Chapter Twenty: Utilities
Heat, water and electricity are necessary utilities for using and functioning in a space. Other utilities essential to your art practice and business include telecommunication services and waste removal. This chapter provides information on each of the major utilities, including contact information for service providers, as well as payment options and other helpful programs.
The best way to estimate potential utility costs is to ask the current owner, your real estate agent or another tenant. You should ask to see a recent bill. Heating costs during the spring and summer months will be significantly lower than in winter, while electric costs can increase during the summer months due to air conditioning. Because of these seasonal fluctuations, try to ascertain the total cost of the utilities over a one-year period. Also, research your payment options, as some utility companies offer flexible billing systems that accommodate fluctuating utility costs.
The only Seattle-area electricity provider is Seattle City Light. The following sections are based on Seattle City Light requirements for residential and commercial use.
The Seattle City Light website has comprehensive information about their services for residential, commercial, business industrial, construction management, remodelers and developers, and streetlights.
Seattle City Light now offers four methods to open or close an account.
- By Phone
- Toll Free: 1.800.862.1181
- TTY: 206.684.3225
- Print and fax the completed form to 206.684.3347.
- Print and mail the completed form to:
Seattle City Light
Customer Service Center
700 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3300
P.O. Box 34023
Seattle WA 98124-4023.
Whichever method you choose to open or close your City Light account, you must also select a Meter Reading option.
- Option A. You may ask City Light for a Meter Reading. A minimum of three days advance notice is required to schedule the reading. A $33.00 fee will be added to your account. Please call 206.684.3000 to schedule the reading.
- Option B. You may ask City Light for a free estimate of your Meter Reading.
- Option C. You may provide your own Meter Reading, using the picture on the form. How To Read Your Meter
If you are opening an account, your first bill will include a $16.00 account service charge.
Payment Options to Consider:
- Budget Billing Plan where you average payment for your winter and summer electric bills over the year; you can apply for the Budget Billing Plan with the online form.
- Automatic Bill Payment Plan where you authorize your bank to pay your utility bills.
To apply over the phone or for more information, please call 206.684.3345 or 206.684.3000.
For more information, including Seattle City Light Assistance programs, visit their website at http://www.seattle.gov/light/
There are three principal forms of heating: natural gas, oil and electricity. Each type has its advantages, when you consider installation, maintenance and fuel costs. Other factors to consider include cleanliness and noise generated by the heating system. The main providers of heat in the Seattle area are:
Natural Gas: Puget Sound Energy www.PSE.com.
Electric: Seattle City Light: http://www.seattle.gov/light/
Oil: Sound Oil: www.soundoil.com.
In most cases the heating system in the space that you either purchase or lease is already installed and operating. It is important to evaluate the heating costs for your space as they may vary widely. Each if these companies offer assistance in case of emergency, visit their website for more information.
If you find that you need to update your heating system there are several important issues to consider. The heating requirements of your space can depend on several factors, including:
- Size and layout of the space
- Insulation levels and air-tightness
- Amount of solar energy harnessed through windows
- Amount of heat given off by lights and appliances
- Thermostat setting
- Other operational factors.
All of these components together determine how much heat (or air conditioning) you need.
If you lease a space, find out what type of heating system is in the building, and its annual cost. It is desirable to have a thermostat in your space so that you can control the temperature. It's also helpful if your space has a meter, so that you only pay for the service you use. Ask the landlord if you will be charged for heating and, if so, how those charges will be determined.
If you are buying a space and want to change or upgrade the heating system, consider which type of heating would best suit the building and your use. Ask yourself:
- Is the current system still suitable for the space?
- Does it need to be repaired or updated? If so, what would it cost?
- Should you convert to another type of distribution system? If so, what would be the cost and advantage/disadvantage?
- What sorts of activities will be taking place in the space? For example, if you need to run a natural gas-operated kiln, a heating system that utilizes natural gas might be most practical.
If possible, hire an expert to inspect your new space and thoroughly assess the heating system. Converting the existing heating system to another type might make the most sense, but this can be a costly investment. Consider whether this conversion will provide future savings on your heating costs, and determine how long it will take to see a return on your investment. Many options are available to you, and once the system is converted you will not have to do it again.
