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Why is my electric bill so high? [Power Hour ep. 2 featuring Griselda Gonzalez]

by Lacy Stockton | May 28, 2021

Este episodio de Power Hour también está disponible en español.

Our featured guest, Griselda Gonzalez, Chelan PUD energy conservation rep., and your host, Lacy Stockton, answer your questions about saving energy at home here in Chelan County. In this episode we cover your questions like:

  • What's the deal with appliance rebates?
  • How can I finance my home improvements?
  • Why is my bill high? And what can I do about it?
  • What's a TSV?
  • Does the PUD come and install new windows for me?
  • How do I get my rebate?
  • Can I get a rebate for a ductless mini-split if I already have a heat pump?
  • Which contractors do you recommend?
  • What should I consider before I install rooftop solar power?
  • And more!

Watch Now:


The Power Hour is available LIVE on Facebook Wednesdays at 5:30 pm. Our energy solutions team will be there to answer your questions on rebates, energy efficiency, renewables like solar, electric vehicles, incentives for local businesses, home improvements, and more. 

You can join us live and ask your questions in the event comments. Or email your questions to conservation@chelanpud.org.

Each Power Hour episode will be uploaded to YouTube and to the Power Hour Podcast, available on Spotify and online for your listening pleasure. 

Listen to the Power Hour Podcast:

 

The Power Hour Podcast, Episode 2, featuring Griselda Gonzalez:

Lacy: It is the Power Hour. I'm your host, Lacy Stockton. And today, we will be joined by Griselda Gonzalez. She is our Energy Conservation Rep here at Chelan County PUD. And we'll be answering your questions on all things energy efficiency. So, rebates for your home, home improvements, incentives for local Chelan County businesses, all these things. And if you have a question, comments, or whatnot for Griselda, just type it into the comments. I can see those, and we can field all your questions live here. We are so glad to have you here with us today on the bilingual episode number two. And I think my counter restarted, because, awesome, that's how we roll. Let's dive in. Hi, Griselda, how is it going?

Griselda: Hi. Doing well, how are you?

Lacy: I'm doing really well. And you're at home. Awesome. New kitchen?

Griselda: Yes. In my kitchen.

Lacy: I know that you guys remodeled it recently. Is that correct?

Griselda: Yes. Thank you. (chuckles)

Lacy: And for the record, I know that they have a new ductless heat pump, which they're loving, just saying.

Griselda: Yes.

Lacy: We have incentives for that.

(laughing)

Griselda: Yes, I took advantage of that myself.

Lacy: Well done, that's great. 'Cause you're in Chelan County.

Griselda: That's right.

Lacy: Anyone in Chelan County, with any kind of meter, commercial or residential, can get those. So that's fantastic. It's great to have you here.

Griselda: Thank you. Great to be here.

Lacy: We can see all your comments and we are ready to answer them. We also have some questions that came before the show to conservation@chelanpud.org, our email address. And so maybe we'll start with those. The first question that we have is, "Do you have appliance rebates like fridges or dryers?" G? What do you think?

Griselda: Well, hello. Thanks for your question, Emily. So we don't have any appliance rebates right at the moment. We are considering bringing them back in the near future especially with the new technology with condensing dryers which, those don't use hot air to dry your clothes, so it's something we're looking at, so stay tuned for it.

Lacy: So the condensing dryers are actually, it's a single unit. So you've got your washer and dryer. You throw dirty in, wait a bunch of time and pull clean, dry clothes out, which is pretty cool. Some people really love them because they can just do a load pretty much for their family every night. So they throw it in before bed, wake up, clean dry clothes in the morning. But it is different, 'cause if you currently do a big day of high volume loads of tons of stuff on one day a week, the cycles take about five to eight hours to run. So it doesn't really work that way. You kind of have to just adjust where you're doing more frequent and smaller loads all the time and you don't have to worry about transferring it over. That's the worst. You get like the manky clothes 'cause you left them in the washer. Is it just me? (chuckles)

Griselda: Nope, I'm with you on that.

(laughter)

Lacy: Yeah, pretty cool. I will also mention you don't need a dryer vent. So, that's also a cool thing about it. But going back to our original question.

