How Much Does It Cost to Run Your Home AC in Sacramento?

You probably have a rough idea of how much it costs to run your air conditioner, based upon how much your power bill rises during the summer months. But do you actually know how much energy your AC uses?

When you purchased your AC, it likely came with a yellow EnergyGuide sticker featuring an estimate of its yearly operating cost. However, this likely doesn’t factor in the electricity used by circulation fans. Secondly, as your air conditioner ages, it will become less efficient and require more electricity to produce the same level of comfort.

Thankfully, you can determine exactly how much it costs to run your AC by simply checking your electric meter and doing a little math.

You can determine your AC’s electricity consumption by comparing your energy usage when it’s on versus when it’s off.

Our goal here is to figure out how much electricity your air conditioner uses. We’re going to accomplish this by measuring how much electricity your home uses when the AC is running, and then see how much less you use when the AC is off. The difference between these two figures will indicate your AC’s electricity consumption.

First, you need to establish a baseline by shutting off your air conditioner, and seeing how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity your home uses. Once your AC is off, go find your electric meter.

Electric meters provide an ongoing measurement of your home’s electricity consumption. Much like the odometer of your car, it doesn’t reset. So in order to figure out how much electricity you use in a given length of time, you need to take two readings and find the difference.

You’ll need to know how to take a reading from your electric meter.

If you live in Sacramento, you likely have a smart meter installed by SMUD that looks something like this:

The display will alternate through four or so readouts. The readout you want is the one that shows “020” to the left as shown above. The larger five digit number is your home’s current total electricity consumption, as measured in kWh.

If PG&E is your energy provider, you will likely have a smart meter manufactured by Landis+Gyr or GE. Visit PG&E’s “Read a SmartMeter” page for information on how to read it. If you still have an old-style analog meter, read PG&E’s guide on reading analog electricity meters.

Regardless of what type or model of meter you have, they all work more or less the same. Once you understand how to read your meter, you can begin.

All you need to do is to write down your current energy usage. Then, wait exactly one hour, and check your meter again and write down the new energy reading.

Take your new reading, and subtract your old one from it. If your first reading was 05352, and your second was 05371, then 5371 – 5352 = 19. This means your household uses 19 kWh of electricity per hour with the AC off.

Now it’s time to figure out how much electricity your air conditioner uses.

You don’t want to do this experiment when it’s cool enough for your AC to not run. Wait until the hottest part of the day, when your air conditioner is running consistently. You may want to turn down the target temperature a bit to ensure that it stays on.

Once your AC is running, take a new meter reading. Then wait one hour, and take a second reading. Subtract the first reading from the second, as before, to see how much electricity your home uses with the AC on.

Now you should have two figures: the amount of energy your home used with the AC off, and the amount of energy used with the AC running. As an example, let’s say that we used 19 kWh when the AC was off, and 22 kWh when it was on. If we subtract ‘AC off’ figure from the ‘AC on’ figure, we find that our hypothetical air conditioner uses about 3 kWh of electricity per hour.

If you wish to obtain a more accurate measurement of your AC’s energy usage, use longer intervals for your readings. For instance, take a 3 hour baseline reading, and a 3 hour ‘AC on’ reading, subtract the former from the latter, and then divide by 3 to get the hourly AC electricity usage. This is especially useful if you have a smaller AC unit that doesn’t have a very large energy draw.

Once we know how much electricity the air conditioner uses, then we can determine how much it costs to run it.

Now, you need to identify your current electricity rate. If you have SMUD, this is pretty easy, as they’ve eliminated tiered pricing. Between June 1 and September 30—when you use your AC the most—SMUD currently charges $0.1291 (about 13 cents) per kWh. Outside of this period, SMUD charges $0.1128 per kWh.

If you have PG&E, this is trickier, as you’ll need to identify whether you’re on a tiered rate plan or time-of-use plan. You may need to refer to your electricity bill to determine this. Under a tiered plan, your rate can vary according to how much electricity you use, while time-of-use plans adjust the rate according to the time of day.

