Saving money on air conditioning, SmartAC program

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- This heat wave has a lot of us looking for ways to save on our electric bills. But one money-saving move that left a 95-year-old woman living with a thermostat in the nineties. She's 100 now so you know there's a happy ending, but her family had to step in and help five years ago. They called for repairs on her A/C unit, but found out the culprit was something she'd allowed to be attached to it.

Hermine Reiring is the original owner of her Madera home, a 19650s model, and she likes it warm. But her granddaughter tells Action News -- one time it got way too warm. "Like right now it's 79, but that day when the SmartAC kicked on it was about 100 degrees," said Kathy Reiring.

Hermine Reiring had opted into PG&E's SmartAC program for a $50 rebate. The program saves customers money on most days, but on certain days with heavy electricity use, it charges extra and the device will even temporarily disable some of your air conditioner's functions.

"I get what they're trying to do," her granddaughter Kathy said. "It's a good idea to try and save the energy but that's just, it's too much to get it up to 100 degrees for an elderly person. It's dangerous."

And a strange start to summer has air conditioning repair services busier than normal. Hundreds of A/C units are failing all on their own across the Valley this week, including one belonging to an Action News reporter. A bad capacitor knocked it out of order Tuesday evening. Robert Laurence of Optimum Air was too busy to talk much as he repaired it. Like a lot of other HVAC workers, he's booked solid for days and part of the reason is the relatively mild start to summer. This first blast of extended and extreme heat has A/Cs working harder and exposing their flaws.

PG&E offers an energy efficiency check that could help you spot problems like that, but they also suggest treating your A/C unit like your favorite car.

"You know, you maintain your car in a regular basis to make sure it runs properly," said PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles. "Doing the same for your air conditioner can help you avoid those problems."

Repairs can get pretty pricey. Our reporter's repairs were relatively cheap at about $200, but we talked to people on Facebook who are spending thousands, so the regular maintenance may actually be a bargain.
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