Progress on lowering electric bill

This Forum has given me great insight on energy conservation as well as a new interest in Solar.

In August I opened my bill from AEP and said to myself what can I do to lower my usage? For August it was 2610kwh for $252 bucks.

What ever day I opened that up I have been researching much on the web and taking action through the 2400 sq ft home with full basement.

I first purchased a Killowatt Meter. Best $25 bucks spent in a long time..

With four or five computers in the home, and I work at home. I checked them first and couldn't belive how much electricity they used. So we set them up with Power Mangement.

Old Fridge in the garage will soon have to go. Uses 4.5kwh a day.

Newer Fridge inside is less than 2..

Cen A/C has run quite a bit this month but have raised the thermostat 2 deg

I have a 1000 gallon Koi Pond in the back yard which does another 4kwh a day. I think I can install another pump and run it more than the one on there. So this is work in progress.

Hot Tub - Not sure how much it draws at 240v but have set the filters to run 1 hour a day now instead of 4 and been running in economy mode when not being used.

We have gas hotwater and gas heat. We don't use furnace much in winter we use gas logs in fireplace on a thermostat.

All lights through out the house have been changed to CFL's. I had done some of this over the past year but this last month I have put in 50 CFL's.

Most phantom power has been put on electric strip and powered off at night.

Dishnetwork needs to make a DVR that goes to sleep if nothing is being recorded..

So long story here but I didn't really get a good jump on this until a quarter through this month cycle but opening todays bill I seen we had dropped down from 2610kwh to 1557.

Looking at past 13 months this is the lowest we have been with closest thing to it was 1621 in October.

My average over 12 months is like 2100.

AEP has raised there rates like 4 times this year. There have been 8 months this year where I have used more kwh but my bill was less then this month and it was my lowest in last 12. Go Figure!


Sept 07 - 1557kwh $152.90
May 07 - 2119kwh $146.50
March 07 - 1956kwh $136.57
Jan 07 - 2230kwh $150.01

So since AEP has raised rates four times this year and I am sure they are not done with it yet. We have no competition here in Central Ohio. And my usage is 673kwh less than Jan and Jan bill was $2 bucks less.

Any way we will continue to do things here in the home that will get our usage down over the next few months and see really what we are using. Then look at some RE solar most likely that can be used to offset the continued increases.

Thanks again for the great deal of infomation on this forum..



  • Ralph DayRalph Day Solar Expert Posts: 1,000 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    getting a grip on conservation is always difficult at first. Sounds like you're off to a good start.

    One point to ponder...your furnace is probably much more efficient than a fireplace. If the flames are a pretty orange, they're not very efficient, the blue flame in the furnace is a much better burn. Of course, the fan motor will use power too. I use a propane gas stove/fireplace as a backup to my woodstove and try to get as much orange out of the flame pattern as possible.

    Keep us informed as to your slash and burn of electric consumption...whatever you save is less power generated (coal/gas/nuclear) and money in your pocket...if you can keep ahead of the price hikes!:cry:

    Good luck.

  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,989 ✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    Insulate the hotwater tank ( extra blanket wrap ) , go R40 for insulation in the attic and if walls don't have anything, do the blow-in for the wall. Also windows are a big loss. Also check doors for sweeps and seals. Double pane windows are a must and its way cheaper than PV to do all of the above first.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    though i agree with you those are good ideas, especially for those of us up north here getting both hot and cold extremes, it is not always easily and cheaply accomplished. i live in a very old home, circa 1910, and i had to gut the place in order to put insulation and such in. it has a double brick wall and had plaster applied directly to the brick that in some places went 3 inches thick and was uneven to beat the band. yes, that meant remodeling and due to the costs and time factors i still have not finished many years later and it also looks as though i may never finish now that i am a low fixed income. i do so desperately need new windows too, but i never had an estimate lower than $20,000. (yes, many windows, some of which are large and non standard sizes due to old brick construction) i will say that insulating, when done and done right, is great and you not only save $ from doing that (when inflationary price hikes don't negate it), but you are more comfortable. do it wrongly and you save little in heating/cooling, but damage to the home is possible and even molds or mildews can appear also with a possible health hazard from the lack of fresh air. what one invests in time and materials to achieve this correctly is as great at times as getting into pv is.

    edit to add:

    deja vu. as of this posting it seems i've got 1000 posts..................again.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    Thanks guys for the great feed back, it has got my attention and the familys on what we can do now to conserve.

    Some three years ago we had a hail storm that damaged room and all aluminum siding. I was lucky one in the hood to get mine all replaced by insurance company with roof and vinyl siding. Some homes only got one or two sides replaced. I paid the extra and had a foam backer put under the siding which is formed like the siding which helps insulate the home. One unfortunate thing did happen when they replaced the soffits they undersized the flow into the attic. A few months afterwards I seen black specs in the attic and I had it tested. Mold it was. I contacted the company that did the soffits and they came out, first said it was not caused by them. After some pictures of how it was progressing and a call or two from my attorney we got them to come out and replace the soffits with a different style and replace the roof vents. Mold then disapeared.

