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Already making a difference

Posted: August 02, 2007 in House & Garden

When we bought our house, I called the power company to see what the electricity bills were like so we'd know what to expect when bills started rolling in. I was aghast to learn that the previous owners burned over 32,000 kwhs last year - to the tune of around $200/month. I'm pretty sure that's around triple the average for homes in the US.

Needless to say, the thought of giving $200 every month to the power company - soon to be more like $500/month after the upcoming rate increases - was something that didn't sit very well with either of us. So, we set out to see what we could do to cut down our bill.

The first item that needed attention was our constantly running hot tub. After some research, I discovered that hot tubs (including ours) have timers, and after a close inspection of ours, I found the timer, and sure enough, it was bad. So I replaced it, and turned the thermostat down to "off". It only takes a few hours to heat up when we want to use it, and that's surely cheaper than running it 24/7, on top of the fact that the pump cycles twice a day now instead of running constantly.

The second order of business was to put compact fluorescent light bulbs wherever we could stand them. This ended up meaning the replacement of around 30 bulbs, which should be a significant savings.

Installing ceiling fans where we spent the most time has made those spaces more comfortable without lowering the thermostat, and they look nice too.

We also gave some attention to the 30-year-old electric furnace, which I mentioned in a previous post. That will be getting torn out this Friday in favor of a top-of-the-line heat pump. A very expensive item, but after some conservative calculations, it looks like it will pay for itself in less than four years, and I figure I'd rather spend that money on the house than just piss it away to the utility.

Next will be the attic fans. We already have one, but the motor is dead. I'll be pulling it out to take it to Grainger for a replacement, so that should help some. I'm also installing a gable fan in the crawl space over the garage, so that should pull some of the hot air out from above the garage and home office. The garage can be like a sauna on a hot day, and the office is around 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the house due to no HVAC (it's an addition).

The huge thing that will make a difference in our usage will be the addition of solar panels sometime in 2008. While we won't be completely off the grid, we should be able to cover most of our usage and have a minimal bill from the power company.

I'm very excited about all the changes, and it'll be fun to see just how small we can make our footprint. But the changes we've made so far are already making a difference. Our June electricity bill was only $63, which is a fraction of what it was last June with the old owners.

Just wait til all the changes are made!

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