The most common heat systems include:
- Electric Baseboard Heaters : Easy to install, low-maintenance, and equipped with individual controls that let you turn off the heat in empty rooms and save energy and money. However, operating costs are very high.
- Forced Air Systems : Driven by a central oil, electric or gas furnace that warms up the air and distributes it into the space through ducts. Costs the least to install, but is not the cheapest to operate. These are also known as central heating and air or HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). Can be expensive to install in older buildings, if you have to put in the necessary ductwork.
- Hot Water Boilers/Radiant Heat : Steam heat is circulated through pipes to radiators that literally "radiate" heat through the room. The water is heated either by gas or oil. Hot water heating is the most efficient system to operate, and the most comfortable, but is costly and does not convert for air conditioning use as gas furnaces can. In addition, this system can be expensive to incorporate into the property if the pipes are not already installed.
All heat distribution systems have advantages and disadvantages, including cost and efficiency levels. Only a professional should make the final
recommendation as to which system will best suit a particular space and your needs and activities. Consult an HVAC specialist, general contractor or
Passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 resulted in the deregulation of the telecom industry, and removal of checks and balances that existed to prevent "super-sized" telecommunications companies from monopolizing the market. Consumers can now choose from an endless number of packages and deals. Land-line or wireless telephone, dial-up or DSL, cable or satellite television and radio, pay-per-minute, time-of-day or flat-rate long distance packages are just a few options.
Your medium affects your telecom needs. If you work with digital imaging, you might need high-speed Internet access. If you are an actor who is often
attending rehearsals and auditions, a cell phone would be wiser than a land-line telephone. Most providers offer both residential and business services
as well as Internet access. Some, such as Comcast or Qwest might even offer cable/digital television connections or satellite services.
To assess your total telecommunication needs, ask yourself:
- What do you need for your basic communication services? What are the pros and cons of a land-line telephone vs. a wireless; dial-up or digital Internet access, fax machine/modem system or a cellular phones and pagers?
- If you have a combination telephone/modem/fax machine, would you like to use one phone line to cut down costs, or separate lines to avoid congestion? Ask the service provider about installing two phone numbers on one line.
- Do you need basic dial-up, high-speed Internet access or DSL? Basic dial-up allows you to use only the Internet or the telephone at one time, unless you have separate phone lines. DSL lines allow simultaneous telephone and Internet use. DSL can also be accessed through a television cable provider, and can run simultaneously with your television.
- Can the space you are considering handle the type of telecommunication services you need and want? What will it cost to upgrade the space to fit your needs?
- How long will it take for installation?
Deregulation has added extra steps to the process of getting your service connected. Make sure you know:
- Who will turn on your service, and when;
- to whom you can report connection and/or other problems;
- Which company handles billing
To protect costumers the City of Seattle has the Office of Cable Communications. If you have questions about services or service providers and their responsibilities this website is a great resource. Always read the fine print when entering into any kind of contract. Most of these companies offer initial rates that increase after a certain amount of time or contracts that require you to be a costumer for several years make sure that you understand what you are signing up for and that you can pay for the services for the duration of the contract.
In the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Utilities provides garbage, recycling, and yard/food waste services for residential and commercial customers. Garbage, Recycling and Yard Waste collection are required for all residential properties. The City of Seattle has set guidelines as to items that are banned from being collected as garbage. The Seattle Public Utilities website outlines all of the rules and regulations as well as offers garbage collection pricing based upon garbage can size, as well as collection dates. Visit their website at: http://www.seattle.gov/util/services/
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the disposal of hazardous waste and industrial wastewater discharge through the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), enforced by the states. In Washington, the Washington State Department of Ecology enforces the Act.
Each category of hazardous waste producer includes a distinct set of rules and regulations that dictate how to dispose of waste. The EPA defines artists as Commercial Generators; this classification also applies to art businesses, academic institutions, community centers, and printmaking or photographic studios. Commercial generators are defined and regulated by the quantities of hazardous waste they generate.
