Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saving Energy

Our electric and gas bill came this week.  I'd been waiting for this bill expectantly to see what it held.  We've had an extremely warm winter, but even so our January bill was very expensive--twice the bills of my friends who I asked.

I discovered something as I asked my friends.  Many people keep their daytime indoor temperatures at between 61 and 63 degrees.  I know that your body adjusts and you get used to wearing sweaters.  My mom being a Southern California transplant is adjusting to our mid-Atlantic winters.  She wears a second layer in our house with it at 67 degrees.  My family all prefers it at about 67 so that means I need to budget and expect a higher bill because of it--as long as the bill is affordable for our budget.  If we find it is too much, I will turn down the temperature on our thermostats.  

With that in mind, I wanted to reduce our bill without turning down the temperature in our house.  These are the problems I found in the past 2 months that we fixed.  I was very thankful to find that after fixing these things our bill this month was just a little over half of the month's previous bill.  Yahoo!

1) Air was pouring in around our back door.  I weatherstripped it.  It's not perfectly sealed, but it probably reduced about 80% of the air coming in. (cost: $5)  At first I tried a self-adhesive weatherstripping, but it didn't adhere very well.  So, I had to then nail in a different type of rubber weatherstripping in.

2) I just discovered this week that around the base of our front door, air was also pouring in where the hot water baseboard met the wall.  So, I went downstairs and got some foam weatherstripping that I stuck on the wall (It's not visible under the baseboard) and caulked around the rest of the door. (cost: $3 tube of caulk and a portion of a roll of weatherstripping foam $4)

3) Several windows were slightly cracked open and can't be closed, so I needed to stick weatherstripping foam in them. (previous roll)

4)  I caulked around the living room windows that had been installed and finished, but never caulked.  (cost: caulk tube $3)

5) We started teaching the kids to not turn on so many lights.

6) I painted our bathroom walls white.  This surprised me.  The white brightens up the bathroom so much that I almost never need to turn on the lights in the room.  (cost: the room needed to be painted and it took a portion of a gallon so probably cost about $15 because it needed several coats)

7) We upped the humidity setting on our dehumidifier in the basement so that it isn't constantly on.  I am going to paint the basement walls with drylok in the future to decrease the moisture, but for now the dehumidifier is there.  I think turning this up saved us a lot of money on our bill.  (cost:  drylok will cost $23-$27/gallon at Lowe's.  It will take several gallons to paint the basement walls.)

8) We found that there was electricity running to the extra water heater in the basement that hadn't been removed (and it was heating water!).  We had the water heater removed.

9) We replaced some of the specialty high wattage bulbs with LED bulbs.  These were very expensive, but they're safer because of their locations as well as more energy efficient. (cost: $60)

10) We discussed as a family which light fixtures consumed a lot of energy and make a concerted effort not to turn them on unless we need them.

11) I make sure I don't leave the stereo receiver on if it's not in use.

For the future, 

1) We're going to hopefully insulate the floor boards of our den down the road.

2) We're going to replace the back door this month and install a storm door on the front door.  (The kids leave it wide open when they're all entering or exiting and lose a lot of heat through it accidentally).  One friend of mine said that they saved $15/month on electricity when they replaced their front and back doors.

3) We're going to insulate some of the pipes in the basement (particularly the ones that run the water to the kitchen) when we have time.   It's on the future to do list.  Right now we're basically heating our entire basement and our main floor because all the pipes are exposed in the basement.  The best way to insulate them would be to get these long strips of foam that fit around the pipes.  

When I got the crazy bill in January, my mom and I looked over several energy usage lists.  The high use culprits for electricity in our house are the dryer, clothes washer, dishwasher, oven, stereo receiver, lights (there are some fixtures in this house that have a lot of bulbs!), the toaster oven, the dehumidifier.  One that was on many lists that doesn't get much usage in our house is a hair dryer.  Hair dryers use a surprising amount of energy.  

So, now I'm going to wait expectantly for next month's bill and see how we fare!  One friend told me yesterday that she loves to save money and consume less.  I feel the same way.  As much as these efforts are about saving money, I really want my family to consume less energy.  I want to be the best steward that I can be of the world God has given us to live in--and not waste energy.  

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