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Ask A Bay Area Expert: Five Ways To Lower Your Energy Bill

Solar Panels (credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Everyone wants to save money, but living in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the nation's highest cost of living regions, leaves few opportunities to save. In addition to natural gas and electric energy, alternative sources such as solar, wind and water power can provide reliable, renewable energy with possible long-term savings. Many builders and homeowners are incorporating a combination of energy sources, depending on lifestyle and housing locations. Educate yourself on the most cost savvy energy options available in the Bay Area, as the choices and benefits are numerous, and all look to reduce energy bills.

Laurie Giammona, PG&E Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer

Laurie Giammona
Senior Vice President and
Chief Customer Officer

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)
(800) 743-5002

Bay Area native Laurie Giammona is Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, one of the largest combination natural gas and electric utilities providers in the country, based in San Francisco. When she came onboard in 2012, after wide-ranging experience in varied executive positions with Comcast and United Airlines, Giammona implemented an extensive upgrade of the PG&E Contact Centers, leading initiatives to improve customer satisfaction and boost the customer experience. Under Giammona's leadership, PG&E online and mobile platforms developed more customer-centric options for self-serve and select preferences for customer transactions with the company.

Laurie Giammona shares five ways to lower your energy bill:

Check Your Current Energy Status

Customers should start with a Home Energy Checkup to ensure their home is as energy efficient as possible. Through this simple web-based assessment, customers answer a few basic questions about their home and habits to find out what in their home is using the most energy, and get easy tips and tricks to save.

Lighting Is One Of The Easiest Places To Save Energy

Replace your old incandescent bulbs with LEDs and you can save up to 77 percent on your annual usage.

Appliances Still Use Energy Even When Turned Off

Unplug unused phone chargers, power adapters or appliances to save, or use a power strip as a central turn-off point to make saving even easier.

Set The Perfect Temp And Keep The Warmth In

When you're home during colder winter months, set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, health permitting. Each degree the furnace is set above 68 uses three to five percent more energy. Close the curtains, shades and blinds at night and when you're not home to help prevent warm air from escaping.

Sign Up For PG&E Money-Saving Programs

Some of these include the Balanced Payment Plan, which makes energy bills more predictable by leveling monthly payments to avoid surprises from season-to-season. Customers can also benefit from the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program, which gives income-qualified households deep discounts on their energy bills.

Jeanine Cotter, Luminalt President and CEO

Jeanine Cotter
President and CEO at Luminalt
Solar Electric and Solar Hot Water
Design Build

1320 Potrero Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 641-4000

Jeanine Cotter is President and CEO of San Francisco-based solar contractor Luminalt, which she co-founded more than a decade ago. Her mission was and remains to bring clean, reliable, local solar power to the San Francisco Bay Area and create quality local jobs. One of few women CEOs in solar, Jeanine sits on a number of boards and committees, including the executive committee of the board of CALSEIA, California's solar industry trade organization. Widely considered an expert, Jeanine has received many awards for her work in solar and the community, including 2015 Woman of the Year award for California Assembly District 19.

Jeanine Cotter shares her expertise with five ways to reduce electricity cost:

Save Money By Learning How Much Electricity You Use And When You Use It

You need to know how much you use to start reducing it. Use PG&E's great online tools. Log in to your account on Click on "my usage." Select the view "bill" to see how much electricity you use in each monthly billing cycle over a year. Select "day" to see how much electricity you use each day in a billing cycle. Select "interval" to see how much you use by hour in a day. Look to see if you use more electricity during certain seasons. Do you use more in the evening or during the day?

Save Money By Learning How You Are Using Your Electricity So You Can Reduce It

Now that you know how much you use and when you use it, it's time to see what that usage is. Electric heating then electric cooling typically use the most electricity in a household. Appliances typically use the next most. Following that is lighting. One incandescent bulb uses about ten times as much electricity as an LED bulb. Plug appliances into a Kill-A-Watt meter to see how much electricity an appliance uses. You can buy a Kill-A-Watt at a local hardware store or online. PG&E customers can borrow a Kill-a-Watt meter for free from the Tool Lending Library at PG&E's Pacific Energy Center.

Save Money By Being On The Right Rate Plan

Most of us are on a flat rate plan in which each kWh (unit of electricity) we use is charged at the same amount regardless of when it's used. There are tiers in which the rates get more expensive. But that same cost per kWh is charged regardless of when you use it.

There is also a time of use rate plan in which each kWh we use is charged at a different amount depending on when we use it. Like a flat rate plan, there are tiers in which the rates get more expensive. By learning when you use the most electricity and what appliance use it, you can change the time when you use appliances to a cheaper time of day. That can reduce your bill.

Save Money By Driving Electric

Running a car on electricity is cheaper than buying gas, especially if you are on a time of use rate and plug in when electricity is cheapest. It's also a lot cleaner for the planet.

If You Own Your Home, Explore Whether Solar Is Right For You

Provide the solar contractor with 12 months of your electricity usage and information about your home so she can determine how much solar you need to offset your bill in a way that makes the best sense for your priorities.

Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes on adult education, art and culture, business, and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a part of the Bay Area independent film community. Her work can be found at

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