There are four categories of commercial waste producers:
- Large Quantity Generators : Produce more than 1,000 kilograms (2205 lbs.) of hazardous waste per month. Very few small art studios fall into this category
- Small Quantity Generators : Produce more than 100 kg (22 lbs.) but less than 1,000 kg (2205 lbs.) of hazardous waste per month.
- Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators: Produce less than 100 kg/month (22 lbs.) of hazardous waste, or less than 1 kg/month (2.2 lbs.) of acutely hazardous waste. Generators in this category must identify all hazardous waste they produce, treat their waste on-site or insure the waste is sent to an approved disposal facility.
- Household Hazardous Waste Generators : Exempt from federal hazardous waste regulations. This exemption allows individual citizens, including home-based artists and hobbyists, to discard materials into municipal waste streams. The EPA maintains that enforcement of laws and management of wastes generated by consumers in their households isn't realistic.
Though you might not be obligated by law to dispose of these materials as hazardous waste, the materials generated here nevertheless contribute to environmental degradation and health problems. Visit the Washington State Department of Ecology website for more information on hazardous waste disposal at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/waste. In addition, review Chapter 22: Safe and Healthy Spaces for additional information on how and where to dispose of hazardous art waste in Seattle.
The City of Seattle offers several sites to dispose of household hazardous waste. Here is a link to the website: http://www.govlink.org/hazwaste/house/disposal/othersites/ for more information about locations, fees and hours.
Seattle Public Utilities supplies water to all the businesses, residents and manufacturing industries in the city and surrounding suburbs. Seattle Public Utilities also handles your sewage bill, which is a percentage of your overall water usage.
Water bills are calculated on a meter. Metered customers have a water meter attached to the property that tracks use of service. Water rates vary for peak and off peak rates as well as by location and range between $3.50 - $13.87 per 100 cubic feet.
For properties with meters, a rate taker will record the amount of water usage on a monthly basis. Billing are sent out every two months and include, garbage, water and sewage charges.
For more information about water and sewage service, visit Seattle Public Utilities website at http://www.seattle.gov/util/services/
Water conservation is a smart practice. Below are the top five actions you can take; these tips are provided by the California Urban Water Conservation Council and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
Stop Those Leaks
! Check indoor water-using appliances and equipment for leaks. Silent leaks allow water and your money to go down the drain. Studies have shown
properties often waste more than 10% of their water due to leaking.
One way to spot a leak is to turn off all your plumbing fixtures, including the valve to the washer, and look at your water meter. If your meter is moving, then you're losing water through a leak. Also check around sinks and hot water faucets. Look for large wet areas in the lawn or sidewalk during dry periods.
- Replace your old toilet : Toilets are the largest users of water in your home. Homes built before 1992 often do not have water-efficient toilets. A water efficient toilet only uses 1.6 gallons of water per flush - less than half the amount used by older and conventional models. To find out when your toilet was made, check the manufacturer's stamp, located on the inside of the tank. Fix running toilets, as they are a major contributor to water waste.
- Replace your clothes washer : The clothes washer is the second-largest water guzzler in your home. You can minimize this waste by purchasing an Energy Star™-rated washer that has a rating at or below 9.5. Washers with this rating use 35-50% less water, and 50% less energy, per load. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) has developed a set of specifications for water-efficient washers, and has compiled a list of these and other energy efficient appliances.
- Plant the right plants : Whether you are putting in a new landscape or slowly replacing the old one, select plants and grasses that are appropriate for the Northwestern climate. This area of the country is home to a variety of beautiful prairie grasses and other native botanicals.
- Water only what your plants need : Watering your plants or lawn when it isn't needed, and at inappropriate times, are wasteful. It's best to water plants during the nighttime hours, when evaporation is reduced. Be attentive: If you are manually watering, set a time limit.
TIP: If you are renting or leasing a property, make sure you know how you will be billed for utilities, especially if you are leasing a commercial or industrial space. See Chapter 7: Commercial and Industrial Leases.
Community and Economic Development Association
Provides a variety of services to low-income people, including the Home Weatherization Program, home ownership counseling and assistance paying certain bills. Also offers services in other areas, such as health and children services.
Consortium on Energy Efficiency
Offers resources and information on energy-efficient products.