Author Topic: Help with Reducing Energy Costs  (Read 3623 times)

jollygreen23

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Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« on: September 22, 2015, 08:33:16 PM »
I'm a fairly new Mustachian, but I've taken some steps in the right direction. We don't have a tv, our grocery bill is down, I'm not even sure what a movie theater is anymore, and our kids are forgetting the luxuries from before (and have all but stopped asking for them).

My question is about cutting back on energy costs. Our utility bill is still much higher than I'd like, and I was wondering how I could make cuts.

Some background:

After some repairs are done to our duct work, I estimate our utility bill (including electricity, water, sewage, gas, and some random fire dept charge) will be between $250-$300/month. Ouch!


* We are a family of almost 6: my husband, myself, and kids ages 7, 5, 3, and one on the way.
* We live in Florida. AC is a must during the warmest 10 months of the year.
* We do about 6-8 loads of laundry a week. Recently, I decided to stop using the dryer. It uses so much energy, after all! Guess what? In the Florida humidity, the clothes went sour before they were dry. Yuck! We have an energy efficient washer and use the sensor on the dryer.
* We're using energy efficient light bulbs.
* I run the dishwasher every day (and it's full every time)! I do a lot of from-scratch cooking, to save $$ on the grocery bill, but it comes at a price.
* We keep the thermostat at 78 degrees during the summer, and use ceiling fans in the living room and bedrooms, as needed.
* We recently had an energy audit, provided by the city. They didn't find any heinous problems with insulation, leaks, etc...



Here's the Consumption from a recent bill (edited to reflect recent changes)

Electric: ~1000 KWH
Gas: 16 CCF  -- $37.04
Water: 54CGAL -- $24.92

Sewer is determined by water consumption
County Fire charges: $14.91
« Last Edit: September 23, 2015, 08:21:30 AM by jollygreen23 »

spruce

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2015, 06:51:32 AM »
It would be helpful to know a bit more about how those break down between water, electricity, etc. It sounds like you've done a lot electricity-wise. How about water? Are your toilets 1.6 gpf or lower? Our city had a rebate program to replace old toilets, and just that cut our water bill in half. How about a low-flow showerhead? That's just $30 at a home improvement store.  If you still can't find places to cut maybe consider getting a kill-a-watt or an energy monitoring system to help find energy goblins. I totally hear you about the humidity - I grew up in FL and live in NC now. It's not so easy to just cut off AC!

Matt in Akron

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2015, 08:23:53 AM »
Water.  We were able to save 20% on water/sewer in our house with two very simple items.  First was a 1.5 gallon per minute (gpm) shower head which we are VERY happy with and still provides plenty of flow.  We replaced a 2.0gpm head...so if you have a 2.5gpm head currently you're likely to save even more than us.  And we only have two adults in our home, so you likely take many more showers than we do - again, you'll save more than us.  If you have an electric water heater (possible in FL), then this may even help you save considerably on water heating costs (less water consumed = less water to heat = less electricity).

http://www.amazon.com/Niagara-N2915CH-Chrome-Shower-Head/dp/B009HXAP9C/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1443017970&sr=1-1&keywords=1.5gpm+shower+head

The other water saver was a toilet "tank bank" for our older toilet.  It displaces (saves) nearly a gallon of water per flush.  Cheaper than a new 1.28 gallon per flush toilet.

http://www.amazon.com/Niagara-Conservation-Water-Saving-Toilet/dp/B003UQ5XAS/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1443018021&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=toilet+tank+bank

When you say energy efficient bulbs -- CFL or LED?  Believe it or not, if you have some bulbs that see many hours of daily use - you may be able to save by replacing CFLs with LEDs.  They're getting to the point where they're cheap enough that the payback period is measured in months.  I stocked up on these, when they were $4.97 for a 2-pack, and have been very pleased with their performance:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Philips-60W-Equivalent-Soft-White-A19-LED-Light-Bulb-455949/206178203

Be sure to come back and post what changes you've decided to make and what savings you've been able to measure!

jollygreen23

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2015, 08:24:20 AM »
Oh, good point. I've added some figures to the original post.

The toilets were replaced this calendar year. I think they're HE. The showerhead is a couple years older, but I'm not sure if it's low-flow. I'll have to check. I just remembered I can turn the water heater temp down. That would probably help quite a bit.

I'll look into a kill-a-watt. I've never heard of them.

jollygreen23

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2015, 08:25:48 AM »
Water.  We were able to save 20% on water/sewer in our house with two very simple items.  First was a 1.5 gallon per minute (gpm) shower head which we are VERY happy with and still provides plenty of flow.  We replaced a 2.0gpm head...so if you have a 2.5gpm head currently you're likely to save even more than us.  And we only have two adults in our home, so you likely take many more showers than we do - again, you'll save more than us.  If you have an electric water heater (possible in FL), then this may even help you save considerably on water heating costs (less water consumed = less water to heat = less electricity).

http://www.amazon.com/Niagara-N2915CH-Chrome-Shower-Head/dp/B009HXAP9C/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1443017970&sr=1-1&keywords=1.5gpm+shower+head

The other water saver was a toilet "tank bank" for our older toilet.  It displaces (saves) nearly a gallon of water per flush.  Cheaper than a new 1.28 gallon per flush toilet.

http://www.amazon.com/Niagara-Conservation-Water-Saving-Toilet/dp/B003UQ5XAS/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1443018021&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=toilet+tank+bank

When you say energy efficient bulbs -- CFL or LED?  Believe it or not, if you have some bulbs that see many hours of daily use - you may be able to save by replacing CFLs with LEDs.  They're getting to the point where they're cheap enough that the payback period is measured in months.  I stocked up on these, when they were $4.97 for a 2-pack, and have been very pleased with their performance:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Philips-60W-Equivalent-Soft-White-A19-LED-Light-Bulb-455949/206178203

Be sure to come back and post what changes you've decided to make and what savings you've been able to measure!

