Author Topic: Lowest electric bill we've ever had  (Read 6027 times)

MoneyCat

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Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« on: November 01, 2014, 02:42:50 PM »
We've been working on reducing as much of our electric consumption as possible by being a lot better about keeping things off and unplugged when not in use, charging laptops and devices at work and then using them on battery power at home, keeping lights off unless absolutely necessary to use them, line drying clothes, etc.  I think these strategies are paying off because we just had the lowest electric bill we've ever had: $16.68 for October.

This is especially exciting for me, because we have a consultation for solar power and I am wondering how much money we can make each month by selling electricity to the electric company if we get solar panels installed on our roof.  Our house is perfectly positioned for solar power.

Greg

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2014, 03:25:02 PM »
Wow, that's less than our minimum charge (meter fee).  Good job!

falcondisruptor

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2014, 04:16:01 PM »
Wow, we just had our lowest bill ever and it was $45!  You rock!

nawhite

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2014, 09:22:42 AM »
I'm curious what the solar incentives you have available. I just had a solar consult (actually 2 competing bids) and in our area, "selling back to the grid" is worth almost nothing compared to offsetting usage. We get net metering (in the summer, if we produce more than we use, we get a credit that will be applied in the winter) and a $0.03/kwh incentive for every kwh we produce. If we try to sell power back above our own usage, we'll only get wholesale rates (about $0.04/kwh). So in our area there is a pretty big disincentive to size your system to provide more power than your house uses. We ended up sizing our system to 80% of our annual usage in case we decide to get a more efficient fridge or switch to a gas stove in the future.

Both providers said 10 panels was their minimum installation (2.5kw) which works out to a home usage around 200-250 kwh/month average. So if your incentives are similar to ours and you are using less than 200kwh/month on average, you'll have some challenges getting a decent payback with solar.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2014, 11:57:49 AM »
Wow, that's less than our minimum charge (meter fee).  Good job!

Yep, we pay $25 before the first KWH is used.  Best we can muster is around $70 for a family of 4 with electric hot water, a sewer pump, and 2 deep freezers for homegrown/hunted meat. Nothing I can do about the pump, the freezers pay for themselves, and propane hot water costs about the same around here. Though, I do want to hang more laundry once I am FIRE.  I did notice about a $5-10 uptick around 18 months ago when we made a commitment to cook at home more.

civil

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2014, 07:39:26 PM »
Wow, that's less than our minimum charge (meter fee).  Good job!

Yep, we pay $25 before the first KWH is used.  Best we can muster is around $70 for a family of 4 with electric hot water, a sewer pump, and 2 deep freezers for homegrown/hunted meat. Nothing I can do about the pump, the freezers pay for themselves, and propane hot water costs about the same around here. Though, I do want to hang more laundry once I am FIRE.  I did notice about a $5-10 uptick around 18 months ago when we made a commitment to cook at home more.

I pay about $39 before the first KWH. $24 in distribution fee alone, the rest is weird service charges and taxes on who-knows-what (not correlated to amount of energy used - those taxes are rolled into the per-KWH price). Best we've gotten for this (absurdly well-insulated) house is $109. But there are also roommates, and I have agreed not to freeze them out of the house in the winters :)

When I lived in Virginia I regularly had $12 power bills... those were the days!

MrsCoolCat

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2014, 09:16:29 PM »
WOW, congrats! One time my electric bill was $25 and my water was $29! My friend says unplugging items really does make a diff esp if you are going on vacation. I'm personally too lazy if it's over a mere $5-ish but idk! Never tried to see the diff.

We've been working on reducing as much of our electric consumption as possible by being a lot better about keeping things off and unplugged when not in use, charging laptops and devices at work and then using them on battery power at home, keeping lights off unless absolutely necessary to use them, line drying clothes, etc.  I think these strategies are paying off because we just had the lowest electric bill we've ever had: $16.68 for October.

This is especially exciting for me, because we have a consultation for solar power and I am wondering how much money we can make each month by selling electricity to the electric company if we get solar panels installed on our roof.  Our house is perfectly positioned for solar power.