As of June 2017, PG&E charges residential tiered plan customers $0.19979 per kWh for use under your daily baseline quantity, and $0.27612 for every kWh over the threshold (up to 400% of the baseline). For time-of-use rates, refer to your PG&E statement.

Once you know how much you’re charged per kWh, take that amount and multiply it by how many kWH your AC used in one hour.

If our hypothetical AC that used 3 kWh is owned by a SMUD customer, then one hour of AC usage costs about 39 cents (3 kWh x $0.1291 = $0.3873). Keep in mind, this is how much it costs to run your AC continuously for one hour. If you set your thermostat’s target temperature higher (72 or 74 degrees, rather than 68), then your AC won’t run as much. Also, ACs cycle on and off as the temperature in your home changes, and on cooler days your AC will not run as often or as long as on hot days.

But with a little creative math, you can get a rough idea of how much your AC typically costs to run. If you leave your air conditioner on for 16 hours out of the day, and observation tells you that it runs for about half that time (50% of 16 hours), then you can take your hourly consumption cost, and multiply it by the number of hours the thermostat is on and the percentage of the time the AC runs to estimate the daily cost:

$0.3873 x 16 hours x 50% (0.5) = roughly $3.10 per day, or $92.95 per 30-day month

If you live in a particularly hot area, or you keep your home at a cooler temperature, then adjust the percentage on-time accordingly. If you think it runs about 70% of the time, then:

$0.3873 x 16 hours x 70% (0.7) = roughly $4.34 per day, or $130.13 per 30-day month

If you find that your aging air conditioner is costing you more than you realized, then it might be time to upgrade to a new energy efficient air conditioner. To find out how Gilmore can help you get your cooling costs under control, give us a call at 888-868-2316, or request a phone call with our website’s convenient appointment scheduler.

Ways to Stay Cool Without Central AC

There are many days in Sacramento and much of Central California where it’s impossible to function without the use of an air conditioner. As of July 23rd, we’ve had 8 days with high temperatures above 100 degrees, and 21 out of 23 days have had highs of 90 or more.

When it’s that hot out, it’s absolutely necessary to have a functioning AC, as cracking a window is only going to make your house warmer. However, when we look to the homes of yesteryear, we find that our forebears were experts at taking advantage of cool evenings, and utilized a number of other clever innovations to keep indoor temperatures down.

Would you like to cut your cooling costs? Here are just a few ideas for decreasing your reliance on your air conditioner and reducing your electricity bills.

Create cross drafts to pump in cool evening or morning air from outside.

Have you ever walked through a home or building a felt a strong breeze flowing through? This is accomplished by creating a “cross draft.” Cross drafts are formed when two openings are created—such as with two windows, or with a window and door—that are spaced apart and align with one another.

A cross draft is great for rapidly pumping hot daytime air out of a home and replacing it with cooler evening air. If you’ve left your air conditioner off during the day, creating a cross draft is a much more cost efficient way of cooling your home off.

This is easiest to accomplish if you live in a narrow shotgun style home in which the front door aligns with a back door or bedroom window; these can be used to create a cross draft that runs through the entire home. But, any room in which a room has windows or other openings on two opposing walls can be opened up to create a cross draft.

If you have an openable skylight, use a fan to push hot air up and out.

Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, the occasional home featured a cupola, a small turret-like structure with open sides that allowed hot air to escape out the top. This effect can be recreated if you have skylights which can be opened. To maximize this effect, position a fan under it, blowing up and out the skylight. This will create a vacuum which pulls cool air in through open windows.

Make the most of your porch—overhangs help shade the front of your home.

If you ever walk through Midtown Sacramento, you’ll find many homes from the turn of the century through the ‘30s and ‘40s which feature large porches. Some homes even have porches that wrap around one or both sides.

Porches have a dual benefit. First, they create a comfortable, shaded area to sit outside when the weather is good. Secondly, the roof over a porch shades the front wall and windows of the home, reducing the amount of sunlight absorbed by the home as heat.

