My electric bill is high and we are pretty much in the dark.
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  1. #1
    Registered User 2ndGenGranola's Avatar
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    Question My electric bill is high and we are pretty much in the dark.

    What am I missing??

    Our low KWH usage is around 950 and our high is 1700.

    I can completely understand it going higher in the summer as we have central air BUT we keep it warm (by preference). I only run the unit in the hot afternoons, high pollen days or when there is a fire in the area (whole house hold has severe allergies).

    We have blackout curtains on the summer hot windows, plastic wrap on the others. Our gas (heat) bill has dropped dramatically from 90 to 25 by doing this.

    We have vampire strips (and use them) on all our appliances that draw sleeping current.

    We have LED in our lights that are on a lot, fluorescent in midrange usage lights and I haven't bothered to replace the incandescent one yet in the ones that are seldom on. I do have 1 light on a timer that uses an incandescent bulb. It is on for a very short time. As soon as I find a fl/LED that will work with a timer, its gone.

    I only use the dryer in the winter months and for hard to hang items (must hang on rack in garage). We vent the heat in so our main heat seldom comes on.

    We do use 2 fridges. Both are new models, inside and packed.

    Oven is gas.

    DH and I have gone through the house numerous times trying to figure out where the excess draw is and cannot figure it out. We do have a Kill-a-Watt on order but I'm the type that wants the answer NOW! What little we have on should not be drawling 30 a day!?!

    I know I haven't listed every single thing we do but hopefully you get the idea we are watching. Did you find any surprise items?? Are there things that are often overlooked??

  2. #2
    Registered User elphie's Avatar
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    A progamable thermostat might be helpful... the guy who put in our central air told us that it is expensive to turn it off and on because it has to work hard to cool the house back down when you turn it back on (kind of like the most energy used in your oven is during pre-heating). We use our programable thermostat to keep the house at a pretty consistent temperature and have it set to go up and down a few degrees when we will be away from the house or when we are sleeping. They are a pretty cheap investment.

    Also, because as I mentioned above the pre-heating uses the most energy, you might try doing all of your baking for the week on one day. I bake bread, desserts, and casseroles on Sundays and freeze what won't be eaten within a day or two.

    I wasn't sure if your water runs on your electric or gas but washing clothes in cold water and using a timer for showers until you get used to shorter ones helps too. I actually turn the water off as I lather up my hair and body and shave my legs and then turn it back on to rinse.

    You can also call your electric company and ask for an energy audit. Many of them offer this as a free service. It seems like you are doing many things right so you may have an energy drain somewhere that is keeping your bill high.

    HTH!

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    Registered User 2ndGenGranola's Avatar
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    Thanks!

    I think we have that covered. We do have a programmable. The summer night temp is 80. It drops 1 degree upon waking. It drops another degree early mid afternoon (78). We don't even like it any colder.

    The heat is only set to come on a little in the morning (70). It then drops back and doesn't come on unless it is a really bad day (rare here). The heat is gas but the air pump is electric. Passive solar usually keeps the house warm the rest of the day.

    Baking and water are both gas.

    ???

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    Registered User pinetree's Avatar
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    We have the same problem thats why we bought the kill-o-watt meter to see eactly what its is using.

    So far we can't find where our usage is going , so I guess I can't be much help. We also have a programable thermostat, which saved us quite a bit.
    Our furnace is new and the thermostat was replaced then.

    My dryer uses alot, but I hang clothes instead of using it.
    Good luck, please post if you find out what it is!

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    Registered User 2ndGenGranola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinetree View Post

    My dryer uses alot, but I hang clothes instead of using it.
    Good luck, please post if you find out what it is!
    Oh I will!!

    This is driving me crazy though. It is one thing when I turn on the air I know it is going to go up but not knowing what is the source of the drain is bothering me. If I knew what it was I could at least brainstorm ways to reduce it.

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    Registered User pinetree's Avatar
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    We went for what we thought was using it , so it has to be something we are overlooking. I can't figure out what it is either.
    My bill is just killing us, we thought it was an old freezer, but to our surprise it doesn't use hardly anything!

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    Registered User 2ndGenGranola's Avatar
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    I thought is was all my "vampire" appliances. It helped a point or 2 but that's it. After we get the kids room clean, I'm going into every room and see if there was something I've missed.

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    Registered User sabrelvssammy's Avatar
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    check out my post 'i'm taking down the tent'....

    i did alot of homework on this and i explain in the thread how i went from room to room and analyzed..then i learned how to 'read' the wattages on all my appliances and electrical devices and i have a link to a 'electric usage calculator' there too...

    my electric usage went from 1678kw in december to what looks like will be around 400kw this month... i am all- electric except for water heater and gas furnace (still have electric blower on furnace)....we have about 6 more days on the cycle before i will have the 'final' figure...

    i am still in the 'cutting' stages so i plan to decrease even more...i'm still learning too....

    also check out the electricity usage challenge....you can get tips there....

