Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Save over $800 In The Next 12 Months On Your Energy Bill – Without Replacing The Windows!

In December of 2008 we got a shock when we opened our power bills (get it?  shock - power...)Our combined power bills were up 22% versus the previous December!

I did some further digging and discovered that our cost per unit of energy had gone up 32% during that same period - greedy utility company bastards!

I immediately started working on a plan to turn things around.  Since January we’ve saved over $493 (and 31 cents!) on our combined energy bill versus the same seven months last year.

Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving plan

I’ve often heard that the greatest savings comes from replacing old windows.  Our home was built in 1960 and the original, horrible, single pane windows are still in place.  We’d love to replace them but that’s just not in the budget, even with available stimulus plan money.  I needed a plan that didn’t involve a massive cash outlay...

Our home is heated with gas and cooled with electricity.  I developed a separate plan for both, each with two components: Home Improvement and Behavioral Changes.  The common thread throughout is that each small change adds up to a very real aggregate change ($493 so far!)No single piece of the plan is going to make a big difference alone.  You need to put a plan together that touches each area of the household.

And it’s no good to put together a plan unless your wife is on-board.

You both have to see the energy bill as a problem or you’re not going to be able to take action on the behavioral components.

eM and I saw eye to eye on the need for a plan right away but if your spouse isn’t buying in, start talking about what you could do with the hundreds of dollars that you’re going to generate in savings.

If she still doesn’t buy in, don't get bitter.  Work on the home improvement pieces by yourself and save the conversation for another day.

Keep in mind that, even if she does buy in, behavioral change takes time so be patient.

Here are a few of the key pieces of my diabolical plan (more detail is available in the image at the bottom):

Save Gas:
  • Install a programmable thermostat.  You won’t see it on the plan (below) because I installed one the week we moved in.  They are extremely easy to install and they are REALLY worth it.  If you don’t have a subscription to , get one and do some research to find the best value.
    The reason dinosaurs are extinct: many didn't wear pants
  • Make small incremental adjustments to the thermostat.  A small change (like a 1 degree difference during the day and the night) will have an impact.  Obviously if you have an infant in the house you’re going to have to wait till he/she’s a little older before making any temperature changes.
    • If the kids are with a nanny during the day then you need to make sure that she's complying with the plan.  Warn the sitter ahead of time about any planned change to the thermostat so she can dress herself and the children appropriately.
    Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving plan
  • Change your water heater settings to bring your water temperature to 120 degrees.  Here's how to do that if your water heater doesn't have a dial with temp settings:
    • Use a kitchen thermometer to determine your water temp at the kitchen tap. Make incremental changes to your water heater over the next couple of days until you get it to 120 degrees.
    • This is a multi-day process because the water in the tank will take 24 hours to change temperature once you turn the heater down.  Grab a marker and mark your dial when you finally find the spot!
    Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving plan
  • When you travel make sure you turn the water heater down to the “Vacation” setting and make a major adjustment to your thermostat.  It’s a good feeling to leave the house knowing that you’re saving money on your energy bill while you're spending money on your trip!  We actually go through a printed check list before we leave the house for a trip to make sure we’re adjusting these settings.
  • Invest in insulated window coverings.  I installed double cell honeycomb shades in the kids' rooms and our room.  I've also covered the honeycomb shades with a roman shade in the kids' rooms. 
    Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving planSave Electricity:
    • Install fluorescent lights everywhere you can.  I believe this is the single greatest contributing factor in our dramatically reduced electricity consumption.
      • Check out Consumer Reports to find bulbs with the best "warm up" time.  Warm up time is the time it takes the fluorescent light to produce its full brightness.
    • When we first moved in, I installed lots of dimmers and a motion sensing switch inside the house.  Look for places to install these wherever possible but remember that you won’t be able to use a fluorescent light with a dimmer or a motion detector.
    Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving plan
    • I use a sunlight sensing adapter on the front outdoor house light and a high wattage fluorescent on our back outdoor light.  The fluorescent has worked great outside during summer and winter.
    • We unplug EVERY charger and device we can when not in use.  Move phone chargers to an outlet that’s easy to work with (I found the end of the kitchen counter worked best for us).
    • Does that VCR in the spare room really need to be plugged in?
      • Use masking tape to make a label tag for your cords so you don’t have to figure out which is which each time you want to unplug one.
    • If you have a home network you DO NOT want to turn the router off each night.  Here's how to set up your power cords so that you turn off your office equipment without turning off your router:
      • Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving plan
      • You’ll need two surge protectors (or one surge protector and a regular outlet block).
      • Plug the first surge protector into the wall.
      • Plug your router, modem and the second surge protector into the first protector.
      • Plug everything else, the PC, printer, monitors, speakers, any external hard drives, etc. into the second surge protector.
      • Each night, after you've shut down your PC, flip the second surge protector off.
      • Now all of those devices will be prevented from sucking their little bits of energy throughout the night but your router and modem will remain on.
    •  Fill your freezer to capacity.  Don't feel like spending extra cash on groceries?  Fill empty milk jugs with water and put them in the freezer (leave a little room for the ice to expand inside the jug).  A full freezer is MUCH more energy efficient than a half full freezer.  It actually takes less energy to keep more things frozen then it takes to keep fewer things frozen within the same space.
    • Reduce the temp settings on the fridge and freezer as much as you can.  According to the CDC the proper temp for your fridge is 40 degrees and the proper temp for your freezer is zero degrees.
      Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving plan
    • Reduce your family's dependence on sharks with friggin' laser beams attached to their heads.  Laser beams consume a tremendous amount of energy.
      The spreadsheet below is a screen shot of my plan and contains columns that list 1) the planned action and 2) notes about what’s required.   What you can't see in the shot is a third column which lists the result of the action or the next step in the process.

      Click on the image below for a few more tips.

      Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving plan

      My ideas to keep the savings going next year:
        Save energy, save money with a DIY energy saving plan
      1. Research painting the roof white
      2. Consider investing in a better front storm door
      3. Research insulating the outside of the clothes dryer with hard board insulation - dryers are incredibly inefficient!
      4. Insulate the sills in the unfinished portion of the basement
      5. Insulate/cover the windows during the winter.
      6. Stop drafts around the attic hatch and the bathroom vent.
      7. Insulate water pipes in the basement
      8. Install a massive wind turbine in the back yard
      9. Attach battery leads to the children and the cat (à la The Matrix)


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