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Thread: Coping with Rising Home Energy Costs

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Coping with Rising Home Energy Costs

    We are already feeling the pain every time we fill the tanks on our cars. So far, we have not seen the rapid increase in costs for energy use in our homes. Part of that is due to the fact that summer means electricity use to cool our homes. Since electric power comes from a number of sources, and many of these do not have the same reliance on oil and gas, electric rates have not jumped as sharply as other energy costs.

    Just wait until the snow starts to fly. The price of natural gas is up 86 percent over last winter. Anyone think it is going to drop? We can expect to be paying heating bills twice as high as last year. For us, that means an additional $300 or more every month. That is simply not in our budget.

    As I have been cutting the junk out of our woodline I have begun to collect the dry wood and set aside the green logs to dry. Our master bedroom is on the second floor and open to the family room, where the fireplace is. We figure we can set the furnace to 60 degrees, buid a fire, and let the heat rise. As for summer, I expect I can build a large room in the basement for about $500. Even on the hot days, it is still pretty cool down there.
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  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Someone on Cyb awhile back made a snotty remark about people shouldn't live in the south because we have to pay for air conditioning. Cardinal's post pretty much refutes that. You have to live in a mansion down here to pay $300 a month for temperature adjustment; heck, for your whole electric bill! If you guys are paying $600 a month just for heat... well.... We only use LP for our cooktop, and our generator, so that's pretty minimal. When temps are moderate, the house is U-shaped, we open windows. Neither of us have a problem with cooler indoor temps in winter, warmer in summer.

    Mentioned this before, we put in the solar hot water heater, huge tank, big load off the bill every month.

    Now I think we need to look at more insulation; maybe some double-paned windows. But boy are there a lot of windows!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I am not a homeowner but the new wife and I are in the market and are hoping to be into a home of our own by the end of the winter.

    Neither of us wants a house out in a new subdivision far away from every place we like to spend time but unfortunately, most of the homes in the neighborhoods that we like are 60 to 100 years old and nowhere near as energy efficient as we would like to be. Depending on the house, we figure once we pick it out, besides painting or replacing carpets/floorings to something we want we are going to have to likely spend a bunch of money on newer more energy efficient windows, doors, and maybe a roof.

    In the long run, these things will of course pay for themselves but that's a lot of added expense if you want to do it all at once when you first move in to the home.

    On the bright side, I can use the high home heating costs to help persuade her that we don't need a 2,500 square foot house and can make do with something much smaller than that!
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I can't say how strongly I recommend buying storm windows vs. replacement double-pane windows for older homes. It's a lot less work to install, cheaper, and still gets you the energy saving benefits because it better seals your house. Before you replace exterior doors, look at whether the frame has shifted and just needs adjustment & new weatherstripping to seal properly.

    Attic & floor insulation is far more effective. Adding insulation to walls can be a pain though. Get your HVAC audited--most older houses have leaky ductwork that can be fixed inexpensively. In older homes, its not unusual to find 25%-35% of conditioned air in the ducts to end up in the attic.

    HGTV has people thinking the only way you can improve efficiency is to rip out the old stuff and put in new, spending a small fortune. I guess that's what happens when every show is sponsored by Lowe's and Home Depot.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  5. #5
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Will be cutting a cord or two of wood at my friend's property late summer. We burned lots of wood last year (have a fireplace insert with upstairs vent/fan to distribute heat) to supplement. Our gas bill stayed about the same as the previous year, but that's a savings when you consider the price of gas was up over 30% from two years ago.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    I can't say how strongly I recommend buying storm windows vs. replacement double-pane windows for older homes. It's a lot less work to install, cheaper, and still gets you the energy saving benefits because it better seals your house. Before you replace exterior doors, look at whether the frame has shifted and just needs adjustment & new weatherstripping to seal properly.

    Attic & floor insulation is far more effective. Adding insulation to walls can be a pain though. Get your HVAC audited--most older houses have leaky ductwork that can be fixed inexpensively. In older homes, its not unusual to find 25%-35% of conditioned air in the ducts to end up in the attic.