Longwaytogo

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2014, 06:53:04 AM »

[/quote]

I pay about $39 before the first KWH. $24 in distribution fee alone, the rest is weird service charges and taxes on who-knows-what (not correlated to amount of energy used - those taxes are rolled into the per-KWH price). Best we've gotten for this (absurdly well-insulated) house is $109. But there are also roommates, and I have agreed not to freeze them out of the house in the winters :)

When I lived in Virginia I regularly had $12 power bills... those were the days!
[/quote]

Glad I'm not alone, just had my lowest ever but was still $105.00. Beats my yearly average of aprox $150 though! We try and unplug as much as we can, have all fluorescent light bulbs, etc. But I am a stay at home Dad and cooking 17-18 meals a week here, so I think we are just home too much to get it much lower.

2ndTimer

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2014, 09:17:09 AM »
Wow, I am so jealous.  We just put a timer on the hot water heater.  Eager to see what happens.

Bob W

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2014, 10:08:16 AM »
That is absolutely awesome!    I'm working hard to reduce our electric usage this month.  It seems that our bill is $20 of BS charges to start with. 

We're all electric with a well pump and the lowest I've seen in none cooling/heating months has been around $80.    Thankfully we have a ground source heat pump so our average total utility bill for a 3000 sq ft house has been around $140.  That includes water/septic. 

I'm adding 16 LEDs this month and hoping for a $5-7 drop.  Will be putting some things on auto shut off switches to end ghost loads.  ($5?)  Wrapped water heater in R13 and turned to lowest setting ($5).   I'm ending my habit of always running the blower for our HVAC to keep air circulating. (at least I'll try if for a couple of months.  Instead I will be using some very high rated filters that can even take smoke out of air.   ($20?)   Am also actively searching for air leaks,  caulking and filling while putting gaskets on outlets.  ($5-10?)

So with all that we may be around $100 monthly total average utility.   And perhaps $50 on non HVAC months.  I have friends that spend $65 a month on water alone.   So I'll feel pretty good about that.

Regarding the solar --  Have never been able to pencil this out.   Will you be DYIing the solar project.  Kinda hoping you are.  You would probably save 50% on the cost and you could write a great piece for us to model. 

I'm assuming you're on gas for hot water and heat and stove?

If that is the case,  your biggest user left may be your fridge.   You can google around and find some nice ways to convert upright freezers to fridges.   This could potentially reduce your power need by $8 per month.    You could buy a new freezer set up for this for around $500.

By doing that you would greatly reduce your panel need.    You might get by with 2 panels at around $2000.   Still I can't see paying $2,000 for a system that produces $120 per year in power. 

If your goal is to reduce your already super low electric usage.   I bet you could get it down a bit more by using LEDs and being totally focused on each use of power.  (Like three washer loads a month,  no ghost power,  no dishwasher etc..)  As I mentioned the fridge is probably one of the biggest users now.

If you wanted to go totally bonkers you could even human power washing your clothes like my grandmother did until she was around 85.   Wringer washers are amazing things.    Just adding a wringer to your current mix might greatly reduce the air time needed to dry your clothes.     You probably have $4-7 in washing machine costs in your electric usage?

Since our fridge is primarily a condiment cabinet I often question my actual need for one. 



nawhite

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2014, 11:25:01 AM »
Regarding the solar --  Have never been able to pencil this out.   Will you be DYIing the solar project.  Kinda hoping you are.  You would probably save 50% on the cost and you could write a great piece for us to model. 

Just curious about your comment on saving 50% with DIY. I was looking for 12 250W panels. At that scale DIY wasn't that close to the installer cost once I included everything. My best quote came back at $2.74/Watt (after federal incentives) of installed panels, a grid tie inverter, the installation and a 25 year warranty on the panels and workmanship. For DIY I could find panels for $1.00/watt (after shipping), Inverter for ~$0.40/watt, permits and electrician to do the panel work added $0.16/Watt, Mounting hardware and roof flashing $0.20/watt, Cables and conduit $0.05/watt. So we are at $1.81/watt and I just have a pile in my back yard. So possible to save money. Unfortunately in my area DIY systems are ineligible for production based incentives from the power company. Mine will be $0.03 per kwh or about $120/year. If I value that like an annuity at 5% we're talking another $2400 or $0.80/watt.