If your porch has minimal protection, see what options you have for installing or extending porch overhangs. You can also visit your local hardware store, which likely carries outdoor shades designed for installation on patios and porches.

Go old school with window awnings.

If you ever look at photos of apartment buildings and homes from the turn of the century, you might notice that it wasn’t unusual for windows to have awnings installed above them.

These fabric coverings reflected sunlight and shaded windows and the rooms they opened onto. Some homes even had awnings installed over their porches in order to maximize the cooling potential provided by the roof overhanging the porch.

We are fortunate to live in an era in which we can take technologies like air conditioning for granted. And if you live in Central California, then it’s imperative that you get your air conditioning serviced if it isn’t working correctly. That’s why Gilmore Heating Air & Plumbing is here—we’re just a phone call or an email away.

But it’s also possible to stretch your cooling budget by taking advantage of some of the time-tested strategies described above. Gilmore can also help you find new opportunities to control your cooling costs, such as by installing a new energy efficient air conditioner. Give Gilmore a call, and we’ll help you find the best way to keep your home cool and comfortable this summer, without breaking the bank!

Gilmore Participates in PG&E and SMUD Energy Efficiency Rebate Programs

One of the most effective means of reducing your heating and cooling bills year-round is by ensuring that you have a modern, energy efficient home. Many homes use far more electricity and natural gas than necessary for heating and cooling purposes due to poor insulation, air leaks, and particularly the use of older, inefficient HVAC systems and water heaters.

However, we understand that the cost of upgrading your home, especially the installation of a new air conditioner or furnace when your old one still works, is prohibitively expensive for some households. This is why Gilmore Heating Air & Plumbing is proud to participate in energy efficiency rebate programs offered by PG&E and SMUD.

Through these programs, you get paid by your energy provider for installing home upgrades that improve the energy efficiency of your home. Some of these rebates can actually be quite sizeable, and a single household can claim multiple rebates. Read on for more information on how to claim your rebates while working with Gilmore Heating Air & Plumbing.

SMUD’s Home Rebates & Energy Solutions Offers

SMUD understands just how much it costs to heat and cool inefficient homes. This is why they offer a wide range of rebates, with gas-heated homes being eligible for up to $5,000 in rebates, while electric-heated homes being eligible for up to $8,000 in rebates.

If you check out SMUD’s Energy Solutions page, you can see a list of some of the biggest rebate options they have. The amounts of most of the rebates depend upon the amount spent and other factors. While we cannot fulfill all of the services they offer rebates for, we are eligible contractors for most of them, including the following:

  • HVAC Replacement (AC and/or Heat Pump): $500 to $850
  • HVAC Downsizing ($100 per ½ ton reduction): $300
  • Attic Insulation: Up to $2,000
  • Wall Insulation: Up to $1,000
  • Crawlspace Insulation: Up to $500
  • Duct Sealing: Up to $500
  • And much more.

To take advantage of these upgrades, you’ll need to start by contacting us by calling 888-868-2316, or sending us a message through our appointment request form. We’ll need to have an evaluator come out and survey the condition of your home, and then sit down with you and put together an upgrade plan featuring multiple upgrades.

You cannot apply for a rebate by simply getting a single upgrade and applying after the fact. The upgrades must be performed as part of a comprehensive plan put together by our experts, and then submitted to SMUD for a pre-approval. Failing to get pre-approval will disallow you from taking advantage of the rebate program.

PG&E Energy Upgrade California Home Upgrade Program

The PG&E Energy Upgrade California Home Upgrade is very similar to SMUD’s program in terms of what it offers and how it works. Homeowners who take advantage of the basic home upgrade option are eligible for up to $2,500, as long as they install three or more of the listed upgrade. Those who participate in the advanced home upgrade can qualify for up to $5,500 in benefits.

