One of the very few downsides to being a stay-at-home mom is needing to use electricity all day long! My goal is that by staying home, we end up saving money because we don’t have to pay for daycare, we can save on food, don’t need as much gas, etc…so the last thing I wanted to do was cancel out all my work with a large electric bill!
The kicker is that our A/C and heater (the biggest users of electricity) are from the ’80s and are leaving much to be desired in the efficiency department. The bills we were getting every month were astronomical and I knew there had to be a way to cut down the costs.
After much research and asking around… I am presenting, our solution:
Call the man!
After asking around I realized that our electric company offered a free evaluation of your electricity usage! I have no idea if this is something every company offers but I would definitely be worth a call (and even worth paying for if they charge for it).
When the “electric man” came by, he spend about an hour looking around our house, taking pictures, and checking different areas with a tool that detects if heat/air is escaping where it shouldn’t.
After that he generously sat down and explained what he had found to me and the best way to fix it. This was my moment to ask questions like crazy and get a better understanding of this area of our home!
A week or so later they sent us a written copy of their findings/solutions and made sure we realized that anything they suggested would pay for itself within the next five years (which is why “replace the A/C and heater” wasn’t on the list).
THIS EVALUATION HAS CHANGED OUR LIVES!!!
OK, that might be a bit dramatic, but I will say that less then a year later everything we changed has paid for itself MANY times over!
It’s all about the heat
The things you learn as a home-owner…before the evaluation I had never really given heat that much thought – and because of that, we paid through the nose last winter!
Come to find out, because our heater is so old, it actually costs TWICE as much to use as our A/C; and our A/C is very expensive!
Solutions to heater expenses vary depending on your location and your heater’s age, but I’ll let you know what we have started doing and take from it what you can use.
The first suggestion “electric man” gave us was using space heaters at night. It’s only logical…a heater heats up the entire house, a space heater heats up a room. Now having a space heater going in every room as you move about during the day isn’t economical but since nights are the coldest and you will be in the same room for eightish hours straight…it works out perfectly!
Living in Florida, using a space heater at night and nothing during the day has worked just fine. We also have a
fireplace in our main room and he suggested that if it got really cold during the day to try to keep most of your activities in that room and let the fireplace be the heater.
Just remember, no matter how new and efficient your heater, wearing a couple sweaters or a blanket is MUCH cheaper!
The last thing I want to mention isn’t really a suggestion as much as an FYI. We bought a brick house mainly because we really like the way brick looks. But since moving in we have realized what an AMAZING insulator it is! There have been nights that have gotten down into the low 20s and the inside of our house has never gone below 62 degrees! And that is without the heater! Now I am not suggesting to convert your house into brink – the only way you could benefit from this is if you need to buy a new home…but it’s still something good to keep in the back of your head.
A/C and MISC
As far as conserving our A/C, there is no real way to avoid using it during the summer, but we found out that we were leaking a lot of it because our attic openings didn’t have enough insulation and our outside doors had gaps around the edges. Both of these were extremely cheap fixes and have kept so much more A/C where it belongs!
There are a couple other misc. changes we have made based on “electric man’s” suggestions. For instance, we have started washing 90% of our laundry on cold (with an appropriate detergent). During the evaluation, he actually checked the heat setting on our water heater and the cold setting on our refrigerator/freezer; but that is easily something that we could have done if we’d thought of it.
He also found that we were losing a lot of heat through the hoses on our water heater. A simple insulated tubing from our local home improvement store took care of that. It even had self adhesive ends, so we didn’t have to mess with any glues.
And the last thing we found out was that keeping one light/fan going all the time can increase your electric bill by $30 a month!! So let’s just say I have become MUCH more aware of turning off lights/lamps/fans the moment I leave a room!
Being a home-owner means you also need to be a “home-knower” (understand your home and how it works) if you want to get the best use out of it and take the best care of it.
This evaluation brought us several big steps closer to knowing our home!
If you have any other tips or thoughts, I would LOVE to hear them!