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Thread: Home Utility Usage, how efficient are you?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Home Utility Usage, how efficient are you?

    A few times a year I go through my past records to see how we are doing on our utility usage in terms of water, gas, and electric with the goal of lowering my costs and using less. I have been doing this and tracking my progress since we moved into our house 4 years ago this summer and each year our usage goes down a little bit. This year we hope to see a big drop on our heating bills as I am rebuilding the original wood windows, repairing the aftermarket storm windows, and doing a full paint job on the house (which includes caulking and air sealing). Next year we are looking at getting a tankless water heater and possibly a high efficacy furnace. But I can have the most efficient furnace in the world and still use a ton of gas if the house continues to leaks air, so the air sealing is an ongoing and continuous process.

    Do you track your utilities? How are you doing? Will you be doing anything to make it more efficient?
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    In the last year I moved to a condo where I have 2.5 shared sides. My utility bills were sliced in half. I use a lot less gas in the winter to heat, and a lot less electric in the summer.

    I've looked into tankless systems. If you go with gas you will need some expensive venting changes. Combine this with the higher cost of the unit and you are better of trying to take shorter showers!

    I would love to get into solar or wind. Not big units mind you, but just for experimentation. I am afraid that if I would put something up the condo association would scream. I could do this at the cabin, but my usage there is so little that it may not be worth the investment.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    We live in a 160 unit condo complex that is essentially four buildings set over underground parking. The heat and hot water are gas fired cogeneration units. Extremely energy efficient. A/C is pretty cheap, too.

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I live in a 1919 farmhouse in the middle of no where. I am not sure I know of this word efficient that you speak of.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  5. #5
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    I live in a 1919 farmhouse in the middle of no where. I am not sure I know of this word efficient that you speak of.
    Not a good excuse... Link.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  6. #6
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I've been meaning to get an energy audit for my house. I wonder who I should contact for that?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I've been meaning to get an energy audit for my house. I wonder who I should contact for that?
    When you find someone, let me know. I want to get as much done before, then it will help me find the places I missed.
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  8. #8
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    When you find someone, let me know. I want to get as much done before, then it will help me find the places I missed.
    I think Consumers Energy might do them.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  9. #9
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    Not a good excuse... Link.
    That is in Ann Arbor. And it isn't in the middle of no where. And they spent a fortune to make it energy efficient. I don't compare.... I need to just sell and buy a better house....
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  10. #10
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I've been meaning to get an energy audit for my house. I wonder who I should contact for that?
    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    When you find someone, let me know. I want to get as much done before, then it will help me find the places I missed.
    Check the Better Buildings For Michigan Program

    http://www.betterbuildingsformichigan.org/

    I know Grand Rapids participates, not sure about Maister's neck of the woods.

    On second thought, if you didn't agree with Obama's ARRA stimulus, you shouldn't participate, because that's where the money is coming from.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I've been meaning to get an energy audit for my house. I wonder who I should contact for that?
    For locating an auditor: http://www.resnet.us/energy-audit
    List of incentives, programs, and assistance with making your house more efficient: http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/h...e=MI&re=0&ee=0

    You're welcome.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  12. #12
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    Check the Better Buildings For Michigan Program

    http://www.betterbuildingsformichigan.org/

    I know Grand Rapids participates, not sure about Maister's neck of the woods.

    On second thought, if you didn't agree with Obama's ARRA stimulus, you shouldn't participate, because that's where the money is coming from.
    Wow... And people say I turn everything into a political argument...


    My neighborhood does not qualify because it is too wealthy... (you know, evil rich people like doctors, lawyers, young professionals...)
    Invest in the things today, that provide the returns tomorrow.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    Wow... And people say I turn everything into a political argument...


    My neighborhood does not qualify because it is too wealthy... (you know, evil rich people like doctors, lawyers, young professionals...)
    It wasn't an argument. Just full disclosure.

    I'm surprised it's only limited to the two neighborhoods in GR, one of which I used to live in.

    The program is also run in the City I now work in and they do not select neighborhoods based on income levels. Not sure what you're talking about.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    That is in Ann Arbor. And it isn't in the middle of no where. And they spent a fortune to make it energy efficient. I don't compare.... I need to just sell and buy a better house....
    Hink are you saying that the world revolves around Ann Arbor?

    Regarding who does those assessments, at Home Shows they do have folks who will do them. I always thought it was a way for them to get into your house, tell you what is wrong with it, then scare you into fixing it right now for a premium price (knowing full well that if you have a bunch of small jobs you would not get bids on them, but they would package it into a huge job).