Some of the basic upgrade rebates available include:

  • Attic Insulation & Plane Air Sealing: $500
  • Efficient Gas Furnace (95% AFUE): $400
  • Efficient Gas Furnace (92% AFUE): $350
  • Floor Insulation $400
  • Wall Insulation: $400
  • Duct Replacement: $350
  • Duct Sealing: $200
  • High Performance HVAC Install: $200

To maximize your savings, take advantage of some of the advanced home upgrade options, which include optimizations like a cool roof, interior and exterior efficient lighting, and more. For more details, check out PG&E Home Upgrade FAQ, or contact Gilmore and make an appointment to meet with one of our home upgrade evaluators.

As with the SMUD program, to obtain a rebate from PG&E, it’s necessary to have us come out and perform an energy assessment of your home, and then develop an upgrade plan that is approved by PG&E.

Also, be sure to speak with one of our representatives if you’re interested in financing your upgrades. There are many assistance programs available through Gilmore, your energy company, and even the state of California. Talk to us for more information!

Using Your Thermostat to Stay Comfortable and Save Money

What is a thermostat and how does it work?

You might have one of those old school thermostats with the slide switch, or a newer digital display one, or even a smart thermostat that you can control with your phone. But in the end, thermostats are just the box that lets you turn the temperature up and down, right?

Well, there’s a bit more to thermostats than that. A thermostat is a temperature sensitive electronic switch that controls your air conditioner, furnace, or both. Early analog, electromechanical thermostats—the kind your parents or grandparents used—had a small bimetallic coil that expanded or contracted as the air around changed temperature. The temperature selector switch adjusted the position of the thermostat coil so that when the temperature dropped below (in cold weather) or rose above (in hot weather) the target temperature, the coil would tip a small bulb of mercury in one direction or the other, making the mercury shift and complete a circuit, starting the AC or furnace. (For a more in-depth examination, check out this tear down of an old Trane thermostat.)

While these thermostats worked well, they weren’t terribly energy efficient, and the mercury they used became a health concern. This wasn’t a big loss, as today’s computerized thermostats are much more accurate and efficient, and give you advanced settings that can help you cut your energy bill.

Common Types of Thermostats

There are many types of thermostats in use today:

Electromechanical: These are the old style analog thermostats described above. Older ones relied on mercury switches, though later models did away with this toxic metal. These are still commonly used, but they lack the cost-saving programmable features enjoyed by many homeowners. These are best suited for people with regular schedules, and are compatible with most heating and cooling systems, except for heat pumps.

Digital: Most thermostats used today are digital. These can be very bare bones, with just a black LCD and push buttons, or may include extra bells and whistles like backlighting, touchscreens, iPad-like color displays, and phone app integration. However, even very basic models are programmable, allowing you to schedule temperature “setbacks”—when the furnace or air conditioner is set back to more moderate temperature, reducing energy usage.

Hybrid: These are fancier touchscreen models that also feature manual slides and push buttons. Hybrid thermostats are a great choice when you are comfortable with technology, but some members of your family aren’t very tech savvy.

Occupancy:  Occupancy controlled thermostats have the same sensors used to control lighting in business offices. When an occupancy thermostat senses that people are present, it shifts into occupancy mode and adjusts the temperature accordingly. When it doesn’t sense anyone present for a preset period of time—anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours—then it shifts into unoccupied mode. This allows you to have the cost-saving benefit of a programmable thermostat, without actually having to set a schedule and overriding those settings when you break your patterns. However, these units are rather inflexible, and are best suited for spaces that are unoccupied for long periods of time, such as offices and retail stores.

Light Sensing: These utilize the same logic as occupancy thermostats, but instead use a light sensor to determine whether you are home or not. When the amount of light exceeds the preset level, the system turns on the air conditioner or furnace. When lighting falls below this threshold, the thermostat shifts into unoccupied mode. As with occupancy thermostats, these are best suited for areas left unoccupied for much of the day.

The most basic digital thermostats start at around $20, and can run up to around $250 for app-controlled thermostats, such as the popular Nest line of products. Thermostats with occupancy or light sensors cost around $350.

Using a Programmable Thermostat with Automatic Temperature Adjustment

Installing a programmable digital thermostat is a great way to maximize your energy savings without sacrificing comfort. By maintaining your desired temperature for four or five hours a day instead of 24 hours—as was typical with analog thermostats—a programmable thermostat will cut your energy costs tremendously, and more than pay for itself in a very short while.

Most programmable thermostats have one or more of the following features:

  • Store and repeat multiple daily and weekly setback schedules, which you can manually override temporarily without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.
  • Store six or more temperature settings per day.
  • Adjust heating and air conditioning turn-on times automatically as the outside temperature changes.

Choosing a Thermostat That’s Right for You

It’s a good idea to do a little homework before you choose a programmable thermostat. When considering which thermostat to buy, be sure to consider these questions:

  • Does the thermostat draw power from the heating system’s low-voltage electrical control circuit instead of a battery? While not having to replace the battery can seem convenient, the clock in some thermostats can be disrupted by power outages and when the furnace cycles on and off. A thermostat with a battery backup is preferred by many homeowners.
  • Is the thermostat compatible with your current electrical wiring?
  • How accurate is the thermostat?
  • Are the programming instructions easy to understand and remember? Some thermostats conveniently feature brief instructions inside the cover plate or housing box. If this isn’t the case, is it complicated enough that you’ll have to consult the instruction booklet every time you want to adjust the thermostat’s settings?

Most programmable thermostats completely replace old units, and are preferred by many homeowners. However, some models are designed to be placed over or alongside existing thermostats, and are mechanically controlled to permit automatic setbacks. These units are usually battery powered, eliminating the need for electrical wiring. They are often easy to program, and because they run on batteries, their clocks do not reset during power outages.

Before you make a choice, take some time to chart your weekly habits: when you wake up and leave for work or school, when you get home, and when you go to bed. Then determine what temperatures are most comfortable during these time periods. This will help you decide which thermostat will best serve your needs.

Where to Place Your Thermostat

The location of your thermostat can affect its performance and efficiency. Read the manufacturer’s installation instructions to prevent erroneous “ghost readings” and unnecessary furnace or air conditioner cycling. Place your thermostat away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights, and windows. Lastly, make sure that your thermostat is conveniently located for reprogramming and overriding automatic settings.

Busting Myths About Thermostat Usage

Many people believe that if you turn the heat down when you’re gone and then turn it back up when you get home, that your furnace will have to work harder to get your house back up to a comfortable temperature, resulting in little savings or even a net loss. This isn’t true. Studies have shown that the amount of energy needed to bring a home back up to a comfortable temperature is roughly equal to the energy saved while the temperature dropped after the furnace was turned off. That means that you save money for the entire period during which your home stabilizes at a lower temperature. The longer your home remains at a lower temperature, the more energy (and money) you’ll save.

An even more popular myth is that if you set your thermostat to a higher temperature, your furnace will put out more heat and warm up faster. Again, this isn’t true. A thermostat isn’t like the gas pedal in your car. It’s more like a light switch—on or off. Turning the temperature higher just raises the target temperature and makes your furnace run longer, not faster.

Setting Your Thermostat for Maximum Energy Savings in Winter

Yes, we know how awesome it is when it’s cold outside and you step through your front door and feel that blast of warm air. But keeping your home warmer than necessary costs a lot of money in the long run; the warmer it is inside your home, the faster it loses heat through the walls, as the rate of heat loss is determined by the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures. A bigger difference means faster heat loss.

You can cut this heat loss by setting your thermostat just a bit lower, which can save you a lot of money. If you consistently set your thermostat 1 degree lower than you normally do for an 8 hour period, you can shave 1% off of your yearly heating bill. That means turning it down by 10 degrees can save you 10 PERCENT. That’s pretty significant.

An easy way to take advantage of these savings is by using your thermostat’s schedule function to automatically drop the temperature by a few degrees when you’re sleeping or at work. When you’re home, an ideal temperature is 68 degrees—enough to keep you warm without using too much energy.

