Folsom's Rainbow Bridge

Folsom's Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow Bridge crossing the American River in Folsom, CA

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dont Spill the Juice! Electricity

Welcome back to Local Fruit. The past few weeks have been very busy as we moved from a large house to a rental in Folsom and finalized our plans to start a new project. This week’s blog is gives a foundation as to why we are the only crazy people we know starting a new construction project during a rotten economy. More about that exciting project later; this week I am writing about the main reason we made the move from a beautiful suburban home to a small rented home during construction.

My wonderful husband, Rich, and I are committed to maintaining the balance between living well and living light: our main objective is to lower utility expenses while improving the quality of our home and hopefully reducing our toll on the environment in the process.

Let me explain that I'm a bit of an energy geek and for years I charted our energy usage by the dollar, the kilowatt (electricity) and the therm (gas). Even with seasonal changes in electricity and natural gas, the chart made it easy to understand the effect on gas and electricity usage when common events occur such as a teenage daughter going away to college or replacing the washer/dryer with very efficient models. Charting the usage even makes paying the bill somehow easier because we were activly managing our usage. A warning to nerds: charting utilities is often usually done by commercial property managers and can be addictive for homeowners :) .

Our electric utility is Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District (SMUD) and the bulk of their electricity comes from hydroelectric sources, meaning mountain snow pack runoff. In years of drought, we can expect up to 13% electricity inflation which makes it difficult to obtain any dollar savings.

Our electric utility is better than most for three reasons:
1. SMUD is ranked 4th in renewable energy sales on US utilities
2. SMUD is a municipal utility, so they are not profit driven for the benefit of stockholders.
3. SMUD’s rates are significantly lower than PG&E's rates in nearby communities

Our goal is to reduce electrical usage (kilowatt hours / day) and we were able to do so every year from 2006-2009. The point is that although you can reduce your energy usage and have a fairly good electric company, other events can and will affect your utility bills. Our region endured a record breaking heat wave in 2006 and drought from 2006-2010; both of which affected the electric company’s ability to produce and purchase electricity. In turn, the utility passed higher rates on to the ratepayers. Even though we were doing the right things to lower usage and we reduced our usage by 25%, our year-round efforts only saved us about $600/year.

So where do we go next? We sold our beautiful home and packed up the dog, moving to temproary quarters while we build a really cool home that is energy efficient, charming, and located in a desirable area. We submitted our plans to the City yesterday and paid the first in a series of killer fees. The good neighbors on the old historic street will endure our construction noise, dust and mess for 6-8 months; with good fortune we will be able to break ground in 4-5 weeks and finish construction in April. The image on the left is the idea house..cute yes?

Local Fruit welcomes you to share our journey-the people, the triumphs, and frustrations, and of course the really cool things we are planning to include in the home if the budget allows. I am a geek about energy and can't wait to share the progress of this project.

There is a lot of information on the web about what you can do to lower your utility consumption, and plenty of info available about utility companies. For information on the top utilities offering renewable energy, go to .