    HGTV has people thinking the only way you can improve efficiency is to rip out the old stuff and put in new, spending a small fortune. I guess that's what happens when every show is sponsored by Lowe's and Home Depot.
    Thanks for the tips. I never realized storm windows can make that much of sa difference!

    I know about the leaky duct work in old homes so that is something else we know to expect. Luckily, her uncle owns a very reputible heating/cooling company in the area so we should be able to get somehelp on that front.

    And I know adding wall insulation is a pain. The house I moved into when I was in about the 4th grade was 110 years+ old and had zero insulation in the walls. Two years later, we had some stuff blown into the walls from above but it just never gets dense enough to provide the protection that you can get when starting over from scratch.

    Oh well! Such are the joys of home ownership!
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    My house was built in 1885. The attic is converted to a master suite and there isnt much more winterizing I can do. I've already cut my budget back to live off unemployment checks. If it gets as bad as they say it will, I'll have to make some difficult choices.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    We have not done anything out of the fear of cost increase although we have done things that will help over time as we upgrade the house.

    We are installing rain barrels to water our flower gardens so that is cutting our water bill (people seem to forget how serious a water problem the US is looking at)

    We have put in high efficiency gas logs, heck they are more efficient than our high efficiency heat system. The logs are on the ground floor near our stairs leading to all 3 floors. Apparently the logs will help move the heat through the house better than our heat system will and in the end cost us less. Both are natural gas.

    We have been upgrading light fixtures and in the process putting more energy efficient bulbs in or better yet light sensitive stuff that only comes on when we need it. Installing ceiling fans in every room I can manage, this has helped with heat and cold.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    How timely. Last month we got a letter from our home heating oil supplier with the new rates for the upcoming heat season. The price per gallon has more than doubled ... plus we needed to pay off an oil delivery from May to bring our account balance back to zero prior to the heat season!

    For various reasons I won't get into here, we are changing oil suppliers. The new supplier offers the best rate for those who prepay. Based on last year's usage, that means coming up with about $3,400 for the season.

    We've had to cut down several large dead oak trees recently. My husband is purchasing a chain saw, and we hope to use our wood stove insert more frequently this year -- not just for aesthetic purposes, but also for heat. I see we are not alone.

    An energy audit we had done last year recommended that we insulate our 2nd floor. I'd love to do it - and had actually set aside the money for it last winter - but it's next to impossible to find a #$#)(@ contractor!

  10. #10
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post

    And I know adding wall insulation is a pain. The house I moved into when I was in about the 4th grade was 110 years+ old and had zero insulation in the walls. Two years later, we had some stuff blown into the walls from above but it just never gets dense enough to provide the protection that you can get when starting over from scratch.
    They make a pour formula now of the bio-based/icynene foam insulation. Don't know whether it is available near you, but it might be a possibility. It's more expensive then cellulose though.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    I have yet to put on the AC this summer in an effort to cut back. That usually only adds about $40 during the hot months as we don't cool the whole house. (live in NYS lower Hudson Valley) My utilities for my 2000 sf house end up averaging out to be about $250 per year. We are pretty conservative. Our heat in oil hot water.

    I have been driving without AC as well. My car tells me MPG on demand...and while cruising I was able to see that with the AC on I get 5mpg less.
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

    Renovating the '62 Metzendorf
    http://metzendorf.blogspot.com/

  12. #12
    We'll be adding insulation in our attic this fall. The present rock-wool insulation is not at all sufficient. First, though, I have to repair a rotted dormer window sill and replace the windows and all the jambs in the rear dormer and haul the crap stored up there down to the basement. None of that will take place until the weather cools down significantly.

    I'm not a fan of storm windows, though my experience with them is limited to the old 'triple-track' aluminum units. If I were retrofitting an older home today, I would give strong consideration to interior storms, which have the benefit of maintaining the exterior architectural integrity of the original windows.