A Note for Heat Pump Owners: When a heat pump is in its heating mode, setting back a conventional heat pump thermostat can cause the unit to operate inefficiently, canceling out any savings achieved by lowering the temperature setting. Maintaining a consistent moderate temperature is the most cost-effective practice. However, some companies have begun selling specially designed heat pump thermostats which make setting back the thermostat cost effective. Please note, when a heat pump is in cooling mode during the summer, it operates like an air conditioner. Therefore, manually turning up the thermostat will save you money.

Setting Your Thermostat for Maximum Energy Savings in Summer

Summer is the same as winter when it comes to heat transfer, but in reverse: the cooler you keep your home, the faster the inside of your home absorbs heat from outside. Yes, it feels amazing to keep your home so cold that you can see your breath, but you won’t like your power bill. During the summer, try and keep your thermostat set at about 78 degrees. When you’re away from home, set it higher.

 

Want to Reduce Your Household Water Bills?

Many Central California residents have metered water use, which means that they pay for every gallon of water that flows through their taps, shower heads, toilets, and garden hoses.

Do you know how much you pay for your water?

Below, you can see how much homeowners in a few Central California cities pay per CCF of water* (1 CCF = 100 cubic feet = 748 gallons):

  • Auburn & Rocklin: $1.44/CCF for the first 4, $1.55/CCF for the next 6, $1.65/CCF for the next 10,
  • Citrus Heights: $0.98/CCF
  • El Dorado Hills: $1.454/CCF for the first 18, $1.755/CCF for the next 27, $2.059/CCF thereafter
  • Elk Grove: $1.52/CCF for the first 30, $3.02/CCF thereafter
  • Folsom: $1.08/CCF for the first 20, $1.30/CCF for the next 20, and $1.60/CCF thereafter
  • Placerville: $2.94/CCF for the first 10, $3.52/CCF for the next 15, $3.81/CCF thereafter
  • Roseville: $1.17/CCF
  • Sacramento: $1.0959/CCF
  • South Lake Tahoe: $1.04/CCF for the first 45, $1.56/CCF thereafter

*Please note that the rates above are accurate as of September 2017.

While even a single CCF of water may seem like a lot, daily water usage adds up fast.

The Sacramento County Water Agency reported that in July 2017, the average household used 192.69 gallons per day, or 0.26 CCF. While this would result in a monthly water bill of only $8.47 in Sacramento, if a household in Placerville used that much water every day, their monthly water bill would be $22.72, on top of flat fees charged for water service.

This may still not seem like much, but this is average water usage. 50% of households in Sacramento used more water than that.

If you:

  • Have a large household,
  • Have family members who enjoy taking 45 minute showers,
  • Have a swimming pool,
  • Water your lawn frequently…

Then your water consumption is likely much higher than average, and your water bills are too. Would you like to do something about those pesky bills?

Here are a few easy to install fixtures that can cut your water costs.

Low-flow sink faucets and aerators: Many retailers sell bathroom and kitchen sink faucets that save water, while still maintaining a pleasing water flow. If you would like to keep your existing water faucets, you can purchase an aerator for a few dollars and screw it onto your faucet head. Aerators reduce water flow, but mix air into the water stream, making it feel as if the water volume is the same.

Reduced flow shower heads and flow restrictors: There are innumerable shower heads available that reduce water flow while offering many spray options. These shower heads are usually quite inexpensive, and are a great choice, as they are designed to use less water while delivering a satisfying experience. But if you would like to keep your shower head, simply purchase a shower flow restrictor, which are small devices that are installed in the shower head and reduce flow, similar to an aerator.

