How to Lower Your Energy Bill Ahead of Sacramento’s Planned 2018 SMUD Energy Rate Increase

lower SMUD energy bill sacramentoCalifornia is a national pioneer in renewable energy—and proud of it. We lead the nation in solar installations, with Northern California and the Sacramento area as big contributors to those numbers. While we continue to move closer to relying completely on renewable energy to power our homes and business, we aren’t totally there yet. So it might be a bit upsetting for homeowners to learn that energy rates are set to increase again in the next couple years.

With solar, and other forms of renewable energy, more and more frequently supplying Californians with their power, utility companies have had to shift their rates in order to adjust. Incentives like rebates on equipment and tax breaks were part of the initial drive to promote renewable energy, but now, almost half of Californians have moved to some type of renewable energy, and utilities are necessarily reducing and removing some incentives to compensate for the cost of generating electricity for residents that still depend on the grid.

Adjustments like these are necessary for cities like Sacramento so that, in time, both residents and the utility company can move away from the electrical grid entirely—and one day we’ll hopefully be able to say we rely on renewable energy for all our power needs. But it’s still not too late to get ahead of the game—there are plenty of ways for homeowners supplied with power from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) to save money despite the upcoming rate hike.

What Sacramento Residents Need to Know About SMUD Rate Increases

I sometimes imagine I can hear a collective groan all over our fair city as everyone tears open their power bills each month. SMUD has incrementally raised rates by 2.5% over the last few years using an optional residential time-of-use rate. But, in 2018, the utility will move to a standard time-of-use rate for all residents of Sacramento. This price increase is due to the rising costs of energy statewide, but will also be used to cover the cost of new renewable energy mandates imposed on the utility.

So while residents might grumble about the spike in their bill, this rate change actually goes hand in hand with Californian’s overwhelming desire to go green and clean. At its heart, it has the intent of shifting homeowners and businesses to conservative thinking when it comes to grid energy usage.

If consumers shift their energy consumption towards renewable energy programs, like those funded by SMUD, together we can achieve the goal of shifting off of the grid entirely—or as much as is possible. While in the short run the extra price of power might seem harsh, if we use some forward-thinking we can actually save money by creating our own power—and needing less of it from SMUD.

How Time-of-Use Will Affect Your Bill

So what will this rate change mean to your bill, you ask? How much of an increase does this mean for my household? What even is time-of-use? The answer is that your bill will increase based on how much electricity you use—and when you use it. This is the definition of the time-of-use rate. It means that if you’re using power in your home during peak hours, your bill will be higher than if you use power during non-peak ones.

Once the mandatory rate switch over occurs, if you continue to use household appliances and other power drinkers in the middle of the day, when most people are also using them, then you’ll start to be charged at the highest rate. But, if you wait until later at night or early morning to use your appliances, you’re likely to receive a much lower rate for your energy use.

It might seem strange to switch to a time-of-use rate, but the reasoning is that it more accurately follows the cost of energy. Utility companies have to generate enough electricity to meet the need of any given day or season. The more they need to generate, the more it costs the utility, increasing the rate. So if you’re using your furnace during the dead of winter on a Saturday when most people in Sacramento are also home with the heat cranked up, your rate will also be cranked skywards.

Ways to Save When Your Rates Go Up

Your monthly utility bill can be a real drag when it comes to your budget, especially during a wet and cold fall like the one Sacramento experienced this year that’s had us all using our furnaces day and night—especially since heating and air conditioning systems are the biggest users of energy in the home. With a rate increase on the horizon, the idea of an even larger heating bill is daunting. But there are some things you can do to save on energy and avoid a hit to your pocketbook when the rates go up, like:

  • Appliance rebates: SMUD offers rebates on new energy-efficient equipment like high-efficiency HVAC systems, clothes washers, and dishwashers, and an experienced installation expert should be able to help you find and apply for local rebates and incentives.
  • Energy efficiency loans: Assistance for homeowners that want to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes is available through SMUD. This can consist of loans to cover the cost of renewable energy systems, like solar panels, that not only relieve pressure on the electrical grid, but also your dependence on the utility.
  • Free home weatherization: If you qualify as a low-income household in the Sacramento area, you may be eligible for free home weatherization. This can save you thousands of dollars during the winter months by protecting your home from cold outdoor air while keeping in the warm air from your heating system.
  • Change appliance usage times: You can save money just by changing the time of day that you use the appliances in your home. Instead of running your dishwasher and washing your clothes in the afternoon, try running them in the early morning or right before you go to bed, when fewer consumers are using appliances and the rates are lower. You can apply this to your heating energy use as well by keeping the thermostat a degree or two lower during peak hours to keep it from coming on until absolutely necessary.

These are just a few of the things you can do to save energy and money on your bill during the winter months. You can also use centralized heating like wood burning fireplaces and gas logs to heat common areas when spaces like bedrooms and offices aren’t in use, giving your furnace a break while creating a cozy environment for you and your family to enjoy.

While Northern Californians have some of the lowest utility rates in the state, it can still be frustrating to experience yearly utility rate increases. The price hikes over the last few years have allowed us to adjust slowly to the need for SMUD to raise their rates, especially those of us that have already adopted the optional time-of-use rate.

For those of us that haven’t yet made the switch, we can still get prepared by taking advantage of energy efficient incentives from SMUD, as well as adapting to the energy saving methods listed above. And your local HVAC or plumbing expert can inspire even more energy-saving methods for you home with a simple consultation. So, while a rate increase may seem discouraging, there are lots of ways to save money and possibly even lower your utility bill.

If you are in the process of creating a greener home and need help finding energy efficient heaters and HVAC systems, you can find all the information you need at Bell Brothers.