Posts Tagged ‘money’

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Saving Money on Electricity

March 18, 2011

Our family takes part in a real-time pricing option offered by our utility. PSPblog-blueOrangeAs a customer enrolled in Power Smart Pricing the amount we pay for electricity varies hourly.  Generally customers pay one price regardless of when they are using the power.  With real-time pricing we pay the cost of the energy at the time we’re using it  – sometimes it is higher than the average price and sometimes lower, but with some knowledge we can save by using more electricity during nonpeak times and less when it’s at its priciest.

At this time of year there isn’t much variability, for instance, today the cost of power ranges from 1.8 cents per kWh to 3.9 cents.  In the summer, though, on a very hot and humid day, the price can vary from a few cents to 10 or 11 cents per kWh and during periods of high demand can spike over 13 cents per kWh.  When that is going to happen, I receive an e-mail from Power Smart Pricing warning of the high costs.  Last summer was relatively mild and never spiked over 13 cents, but the previous summer it happened numerous times.

Yesterday I received my annual report of our power usage and savings, as well as the average participant’s usage and savings.  In 2010  we used 7,191 kWh which cost us $668.03.  At the present standard rate that would have cost us $814.23, so we saved 18%.  Not too shoddy.

How do we compare to the average participant?  We rock!  Ms. Average Power Smart used 13,387 kWh, spent $1,278.30, which would have been $1,466.52, so saved 12.8%.  In July and August, Ms. Average Power Smart actually lost money, I assume by running the AC at peak times and paying the peak prices.

How did we do so well?  Do we have a tiny house in which we swelter in the summer and sit in the dark all winter?  No.  Our house has about 2400 square feet of living space – 11 rooms.  We did replace the windows in our 90+ year old house about 12 years ago but I am pretty sure air blows right through the walls.  In other words, there is room for greater efficiency. 

We have our share of vampire power eaters too.  We tried plugging the t.v. and computers into power strips to be shut off each night and found them to be more trouble than they were worth, especially the t.v. which would need several minutes to reset all the stations every time power was reestablished.  As for the computers, and I am not condoning this, I notice the kids leave their computer not only plugged in but turned on much of the time because it takes so long to boot up (it’s old and slow, much like their mother).  The only power strip that does get clicked on and off has the stereo and my laptop connected to it.  I’m pretty good about switching that off at night.  My point being, we aren’t a family of over-the-top energy conservers,we do our share of energy wasting.

So what are we doing right?  According to an energy usage tool on the utility website, most of our electricity goes to lights, appliances, and the cooling CFLsystem. 

LIGHTS.  Lights are easy, we try to turn them off.  We aren’t obsessive; my husband turns off lights I’ve left on, I turn off lights he has left on, we both turn off lights the kids have left on (and maybe the kids turn off lights too although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happen). 

Oh, and 95% of our lights are CFLs.  I know, I know, they’re too blue, they come on too slow, they’re ugly.  I paid a few bucks more and  got lights with covers that make them look bulbish for fixtures where the light shows, such as the ceiling fan. I buy lights that emit soft white light(I first bought bright white – oh my, too harsh! they are now relegated to the basement and garage fixtures), and I rarely notice the light warm up period anymore, in fact, I think only some of the bulbs need to warm up. I can count a few lights in the house that are incandescent.  One is the fixture at the top of the stairs, it’s original to the house and the CFL’s shoulders just won’t fit in it.  Others are in the stove and refrigerator and CFLs can’t be used in those places; they don’t tolerate the extremes in temperature. 

APPLIANCES.  stove and fridgeAnother big energy user in our home are the appliances.  We redid the kitchen 5 years ago and along with that came all new kitchen appliances, energy star, of course.  It makes a difference, especially for the refrigerator.  (Want to know how much you could save by replacing your refrigerator?  There’s a calculator for that.)  When we were first talking to a consultant about solar panels and she was reviewing our electricity usage she asked if we had an energy star refrigerator, which we did, “Ah, that explains your low numbers.”

How we use the appliances matters also.  Obviously the refrigerator is on all the time, but we try to run the dishwasher and washing machines late at night, especially in the summertime when daytime prices are high.  In the summer I hardly ever use the dryer, hanging my clothes to dry instead (except socks and underwear, those get dried because all those individual pieces make me crazy!) [And of course, I only run full loads in the washer, or adjust the water level if I’m running a smaller load; and I use a cold water wash and rinse, again except for socks and underwear, and in this case towels and sheets too get warm or sometimes even hot water.  See, I’m not fanatical.]

AIR CONDITIONING. Finally, the AC.  OK, in the name of energy savings we probably tolerate higher heat than some, but I am not a glutton for punishment either. If it’s too warm at night for fans and open windows to cool things down (say, over 70 or very humid) then I use the AC.  I started using a system that I’ve not seen suggested elsewhere, but based on the energy use data, isn’t hurting us and maybe helps.  I crank that AC up (or is it down? –it’s on anyway) during the night with the thermostat set at 64 (it’s warmer upstairs).  The thermostat is programmed to reset to 75 at 6 a.m. so no AC during the day until the house warms up. But even on the hottest days it takes until well into the afternoon before the AC comes back on, sometimes it doesn’t come on at all. Here’s my logic:

  • I can’t sleep when I’m hot and it’s always hotter upstairs where the bedrooms are so the AC is going to be on anyway.
  • It’s easier to cool off a house when it is cooler outside rather than when its hotter.
  • prices are lower during the middle of the night so running the AC at night is cheaper than running it during the day.