(laughing)

Griselda: Yes. (voice drowns in laughter)

Lacy: The rebates are not quite yet, and the reality is it's because basic appliances are pretty solid these days. The difference between the top of the line in terms of performance versus the basic is relatively small. So our rebates aren't going to be like a brand new free refrigerator. They're going to be a little bit more modest, but yeah, we're looking at it for sure.

"So, how do I know how much insulation I have in my attic?" People ask this a lot because, you know, we have these great incentives that can mostly pay for your new attic insulation but you have to figure out what you've got up there. And if it's empty, that's obvious. But how do you figure it out if it's not empty?

Griselda: Of course we get up in their attic and you can use a ruler or a measuring tape to measure how deep that insulation is. An average, an R value in insulation, it's about three. So R value of three per inch. Now it all just depends on the type of insulation that you have. So it's pretty basic. We normally recommend you give us a call and we'll walk you through it. We can do like a virtual audit or kind of like a video conference call. And we can take a look at it with you. But like said, an average, it's R value of three per inch. And then that'll help you determine what kind of R value you have. Now in order to qualify for a rebate on attic insulation, there has to be an R value of R 19 or less in order for us to pay a rebate on it.

Lacy: So if you have any questions for Griselda, you can just call this number, (509) 661-8008, and we are happy to help you at any time, or you can always come on the Power Hour and just dump your questions right here in the comments and we will answer them. So, Frank, thank you so much for that question. We have another one for you, unless there's something. Nope. Nothing in the chat quite yet.

Griselda: Nothing in that quite yet.

Lacy: Nope. This one is from Carl. Does the PUD have any financing options for my home improvements?

Griselda: So to answer your question, Carl, and thank you for sending that to us. PUD directly does not have any financing options for your home improvements but there is what, it's called energy smart financing. If I recall that, right. Lacy, can you correct me? (chuckles)

Lacy: Nailed it. I'm going to put a little link here.

Griselda: Perfect. Thank you. Yeah, so basically what it is, this type of financing is offered to anyone that is going to do any upgrades to their home related to energy efficiency. Now it doesn't have to be all related to energy efficiency. So you could be doing remodels or any other upgrades to your house. As long as 50% of that remodel has to do with energy efficiency, then you qualify for the Energy smart financing, which I believe the rate is as low as 4% on it. And we do have, I think, the link. Yup. Chelanpud.org/energysmart, that has all the additional information then, who to contact to fill out the application so that you can continue with the process.

Lacy: Yeah. And they're super helpful. It's same day. So you can do everything online. It's with a credit union, a nonprofit. So they're supported by the Department of Commerce. It's all above board. They're really helpful. They have a few folks over there. And again, it's like kind of same day sort of deal. All right.

Griselda: So I guess I need to mention that in Spanish 'cause I didn't.

(speaking in Spanish)

Lacy: I'm not doing it.

(laughing)

Griselda: Come on.

Lacy: Yeah. And the cool part about it, as you mentioned, is it's only half but like you can redo your kitchen as just a casual example. And then as long as, you know, you insulate behind those walls and get some energy star appliances and do all those other things that will help you save in the long run, you can pay less. And that's actually one of the reasons why people go for swankier heat pumps that are more efficient. It’s because paying 8 to 10% interest on a regular heat pump versus going for an efficient model and getting 4% means, sometimes your payments are less with a better piece of equipment just because of the interest rate change.

Griselda: Yeah, definitely a lot lower.

Lacy: So this next question that we have, we had, someone send it in a bit before and they were such a good sport that they are going to allow us to see their energy bill. So I removed their name for, you know, privacy issues. But their question was simply like, "Why the heck is my bill so high?" And this is one of the things that we often get, particularly in winter, because that's when we have some peak usage, That's when your bills are highest, is when it's coldest. I'm going to bring up their bill here. Let me just do a little switcheroo and we can spy on this person. So you guys have probably seen this, this is your bill.
  example customer PUD bill


This is what it looks like. If you're not paying it, if you haven't seen these, you're not paying your bills. That's a bigger issue, but there's some cool things in here. So, you know, first of all, you can see the billing period, which is kind of hidden up at the very top there, but the period is not the same every single bill. So sometimes it's like a day more or less. So you can pay attention to that to see if it's just more days that are included on your bill, when your bill is a little bit higher. That's one thing you can look for. Yeah. So when the temperature is lower, like in 2020, your bills go up, right? Unless you like it cold.

