Author Topic: Saving on utility bills  (Read 3547 times)

Trudie

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Saving on utility bills
« on: June 05, 2014, 11:37:32 AM »
Hi,
I'm starting to attack our expenses, and am interested in what ideas have for saving on natural gas and electric bills.

We live in Iowa.  Winters can be very cold -40F.  Summers can be hot and humid 90-100F.

We live in a 1700 square foot home that is 10 years old.  All appliances, with the exceptions of our washer and dryer are energy-star rated.  Our house is also very "tight."  Given the age of our house and construction quality (ample insulation) I am confident there is little we can do to add energy efficient structures. 

Things we do which are good:
(1) Programmable thermostat
(2) CFLs in all sockets/fixtures
(3)  Mostly energy star appliances
(4)  Follow "off peak meter" program of utility company
(5)  House was energy audited ten years ago when we built it
(6)  High efficiency mechanicals

Not so good:
(1)  Use clothes dryer
(2)  Run air conditioner more than avg person -- due to allergy concerns/discomfort
(3)  Probably a multitude of other small "sins"

#1 and #2 on this list obviously need some reconsideration.  But what other strategies have people used to save on their bills?  Do "phantom charges" (leaving appliances plugged in when you're not using them make a big difference?

Any ideas on efficient indoor clothes lines?  (We could put together a system in our downstairs storage.)  Outdoor clothes lines aren't an option in my neighborhood.

Where do you set your thermostats?

Also... what are some examples of "low-hanging fruit" of energy wastage that you have corrected to save money?

Thanks.

FLBiker

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Re: Saving on utility bills
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2014, 11:43:12 AM »
I can't speak to this directly but I believe DVRs / set-top boxes consume a decent amount of electricity.

http://www.cnet.com/news/study-dvr-set-top-box-use-most-energy-at-home/

So if you have them, it might be worth turning them off when not in use.

Greg

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Re: Saving on utility bills
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2014, 01:59:00 PM »
You can get a $25 Kill-o-watt electric meter that plugs into the wall, to see what your phantom loads are.  You may be surprised, or relieved.  Some home electronics use a lot of electricity just sitting there pretending to be turned off.

Your house may or may not be actually tight.  Only testing will tell you.   Was a blower door test done when it was built?  Unlikely.  Wall/ceiling penetrations can be tested with a "smoke stick" or even your wrist if the air leak is bad.

You can always add more attic insulation.  The energy code where you live may have changed in 10 years, it certainly has where I live in the PNW.  I built my home to exceed code at the time, now it would not meet the energy code.

Where I live a "bad" winter gives us temps in the teens, never as cold as where you are so we have it easier.  We keep our 5-2 programmable thermostat set to 67F and don't have A/C.

You can't have a clothes line up in the back yard?  That should be illegal.  I'd appeal that to the HOA if that's the problem.  What you do in your own yard should be your business.

ohyonghao

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Re: Saving on utility bills
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2014, 02:06:08 PM »
You can check out your local library and see if they will lend you a Kill-A-Watt, mine does.  What I have found mostly is that things have standby mode and don't draw much power.  If you do need to unplug things consider getting a powerstrip and using the switch on it, I found that with the Kill-A-Watt there is no power drain from a powerstrip being turned off.  I use this on my stereo receiver + TV + Raspberry Pi + sub woofer.

There was an interesting idea that someone had where he switched his bathroom fans to timer knobs.  I found them at Home Depot for $17 a piece and haven't done it yet myself, but the idea is that you can turn it on for 10 minutes after taking a shit and clear the air in the bathroom and not worry about wasting electricity because you forgot to turn the fan off.

The timer switch can be taken advantage of, and is why I am still considering it, for clothes drying.  If the room you are drying in, say a bathroom, has one then you can close the door and turn the fan on for 10 or 20 minutes to suck the moisture out of the room while the clothes are drying.

I did notice that my electric bill dropped quite a bit once we warmed up and are no longer using our central air blower.  Another consideration, but very small savings, is if you have a dual band router you can shut off either the 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz band if you are not using both or can get away with using one or the other, that will save about 5Wh.

Emg03063

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Re: Saving on utility bills
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2014, 02:57:02 PM »
What are you bills, and how do they break down as far as energy vs. peak power charges?  How much power does your AC take and how long per day are you running it?  Offhand, I'd say put your hot water heater on a timer if you haven't done so already. 

Trudie

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Re: Saving on utility bills
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2014, 04:40:03 PM »
You can get a $25 Kill-o-watt electric meter that plugs into the wall, to see what your phantom loads are.  You may be surprised, or relieved.  Some home electronics use a lot of electricity just sitting there pretending to be turned off.

Your house may or may not be actually tight.  Only testing will tell you.   Was a blower door test done when it was built?  Unlikely.  Wall/ceiling penetrations can be tested with a "smoke stick" or even your wrist if the air leak is bad.

You can always add more attic insulation.  The energy code where you live may have changed in 10 years, it certainly has where I live in the PNW.  I built my home to exceed code at the time, now it would not meet the energy code.

Where I live a "bad" winter gives us temps in the teens, never as cold as where you are so we have it easier.  We keep our 5-2 programmable thermostat set to 67F and don't have A/C.

You can't have a clothes line up in the back yard?  That should be illegal.  I'd appeal that to the HOA if that's the problem.  What you do in your own yard should be your business.

We did have a blower test when we gained occupancy to our house.  The extra attic insulation question is something to check into.  Thanks.  As for clothes line -- like most things they probably couldn't enforce it anyway.  With just two people, however, I think that I may have an even easier solution keeping things on drying racks and hanging them to dry.  I still like to use the dryer for towels, socks and underwear -- but just when it's in off-peak mode.

Trudie

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Re: Saving on utility bills
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2014, 04:42:42 PM »
What are you bills, and how do they break down as far as energy vs. peak power charges?  How much power does your AC take and how long per day are you running it?  Offhand, I'd say put your hot water heater on a timer if you haven't done so already.

To be honest, I've never carefully tracked usage.  I'm going to see if the utility company can run me a special report for a long time frame.  Seems to me they should be able to do this.

The hot water timer idea is a good one, but from what I've read it only works for electric HWH and ours is natural gas high efficiency energy-star rated.