or cold air where you need it and reduce equipment run times. How is the insulation? That's something you would need to get your landlord to do, but if it is bad (or non-existent) you might be able to make the case for something relatively easy like attic insulation.

Lighting: If you don't already have LED lamps everywhere, replace your lamps. They save a huge amount over incandescents and even quite a bit over CFLs.

Water heater: A lot of people have their water heater temperature set too high (for safety or for energy efficiency). Reducing the temp to 120 could save energy.

Clothes washer: Run full loads using the lowest effective temperature setting. I wash almost everything on cold.

Dishwasher: Run full loads, air dry

Home electronics: Depending on what you have, these could be a minor or major energy user. If you have a big screen TV with a home theater system, the power can really add up. My ex had an amplifier that pulled 18 W when it was off, so at least that much 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. When you are buying, look for the Energy Star label. Putting your home entertainment system on a smart power strip can help with the phantom loads (the energy used by equipment when it is off). You can buy a watt meter for not a lot of money that will measure the power draw of equipment, if you are really curious.

Do you have other less common energy users? Equipment for some hobbies can draw a lot of energy. Tropical aquariums, kilns, woodworking equipment? That could contribute to your high bills.

Have you looked at your daily usage profile on the PG&E website? You can see hour-by-hour, day-by-day when you electricity use is highest. That could give you some insight into which appliances and activities are driving up your bill.

One idea is to minimize the use of the clothes dryer. Our highest bill when renting was when the dryer didn’t shut off and ran all night. It was an older, non-efficient dryer. Good luck! (And the PG&E tips are useless, I agree)

The first thing I'd do is figure out if your energy use is actually high. (Energy is expensive in California in general, so a costly bill doesn't necessarily mean you are using more than you should be.) The little mailers that PG&E sends are not a great measure of this because they compare you to other similarly sized homes. If you have a family of three and your neighbor is a single person and you both live in 2BR homes, you're going to have much higher energy costs than they do. Similarly, if you have electric heat or an electric stove, you're going to have higher electric bills than a neighbor whose home has gas. You can update your profile on PG&E's site to better account for this, which will help. I'd look instead at your actual usage--has it gone up since this time last year? How does it compare to average per capita electricity use? Are you running an air purifier or air conditioner? (These can cause your bills to spike, and many people have added them this year.) If you've considered all of this and your usage still looks very high for your household size, look at PG&E's site to understand when it is high. Is there an appliance you use during that period that might be contributing? If it's heat escaping, there are some easy inexpensive ways to insulate windows as a renter. If you're in a multi-unit building, make sure that your meter is pulling only your electricity and not usage from any common areas. If you can identify a particularly problematic older appliance, you might be able to work with your landlord to figure out a plan to replace it. Good luck!

Do you pay for gas for heating? That’s where we are high - no electricity. 

Have you switched to LED’s?

Have you switched off everything and made sure the meter is registering 0?

Also I think you can ask PGE to come to your house.

Could it be the appliances? if the appliances are older and/or not energy efficient, that could be contributing to the cost. Not sure if you would be able to speak with your landlord about replacing appliances if they are still working fine though. Also, PG&E offers tiers based upon cost and hours of usage if you haven't already looked at this: https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/rate-plans/how-rates-work/find-my-...

Are you sure you are paying only for the electricity and gas you are using?  I own property in Berkeley and elsewhere where the electricity, gas and water being used in one apartment is really connected to another apartments meter.  Your landlord might or might not know.  If this is happening Berkeley's Rent Control Board is there to help you and your landlord. 

Do you know PG&E has about 10 different rate plans for residential customers?  Which rate plan are you on?  Just by changing rate plans we lowered on PG&E bill by 37%.
If you have an iPhone/iPad get PG&E Toolkit.  it's a few dollars.  The app will allow you to compare your usage with the all the different rate plans PG&E has.  If you need help with the app PM me and I will show you how to use it. This is crazy, but I can be paying $0.16 kWhr while my neighbor across the street is paying $0.54 kWhr. 

Is you bill high due to gas or electricity.
Are all of your lights LEDs?  Replace all of your incandescent and CFLs with LEDs.
Are your appliances electric or gas. Heater, stove, oven, water heater, dryer, water heater?
Electric appliances are far more costly to operate compared to gas.  Right now gas is very inexpensive.
Do you have air conditioning?  (Probably not if you are in Berkeley.)  But if you do that can be 50 to 75% of your bill.

When do you use your appliances?  If you are on a Time of Use rate plan PG&E rates change up to 5 times in one day.  And then if you use more then you should they add a tiering premium on top of of what you are already paying.  Depending on the rate plan PG&E has up to 4 tiers.  At the higher tiers you might be paying double what you would pay at the lower tiers. Then in late spring, all summer and early fall PG&E charges a premium or surcharge which is about 25 to 30% additional depending on your rate plan.

 If all or most of your appliances are electric, (this is what the City of Berkeley is requiring now), it will cost you quite a bit more, but then remember you are doing something good for the environment.

How is the insulation where you live?  Do you have double pane windows?  Is were you live well insulated?  Probably not.  City of Berkeley offers landlords no incentive to insulate rental units.

End of this year PG&E rates are going to change.  They say they are lowering the rates, (which they are), but because of the Time of Use billing expect to pay 30% more. 

The only way I was able to figure this out was with the PG&E Toolkit app.  (PG&Es web site is terrible and doesn't give you all of the information the app does.)

Not sure how large your rental is, but our tenants pay between $35 and $50 per month for gas and electricity for 1 bdrm.  And for 2 bdrm $40 to $75.

Hope this helps.

You should apply to the Energy Savings Assistance Program 888-759-1174 , they come to your house and check everything to determine what is causing the high bills if they found the cause they replace it for free . 
Hope this help you ! 

Biggest impacts tend to be old refrigerator, electric heaters, central AC units, sometimes hot water heater if high water usage. There’s a meter that you plug into outlet, then plug in device and it will presumably directly measure electrical usage so you can actually find the biggest culprits. Good luck!