(laughing)

But yes, that's one of the differences that we're seeing here is that if you compare February of this year for these folks versus last year, it's a slightly lower, not a huge difference, but there's also something else that we noticed with this one which is their winter is a lot heavier than the rest of the year.

Griselda: So definitely they're doing something good in the summer months where they're not using a lot of consumption. I mean, sometimes people Do like it a lot warmer in their houses and they're not willing to drop those, the thermostat a few degrees lower. Right? Which we understand. But the other thing too, that the reason why this one specifically, it's higher than normal it's because they have an electric forced air.

Lacy: They have resistance heat!

(laughing)

Resistance heat, not the most efficient way to heat your home with electric. And so what you see here is that electric heat kicking on and it starts in November, October is pretty low, but November, December, January, February, it starts kicking in. And I actually had a quick look at this. And I said, what if these folks were to switch to a heat pump? Well, let me tell you what will happen. This is what will happen.

Example customer PUD bill after a heat pump conversion

So this is the exact same bill. This is just what their consumption could potentially look like if they switched from their forced air resistance heater to a heat pump. Those green bars are what they would be paying instead of their super big bars.

Griselda: Yeah. You could definitely see like up to a 40% reduction, and sometimes even more especially in the winter months. We are to make sure that our customers understand that the savings that they'll see will be on their winter bills, winter month bills, not summer months. So that's where they'll notice it the most.

Lacy: And, do you notice this? I mean, so you used to have in your house what kind of heat, G?

Griselda: I used to have a baseboard and wall heaters. Well, yeah. So originally it was old baseboards but they were just so old that we switched them to wall heaters at the time, because it's like, okay, well it is kind of a big expense, so we can't really go like full on. (chuckles) But a couple of years ago, we decided to do the DHP or ductless heat pump. I want to say an average in the winter months, I've seen anywhere from like $25, $30 less on my bills, so if not, a little bit more. I remember, I think my highest bill was like $110 before the DHP. And I think my highest bill right now, it's like $69, $70.

Lacy: That's great. You're doing great. 'Cause if we looked at this bill, it was considerably higher than that. So it can get up there for sure. So if you wanted to go for heat pump, we're talking like forced air furnace to heat pump, which would be an incentive of 1400 bucks, or you could also go like Griselda did, from baseboard or wall heater to a ductless heat pump, which also provides you with air conditioning, which a baseboard heater definitely does not do. On that one, you get up to a thousand dollars rebate for that switch.

Griselda: And customers who have forced air furnace and they decided to add a ductless heat pump, they can also get the thousand dollar rebate.

Lacy: That's true. Yeah. I didn't even think about that. When you've got the window shakers, I like to call the ACs in the window that, you got to switch them out and then link them. They don't really last that long either.

Griselda: No.

Lacy: You know, they last like five years, I think. Is there a rated life versus like 15 for a ductless heat pump? So lots of savings there. Thank you for the person who offered to share their bill. We're so grateful. And if you were just joining us, this is the Power Hour with Griselda. As you can tell, it is bilingual today. If you have any questions, just drop them in the comments and we are happy to answer those. We also have questions that people have put in to our email, conservation@chelanpud.org. And you can send those at any time and we will collect those and share with them live on the Power Hour, which is every Wednesday at 5:30. Alrighty.

G, are you ready for another question? Or you need to do some workout? So John has a question. “What you got for new construction?” We get this all the time because we have all these rebates and not all of them are eligible for a new addition or new square footage for your home or your business.

Griselda: All right. Thanks John for your question. So rebates on the residential side for new construction, we have heat pump upgrade. So as long as you get a high efficiency heat pump installed by a certified contractor, you get a $500 rebate. You can also get a rebate for a qualified smart thermostat and that will be $100 rebate. We also have, not directly a rebate, but it's a discount on TSVs. It's a 45% discount and you can follow a link through our webpage, which is www.chelanpud.org/tsv. And you can follow the link to purchase those with the-

Lacy: Okay. Time out. What's a TSV?