    Your best bet would be to go with someone independent like Consumers or DTE (Michigan).
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    The program is also run in the City I now work in and they do not select neighborhoods based on income levels. Not sure what you're talking about.
    Neither do I. Our state runs a program too, California First, but for now the program has been suspended. I live on the coast, west coast for that matter where the temps pretty much are a constant. Our home has a smart meter, so I can go online and gage usage for days, weeks, months, year to year even hour to hour. It's interesting to see our useage flat line from 12 to about 7am then an uptick starting at 7:30 than back to flatline after 10am or so until the mid afternoon. My utilities are pretty darn cheap to run a 3 bd/2 bath, 1700 sf house (about $90 for electric/gas). Gas is the fluctuation because it can get a little high in the winter time (by high i mean $80 bucks max). Electricity is constant between 35-45 a month, depending on the season.
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Electricity: Our house usually creates more energy that it uses. Solar power coupled with better insulating windows, LED lights, and a house attic fan (which we use instead of the AC) means that we can easily supply for our demand.

    Water: Better than our neighbors since we make sure that our irrigation system actually works correctly. Both of my parents have a long history in the irrigation field, and both my mom and I can perform irrigation audits. Drip, hardscape, native plants, and a properly maintained system for the turf can save a lot of water.

    Gas: We use natural gas for the stovetop and BBQ. I guess if I decided to cook everything rare then I could save a few bucks over the year

    The biggest savers for our house was the attic fan and the irrigation system. Broken pipes, sprinklers missing the grass and hitting your car instead, and overwatering are common things homeowners do incorrectly. The attic fan just creates a cold air breeze at night (cooling the house) and fills the attic with cold air (which creates a daytime heat insulator). It's helpful for our 100+ degree summers. It’s useless on humid nights though.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  17. #17
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Hink are you saying that the world revolves around Ann Arbor?
    Off-topic:

    Yes, it is a sink hole of a place....


    Actually I really like Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, they have an ugly problem with allowing THAT school in their community. I would eat at Zingerman's everyday if I could.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  18. #18
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hink View post
    Off-topic:
    Actually I really like Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, they have an ugly problem with allowing THAT school in their community. I would eat at Zingerman's everyday if I could.
    Even More off topic: I like Columbus, though I get a lot of dirty looks while driving in that town. I have never had my car messed with yet there though. I know I would be pretty mad as I did not attend a Big 10 school and think the shenanigans can be kind of silly!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Ugh. All over the map. This house is only maybe 15 years old. The ceilings are way high and it's all windows (seriously, try to find a wall here to hang a picture or place a bookcase), so heating and cooling costs are horrendous. We will have to replace the heat pump in the next few years and will get a more efficient unit. We are really good about turning off lights, ceiling fans, etc (kid just caught on a few years ago). RJ tracks the electric bills, but from what I've seen, they're extreme. But then, I came here from a 1200 s.f. concrete block home with appropriately placed shade trees, major insulation, smaller windows, so that in 10 years I only had one bill over $100. This place is twice as big, but the electric bills are 3-4 times as big.

    On the plus side: we have a solar pool heater, and during non-swimming months, program it to run during the lowest energy cost times. We have a solar water heater so only very rarely have to pull electricity for that. Fireplace and cooktop are gas and we use so little it would probably take 4-5 years to use up the smallish tank we have. (Not saying we eat out a lot, just that we don't use the cooktop all the time).

  20. #20
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Our home is a very large 1950s ranch with some very tall ceilings in certain rooms. I have a system that allows me to monitor the furnace/ac and electrical usage from my telephone and any computer and I can also adjust the thermostat remotely. I noticed when we got this newer thermostat installed about 2 months ago that the AC seems to turn on less frequently than it did with the old one, and it has been significantly warmer since then so I think this thermostat must be more sensitive. It is programmable too and is set to adjust to certain temperatures at specific times of the day and also knows when we are not home at all and will self-adjust to a warmer setting (or colder in the winter) and that seems to really help on the usage. We are lucky that our house is also surrounded by mature maple and oak trees so we also get a lot of shade in the summer.

    All of the lights in the house (and outside) are CFL or LED, and we don't keep a lot of things plugged in all the time so there are not many items using electricity passively. Besides the AC, the biggest drain on our electric are the old, inefficient appliances in the kitchen. We would like to replace the dishwasher, oven (it's gas and will be replaced with gas) and the fridge, but we are debating renovating the kitchen altogether so are holding off on replacing the appliances until we decide what to do.

    Our biggest energy wasting item, by far, is our hot water heater. It is nearly 15 years old and is positioned all the way at the western end of a 3,000 sqft house. It takes absolutely forever to get hot water to the eastern end of the house where both of the full bathrooms are. And I like my showers HOT! We haven't replaced it yet though because our plan is to go to an on-demand system if we renovate the kitchen because there is plenty of room to place an on-demand water heater in there if we were to do so. But it would be cost-prohibitive to go to an on-demand system if we are not also renovating the kitchen though so if we ultimately decide not renovate, we will just get regular hot water heater and put a timed recirculating device on it to help with the effort.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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