In Early March, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the homes to receive an energy audit by the City of Benicia’s recently implemented energy audit program. The program was paid for with funds from the Valero Improvement Settlement agreement, to help Benicia residents reduce their power and water usage and lower their energy bills.

    The City partnered with Ennovationz, a Bay Area home energy firm, to conduct the audits. Benicia homeowners were able to request audits online and were chosen based on a predetermined set of criteria. The Benicia High Sage team was trained by Ennovationz staff to conduct water audits while the energy audits were being performed.

    Ennovationz did some advanced analysis based on my power and water usage, and furnished a report of current usage prior to beginning the audit. The report was user-friendly with easy-to-read graphs and charts, and showed that I was in the Tier 3 category of PG&E’s rate structure. According to Kate Latham, Ennovationz’s expert, that’s where the majority of homeowners are in terms of usage. The goal of the audit is to educate homeowners in reducing power and water use, and save money in the process. The on-site portion of the audit consisted of going through my home and looking at gas and electric appliances, lighting and electronics and evaluating how we might generate savings.

    While we have implemented energy-saving strategies over time, Kate was still able to show me how to get to the tier one rates with relatively easy changes. I can switch to “smart” power strips so that background electricity on electronic equipment (computers, printers, televisions, etc.) would also be turned off when the devices are not in use. Changing the remainder of my lights to fluorescent bulbs would also help, and limiting the use of a space heater. These changes will generate enough savings over a 12-month period (around $1,000) to fund a weekend trip. As an added energy bonus my 16-year old refrigerator stopped working, and the replacement model will be Energy Star rated which will certainly help.

    On the water side, the biggest saver would be to replace my lawn with drought-tolerant plants. I made a stab at it as soon as the rain stopped by removing an 8 X 10 area of grass in my backyard in favor of vegetables and herbs, which will also save on gas to the grocery store. I can reduce water use by installing aerators on my faucets and shower heads, adding to the overall savings for my weekend jaunt.