The seemingly endless heatwave is now showing up in resident's electric bills. At least one neighborhood is suffering through brownouts as well
by Timothy Rutt
In the President Streets neighborhood, Lisa Gibson is dealing with a $700 electric bill. Yes, that's one month's bill.
"We have three window air conditioners and two of them were on low during the day for the dogs," she emailed us this week. " All of our lights were off. We are all gone during the day. I can't believe this."
In the neighborhood news groups, neighbors are sharing tales of "sticker shock" when they open their electrical bills and find them doubled, or more, because of the extra juice needed to keep the house livable.
Meanwhile, one neighborhood in northeast Altadena has been coping with brownout conditions ever since temperatures started rising.
Susanna Dadd, who lives on East Loma Alta, where she and husband James Griffiths produce the Folly Bowl series of concerts, writes "we have experienced these brownouts for at least two weeks, almost every day. I had guests for dinner the other day and had bought frozen shrimps from TJs a week ago. When I opened my freezer I found that all the food in there looks very odd - full of frost, even though some of it has only been in there a few days. I am sure this is due to all the power cuts, One, well over a week ago, was about four hours in the night and I didn't know about it, but for the pool timer and phone machine."
Some of the more tech-oriented residents have been measuring the voltage going into their homes, and have found them to come up wanting: instead of the standard 120 volts, they've come up with readings as low as 98 volts.
According to Ben Wong of Southern California Edison, the intermittent nature of the brownouts has made it difficult to diagnose, but faulty equipment in a substation is suspected. Wong said that crews have switched some overhead cables to bring more reliable power to some parts of the neighborhood, and the utility is looking at replacing faulty equipment -- if they can determine what needs replacing.
Some lucky few, however, revel in surviving the heat unscathed. Town councilman Ed Meyers, who lives in northeast Altadena above Altadena Drive, said that, as of a few days ago, his projected power bill for September would be $148 -- which is quite low compared to his neighbors, but for the Meyers household is actually two to three times what they normally pay
Part of it he credits to good stewardship of his resources: "I keep my thermostat at 80, 82 if no one's going to be home for many hours. Yes, if it's too hot, I push it down to 79 … I have 2 ceiling fans. I don't have an attic fan … I keep shades drawn and windows closed on the south (sun) side of the house beginning early afternoon. With windows open, it feels like a furnace blowing in.
Meyers says he's also signed up for Edison's "AC shut-off rebate program," where he agrees to Edison shutting off air conditioning for short spurts during the hot summer afternoons during major power alerts. For this, he gets a $25 a month rebate for four months.
"I also signed onto SCE's website and am alerted to "event days" when they sometimes offer discounts if you use less energy (on an expected hot day) vs. the previous day."
This is all in addition to using compact fluorescent light bulbs wherever they can, and turning off lights and television when they're not being used.
Some residents have also made an investment in solar panels, which keeps the electric bills down, but is not always feasible for every home.
As for brownouts -- SCE"s Wong says that they're working on the problem. Some residents have complained about damage to computer systems and the like caused by the brownouts, and there is a claims process on Edison's website. "If something has been damaged because of this, they can file a claim and it will be investigated."
Are you having sticker shock over your electric bills? Are you suffering brownouts? Let us know in the comments!