    Blown-in wall insulation as a stand-alone fix would be the last thing I would do with a historic (or just plain old) home as far as energy savings is concerned. There is very little heat-loss through walls --according to a Ball State CERES study it was just 3% in a frame dwelling -- so the payback is very long. Plus, the wall cavity is designed to allow for transpiration of heated, humid air from the interior to the exterior. By blocking that, you raise indoor humidity substantially and increase the need for air exchanges to keep indoor air healthy. Finally, there's a distinct possibility of mold in the wall cavity (a particularly bad problem with older blown-in cellulose that settles down to the plates).

    I would certainly add wall insulation if I was doing a tear-out down to the studs.
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    I love my house, but I knew from the moment we moved in we'd make some changes to make it more energy efficient. So far we've torn out 1200 feet of carpet downstairs and replaced it with wood/laminate. That alone made a huge difference in how hot the house felt.With the replacing of the floors I recaulked every window and door and replaced the weather stripping around each door.

    Since I had to have new window treatments to go with the new floors , we put up lined, "black-out" curtains in the rooms that get a lot of sun during the day and also put up the window film that helps with energy loss.

    Mr. Hab installed my new, energy-star dishwasher over the weekend, every bulb is a CFL, and the a/c is programmed to help offset the temps when we're not there. Our next projects are to add insulation to the attic, replace the gas water heater with a tankless version, and replace the fans with energy-star compliant fans.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    I'm finding that my utilities here in the desert are actually quite less than I was paying in Illinois. My high summer elec bill was $240. That matched my cooling bill in Illinois in the summer. On top of that was $200-300 heating bills to heat my old two-story brick money pit.

    Come winter, I'll be happy to take my $50 heating bill.
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  15. #15
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    We've also done the window tinting and black-out curtains on the west facing windows, ceiling fans, cfl bulb replacements in progress, tankless water heater in the plans. We have a U shaped house and I built a removeable sunscreen canopy a couple years ago that I install during the summer to shade that central area. It made a huge difference in the amount of heat gain to the adjacent rooms because it blocks direct sunlight to the windows/walls and also reduces the radiant heat from the entry tile and concrete.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  16. #16
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Well, this is the one time where I get to say that I live in one of (if not the) cheapest places in the country. My girlfriend and I live in a ~800 square foot top floor flat and now average about $30 a month in gas and electric (we were at about $35 until we switched all bulbs to CFL). Don't have AC, never need/want it, used the heater twice last year (once to test it to make sure it worked, another for about an hour on the third day of an abnormally cold week - dropped down to 38 two of those days, with very little fog cover). We have all of our electronic devices (except for one digital alarm clock) plugged into power strips so that we can turn off standby mode when they're not in use.

    I would guess that at least two thirds of our usage is from the fridge and gas stove - hot water is from a shared water heater and included with the rent (I'm guessing that would add another $8-10 a month if we had our own). We have huge bay windows in the kitchen, living room, and both bedrooms, as well as a decent sized window in the bathroom, so we really don't have to use lights that much.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    All we have done is set the themorstat to 78 during the summer, and a warm 68 during the winter. We live in an older California Craftsman built in the 1940 and have 3 large trees insulating the house from the heat of the valley sun. We normally don't kick in our AC until about 2 in the afternoon and shut her down at about 9 pm, open the windows and let the breeze in (of course this is not true this week with temps over 100 degrees around here). During winter we just bundle up a little bit more and throw on blankets for the beds. Our typical bill year around is about $100 bucks, give or take a cold January and very hot July. Our lowest bills are in fall, which have gone so low as $50. I guess the cost of energy effects those east coasters more than anyone else because of the use of oil to heat a home. We also pay a little bit more because 15% of our energy is guaranteed from renewable energy sources through PG&E. Gotta go green when we can.
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  18. #18
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by tsc View post
    I have yet to put on the AC this summer in an effort to cut back. That usually only adds about $40 during the hot months as we don't cool the whole house. (live in NYS lower Hudson Valley) My utilities for my 2000 sf house end up averaging out to be about $250 per year. We are pretty conservative. Our heat in oil hot water.