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    Registered User 2ndGenGranola's Avatar
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    Grrrrrr! I get it down a little according to my daily checks then DH goes and leaves the outside light on all night.

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    Registered User Momto2Boyz's Avatar
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    I always think we use alot, but when I compare to national averages, we are well below. The neighbor and I were comparing electric bills the other day and he was bothered by the fact that ours was lower.

    Especially since we are home 24/7 since I don't work, and there is no one in their house during the day since they are at work.

    I just try to keep everything off, even when we are at home. We are lucky to have large windows that I can keep the drapes open on, on nice days (we have insulated drapes for cold or hot days), so I don't need to use lights though out the house.

    My only advice is to just keep trying different combos until you find the right combo that brings your bill down!

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    1. Do you leave closet doors open? They are a great place for cold in the winter and heat in the summer to infiltrate, so try to keep them closed when not in use.

    2. Do you have a fireplace where hot air can escape? Do you leave exhaust fans on in your bathrooms for prolonged periods of time, another place you'll have a lot of heat exchange.

    3. If you have an unfinished basement, is there plenty of insulation around the sillplate?

    4. Have you put insulation sheets in all your outlets (behind plug-ins and switch-plates) in the house? That's an inexpensive project.

    5. The last two winters we have covered all our windows with bubble wrap - even though it's a new home (3-yrs. old) with energy efficient windows. We saw a big difference using bubble wrap - not only general comfort, but utilities. Plus, it's easy to install and reuse. http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects...bubblewrap.htm

    All our windows are also covered with insulated Levolor blinds.

    6. We replaced all the half-screens with full screens, and a screen product that reduces the UV rays by 80% and helps keep the heat at bay (we only have windows on the east and west). You can also block windows with plants or awnings for additional help with summer heat.

    7. It's not energy efficient to run your air conditioner part of the day if you also have high humidity. It takes more energy to cool a home when you open it up and allow the humidity to rise, than to keep it a constant humidity level. There is a temperature to humidity ratio at which it's best to just leave the air conditioner on, I just can't find it in my files at the moment.

    8. We use a small unfinished room in the basement for hanging clothing when I can't put them outside - so we rarely use a dryer. We have 6-lines in the room and a ceiling fan to aid in faster drying. We also have a long clothes rod on one wall where I hang things on hangers to dry. So they go from the basement to the closet. I actually love using the basement more than the great outdoors. No bird poo, allengens on clothing, wasp up a sleeve, no wind whipping things to death and breaking threads in garments, and no sun bleaching. I can also take them down when I'm ready to. We also do laundry at night while watching TV and hang them in the basement. Two hands makes quick work and clothes pins are one-size-fits-all.... I still like to put whites outside for "natural" bleaching.

    9. We've been checking our Sun Cloud Infrared Heating System the last couple weeks with a Kill A Watt Meter. We had one more shot at some cold weather after we got the meter, but I've always thought it never cost more than a dollar a day to run. We haven't had our furnace on since Jan. 19th, and only had it on for a few days while we had visiting guests spending several nights. We've had a lot of single-digit lows this winter. If you live where it's relatively mild, it may be an answer to heating. During the test time we had days with lows in the teens for the most part.

    .03 - hour
    .76 - day
    $5.34 - week
    $22.90 - month

    This type of heater is more of a furnace than a space heater. We use it to heat our living/dining/kitchen and guest bath area (open floor plan in a small home - 1372 sq. ft.). We keep the rest of the house closed off to this area. A second Sun Cloud is used in the master bath as needed for short lengths of time.

    10. Are you getting heat exchange through recessed lights? Many aren't properly insulated.

    11. Do you have a pull-down stairs to the attic? You need to have some insulation batting on the door or else you get a lot of cold/heat through it.

    12. Edited to add: When you use your dishwasher, you only need to heat the wash water, not the rinse water and no heated drying.

    I just read the book, The Home Energy Diet by Paul Scheckel (A Mother Earth News book), and am still getting some new ideas.
    Last edited by Grainlady; 03-17-2009 at 05:07 PM.

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    Registered User 2ndGenGranola's Avatar
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    Great info! Let me see if I can answer them...

    1. Most closets are on interior walls and are closed. Ours stays open because the cats hate the kids and take refuge in there.

    2. We only use the fan in the guest bath for privacy (rarely). We don't use it for our showers because we want the humidity to stay in. Our fireplace is not a real fireplace. It is a gas log with just a vent pipe for exhaust gasses. It is actually our preferred source of heat (no big fans).

    3. No basement.

    4. We have some kind of in the wall insulation around the boxes.

    5. We have wrap on the windows. I believe that is part of the reason my gas went down from $90 something to $25

    6. Awnings are not allowed by HOA. We have blackout curtains on "hot" windows. We were able to install a sunroom which helped temp control downstairs way more than I thought.

    7. We live in the desert and usually have single digit humidity. It gets cold at night. Most people here have swamp coolers. We cannot because of allergies. I would love to have a whole house fan for low allergy/smoke days though but must rely on central for respiratory days.