Water saving toilets: If you’re really feeling dedicated, you can consider purchasing a new, water-efficient toilet. Older toilets use as much as 6 gallons of water per flush. New toilets bearing the EPA’s WaterSense label use no more than 1.28 gallons per flush (20% less than the current federal standard for new toilets). You can also consider buying a dual-flush toilet, which has a low-flow button for liquid waste and a higher-volume flush button for solid waste. If you would like to reduce the water usage of your old pre-‘90s toilet, take a slender half-gallon juice or milk container, fill it with water and rocks, and submerge it in the tank. This will reduce the amount of water it takes to fill the tank.

High efficiency clothes washers: New high efficiency clothes washers are designed to use less water while still delivering the same washing performance as a typical clothes washer. These washers use about 35 to 50% less water than a typical washer. If you wash a lot of clothes with hot water, this is a great way to cut your water and energy costs.

Also work to eliminate wasteful water habits, and get your leaky faucets and toilets repaired.

You can also look for other ways to reduce your water usage. Maybe you don’t need to water your lawn so often, or you can encourage your family members to take shorter showers. Think about your behaviors and how they impact your water usage, and then look for opportunities to change your habits.

Perhaps most importantly, are your faucets or toilets leaking? If you’ve been hearing the steady drip-drip of a water leak, you need to realize that you’re also hearing your savings drip-drip-dripping away.

Leaks don’t just waste water. They can also eventually cause serious and expensive damage to your home. If you’ve been letting a pesky leak slowly worsen, now is the time to deal with it. Gilmore’s plumbing professionals can help! For more information, give us a call at or send us a message using our convenient contact form.

Water Heater Cost – Time for an Upgrade?

When you’re paying your energy bills, do you ever ask what it is you’re paying for? Yes, you’re paying for your electricity and natural gas usage, but what is actually consuming those resources, and more importantly, who are the biggest culprits?

For starters, the biggest consumers of energy in the typical home are space heating costs: running your heater and AC to heat and cool your home. This is why we make a big deal about installing efficient furnaces and air conditioners.

After that, it gets a bit murky as to what is the biggest energy vampire. But the evidence suggests that after HVAC systems, water heaters are the single biggest consumer of energy. Their share of home energy usage varies depending on who you ask:

Water heating and space heating costs are similar in that they’re both subject to daily behaviors. Just as keeping your home at 75 degrees all winter long will run up your energy bill, taking 45 minutes showers will hurt your wallet. But they differ in an important way as well.

Space heating costs scale according to the size your home, while water heating costs scale according to the number of people in your home.

You may have a conservatively sized home that costs very little to heat or cool. But if you have a very large family, then you’re likely running the shower a lot, doing a lot of loads of laundry, using your kitchen’s hot water tap more, and so on.

What are your options for reducing your water heating costs? Well, it all comes back to your water heater. In case you don’t know how a traditional tank water heater works, it’s essentially the equivalent of a big pot of water that’s continuously kept on a stove to be used at a moment’s notice. When the water drops below a certain temperature, the “stove” (the heating element) in the water heater kicks on, and heats the water until it you’re your desired temperature setting. Then the heating element turns off again. When you start using hot water, the water that is consumed is replaced with cool water, which has to be heated.

The upshot of this is that while water heaters use a lot of energy when you consume hot water, they actually use energy even when you’re not using any water at all. While this is frustrating, this means that there are actually ways to save energy using the same hot water heater you have now, without changing a thing about your habits:

  • Reduce the temperature on the water heater. For every 10 degree reduction, you cut about 3 to 5% from your total water heating costs.
  • Make sure that your water tank and the pipes connecting to it are adequately insulated.
  • Fix any leaking faucets in your home.
  • Install low-flow fixtures and flow reducers.
  • Install a timer that turns your water heater off at night or when you’re away from home.

If your water heater is getting old, then it may be time to upgrade to a new, energy efficient water heater.

Is your water heater more than 15 years old? Then it may well be time to replace it.

If you aren’t sure how old your water heater is, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has a handy guide on how to read the serial number on the tank to determine the age of your water heater. If your water heater isn’t on that list, contact the manufacturer for assistance.