    I have been driving without AC as well. My car tells me MPG on demand...and while cruising I was able to see that with the AC on I get 5mpg less.
    Are you originally from the South? Most people in New England (very similar climate) don't even have AC and they never use it in their cars.

    Our cooling bill spiked about 50% in June, due to the heatwave. The thermostat is never below 72 and it stays at 80 when we are at work. The system is very old and I need to patch the ducts and add an attic fan this coming year. I may just replace the whole system.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I got an estimate on central A/C in 2006, but didn't have the means to pay for it, nor did I wish to finance it at the time so we stuck with our window unit.
    2007 brought us the wedding therefore we hadn't any time to install central A/C.

    I have three HVAC companies lined up for estimates this week. The first one was today, and he was coming in at $1100 HIGHER than in 2006.

    Rising costs attributed to high copper prices and the new ozone friendly refrigerant that the Feds are making us use.

    As for the price of utilities themselves, our house is Energy Star rated and in the winter I usually keep the place at 60 or 62 degrees. We haven't been hit hard.

    Although they said that the cost of electricity is going up 38% in Colorado as of July 1, so we'll see what Xcel has to say at the end of the month.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  20. #20
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I am glad I live in a well insulated 800 quare foot house. Some days it seems tiny, but it fits my needs and the bills are small. Started converting over to CFL years ago. I was shocked at how much of an energy hog my old fridge was. By replacing it with a similar sized model, I saved $10 a month on electric.

    I will occasionally use the central air, but since the area I cool is small, it only stays on for about 15 minutes around dinner and the house remains cool for the rest of the time until I leave for work the next day.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  21. #21
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ouch!

    I just got our $330 electric bill and we have a house that's only about 5 years old The pool and outdoor barbeque are run on propane that costs about $600 a year I really miss cheap energy at the expense of the environment sometimes.....










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  22. #22
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    Are you originally from the South? Most people in New England (very similar climate) don't even have AC and they never use it in their cars.

    Our cooling bill spiked about 50% in June, due to the heatwave. The thermostat is never below 72 and it stays at 80 when we are at work. The system is very old and I need to patch the ducts and add an attic fan this coming year. I may just replace the whole system.

    lol... I was born in NYC and lived my whole life in NYS. I guess that makes me a Yankee...

    Most cars come with AC. NY is pretty muggy where I am and it has been around 90 all week. I don't mind the heat. I hate having windows shut. Our house got as warm at 84 inside one day. I shut all the windows and draw the curtains while I am at work.
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

    Renovating the '62 Metzendorf
    http://metzendorf.blogspot.com/

  23. #23
    Cyburbian ruralplanner's avatar
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    Luckily we are protected from high energy prices for the coming winter. This comes partly from the fact that we burn LP fuel and that big 500 gallon tank in the yard can be filled when fuel is cheapest. It’s kind of like our personal strategic LP reserve. Although unlike the US govt., we buy when it’s cheapest.

    Aside from that, we have done everything we can to more energy efficient and it has made a notable difference in our use of fuel and electricity. Last summer we reinsulated that attic and this last winter the house held a noticeable amount of heat. Not by choice, we had to replace our backup furnace (since our primary heat source is wood), however after running out of wood last winter, the new furnace, which had a high energy efficiency rating, sipped fuel as compared to the old beast.

    When we replaced our washer, we went with a front load that is rated at a Tier 3 by some organization. Anyway, it’s the most energy efficient and right away we cut $20.00 off of our monthly electric bill. Same with the electric water heater- we went with the most efficient model.

    And like most, we converted to mostly CFL bulbs.

    While the dollar cost of our energy use has gone up per therm, kw-hour—however you calculate it, the overall cost is comparable to our energy cost 5 years ago because we implemented these energy saving strategies. However, they cost money. The washer cost us nearly $1000.00 and it was scratch and dent. But by our estimation we will get that investment back in 3 years and with ever higher energy costs it will be like were making money.

    It also helps that we have a wood stove. Seven to eight cords can get us through a winter and if we can do that, that strategic LP reserve will be there for the winter of 2009, the fuel bought at spring 2008 prices.

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