Heat warning: Be safe, save energy
Pacific Gas and Electric Company reminds customers of ways to stay safe and keep energy bills down in anticipation of significant heat and increased fire danger beginning Wednesday and lasting through the weekend.
• When temperatures are unusually high, you can visit PG&E-supported Cooling Centers to escape the heat, free of charge. For information on Cooling Centers, or to find out if there is one in your neighborhood, contact your local city or county.
• If your neighborhood does not have a Cooling Center, plan trips to public places with air conditioning such as libraries, movie theaters or shopping malls.
• “Look Up and Live!” — Use caution and keep fireworks, balloons, kites and toys (such as high powered water guns or remote control aircraft) away from overhead electric lines. Contact with lines can lead to serious injury, fires and outages.
• Never go near a power line that has fallen to the ground, is dangling in the air or appears to be damaged. Always assume downed electric lines are energized and dangerous. Stay away, keep others away and immediately call 911 to alert the police and fire departments.
• Be sure smoke alarms are installed throughout your home.
• If your smoke alarms run on batteries, or have battery back-up power, replace batteries at least once per year. If the low battery warning beeps, replace the battery immediately. All smoke alarms in your house should be tested once a month using the alarm test button.
• Set your air conditioner thermostat to 78 degrees or higher when you’re at home, health permitting, and 85 degrees when you’re away.
• Setting your AC thermostat 5 degrees higher will save about 10 percent on cooling costs.
• Shut windows and draw the shades to keep in pre-cooled air from the night and early morning.
Have your central cooling duct system checked for leaks. Up to 20 percent of cooled air can be lost through leaky or poorly insulated ducts.
• Buy an Energy Star® air conditioner if your air conditioner is ready to be replaced. It can reduce energy usage by up to 10 percent.
• Avoid using an electric oven on hot days. Instead, cook on the stove, use a microwave oven, or grill outside.
In addition to conservation, utilities depend on “demand response” programs to keep the grid stable during summer months. Demand response programs are voluntary and allow enrolled customers to receive an incentive for reducing their energy use during peak demand times, like weekday afternoons.
SmartAC is an optional program in which PG&E installs a free device to your central air conditioning unit that allows it to produce cool air for 15 minutes and cycle the already cool air the next 15 minutes for no more than six hours, thereby saving energy. Participating customers receive a reward check four to six weeks after the SmartAC device is installed.
SmartRate is a voluntary summer pricing plan that lowers customers’ electric rates from June through September in exchange for customers agreeing to a higher rate from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 15 high-temperature days each summer. As an added incentive, customers who enroll by the end of August and stay enrolled through Oct. 31, 2012, will receive a $25 reward in the form of a Visa debit card mailed to them.
Customers can contact PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to learn whether these demand-response programs are right for them.
For more tips, plus information on energy rebates, visit pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney.