Author Topic: Electricity Usage - Houston  (Read 2922 times)

TheOldestYoungMan

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Electricity Usage - Houston
« on: May 12, 2015, 09:15:14 AM »
I was just curious to see what others have been able to do regarding their electricity usage.

Right now I'm at 579 kWh which my electric provider is telling me is less than half of what the average for my area is.  I try to be good about turning off the lights and would rather have the AC off and go pantsless than blast it and wear a track suit.

My Canadian roommate would burst into flames if I did this all the time though, so when she's in town she turns it on.

Any other Houstonian/gulf coast people care to chime in?  I just planted some shade trees and stuff on the house and plan to add some shade shrubbery the next couple weeks.

Need a sanity check before I start adding insulation and stuff to the house.  Realistically how much better can I do?

And then as a separate but related question, I am interested in using less electricity for more than the financial motivations.  I'd be very interested in a 100% solar solution, or at least a primarily solar solution.  Anyone in Houston gone this route?

FrugalFan

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2015, 12:42:29 PM »
I'm going to follow this thread as I really want to cut down on our usage but I have no idea what is using so much power. Our lowest bill this past year occurred recently and we used 481 kWh even though we were away for two of the weeks! And now that the weather has warmed up, the AC will start taking a major toll again.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2015, 01:03:41 PM »
We used to live in Houston (well, Kingwood, but that's close enough).  For our 1500-sq-ft home (including 400 sq ft garage), our electricity varied from 600kWh in the milder months to 1800 kWh in the summer.  Here are the things I considered, although we couldn't afford them at the time:

1) radiant barrier.  You can do it cheaply yourself by hanging reflective film across the framing under your roof.
2) add blown-in insulation.  Your attic may be a storage area for you (as it was for us), so you might be limited there
3) roll-down exterior shades.  Our single-story home had single-pane windows, and hanging inexpensive shades from the eaves helped the radiant heat noticeably.
4) shade trees (you're already doing this).  I tried this, but apparently I have a brown thumb, and the trees died. :(
5) raise the temperature (you're already doing this).  We had our thermostat at 76-78.  At my office, the "normal" temperature, according to the maintenance guys, was 60-62.  I was astonished, and suddenly realized why I (and many others) felt so cold every day at the office.  Our administrative assistant actually had a small space heater under her desk that she used during the summers....yeesh.
6) Solar shades.  Several people in our neighborhood had them, but I have no personal experience, so I don't know.  Another alternative is reflective window film, which applies and works like window tint in your car.  Or you can replace your windows.
7) Attic ventilation.  Get a ridge vent.

As for solar photovoltaics, yes, it's possible.  No, it's not yet economic, if you consider the net present value of the savings, even with the 30% tax credit offered by the Federal Government.  Heck, Illinois throws in another 25% tax credit, and it still doesn't make sense financially.  I actually ran the numbers just last week.  You'll get more sun in Texas, but I doubt the incentives are as high in the conservative Utopia of Texas than they are in the liberal Utopia of Illinois...

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2015, 01:28:54 PM »
We used to live in Houston (well, Kingwood, but that's close enough).

I recall a substantial amount of angst when they became one and the same...

Frankies Girl

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2015, 01:38:11 PM »
1300 sq ft house in Houston. We've averaged around 300 kw per month this year, except for April when the husband was home for a staycation and the television was on morning to night... that bumped us up to almost 600 kw that month.  I just checked last year, and we did get up to 1000 kw during the summer. Sigh. Houston really, really sucks without A/C.

So a big one for us is the plasma television (big energy hog) and other electronics that suck up a large amount of electricity. I'd suggest checking on large appliances and electronics to see how much energy they use when turned on and what load they can pull when switched off (like our tv - it still draws electricity shut off!). We put those on surge protectors and cut them off when not in use to stop the vampire loads.

Do you have a dark roof? Light colored shingles bounce a bit more heat/radiant energy from being absorbed into your house. We have light brown shingles and will be getting even lighter ones in the next year or so when we have to re-roof.

We got a ridge vent installed as soon as we bought the house and redid the roof. Using that with the soffit vents greatly increases the heat exchange and prevents hot air buildup in your attic. And it is a passive system. We removed the messed up attic fan that required electricity to run and I've always hated those spinner ones (they get dented or damaged and you have to keep replacing, which sucks in storm/hurricane prone areas)

Will be checking our attic insulation during the next re-roof as well, as some of it is sad looking, but our house stays remarkably cool in the summer and warm in the winter - we have an efficient layout with vaulted ceilings in the main living area and master bedroom and they're the most comfortable rooms in the house. I kind of wonder if it isn't also contributed to the fact that we have an all brick exterior (that happens to be light colored as well) instead of siding.

We have very few windows, but we replaced our back door with a double paned french door and all the other windows have light colored blinds with light blocking curtains. The back of the house has the most windows, but the majority is protected by an porch roof that blocks direct sunlight. Gotta figure this helps with the heat situation as well.

If you have a fireplace, get it checked out to make sure the flue works correctly and isn't letting heat/cold air escape.

We shut off the A/C when we're not home (when at work or all people out of the house). Our cat doesn't care as we find her snoozing in sun beams even with the A/C off (think she likes the heat) and the house is generally only a bit stuffy when getting home due to it being well shaded and insulated.

Ceiling fans and high ceilings. We use them instead of kicking on the A/C unless someone is really uncomfortable. They'll save lots of money compared to running the A/C constantly. We also drink a whole bunch of ice water/cold drinks in the summer. ;)

Check your energy provider for offers of cheaper/free electricity during nights/weekends. We do our laundry and run the dishwasher and other stuff late at night or on the weekend to take advantage. Shop around to see if you're with the best electric utility company: http://www.powertochoose.org/

I would love to do solar, but I know this isn't my forever house so not going to go to the expense and effort right now. But it is a great idea for this area!

« Last Edit: May 12, 2015, 03:09:21 PM by Frankies Girl »

slugline

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2015, 02:27:15 PM »
TheOldestYoungMan -- Is 579 Kwh your monthly average through all seasons? That sounds outstanding. Do you have any natural gas appliances?

I'm in H-Town. My primary strategy for dealing with summer was buying a house beneath the shade of several large oak trees. I also installed a programmable thermostat and re-did some weatherstripping to block drafts. My house is 100% electric so winter is my stupidly expensive season.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2015, 03:07:06 PM »
We used to live in Houston (well, Kingwood, but that's close enough).

I recall a substantial amount of angst when they became one and the same...
Yup, they're still upset about it--all the public services (from what I hear) got worse after the annexation.

TheOldestYoungMan

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2015, 04:21:52 PM »
Yea that's my average.  The water heater and the furnace are gas, and I have a propane grill that does for some of the cooking.  The appliances are new and I've buttoned up most of the house as tight as I can.

The ridge vent is something I hadn't considered.  I've been wanting to put decking up in the attic, just to make it easier to move around up there.  What's the potential for water infiltration? I get a ton of rain and wind (very close to kemah).

I grew up in Kingwood.  Houston stole our fire trucks when they annexed us.  Took the expensive rigs we had just paid off and moved them elsewhere, gave us their crappiest old engines.  We eventually lobbied successfully to have them returned, but it was an effort.  Average water bill went up around 175%.  HPD went around writing parking tickets to people during church (overflow from churches would park along street).

It was an armed robbery.

Blake12

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2015, 08:38:38 PM »
I'm in Houston as well, 2500 sq. feet. We average 350-400 kwh in the cooler months, then about 850-900 kwh in the Summer. The air-conditioner is the biggest culprit by far. I have a window box fan to cool up the upstairs in the spring and fall evenings. And in the Summer, we keep it about 80 degrees at night upstairs, and leave it off during the daytime. It gets up to about 84 or 85. Keeping the shades and black-out curtains closed during hot days has helped a lot.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Electricity Usage - Houston
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2015, 01:13:02 PM »
We just got solar screens (the 90% version), and I am amazed at the difference it's made.   It always looks like it's hazy outside, since the screens are so dark, but the temperature difference upstairs is quite noticeable.  I am excitedly waiting for the next bill to see the actual difference in electricity usage since we installed them.