If I were going to do a DIY system I would first work on getting as much of my house running on 12 V as possible (lighting, computers, screens, routers, maybe fridge etc.) then I would do an off grid 12V solar system for those things. Bakari has a really good how-to on instructables: http://www.instructables.com/id/NON-grid-intertie-independant-solar-photovoltic-/


Bob W

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2014, 02:21:36 PM »
Regarding the solar --  Have never been able to pencil this out.   Will you be DYIing the solar project.  Kinda hoping you are.  You would probably save 50% on the cost and you could write a great piece for us to model. 

Just curious about your comment on saving 50% with DIY. I was looking for 12 250W panels. At that scale DIY wasn't that close to the installer cost once I included everything. My best quote came back at $2.74/Watt (after federal incentives) of installed panels, a grid tie inverter, the installation and a 25 year warranty on the panels and workmanship. For DIY I could find panels for $1.00/watt (after shipping), Inverter for ~$0.40/watt, permits and electrician to do the panel work added $0.16/Watt, Mounting hardware and roof flashing $0.20/watt, Cables and conduit $0.05/watt. So we are at $1.81/watt and I just have a pile in my back yard. So possible to save money. Unfortunately in my area DIY systems are ineligible for production based incentives from the power company. Mine will be $0.03 per kwh or about $120/year. If I value that like an annuity at 5% we're talking another $2400 or $0.80/watt.

If I were going to do a DIY system I would first work on getting as much of my house running on 12 V as possible (lighting, computers, screens, routers, maybe fridge etc.) then I would do an off grid 12V solar system for those things. Bakari has a really good how-to on instructables: http://www.instructables.com/id/NON-grid-intertie-independant-solar-photovoltic-/

Love the 12 volt concept!   Fits right in with reduce, reduce, reduce.

The $2.74 per watt --- does that include any kind of batter system.  One problem with solar panels is that a majority of my power usage is at night.  So without batteries it isn't of much use to me.   When I looked in the past, batteries would basically double the cost of a system.

I'm sure the outcome varies by where one lives in the country and what electric rates are.  A 65 watt light bulb cost me about  $7.50 a year to run here. (3 hours per night, every night)   If I had to spend $178 dollars on a panel for that light,  (2.74 times 65)  that panel would need to generate about $20  of electricity to come close to penciling out.   My guess is that the panels are only actually delivering power about 65-75% of the time.   In other words my 65 watt light is on demand while the cost for solar panels is ongoing regardless if they are being used or not. 

I have seen the deals in sunny south California that seem to make somewhat of sense penciling out,  but definitely not at my local.   

That is why I think the method for the OP might be better served to seek other manners of reduction such as the freezer to fridge conversion. 

nawhite

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2014, 05:58:29 PM »
Regarding the solar --  Have never been able to pencil this out.   Will you be DYIing the solar project.  Kinda hoping you are.  You would probably save 50% on the cost and you could write a great piece for us to model. 

Just curious about your comment on saving 50% with DIY. I was looking for 12 250W panels. At that scale DIY wasn't that close to the installer cost once I included everything. My best quote came back at $2.74/Watt (after federal incentives) of installed panels, a grid tie inverter, the installation and a 25 year warranty on the panels and workmanship. For DIY I could find panels for $1.00/watt (after shipping), Inverter for ~$0.40/watt, permits and electrician to do the panel work added $0.16/Watt, Mounting hardware and roof flashing $0.20/watt, Cables and conduit $0.05/watt. So we are at $1.81/watt and I just have a pile in my back yard. So possible to save money. Unfortunately in my area DIY systems are ineligible for production based incentives from the power company. Mine will be $0.03 per kwh or about $120/year. If I value that like an annuity at 5% we're talking another $2400 or $0.80/watt.

