Fall has arrived, and with it, the mysterious baseline allocation change. What is this phenomenon and why should you care?
Simple. Baseline allocation is the predetermined amount of a utility residents need to run the basics of a household. The utility company decides the numbers for winter and summer and tiered usage is calculated from that.
Different areas have different amounts. Desert areas such as Palm Springs, have a high number of kWhs (kilowatt-hours) per day in the summer because it is so hot there. Mountainous and coastal areas have a lesser amount because it requires less energy to cool the home.
Electric goes up in the spring, even if it is still cool. It is common to see a higher usage bill at a lower dollar amount for this month. That is because the allocation goes up in some places quite significantly, so it takes more usage to get into the higher, more expensive tiers. In the fall, electric goes down, even if it's still warm, so expect to see a higher cost bill for less kWh.
As electric goes up, the natural gas baseline allocation goes down. This allows the use of less gas before hitting the second tier. It requires more gas to heat the home, so colder areas are allotted a greater baseline during the winter. They will see an increase in their gas bill for the same amount of usage in the spring because more gas is calculated at the higher tiers. The reverse is true in the fall when gas baseline goes up again. There are other factors at work, such as BTUs, but that topic is best left to another post.
To continue our conversation about kilowatt hours, let’s look at what the baseline increase does for our evening television time. Here is a map of Edison’s baseline zones. If, like me, you are not great with maps, here is a list by city. I am in zone 14 so my winter baseline is 10.5 kWh per day. My summer allocation is 16.1 kWh per day. That makes my winter baseline total for 30 days 315 kWh and my summer baseline total 495. Remember, our 4 hours of wind down television with one light bulb uses about 63.6 kWh per month. In the winter, that accounts for about 20% of our baseline usage for the month. In the summer, it’s about 13%.
Let’s throw a refrigerator into the mix since that’s one of the heaviest power users. I picked the first counter depth 4.5 star model listed on the site for an example. It’s Energy Star rating says it uses about 635 kWh per year. Yes, it will use more in the summer and less in the winter, but that’s getting overly complicated for our example. We’re going to do a straight average for the year and say it uses 52.9 kWh per month. That equates to about $9.26 per month at baseline rates for Edison. Add that to our television time and we’re up to 116.5 kWh per month already!