Griselda: What's a TSV? So it's a thermostatic valve for your shower heads. So that'll help you save water and it helps with the water flow. Do we still offer the rebate on the shower heads directly, Lacy?  

Lacy: Everything on the website. So there's shower heads or shower heads with TSV, there's TSVs on their own. And they're pretty cool because, you know, right now you go over to the shower, it's all cold. You're like spraying all this water. Then you like get distracted and you come back and you've wasted all this hot water. So a TSV, it's just a little thing, once your water is hot, it turns a flow to a trickle. You pull the cord and it goes full blast. So it's just this really simple device. It’s not a ductless heat pump. It's just a super simple device that will save you money because you won't have to pay for the extra water and you don't have to pay for the extra electricity to heat the water that's just running down the drain.

Griselda: They're nice. I like them. I myself got the showerheads with the TSV, so I like it. I got it for my house and for my rental.

Lacy: Some people get so excited about it and you're right. It's great for rentals because it's, you know, one of the ways that renters can unscrew stuff and screw stuff back on. So you can go and put showerheads in there, you can put in TSVs, you can put in smart thermostats. You might not bring your own windows to your rental home if you're a renter.

Griselda: Most likely not. I've only seen that once, but that's it.

Lacy: Seriously?

Griselda: Yeah. Yeah. I have a customer do it once.

(laughing)

Lacy: I'll rent your place. But I'm bringing my windows.

Griselda: It worked for both of them.

Lacy: Yeah. It's funny because sometimes with these things, people say, "Oh, but you know, I don't pay much. I'm on well water. So whatever." It's like, yes, but you pay to heat your water or maybe you take cold showers. One of the two things is happening. Either you're paying for it or you're taking cold showers.

Griselda: Yes.

Lacy: So another question for you. "How does the PUD window rebate work?" Do you come out with your tool belt and install it, G?

Griselda: No, I wish I could. I probably wouldn't know what I'm doing anyway.

Lacy: You don't want this.

Griselda: You don't want me there. Trust me.

Lacy: I mean it would make it pretty easy if all you have to do is just call G and be like, "Hey, what are you doing this afternoon? Could you come do my windows?"

Griselda: That's right.

Lacy: But that's not how it works. It's pretty fast though. And sometimes your window contractor will help you with the paperwork to do. Just send it straight into us so that you can get your rebate in the mail. There was a question that someone asked about how this works, the rebate. So why don't we just hop right into that. So you mentioned it in Spanish, but some people ask, "Do you credit my account? Do you pay the contractor directly? Do you pay me out? How does the rebate work?"

Griselda: So, the rebate on the residential side, the way it works is we pay it directly to you or to the person in the PUD account. But it is sent as a check payable to the person mailed directly to you. We don't leave it as a credit and we don't pay the contractor. Now, on the commercial side…

Lacy: Can you Venmo us? Like just Venmo or like Facebook?

Griselda: Nope.

Lacy: Old school check?

Griselda: Old school check. Yes.

Lacy: Next year, Venmo. We'll make it work.

(laughing)

Griselda: Yeah, probably not. But on the commercial side, I mean, we do offer the, it's still a check. It's not going to be a credit on the account but you do have the option to receive a check directly or if you want us to pay the contractor, we can pay the contractor. You just sign up on it and then we'll send the payment to the contractor.

Lacy: Yeah. It's easy with local businesses. You know, you just have a contractor come in and do it all. Although we did have a question last week where someone was asking like, what can I DIY? And so for commercial, you can still absolutely DIY your remodel. It doesn't have to go through a contractor or anything like that. And then, for most of the measures that are not heating measures for residential, you can totally DIY them yourself. Thank you so much.

Griselda: Of course.

Lacy: We have another question for you. We've got, we got so many questions after the FAQ last week. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer all of these. Eric had asked a question about, you know, kind of doubling up. So he's asking, “If I already have a heat pump, can I get a ductless heat pump rebate?”