This runs counter to most of the AC suggestions I’ve seen to set it at 78 and keep it there.  Occasionally I’ve seen advice to set the thermostat higher at night on the theory you’ll sleep through the warmer temps (whoever came up with that idea is clearly not a woman of a “certain age” with a quirky internal thermostat of her own).

SOLAR PANELS. Many of you know we have a solar panel system generating electricity for us now too.  They have been at work since December 11th and certainly didn’t generate a significant amount of electricity during the last part of 2010.  I need to save this year’s summary and compare it to next years for an idea of the photovoltaic contribution.  So far, mid-December to mid-March, not big solar months in this part of the world, we’ve generated about what our household uses in one month.  Even at this rate they will take a big bite out of our utility bill.

All in all we’re apparently doing pretty well on our electrical energy efficiency and with real-time pricing, even without the solar system, we’re saving money to boot.  You might check with your utility for a similar program.

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Holidays

November 8, 2009

christmas tour sign

I love the holidays – from November 1 until January 2 I am in serious Holiday Mode.  So I wanted to post about the holidays, but I can’t quite decide which aspect to focus on – there are so many directions I can go – so this will be the preview post with others to follow.

I want to tell you about Thanksgiving and how we try to add a bit of greenness where we can.  [With an acknowledgement that overall we fail miserably at it.]

I want to tell you about my decorating plans and accomplishments.  My efforts to reduce energy consumption and rein in my desire to buy every cute snowman I see.

And I want to tell you about the gifts I’m planning – except that post will probably have to wait until after the gifts are given so as not to ruin any surprises.  Oh, and wrapping those gifts.  Don’t get excited, I’m not talking about anything terribly creative here (besides – what do you do with a bunch of cute handmade gift bags after the gifts are out of them?).

The overall theme for my holiday season this year seems to be heading toward quality over quantity – meaningful over money – and resource conservative over resource demanding.  I’ll try to expand on those themes – and in the process it may help me stay focused on them and less likely to revert to my less-green consumptive habits.

Oh and baking.  Holiday baking and sweet treat making – the kids and I hit the kitchen.  Can we do it in a relatively healthful manner? You be the judge.

Meanwhile, Retro Housewife Goes Green is devoting her posts to greening up the holidays – so take a peek over there.

So the holiday season has begun!  Let’s enjoy it.

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Surprise! Recycled Paper Toilet Paper at Dollar General

August 30, 2009

We were down to the rolls on the holders and I wouldn’t have an opportunity to get to the “big store” for recycled paper toilet paper until later in the week.  So I bit the bullet, so I thought, and bought a 4 roll package of Dollar General toilet paper at my neighborhood Dollar General store, just enough to hold us over for maybe the week.

DGhome_header_1

As I opened the package I noticed the little recycle triangle… to my happy surprise the toilet paper is made of 100% recycled material!

It does my spirit good to realize that you can find nooks of greenness here and there when you are least expecting it. 

Dollar General is making the effort though – it has joined the Green Portfolio Project

Environmental Defense Fund and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR) have been working together since May 2008 to develop and test a set of analytic tools and metrics to help companies in KKR’s U.S. portfolio measure and improve performance in several key environmental performance areas.

Dollar General was one of 5 companies to join the Green Portfolio Project in 2009 to determine ways they can improve their environmental performance.

I for one am impressed and will be rewarding Dollar General with more of my own dollars.  They have always been the store to buy assorted necessities, but increasingly it is my first choice for certain items.  For instance, they carry Arm and Hammer Essentials laundry detergent.  Now I’m going to be checking their labels more closely on their paper products.  Green and cheap – describes me pretty well.

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No Go on the Wind Turbine

August 17, 2009

Well, we made the decision to definitely not get a wind turbine – unless a tornado takes out our trees, then we’ll reconsider.

The official word from the boss at Bauer Power is that the trees on our property would a) require a taller tower than Bauer Power typically uses, which would be more expensive, and b) cause turbulence that would be hard on the turbine and thus increase maintenance.

It wasn’t the initial cost of the turbine and tower ($25,000 – $50,000 depending upon height) that ultimately caused us to blink.  It was the maintenance – he estimates, given the wear the turbulence would cause, maintenance would be $1,000 per year.  Ouch.  That is a lot of electricity that would need to be generated, and again, given the trees, who knows if it could generate enough.  So, no wind turbine. sigh.  On the other hand, this company  up front and boldly said “skip the turbine, stick with the PV” when it would have been money in their pocket if we had gone with the hybrid system. To me, that’s a sign of their integrity.

So, the official decision this morning is to go with the PV system – the solar system, as I like to call it.  My goal for this week is to submit the application for refinancing the house. 

We hadn’t quite gotten around to refinancing yet even though mortgage rates are considerably lower than what we’ve been paying.  Turns out to be a good thing perhaps.  After refinancing, even with the additional funds added for the solar system our monthly cost will be less than it is now.  On top of that we are likely to see a $10,000 state rebate (Bauer is optimistic, I’m less so) and the 30% federal tax credit come spring.

The financing is going to be the time drag on the system.  Bauer will install in 100 days after we sign on the dotted line – but the bank has a 4 month backlog.  So it may be awhile before you see pictures of installation – but I’ll post them, don’t you worry!