Don’t assume that just because your water heater works fine, that it isn’t a dinosaur. Recently, the author of this blog post had to contact A.O. Smith for assistance in dating the water heater in his home, as the serial number didn’t match anything listed on the manufacturer’s site. It turned out that the water heater was 40 years old!

Water heaters have gotten significantly more efficient in the last few years. Even a decade or so has made a big difference. Gilmore’s Energy Audit team can help you identify energy efficient water heaters that will save you money while fulfilling your family’s hot water needs.

If you really want to cut your energy costs, consider buying an Energy Star certified hot water heater. Energy Star gas-powered water heaters are at least 8% more efficient than typical models. If you rely on electrical power, an Energy Star certified heat pump water heater uses less than half the energy of a standard electric-powered model. Visit Energy Star’s site to see a full list of Energy Star certified water heaters.

If you are a PG&E or SMUD customer, you may want to check and see if they offer energy efficiency rebates to customers in your area for installing an efficient water heater. This can help to cover some of the upfront costs.

For those looking to radically reduce your water heating energy consumption, you may even want to consider a tankless water heater. However, these can be very expensive, so consider carefully before going this route.

To learn more about how you can save money by replacing your old water heater, contact the experts at Gilmore Heating Air & Plumbing! Contact us today!

Install Energy-Saving Insulation in Your Home and Get a Rebate from PG&E or SMUD

The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler as we move through fall and get ever closer to the winter season. In addition to pulling on sweaters and switching out iced drinks for hot ones, this means that you’ll be running your home’s heating system more and more… and your energy bills will start to rise as well.

But a significant percentage of your total heating bill may not be directly due to how cold it is outside, but rather how much of the heat in your home is being lost to that cold weather.

Are you due for new home insulation?

Modern, high quality fiberglass insulation can last for more than 100 years. But if the insulation in your home is of a lower grade, was poorly installed, or is simply old, then your floors, walls, and ceiling may be allowing heat to escape. Also, if your home was built more than a couple decades ago, it likely has far less insulation than is installed in homes nowadays.

If one or more of the above possibilities is true for your home, that means that your home can’t efficiently contain heat, and is making your furnace run far more often than necessary. Adding more insulation or replacing it entirely will drastically reduce the rate at which heat radiates out of your home, and will reduce your heating costs (and your air conditioning costs during the summer as well).

However, keep in mind that simply stuffing some extra insulation in your ceiling and walls won’t deliver as much of an improvement as you would see if you had new insulation installed by a professional. HouseLogic.com, a website created by the National Association of Realtors, estimates that having a professional insulation installer handle the work will save you twice as much money as you would save if you did it yourself.

PG&E, SMUD, and the federal government provide rebates to homeowners who install new insulation.

If you have considered re-insulating your home, but you’ve been put off by cost, you should know that your local electric company, and even the federal government, can help you cover at least part of the bill. As you may or may not know, Gilmore participates in energy rebate programs offered by PG&E and SMUD. These energy companies offer rebates for a variety of energy-saving upgrades, including insulation installation.

PG&E’s insulation rebates include:

  • Attic Insulation & Plane Air Sealing: $500
  • Floor Insulation: $400

SMUD’s include:

  • Attic Insulation: Up to $2,000
  • Wall Insulation: Up to $1,000
  • Crawl Insulation: Up to $500

To take advantage of these rebates, you need to have Gilmore (or another participating company) come out and perform a home upgrade evaluation.

There are other sources of financial assistance available as well. For instance, the federal government offers an insulation tax credit for 10% of the cost of the insulation products used by the installer, up to a total of $500.

If you’re considering upgrading your home’s insulation and reducing your wintertime energy bills, get in touch with the experts at Gilmore. We’ll perform a risk-free evaluation of your home and give you a price quote, and can also tell you what rebates you’re eligible for. To learn more, call Gilmore at 888-868-2316, or send us a message using our appointment request form. If you’re ready to start saving money, what are you waiting for? Get in touch today! With Gilmore, you can be assured of receiving the Red Carpet Care that our customers have enjoyed for nearly 40 years!