    After all that was done I had the attic insulation removed and we checked under it to make sure we didn't have mold. I then had the recyled paper blown into the attic much more than I had to begin with.

    Five years ago we replaced windows with double paines.

    Just this week we had the basement single paines replaced with glass block.

    My Hotwater heater is going on 18 years old. It is a gas unit. I do have it insulated with a blanket. I have flushed it regularly. But keep thinking anytime it will leak or give out. I want to replace it with one of the more instant gas Hot water heaters. I know some offer a $300 tax deduction or so and suppose to be very effient.

    I do have to remember to keep fresh air in the home now since it is pretty locked tight. My furnace has a control to let fresh air in from the outside which we open in the winter.

    My fireplace gas logs are unvented so all the heat stays in the room. I also have a wall mounted gas heater in the basement.

    Will continue to work on conserving and see where this takes us in a few months of actual use.

    Since I only plan to be here another three years I am not sure any investment in PV for this home or not. If I do begin with something it would be pole mounted and looking at the sunny boy sma 2500 GT inverter with 8 panels maybe to begin with. That from what I can see fits my budget more so than non-grid and batteries at this time. But we are still learning and researching.

    Thanks Again,
  • lamplightlamplight Solar Expert Posts: 368 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    i have an old home like neil and put in lowE argon filled windows a couple of years ago (myself so that saved alot) and it has made an inCREDIBLE difference. in summer we can shut the windows in the am and the house will stay cool most of the day. we only need to put on ac for those killer days, unfortunately more and more though.... likewise it kills your passive solar gain though so a thoughtfull mix might make sense (though my knowledge of passive solar designs is limited other than the basics).

    this wed's temp of 92 broke the record for 1958's temp of 86. when i went out late afternoon i was shocked how hot it was: house stayed cool all day under the sun (windows closed).

    Scott great progress, im sure you can do even better still, thats alot of power still. but big house so... what are your pc's using? must be alot
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill
    My fireplace gas logs are unvented so all the heat stays in the room. I also have a wall mounted gas heater in the basement.

    Un-vented is likely NOT a benefit. Where do combustion waste gases and moisture go, especially the CO ?
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
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    gen: ,

  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,989 ✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill
    niel wrote: »
    though i agree with you those are good ideas, especially for those of us up north here getting both hot and cold extremes, it is not always easily and cheaply accomplished. i live in a very old home, circa 1910

    Neil I'm from MA and my first house was a duplex bulit in 1890. One of the first things I did was the blown in insulation ( from the outside ) and then has the hosue vinyl sided, think back in 1984 it cost 7K for the whole job. Both The blownin and siding can be a do-it-yourself job if you like, the materials are not that expensive

    As for windows, I did that myself, and its about 100 bucks a window. If you pay someone, yikes I have heard of 20K figures but its like 4X the material cost if not more. As for odd sizes, I have a contact here in Lakeland for new Vinyl clad alumimum tilitouts that custom is no more than standard ... you just have to search to find the good supply houses.

    Anyways OP looks like its all been done ... so it would be a time to move into PV
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,999 admin
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    I too have installed vinyl double pane windows in two homes now. The last one was Millgard from Home Depot Pro (all custom sized, low E glass, did not bother with Argon Fill--my weather is not that cold or hot--plus the argon most likely leaks out after a few years)... Probably was about ~$100 each for an average size window (few years ago--price of oil now--don't know).

    I also had the interior sheet rock ripped off and insulation installed (1930's wood frame). Blow-in was problematic for my home--interior wiring/fire blocks leave 40% or more of the walls uninsulated because of the obstructions (several friends that do remodeling found the gaps when working on homes that had blow-in).

    The Millgard was nice because they include an aluminum angle (optional) on the bottom front of window to account for the slope of the existing window sill, and they offer windows without nailing fins--I can just slide them into the old wood double hung window openings after the sashes have been removed. Just measure the inside dimensions of your existing wood double hung windows, but make it an ~1/8"-1/4" smaller than the smallest dimension.

