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PGE Bills out of control - HELP!

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Joined: Jun 3 2003

We live in an Eichler in Oakland, and our PGE bills are out of control - $600-$700 per month over the last 3-4 months in a row. I am interested in hearing from other Eichler owners to see if our bills are normal or whether we may have issues that need attention in order to bring our bills back down to reality. I know that rates have increased, but this is getting insane.

For sake of comparison - we have a three-bedroom house, 1667 sg. ft. Our radiant-heat boiler is, I am pretty sure, original. We keep our thermostat set at about 67, and turn it off usually between May and September. We have older appliances (1980's), except for our washer and dryer which are brand new. Our stove and oven are electric. We have one space heater that is set on a thermostat. We do a lot of laundry as we have a small daughter, but use a cold-water wash.

I'm really interested in hearing from other Eichler owners as to what their PGE bills are. If ours are average, than I guess we just have to suck it up and deal with it. But other people I know who don't live in Eichlers, even with much larger houses, are not paying anywhere near what we're paying.

Any info is greatly appreciated. Please feel free to email me directly at if you don't want to post info about your bills on the site.


Joined: Apr 2 2003

It's hard to compare total bills so I suggest you provide daily gas therms and electric kwh so others can compare. (The reason I mention this is I recall in a previous discussion someone in Palo Alto whose bills were low but it ended up to be because the person's per unit rate--not usage--was lower in Palo Alto.)

Past that, here are some ideas for lowering your usage costs:

- get a programmable thermostat. I believe there is an advantage to changing temperature by periods during the day and for weekend vs. weekday. You can likely do a search on "thermostat" using the search button at the top of this page to see previous postings on this topic.

Invest in a thermal blanket for each bed, and a pair of slippers for each pair of feet for those odd really cold days. Yes, we enjoy the warmth underfoot that radiant heating brings--but it comes at a cost, as you've noticed.

- dryers are notorious for sucking up energy. If you already have a modern dryer, make sure it is operating at peak efficiency by cleaning out old dryer lint. Use your moisture sensing setting, if you have one, to avoid overdrying clothes and wasting energy. In the summer, consider using a drying rack or drying line outdoors. Saves money and helps keep the heat of the house down.

- consider window coverings to keep heat in during the winter and heat out during the summer. Doesn't have to be anything fancy--IKEA sells a wire and clip curtain system that allows you to change coverings by day or by season or by whim.


P.S. Of course, more expensive long-term ticket items are put on a foam roof (if you don't already have one) and change our your single plate glass windows for double-pane insulated glass. The suggestions above are faster and cheaper for the short term.

eichfan at rawbw dot com

Joined: Mar 21 2003

As noted by Jake, you would be better off comparing therms and KwH rather than dollars. That said, my Quicken file does not track therms and KwH so it is easier for me to give you dollars. :)

Our house is smaller than yours, just over 1400 sq. ft. We have the original boiler installed in 1958, a gas water heater of unknown vintage (not original) and a gas dryer that is only a year or two old. We have installed several inches of closed cell foam insulation on the roof. We have the original wall insulation and single pane windows. The last time we had the outside of house painted they caulked the little grooves between the ceiling planks and the top of the siding. We have no children at home, so our laundry and other hot water use will be different than yours, especially since we have a high efficiency front load washer. Nearly all the "normal" sockets in the house are filled with compact fluorescent bulbs. On the minus side for electrical usage, we run a computer server 24/7 and we have a work group sized laser printer that is on a lot. Our kitchen is still all electric.

Given all that background and the understanding that "your mileage will vary", in the last 12 months our electric bill total was $761 (average $63.44/mo). In the same 12 months we spent $1215 for gas (average $101/mo). Our peak gas bill was $233 while our summer time minimum is usually around $30. Our electrical use is pretty uniform year round.

Joined: Jun 28 2003

Hello OP,

I second Jake's comments. I had the same problem as you: out of control PG&E bill. Two days after I received my $500 bill, I called my heater person who installed a programmable thermostat. I have it set for the heat come on at 4 am, so my home is warm at 6 am. Shuts off at 8 am; comes back on at 4 pm, so my home is warm at 6 pm and shuts off at 10 pm. The next month, my bill decreased by $200! More than paid for itself.

Also, I like warm and toasty bed, so have a warming mattress pad (instead of an electric blanket). A warming mattress pad allows a person to his or her bedding. Since heat rises, the heat rises and is trapped by the comforter. When I use it, I turn on high 20 minutes before I go to bed and my bed is sooooo warm when I get in.

