May 3, 2009

Home Energy Cost Cutting Project : Initial Plan

We spent about $2,100 on electricity and heat for our home this past 12 months. Electricity including heat is one of our biggest expenses. As far as bills it comes in #3 behind our mortgage and food. Since we're spending $2,100 a year on electricity this is a good area to try and cut some costs.

Our home has a forced air electric furnace. Our electricity rate comes out to about 10¢ per kWh. An electric furnace is not particularly cost effective. Our home is not new but not particularly old and it was built in the 1980's. The insulation is fairly good but not great. Our windows are double pane and don't seem particularly drafty. I believe there are a few good areas for improvement in energy savings in our home.

We've already done a few things to keep our energy use lower. We installed a programmable thermostat. Almost all the lights in our house are Compact Fluorescent Lamps. But I'm convinced that there are other cost effective measures we can make to save on our energy costs.

Things we haven't done that would likely be good improvements: Add a blanket to our hot water heater, install a water heater timer, weatherstrip and seal our home, add insulation to our attic, add insulation to our crawlspace, upgrade to a heat pump, install a solar water heating system and install solar electric panels. These improvements range in cost of under $50 for a water heater blanket to several thousand $ for a heat pump installation. Which improvements we choose to do will depend on the cost effectiveness and savings for each.

Here is my Plan to cut Home Energy Costs:

1. Get a home energy audit.

Our local utility offers a free home energy audit. They come to your home and check everything out, do some tests, and then they give you a report telling you what areas you ought to improve to reduce your energy spending. We've signed up for such an audit later this month. You might want to check your local utility and see if they offer such an energy audit, many utilities will give free audits.

2. Review the results form the audit

The audit should tell us what are the things we should improve. I expect they'll tell us to do some weather stripping or other air sealing. They might very well tell us to add some insulation in our attic and/or crawl space.

3. Prioritize the energy saving options.

Given the results from the audit and other options we know of we'll prioritize the options to get the best return on investment. I'll most likely use simple payback period to prioritize them.

4. Implement best options

The final step of the plan will be to get the improvements done that will save us the most money.

I'll write more articles in the future to discuss these steps as we pursue them. It could take us a few months to get to the implementation phase. After we've done the improvements I'll also want to continue to monitor our energy costs to verify the savings pan out.

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