Author Topic: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)  (Read 2111 times)

ScubaAZ

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Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« on: July 05, 2013, 08:35:33 PM »
Hello fellow Mustachians!

    I tried to find my first ever post to update, but it seems to be lost in the interwebs (or I'm just failing at the search feature).  I posted about 3 months ago with a semi-complainypants/nonmustachian budget, got a few face punches, and lived to tell about it.  And in the meantime, really fixed up my finances (for a newb).

    Our total spending dropped from around $5100 to $3700 a month (including mortgage and insane student loan payments).  Ditched cable and the pool guy that caused so much consternation here.  Dropped our food budget (pretty strict paleo for 2 adults plus some additional carbs for a 4 year old child) from about $500 plus $150 in dining out to $375 for groceries and $50 in dining out (which we only spend $20 of last month :).  Gas dropped from around $275 to $150, which included many 40 mile round trips to visit a sick relative so it should be even less this month.  I'm still struggling with our electric bill-- whole house is electric, and it was 120 degrees here last weekend.  Even keeping the house at 82 degrees, we were using around 80 kw per day.  It was $199 last month, expect it will be higher this month.  Hopefully it will even out with cheaper bills from Oct-May (first year with the house, so no past bills to compare).  And I've socked away $5k for a mini emergency fund.  Most of this is just from actually paying attention to what we spend, and for the most part deciding it isn't worth it.  The electric bill is the next one on my list to reduce, though we've done all of the obvious things, except upgrade to a variable speed pool pump.

     Anyway, I mostly wanted to share this as a method of accountability for myself.  My current savings rate (max 401k, HSA, savings contribution (switching to student loan principle now that the $5k is saved), student loan and mortgage principle) is 54% (of gross pay minus taxes).  I'm shooting for 65% within the next year.

    A big thanks to you all for the face punches and encouragement to get after this and get headed toward FI sooner rather than later.  My (slightly ambitious) goal (given my student loans) is 10 years.  Even if its 15, its a lot better than 35!
-C

olivia

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2013, 08:44:58 PM »
Damn, that's awesome! That's a huge change in a short time period! Keep it up!
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Another Reader

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2013, 09:11:47 PM »
How old is the house and is it block or frame?  N/S or E/W orientation?  Insulation and sunscreens can make a significant difference in your electric usage.

ScubaAZ

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2013, 09:35:27 PM »
It was built in 1962.  Block construction.  The house faces sort of south-southwest (end of a cul-de-sac).  The garage side of the house takes the brunt of the afternoon sun.  The insulation in the attic isn't terrible, but it definitely could use some beefing up.  We've been considering the pink blow-in stuff for the fall, once its not 175 degrees up there. We replaced the huge front window (60 x 60, approximately) with a double pane, low-e, and the difference is amazing!  It used to be at least 10 degrees warmer in the living room than it is now. There are two more bedroom windows on the front of the house, and one on the east side, that will be next.  In the meantime, I have been debating trying the window film stuff, but it seems to have mixed reviews as to effectiveness.  Any recommendations as to films, sun shades, etc. are much appreciated.

A large portion of our electricity usage is at night, which makes me think the pool pump is the culprit.  Our off-peak electricity is $.06 per kw, so I'm not sure its worth replacing before it actually dies.  My (often faulty) math is $.06 kw x 3 kw/h x 6 hours per night for 30 nights a month is $32.  Its hard to tell with the electric company's graph what is pool pump vs air conditioner at night.  Its rarely over 4 kw/h during the time the pool pump rights through, so this should a reasonable, if a tiny bit high estimate.  Once its cool enough the AC doesn't run at night, I'll check it again since the pool should be the only thing running, other than small things in the house.
-C

Another Reader

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2013, 10:17:24 PM »
An attic fan might help, because it can get the temperature down where the duct work is and reduce the heat coming in through the ceiling.  Do you at least have roof turbines?  The new windows will definitely make a difference.  A lot more insulation and some sun screens on the east and west sides of the house will also help.  Longer term, trees can do some good.  Retrofitting a radiant roof barrier is a good idea in theory, but I don't know anyone that has done it.   Check with SRP/APS to see what they offer, besides the rebate on the variable speed pool pump.  You already know to run that pool pump at night. 

The window film can block some of the UV that fades fabric and carpet.  I wouldn't bother, especially if window replacement is upcoming.

You are on the right track, just do these things as they become feasible.

ScubaAZ

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2013, 10:42:27 PM »
A whole house fan is on my wishlist.  Once the summer is over, its plenty cool enough at night to cool the house if you can get the air to move through.  And warm enough during the day to do the opposite in the winter.

The attic doesn't have turbines, but it has about 5-6 of these things along the north side of the roof line (see the smaller picture at this link (the half circle with the vents)... no idea what these are called:  http://www.paradigmroofs.com/ventilation.html.)   When it wouldn't cool off in here at night despite being in the 60's, we finally took a gander and figured out that when they redid the roof (pre-purchase, though my "home inspector" didn't notice or mention this), they sealed all (ALL) of the soffits along the eaves, so there was no ventilation up there at all.  My boyfriend is pretty handy, so he cut them back into place and screened them so creatures can't get in.  I'm sure my 175 degrees is an exaggeration, but it does get pretty warm up there.  All of the hot water lines run through the attic, so the plus side is we use very little hot water right now.  You have to run the tap for 5 minutes to get anything less than boiling though.