I had my programmable thermostat installed at the right time, because had this promotions discount that I received my 20% discount -- got my bill yesterday -- $78! I've never had my bill that low.

Programmable thermostat is the way to go.


Joined: Mar 24 2003

My PG+E bills have been out of control for a while, but it's the electric, not the gas.

My average daily usage is between 60 and 70 Kwh per day for a family of 4. This leads to monthly PG+E electric bills of ~$400/month.

I shut off the hot tub months ago. We've got the normal silicon valley family array of computers, but nothing else that's a real energy hog. We've got a gas dryer, and a gas stove.

Can anyone in an Eichler report their Kwh /day usage and approximate monthly bill so I can compare?


Joined: Feb 6 2006

Thanks for raising this topic. Here are my numbers for statistics.
3bdrm, double pane windows, tar and gravel roof with min insulation, sheetrock, fridge - 1, electrical stove, washer and dryer european style. My family loves light though, I walk around in the evening and switch it off everywhere where we are not present. We also have dimmers in almost every room. 2 computers that are on for lot time during the day.
My PGE bills are dec:$278, jan $262, feb $272, march $242, april $225. Ouch!
Electric bills are cconsistenly around $70-80, which comes up to 18-21 KWH per day.

Our next steps would be to insulate roof, change boiler (original). I wonder how much it will reduce the bills. Care to share your experience?

Joined: Oct 10 2003

just grabbed the utilities bill and here are my stats: 14.8 KWH per day, looks like we average 10-15 KWH per day over the whole year, or about $1 - $1.50 a day.

1800 sq ft, single pane windows, radiant (gas) heat (3.8-4.0 therms/day in winter, over $4/day!), electric cooktop, foam roof.

2 adults, 2 young kids, only one Mac left on, and minimal entertainment electronics.

During the winter I complain that with each exorbitant gas bill, we could've bought everyone a nice sweater for the month...

Hope that helps -L

Joined: Oct 10 2003

oh yeah, and on the topic of programmable thermostats, search the archives for additional discussions, but even even if you have 120V rather than 12V running thru the thermostat, a high voltage thermostat can be easily found online (got mine at Ace hardware's website) and are fairly basic to install if you're handy with electric work at all.

I cant say for sure how much ours has helped with the bill, but changing it out did make me feel alot better about managing our heating energy usage.

Joined: Mar 25 2003

No one asked if you have carpeting. If you do, taking it out would probably be the one most important tool in getting your bill down.

Joined: Mar 20 2003

We have a 4 bedroom courtyard model and our sq. footage is about 1550. Our highest bill was close to 300.00, but averages around 250.00 during the winter months. We do have a foam roof and except for carpet in the 3 back bedrooms we have slate flooring in our bedroom and the rest of the house. We do not have a programmable thermostat (Anderson heating told me it was a waste of money) and we instead set our thermostat to 62 degrees. At that setting our house stays at about 68 degrees. The heat seems to come on about 4am in the morning and stay on till late morning. Of course by this time of year we just turn it off completely. We also have the original boiler. Having two kids I also do a lot of wash, but I also wash most of the clothes in a cold/warm wash. We also have the 2 cell honeycomb blinds on our kitchen/multi-purpose room windows which help a lot (still have all the original windows) and we plan before next winter to get them on all the windows in the back of the house too.

Willow Glen Eichlers

Joined: Aug 12 2004

Thermal dynamics says the denser the media, the better conductor it will be.

Dirt and water are much denser than air. Which way does the heat go and
which gets more of it?

After one especially cold month and a $600 bill, looked at force air,
but the ducting over the roof was a major turn off.

Then bought a wood burning insert for the fireplace. That did the job.

When that thing burned out, replaced it with a pellet insert.

My heating bill for the ***WHOLE*** year is under $400. That's
2 tons of pellets (2 pallets, 50 bags per pallet, 40 lbs each bag).
Soon to be ex-sweetie likes it very warm and she can do so with
the pellet insert. Some candles have gotten "limp" she has had
the living room that warm during the winter when it's in the high
30's outside.

The only down sides are the noise and the remote rooms. Small
electric space heaters do the job in the remote rooms and we just
live with the fan noise, or turn the stereo/TV/etc up a bit.

Our pellet stove is EPA certified and can be used during smog
aleart days.

Most of the windows are double glazed. The sliding doors are
original, so single pane and next to nothing in insulation factor.
Foam roof on top of a T&G which had 2 inches of insulation, so
my roof/ceiling is well insulated.

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