If I were going to do a DIY system I would first work on getting as much of my house running on 12 V as possible (lighting, computers, screens, routers, maybe fridge etc.) then I would do an off grid 12V solar system for those things. Bakari has a really good how-to on instructables: http://www.instructables.com/id/NON-grid-intertie-independant-solar-photovoltic-/

Love the 12 volt concept!   Fits right in with reduce, reduce, reduce.

The $2.74 per watt --- does that include any kind of batter system.  One problem with solar panels is that a majority of my power usage is at night.  So without batteries it isn't of much use to me.   When I looked in the past, batteries would basically double the cost of a system.

I'm sure the outcome varies by where one lives in the country and what electric rates are.  A 65 watt light bulb cost me about  $7.50 a year to run here. (3 hours per night, every night)   If I had to spend $178 dollars on a panel for that light,  (2.74 times 65)  that panel would need to generate about $20  of electricity to come close to penciling out.   My guess is that the panels are only actually delivering power about 65-75% of the time.   In other words my 65 watt light is on demand while the cost for solar panels is ongoing regardless if they are being used or not. 

I have seen the deals in sunny south California that seem to make somewhat of sense penciling out,  but definitely not at my local.   

That is why I think the method for the OP might be better served to seek other manners of reduction such as the freezer to fridge conversion.

It does not include any type of battery system, I just tie in with the power grid, but in Colorado, we get "net-metering." So each month, they take the amount of electricity my house uses, subtract the amount the panels generated and charge me for that number of kwh. This solves the "majority of power usage is at night" issue. If I generated more than I used in one month (like in the summer when there is lots of sunlight during the day and shorter nights when you need light), then that power is banked as a credit I can use to offset my usage in the winter 1 for 1 (if I generate 1kwh more than my usage in July, I can subtract one kwh from my bill in December in addition to the kwh I generate in December).

As for your math, you are entirely right that a dollar spent reducing demand is almost always a better idea than a dollar spent on solar panels.

You can actually figure out how much energy a panel will generate in your area based on location, weather, panel position, etc using: http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/

According to their math, my system should generate about 3900 kwh/year or about $511 off my bill annually. So I pay about $8200 and get $511/year which equals a return of 6.2% which will increase every time that power rates go up. I'm happy with that rate of return especially b/c utility rates are expected to go way up in the near term in our area. At the same time though, I got a better return buying LED bulbs to replace my incandescents (15%), halogens (8%) and got LED backlit computer screens (20%) and a way better return when I bought our high efficiency washing machine (43%) and plastic wrap for some windows in winter (125%).

So do the math but that reduce, reduce, reduce is a very good mantra :-)

MoneyCat

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2014, 07:58:51 PM »
We just had a consultation with a solar company about installing a grid-tied system for our house and I like the numbers they gave us.  We use so little electricity that the system they designed would be really inexpensive, especially with the tax incentives.  It would pay for itself in eight years.  We'd be able to produce 100% of our own electricity for the entire year and have some left over to sell back to the electric company.  Honestly, this would be a lot easier and -- from what I can tell -- a lot cheaper than trying to install a system myself.

BooksAreNerdy

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2014, 01:44:55 PM »
We just got our October bill! Lowest ever! 11kwh/day. Costing about $1.27/day. We had about $28 of fees on top of our charges. Last year, we used almost double that in October.

I think that checking our electric usage is one of the most fun 'games' of mustachianism!

brian313313

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Re: Lowest electric bill we've ever had
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2014, 07:31:14 AM »
This was about 25 years ago, but when I was 21 I reduced my electric bill to the point I hit the minimum. The bill was about $3.50 but they hit me with another $1.50 charge to bring the bill to $5, their minimum. I was renting a room that was private. It had been the office for the small apartment building but the owner moved and rented it as a room. It had a large room and a small bathroom. The fridge was one of those small cubes and a microwave that I did not leave plugged in except when I was using it. Pretty much the only electricity I was using was my alarm clock and that fridge. I did also use lights when I was home but conservatively. Rent was only $125/month but I was living on $5.50/hr so I had to be tight.