Ooh, I'll look into those. Thanks for the links!

I just checked our toilet, using a very un-scientific method, but it looks like we use right around 1.25 gallons per flush. (I don't know how to find out about our shower head.) It's not labeled or anything. I turned down the water tank thermostat. It doesn't give me an exact temp, but I brought it down two clicks (from "b" to the recommended temp.... whatever that means).

We'll start buying LED light bulbs from now on. And I just put the recommended shower head in my shopping cart.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2015, 08:41:48 AM by jollygreen23 »

The_path_less_taken

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2015, 09:07:00 AM »
Can you hang the clothes for a few hours in the sun to get 'most' of the water out of them, and then finish them in the dryer?

Anything that reduces that 6-8 loads a week would help.

Another thing is to place the indoor drying racks over a floor vent, or under the ceiling fan, or near a wood stove in the winter?

nereo

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2015, 09:18:34 AM »
The trick for getting clothes to dry without a dryer is airflow.  If you can, hang them outside on a clothes line.
If you can't do that, pointing a simple low-speed box-fan across the drying clothes will allow them to dry before they 'sour' and it will use 1/10th the energy(~240watts over 4 hours with a fan vs ~2500watts per dryer load).
 
I've lived in many hot and humid locations (North Carolina, Georgia, The Caribbean) - 75 years ago almost no one had dryers, but they still wore clothes!

Greg

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2015, 09:19:21 AM »
The only thing that jumps out at me is the laundry.  6-8 loads is a lot, we're a family of 3 and do 2-3 per week. So it's not crazy out of line but maybe you could try some strategies to reduce that.  Sheets and towels once a week or every two weeks.  Clothes not as often maybe, can the kiddos wear the same things every other day?

If you're doing cloth diapers it will be tough.  If your loads aren't full try combining, like mixing darks and lights especially kids.  Towels and sheets together, that sort of thing.  Might be impossible with a family so big, but worth trying.

A clothes washer uses a lot of water, electricity and gas.

Rollin

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2015, 02:17:48 PM »
$200-300/month for all that in the summer is really not bad at all, and is in fact lower than most others.  However, if that is a year round figure maybe not so good.

First, go to your power company and get an energy audit (some can be done online).  Once you do that you are usually eligible for assistance in completing certain improvements.  For example, if you add attic insulation our power company will pay half the cost up to a set amount.

Turn down the water heater (not too low or you'll get bacteria), and consider a newer water heater if yours is old.  Your power company might even offer a rebate for a new one.  Also, flush out the tank to make sure the sediment isn't sitting at the bottom.  You might even want to pull out the heating coils to see what shape they are in (be careful with the electricity issue = electrocution).

Old refrigerators replaced with new often pay for themselves in saved electricity, and we found that our food lasted waaay longer in the new one.

Programmable thermostat.  LEDs as opposed to CFLs when you are going to change out an old bulb, as they are not only more efficient - they produce less heat for your AC to process.  While we are talking about heat, make sure your dryer is in the garage and put your TV/entertainment stuff on a strip so you can turn it off when not in use.  Ours is in a cabinet and when you open it up (before we switched it off) the temperature inside was about 10-15 degrees warmer than the rest of the house.

Bigger items include solar hot water.  ROI is fairly short if you get the right system and take advantage of all the tax credits.

Rollin

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2015, 02:19:00 PM »
Oh, good point. I've added some figures to the original post.

The toilets were replaced this calendar year. I think they're HE. The showerhead is a couple years older, but I'm not sure if it's low-flow. I'll have to check. I just remembered I can turn the water heater temp down. That would probably help quite a bit.

I'll look into a kill-a-watt. I've never heard of them.

I recently borrowed the kill-a-watt from my local library!  No cost - !

Rollin

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2015, 02:20:19 PM »
Can you hang the clothes for a few hours in the sun to get 'most' of the water out of them, and then finish them in the dryer?

Anything that reduces that 6-8 loads a week would help.

Another thing is to place the indoor drying racks over a floor vent, or under the ceiling fan, or near a wood stove in the winter?

Drying indoors with the AC on uses a lot of energy to remove the humidity.  Also, probably no wood stove here...

Technigull

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2015, 02:49:28 PM »
Niagara also has a 1.25 GPH model:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003UQ17O4?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00

I have these and they are awesome.  The only downside is that it is now impossible to run out of hot water, so there are days that DW has extended shower time and it negates savings...

FLBiker

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2015, 02:50:04 PM »
We also live in FL (Tampa), and here's what we do.

1) We don't run the AC for 10 months.  We run it for ~4, keeping it at 78 w/ ceiling fans (like you).  Maybe you're further south, though.  We used to turn it off during the day, but my wife is now a SAHM.  We'll be turning it off overnight and opening windows very soon.  Our first year, we didn't run it much at all (just a few weeks in July / August) but we had mold issues.
2) We line dry a bunch, but you're right that it's tricky with the humidity / afternoon rain.
3) We don't have a dishwasher.  I've had them before and used them as drying racks.
4) We put our water heater on a timer.

Our electric bill topped out @ ~$80 before my wife was SAHM, now it's around ~$115 w/ the additional AC and diaper laundry.


jollygreen23

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Re: Help with Reducing Energy Costs
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2015, 05:49:16 AM »
Thanks for all the suggestions! I'll report back in about a month. :)