    8. I've been using my dryer only on cold days and big items. It is vented in so it warms the house and I don't have to run the central unit

    9. I can't wait to get my kill-a-watt. I'm going to use the daylights out of that thing.

    10. No recessed lights.

    11. No pull down stairs.

    12. I do have the heat in the dishwasher on. I've been using it to heat the kitchen. I love to stand over hot humidity! Guess now that it is March I should turn it off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2ndGenGranola View Post
    Great info! Let me see if I can answer them...

    1. Most closets are on interior walls and are closed. Ours stays open because the cats hate the kids and take refuge in there.

    2. We only use the fan in the guest bath for privacy (rarely). We don't use it for our showers because we want the humidity to stay in. Our fireplace is not a real fireplace. It is a gas log with just a vent pipe for exhaust gasses. It is actually our preferred source of heat (no big fans).

    3. No basement.

    4. We have some kind of in the wall insulation around the boxes.

    5. We have wrap on the windows. I believe that is part of the reason my gas went down from $90 something to $25

    6. Awnings are not allowed by HOA. We have blackout curtains on "hot" windows. We were able to install a sunroom which helped temp control downstairs way more than I thought.

    7. We live in the desert and usually have single digit humidity. It gets cold at night. Most people here have swamp coolers. We cannot because of allergies. I would love to have a whole house fan for low allergy/smoke days though but must rely on central for respiratory days.

    8. I've been using my dryer only on cold days and big items. It is vented in so it warms the house and I don't have to run the central unit

    9. I can't wait to get my kill-a-watt. I'm going to use the daylights out of that thing.

    10. No recessed lights.

    11. No pull down stairs.

    12. I do have the heat in the dishwasher on. I've been using it to heat the kitchen. I love to stand over hot humidity! Guess now that it is March I should turn it off.
    A bit off topic, but my little red flag went up on #8 - you vent your dryer into your home. If you use fabric softener liquid or sheets, you are adding a lot of toxins into your home. You mentioned allergies.

    http://www.ourlittleplace.com/fabric.html

    You can Google the subject for more information.

    #6. Curtains. If your curtains are hung so they have an opening at the top where the rod is, and at the bottom, then warm air will travel from the floor area up past the window, where it's cooled on the glass, then enters the room out the top. In order to get the most benefit, you need to do one of several options to prevent the "chimney" effect.

    -You can place a pelmet at the top of the curtain, which can take the form of a wooden box or a fabric covered form - to halt the chimney effect. Example: http://www.hutchal.clara.net/curtains/pelmets.htm

    -Hang the curtains within the framework of the window, if there is room, rather than on the outside of the window. We accomplish this with energy efficient blinds.

    -Remake the curtains so they fit tightly within the window like they do with window quilts (although window quilts are 3 layers - a moisture barrier, insulation and fabric). Looks like this: http://www.windowquilt.com/WQ_brochure_web.pdf

    When I made window quilts at a former home, I made them to fit all around the window - tight - no openings anywhere. I used a magnet system, but many use a hook and loop system to fit them to the window. So just hanging a drape of some type is only part of the answer. You aren't stopping the air movement.

    Good luck with Kill A Watt Meter. I'm going to bet you'll find your refrigerators, especially the extra refrigerator, is a big contributor. Energy efficient suggestions say one large refrigerator is cheaper and more efficient to run than two small ones. A refrigerator that runs on 559 KWh is one of the most efficient for 16-20 cu. ft. with a freezer on the bottom or top rather than the side. The fewer the accessories (icemaker/water dispenser), the lower the energy use of a refrigerator.

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    Registered User 2ndGenGranola's Avatar
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    I use vinegar mostly for softening and I make my own clothes soap from stuff we can deal with.

    We did have a success today. We had a 21 meter reading today. My goal was 25. Now I want it down to 20. If I can cut a 1/3 off of our bill, we can put that extra money on credit cards (translated:medical bills)

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    Registered User Jilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grainlady View Post
    2. Do you have a fireplace where hot air can escape? project.

    5. The last two winters we have covered all our windows with bubble wrap - even though it's a new home (3-yrs. old) with energy efficient windows. We saw a big difference using bubble wrap - not only general comfort, but utilities. Plus, it's easy to install and reuse. http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects...bubblewrap.htm

    I still like to put whites outside for "natural" bleaching.

    11. Do you have a pull-down stairs to the attic? You need to have some insulation batting on the door or else you get a lot of cold/heat through it.
    I love your recommendations!! A few questions before I head out to HD...

    I have a fire place that I know for sure is a source of both cold/hot air flowing. Are there any solutions for keeping out the drafts?

    Can the bubble wrap be useful in the summer months for keeping out heat, or is it just for cold months?

    I live alone but have a fenced yard. Would you recommend me purchasing some sort of twine and stretching it across one side of the fence to another, or is there some special equipment I need to purchase to set up an outdoor clothes line?

    I have a pull down attic staircase. When I buy insulation, how should I attach to the door?

    Thanks,
    Jilly

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