Energy & Buildings
The energy we use in our buildings contributes about of our greenhouse gas emissions.
The three biggest contributors to climate change right here in the Bay Area
are from our buildings & the energy we use, our transportation, and our food & food waste.
Eliminating fossil fuel gas in our buildings is essential - not just our appliances, but the energy we use just to keep the lights on and our buildings warm - and cool. The good news is that solutions already exist & we've broken it down from "easy, right now!" to how to get gas out of your home, electrify everything, where to get expert help, rebates, as well as some inspiration. Let's get started!
FIRST, WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:
If we use less, we pay less.
The simplest thing we can all do is remember to turn off what we're not using: lights, our computers, video games, the stereo, and any appliance that does not NEED to be on. Power strips turn off several things with the flick of one switch and at the same time protects against power surges.
If we use less electricity from 4-9 PM every day, we'll hit the "energy sweet spot".
Energy demand is high from 4-9 PM, and less clean energy is available then.
You can save more money by remembering that electricity is more expensive between 4 PM and 9 PM. Doing the laundry and using the dishwasher can wait until after
9 - or tomorrow morning. Learn more at Energy Upgrade California.
If we don't waste water, we'll save on both our energy and our water bills.
Pumping water through pipes to your faucet uses an enormous amount of energy. Turn off the tap, don't let water run, and use water-saving faucet aerators.
What else? Do most of your laundry on the "COLD" cycle, run your dishwasher when it's full, and check your local water agency for more tips and rebates.
SIGN UP FOR 100% RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY!
This, not that.
Using 100% renewable energy from wind and solar reduces the demand for electricity from fossil fuels.
Find the renewable electricity program that's right for your business and home. Have your utility bill ready and connect with your community choice energy provider on a link below:
MCE Clean Energy Deep Green
(Marin, Contra Costa, Napa, Solano)
Sonoma Clean Power EverGreen
Clean Power SF SuperGreen
East Bay Community Energy Renewable 100
Peninsula Clean Energy Eco100
(San Mateo County)
Silicon Valley Clean Energy Green Prime
San Jose Clean Energy TotalGreen
IMPROVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Using less energy to begin with saves money on your energy bill, whether it's your home or your business.
There are free energy upgrades and rebates from BayREN and your electricity provider to help you install smart thermostats, attic insulation, duct sealing, and pipe insulation. Whether improving heating or cooling efficiency, insulating walls and adding dual-pane windows are also ways to save energy and maintain comfortable interior temperatures.
GET A FREE ENERGY AUDIT for your home of business
Renters and homeowners can request a no-cost Green House Call from Rising Sun Center for Opportunity. The visit can include switching out your existing incandescent lamps for no-cost LEDs. Visit their website or call (510) 665-1501 ext. 5 to schedule an appointment.
Call a Home Energy Advisor at (866) 878-6008 and get a Home Energy Score. You'll learn how efficient your home is compared to similar homes. Each score also comes with a customized recommendation with information on measures that should be taken to improve overall efficiency.
Businesses can request no-cost, no-obligation energy assessments, as well as take advantage of available no-cost technical assistance and cash rebates by contacting BayREN, the Bay Area Regional Energy Network.
UPGRADE YOUR LIGHTING
Replace your old lightbulbs with LEDs. They use about 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last up to 10 years. They are cool to the touch, unlike older bulbs that emit heat in all directions. LEDs come in every style, brightness, color, and appearance that mimic the older and less efficient bulbs - but use a fraction of the energy. Take the mystery out of which kind to get for your lighting needs: Energy Star LED Buying Guide.
REPLACE YOUR GAS APPLIANCES
Why is getting gas out of our homes a big deal?
It's about the air we breathe. All gas appliances emit significant amounts of harmful gases, like methane, and they leak even when they're not on. Replacing gas appliances - our furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, and stoves - that's a lot. But healthy indoor air quality is essential, especially for people who have asthma or other breathing issues. Where to begin?
First, note which appliances use gas and how old they are. Would replacing them be an expensive project or relatively small? With that information you can make a replacement plan before something breaks down, instead of waiting for that emergency when an essential appliance like your furnace or water heater quits.
We use our stoves every day, so let's start here:
This, not that.
Induction cooktops are not your father's electric stove! They use a magnetic field, so they are more energy efficient than traditional electric cooktops, and are faster and more responsive than electric OR gas stoves. Only your pans heat up, the smooth surface stays cool to the touch, and they're easy to clean, too.
PG&E has an Induction Cooktop Loaner Program!
All customers can try a plug-in countertop induction unit for their home or business for two weeks, at no cost. Learn more about this program at PGE.com/inductionloaner
Not quite ready to ditch your gas stove?
Start with a single hotplate, or an electric hot water pot. It's an inexpensive way to use less gas indoors, and that will improve the air you breathe, especially during the months when doors and windows remain closed.
LET'S ELECTRIFY EVERYTHING! The Switch Is On, Bay Area!
INSPIRED BUT NOT SURE WHERE TO START?
Like any new project or purchase, understanding the details is essential, so the people at The Switch Is On have experts you can actually talk to: experts on water heaters, solar panels, batteries, and more. They also have information about rebates, incentives, and income-qualifying programs, and they'll help you find certified contractors. Discover more and find resources at The Switch Is On.
ACTION SPOTLIGHT - how one person got gas out of his home
Contra Costa County resident Wei-Tai Kwok took on the challenge.
How hard is it to replace all natural gas appliances with high-efficiency electric versions powered by 100% renewable energy?
It took 45 days to replace the gas stove with an induction cooktop, the gas furnace with heat-pump mini-splits, the gas water heater with heat pump technology, and a gas fireplace with an electric log insert. And then the Kwok family permanently disconnected their house from gas.
Not everyone can do what Wei-Tai Kwok did.
Most of us wait until our appliances need to replaced, including our furnaces, air conditioners, and water heaters. That's called "replace at burnout". Everything needs to be replaced eventually. You can start with the easy, less expensive items, like getting an induction stove. When it comes to keeping cool and keeping warm, replacing your old furnace and air conditioner with 21st century technology is the wave of the future: heat-pumps replace both the air conditioner and the furnace in one - a two-fer, and cheaper overall!
The people at Rewiring America have created extensive how-to guides for homeowners, renters, and businesses. Everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask - or weren't even sure of the questions - are in these free downloadable handbooks.
Once you know what you want to do, the next question is, "How do we pay for this?"
Good news: there are numerous rebate and incentive programs available from the Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN), your utility company and your Community Choice Energy agency, as well as your County and even your town or city. There are also helpful lists of contractors available through BayREN, The Switch Is On, and your County's Sustainability office.