Griselda: It just depends on every situation. So definitely if you have a situation like that or similar, just give us a call. We'll talk about it and we'll determine if you're eligible for the rebate. Like I said, sometimes it's like, if you have a mother-in-law unit or like an apartment and that one's heated with wall heaters or baseboard, then at that point we can pay that ductless heat pump rebate. But if it's just like a room or an office in your house that's primarily heated by a heat pump, then it wouldn't be eligible for a rebate. Neither does a garage count for it. So if you're planning and adding one in your garage, you see, have it heated, unfortunately we can't pay a rebate on that.

Lacy: That's really extra. You don't need heating in your garage all the time. Your car will be fine.

Griselda: That's right.

Lacy: Okay, cool. So the answer for most of the time is probably not, but if you have like this weird appendage that sometimes gets built on the houses where it's not being served by the main heat pump, and you want a ductless to go into that space, maybe it makes sense. It depends what kind of heating’s in there.

Okay. We're switching over to water heaters. “I have a gas water heater. Can I get a rebate on a new electric hybrid water heater?”

Griselda: Sara, thank you for your question. Unfortunately not. We don't have a rebate for switching your gas water heater to electric. Normally what I tell customers is check with your gas company and they may have rebates. I know in the past, they used to offer like window rebates and insulation and a few other rebates Check and let them if you do have a gas water heater, they may be able to offer something to you.

Lacy: You know, we often get asked who's the best contractor to do my work for me, and we don't really have a list like that. We have a list of all licensed contractors and installers on our website. If you go to each specific thing, if you go to the window page, you'll see a list at the bottom of contractors who are licensed in our area. We really recommend that you get at least three bids, three bids, because if you only get one, you don't really know if it's a good price or not, if they have recommendations or not. It's kind of tricky to know. So thank you, Ashley, for your question.

So last question is, “What should I consider before adding solar to my roof?” And I will say that, Jim, our senior energy conservation engineer, he will be here on June 9th for very specific questions. But in general, we do have some recommendations if you are considering solar panels on your property.

Griselda: There's definitely quite a few things to look into and to consider before adding solar. We got to consider that we're in an area where power is pretty cheap. So you're not going to get a huge payback by adding solar as it is really expensive. Solar is the least cost effective way of trying to save energy. Right? So one thing that we normally suggest, it's making sure that you make every energy upgrade possible to your house, whether it's adding, changing out your old windows for newer ones, adding more insulation. So anything possible that you can think of before adding solar and then, if you still are considering, at that point, of course you can definitely get in touch with us and we can work something out. But if you think that you're going to, by getting solar added to your house, you're going to get a payback monetarily, you're not going to see that with our rates here.

Lacy: Because our rates are so low. You'll often more for upfront for your solar panel than you'll see in generation over the life of the product. So like you said, I'll put in the chat a link here where we created a calculator to show how many equivalent solar panels our energy improvements in the home actually make. So if you change to a heat pump, it's the equivalent as if you were generating some electricity, right, by saving, you're freeing up energy. It's the same idea as generating energy and it's way more cost effective. Plus you get to benefit yourself as well, because, you know, some of the technologies are just straight better equipment than other things. So before you go and throw solar panels up on your property, check it out, ask us, ask Jim, come on the 9th. We want to make sure that people are really informed before they're putting these huge investments into solar and that they're doing it for their reason. Sometimes it's for energy redundancy so that they can make sure that even in power outages, they can have energy. So there's different reasons why people will be putting solar, but come and chat with our experts first before you sign a contract with any installer for solar.

Thank you so much, Griselda. You talk with so many different customers about their concerns and questions and like, how does this all work and everything like that. So thank you so much for everything that you do. You take care of so many of our phone calls that come in. I'm just going to plunk the number and if you want to come and call Griselda, she is fantastic and has answers to all of your questions. And if for some crazy reason she doesn't know, she will find out the answer.

Griselda: I will.

(laughing)

Lacy: “I will.” That's awesome.

Griselda: Thank you, Lacy.

Lacy: Hey, thank you. And we will see you all next week. Same power time, 5:30, same power everything right here on Facebook. Have a wonderful afternoon. Ciao.

Griselda: Ciao.

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