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Making it in San Diego: Energy super-savers see summertime success

Posted: 8:02 AM, Sep 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-17 15:21:07Z

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - While many people in San Diego saw their energy bills skyrocket over the summer, some others were able to turn the heat into an advantage.

Using a combination of energy saving techniques and money-saving programs, Steve Bernsen of Poway and John Hastie of Bankers Hill were able to stay cool all summer and make money in the process.

"It's free, you're paid to save, and it works," said Hastie, who signed up for the Ohm Connect program in 2016.

The program pays members to shut down their energy-using appliances and devices during specific "Ohm" hours each day. They estimate how much energy you'd usually use and then ask you to use less. Depending on how effective you are at saving energy, and how long you've been in the program, the money you get can add up.

In August alone, Hastie says he received $1,782 from Ohm. He did it by automating his home and using smart plugs so that things like his TV, refrigerator and other appliances shut down when an Ohm hour comes up.

Hastie says he doesn't mind losing power for an hour here and there. He usually passes the time by going out to eat.

Bonuses he gets from Ohm amplify Hastie's savings. He built a longevity bonus by going 18 months without missing an Ohm hour. He also typically uses a lot of energy, so he is able to cut back more than the average customer.

Still, he said anyone can, and should, take advantage of the program.

"The funny thing is, despite how successful it's been for me, it's really hard to get people to sign up for it," Hastie said.

You can sign up and get more information about the Ohm Connect program at the company's website .

Meanwhile, Steve Bernsen is finally seeing the investments he's made in his home start to pay off.

Over the last few years, he installed solar panels, double-paned windows, retractable skylights and external blinds to make his home more energy efficient. We showed you his home back in June .

Now, his solar panels create nearly enough energy to run his house. Anything beyond that, he gets from SDGE. Once a year, he has to settle up with the utility for any power he used. This year, his entire bill was $106.

"It’s pretty satisfying," said Bernsen. "We sized it right, and we're doing the right things. We don’t pay anything!"

When Bernsen started making the improvements, he was paying more than $200 a month in electric bills. He thinks that would be up above $300 per month now with SDGE's new rates. So, he says he's saving around $3,500 each year.

He's using the money he saves to pay off the cost of installing the solar panels. He says that should only take about five years.

And, he said, he has stopped being the "power-miser" around the home.

"Now that I paid my fixed price to put the solar in, I might as well use it," said Bernsen, who has run his air conditioner a lot this summer. "You don’t find yourself constantly looking at the thermostat and worrying about it."

Both Bernsen and Hastie said they are meticulous about tracking their usage and how much they spend/save. They make spreadsheets and charts detailing everything. While it takes time to keep track of it all, both say it's worth it for how much money they've saved.