I've been eyeing the radiant barrier to put over the top of the new insulation.  If we do it, I'll let you know how it works out.

It will probably be at least a year before we replace the other windows... I'm almost thinking of just getting that foam insulation board and tacking that over them, at least for the rooms no one uses.  Its only like R-3 or something, but better than nothing.  We'll just be the pink panther house for now :)
-C

FrugalZony

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2013, 10:53:38 PM »
There are different window films doing different things depending what you choose
Most cut UV, some cut glare, some improve thermal insulation, some ad colour or decoration and you want one
that improves your solar heat gain coefficient
depending on how much visible light transmission you still want/need you can get a noticable effect with the film to buy you some time before
you are ready to replace, it' won't be as good as an IGU with a high performance lowE, but it will get you some short term comfort
benefit

I was too cheap to have a pro do it and filmed myself, knowing that if I screw up, we'd replace at some point
But boy was that a PITA and some areas did not turn out well (patience is not one of my virtues)
We will finally replace this year and I am glad I won't have to look at my screwed up job any longer ;)
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Another Reader

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2013, 11:12:19 PM »
There's a big difference between a whole house fan, which you rarely see out there, and an attic fan, which exhausts just the attic.  We have a lot of whole house fans here because it cools off at night in the summer and you can use them to get the hot air out of the house.  Out there, the idea is to cool the attic to the ambient air temperature so less heat gets in the duct work or radiates through the ceiling.  As the weather cools, open windows and ceiling fans are usually sufficient.

The problem with just rolling out a radiant barrier is that it reflects the heat back into the attic.  If the duct work is exposed above the insulation, the purpose is partially defeated.

To clarify, the window film that works is the UV type.  I don't know anyone that has used the insulating type, I just have heard it's not very effective.

Another Reader

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2013, 11:17:47 PM »
What's even better in in places like Sun City, where a lot of the water is stored in above ground tanks, you can shower using the cold faucet only.  You can't get cold water, you have to refrigerate it.

FrugalZony

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2013, 11:35:23 PM »

To clarify, the window film that works is the UV type.  I don't know anyone that has used the insulating type, I just have heard it's not very effective.
Sorry, but I beg to differ, cutting UV alone won't help you improve your comfort. It just helps avoid fading.
You definitely want one that has a low solar heat gain coefficient!

some suggested reading:
http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/energy-performance-ratings-windows-doors-and-skylights
After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.
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SEAKSR

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2013, 12:50:23 PM »
First item of research for you: solar panels. How, living in the land of never ending sunshine, do you not already have them?

Meadow Lark

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2013, 09:04:05 PM »
Window shades on the exterior of the house help a lot.  I attached the cheap (<$10) bamboo roller shades to the exterior  of  2 East facing single pane windows and it was a HUGE difference in comfort.  I am sure it would be even more extreme on the West side of the house.  Also, do you have any plantings near the house?  The right drought tolerant trees and shrubs might really help.  One issue with a lot of xeriscaping is that it increases heat in houses, because the rocks and hardscaping hold the heat and keep the house hot.  Trellises with heat and drought tolerant plants may help if  you use them to get the sun off your windows and walls.
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Micheal

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2013, 10:55:55 PM »
Tinfoil, cardboard, spray adhesive, and window fans, as a renter these things have saved my electric bill more than once. 

appledumplins

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2013, 09:30:44 AM »
First item of research for you: solar panels. How, living in the land of never ending sunshine, do you not already have them?
We are moving to the Phoenix area in the next couple of months from Seattle. I expected to see solar panels everywhere..but not so much.

Then we talked to builders about solar panels and they said that Arizona is actually not such a great place for solar panels, because the intense sun will destroy them in about 10 years or so. Therefore the ROI is not good at all.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2013, 08:17:35 AM »
First item of research for you: solar panels. How, living in the land of never ending sunshine, do you not already have them?
We are moving to the Phoenix area in the next couple of months from Seattle. I expected to see solar panels everywhere..but not so much.

Then we talked to builders about solar panels and they said that Arizona is actually not such a great place for solar panels, because the intense sun will destroy them in about 10 years or so. Therefore the ROI is not good at all.

That's total bullshit. 

Solar installations increase when a state adopts public policies that support them -- like renewable portfolio standards with carve outs for solar or a feed-in tariff.  New Jersey, for instance, had strong policies in support of solar (for a while at least) and they popped up like mushrooms after rain.  So, if Arizona has been slow to adopt solar-friendly policies then they will be slow to benefit from solar.  That said, in the past two years, solar has grown significantly in AZ and prices have also dropped 15%.

http://www.seia.org/state-solar-policy/arizona

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savingtofreedom

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2013, 09:17:25 AM »
ScubaAZ - great work on improving your budget.  Please continue to keep us updated.  I also hope to FI by 40 - here is to 7 more years of hard work!!!

appledumplins

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Re: Random update (mostly for my own accountability)
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2013, 09:31:56 AM »
That's total bullshit. 

Solar installations increase when a state adopts public policies that support them

I think we are not talking about exactly the same thing. I mentioned that in my experience I saw very few solar panels on houses compared to my expectations. Then I mentioned that some builders I talked to said the ROI is not positive for solar panels (in terms of cash only not including any externalities).

In fact your statement that their adoption requires public policy support is consistent with my statement that they (currently) have a negative ROI...otherwise presumably people would buy them, right?