22nd Apr 2011
Our home is a bit of an energy hog and, for the most part, it’s something we’re willing to pay for. We have a pool, a koi pond, central air conditioning, and a rather large number of machines requiring lots of electricity. However, when our wintertime electricity bills started passing the $400 mark on a regular basis, we’d had enough.
Enter the Kill a Watt…
For just under twenty bucks, we launched our own energy audit and ended up reducing our electricity consumption far beyond what we’d hoped for.
Changes we made:
* The likeliest suspect for Energy Pig was the heated floor in our ensuite bathroom. The installer had programmed the thermostat when it was installed last winter and we’d just turned it off when the weather got warmer. When it was turned back on in the late fall, all the programming data was gone and it was ON 24/7.
A quick email to the manufacturer got us an electronic copy of the user’s guide and the floor was now heated only when we wanted it…first thing in the morning. At all other times, it was off.
* Outdoor fridge. Yep, the beer fridge… Like a lot of people, we had an inefficient old fridge with wonky gaskets sitting on the patio. Even though the Kill a Watt meter said it wasn’t drawing a lot of electricity, it was also winter. Come summertime temperatures and that fridge would be pumping out the cold air.
It had to go.
Our local utility company was offering rebates on old refrigerators…they come and pick it up, haul it away, AND give you $35. How can you go wrong with that?
* Indoor fridge. Our indoor fridge was typical for a suburban household: side by side, 25-ish cubic feet, with a through-the-door ice and water dispenser. What wasn’t typical (or maybe it is!) was the amount of electricity it used. This was the most surprising item in our energy audit; we definitely weren’t expecting this fridge to be such a hog.
A little online research suggested that refrigerators with a top/bottom orientation were more efficient than the side by side models and that you’d pay through the nose for through-the-door access to anything.
We found last year’s model of this Samsung refrigerator on sale at our local Best Buy for $1000. It seemed like an investment but, with the memory of those electricity bills fresh in our minds, we went for it. We also “invested” in two ice cube trays. We don’t use ice a lot and so decided to turn the automatic ice maker off when we installed the fridge. (Note: two months later and we’ve only used ice once so I’m thinking that decision was a wise one!)
We sold our old fridge to a young family for $200.
* Thermostat set point. Even though we have a gas furnace, the fan for the furnace is powered with electricity. At this point in time, this is our biggest energy user so, even though we tend to keep our house on the cool side, we dropped the thermostat a set point or two.
* Vampire appliances. We were expecting that a number of electronics/small appliances would be vampires…i.e., items that consume electricity even while turned off. Surprisingly, we had only two small appliances that fell into that category: our coffee maker (a Bunn with a hot water reservoir) and our vacuum-sealer. We decided the coffee maker was one of those things we were willing to pay for and just unplugged the vacuum-sealer.
At this point, we’d spent a net sum of $780 to try and reduce our electricity consumption. We’d made these changes mid-way through a billing cycle and so we weren’t expecting to see the full impact reflected in the billing yet. Even so, our $440 bill was reduced to around $260…already we’d saved money and our net outlay for energy savings was down to $600.
Our most recent bill reflected an entire billing cycle with our changes in place and came in at a whopping $112. Yep, we had reduced our consumption by 75%. We expect our next few bills to be even smaller, as it’s been warm enough to have the furnace off completely but not so warm that we need to use the air conditioner.
And, with one more billing cycle, we will have paid for that beautiful new fridge sitting in my kitchen.