    I have installed both from outside and the inside, and I prefer doing it from the inside.
    1. Pull off interior trim from sides of top of window (use a utility knife to cut the paint from the trim to prevent pealing of paint, pry trim off with flat bars).
    2. Using your bars, pull off the sides ("stops"?) and the top.
    3. Tilt lower window back towards you and cut sash cords (or disconnect springs. Be careful)
    4. Pull out lower sash.
    5. Remove side and top stops.
    6. Pull out upper sash and disconnect sash weights/springs.
    7. Leave outer stops in place and try to fit in window. For me, I had to use a chisel and cutout about a 3/4" wide strip of the lower sloped sill to allow the window to be tilted in. Pull window out after fitting.
    8. Sand / fix / prime wood as needed.
    9. Use Window Caulk and put a bead around the inside of the window stops (sides, top). Do not put caulk on the bottom of the window--you want any water to drain out rather than get dammed in. You will press the window into the bead to seal and old the window (I used some sort of buytal caulk for doors and windows instead of silicon caulk--even though silicon caulk is supposed to be paintable, I always have problems with the paint not covering silicon--the paint does not "wet" the caulk well).
    10. I used expanding foam (in a can) to fill the old sash spring holes and fill any gaps in the trim (to prevent air infiltration).
    11. Tilt new window into place and press into caulk bed. Open window and smooth/add exterior bead of caulk to top and sides as needed (not bottom).
    12. Install the interior trim (trim to fit new window, if needed). Fill holes and paint. For my windows, I had to cut the inside sill back--used a small circular trim saw--when fitting the window, and ripped the interior stops narrower because the new window was thicker than the old sashes. If you need new trim, make sure to use real wood and not particle board--the moisture around windows will destroy the PB in nothing flat.
    13. You can put a few deck screws into the side frame of the window--but I ended up not doing it for my second install. It was only needed because the windows in my first install were a lot bigger--and I needed to hold the vinyl in place with the screws.
    I also followed roughly the same procedure when installing the windows from the outside. But, even though there is less mess inside of the house, I prefer the inside the house installation. I think I got a better seal against rain (leaving the old stops in place), less work, and if you are doing second story windows, you don't need an outside ladder to do the install. Also, it was easier to touch up the interior paint than to redo the outside paint (for me--no ladders required).

    Also, I had some windows that where installed side by side. In my home, I could knockout the framework (non-load bearing) between the two double hung windows and install one large sliding (side to side) window instead. However, I did not like the look as well when I was done. For the second home, I just installed two separate double hung windows instead.

    With one person, I could easily do 2-4 windows per day (first time). With one guy helping, I did 20 windows in 2-3 days.

    If you have aluminum sliding/casement windows, it is more work and to do it right you probably have to do a lot more work (stucco removal/more trim work, use finned windows with new flashing, etc.)... Those I can see really paying somebody to do the work (I did not even volunteer to do my in-laws' home that was aluminum windows and stucco).

    But if you have double hung wood sash windows--go for it. If you want, just order one window and try it (back bedroom or bathroom). If you are careful, you can even install the old window back (with some replacement trim) if it does not work out for some reason.

    Just be careful measuring. I paid Home Depot ~$50-$75 to do the measurement (they will credit the price back if they do the install) and it turned out the guy made a 2" error for one window (he assumed that all the windows in the room where the same size--not true).

    For my first home, I found that the west facing windows probably let in more heat (from the sun) than the walls themselves (stucco). So, I would probably replace my windows first, then insulate (if timing/money is an issue). Just replacing two west facing windows in two bedrooms each, kept the rooms 10-15 degrees F cooler in the afternoons (we used to shut the doors to keep the rest of the house cooler).

    In my second home, I also insulated the walls too (and double pane vinyl windows). Now the 1930's home went from being as hot, or hotter than outside to where down stairs was (two days ago), 85F outside and 68-70F inside--and I don't have A/C. Of course, I have to keep the windows closed during the day and use the night to cool the house down. And the second floor was probably 5F warmer than downstairs--but it worked great.

    Basically, with windows and insulation, I can get 20F difference between outside and inside temperatures (without A/C). And during the winter, I can just run the heat for 30 minutes in the morning to take the chill off the house for the rest of the day (SF Bay Area--no snow, few days of frost, very few 90-100F+ days).

    We have a friend in roughly the same area (closer to the SF Bay), much newer home, insulated walls, but single pane standard glass windows--and lots of glass on southwest walls (two story living room)--and they cook on warm days in the summer. And that was one conclusion in an (Home Power?) article I read--too much glass/windows (and not enough thermal mass) can be a big problem.

    The one thing I would still like to add is one of those interior/exterior air heat exchangers. Sealing up the home can make it stuffy after a while. It would be nice to circulate fresh air (without the heat gain/loss) into our home...

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    thanks for the extra info for the insulation and windows info as i know you did that not just for the benefit of the original poster. my point was a general one that those ends for one reason or another are not cheaply or easily accomplished in all cases. i gave the example of my home because a double brick construction home only has about 1/4-1/2 inch gap between the bricks so no blown in insulation is possible and to do so would negate the insulative quality of the air gap inbetween the brick walls by conduction. air gaps are insulative and that spacing is too small to allow much insulation to be blown in so it left one alternative of interior remodeling. i've already told matt of my pulling down the plaster and then liquid nailing of the celotex urethane 4x8ft sheets with reflective surface. after that, framing had to be put in to allow the wall board to be mounted and the walls are now coming further inwards because of the needs of the insulation and framing. it is challenging to say the least, especially being i have radiators not far from the original wall.
    windows i have 0 experience on and even with those instructions, i am lost and somewhat unsure. i have a good sense of other things, but i draw a blank with window installations. my windows are litterally fitted into brick that is quite thick due to the double brick construction. we have had some past discussions on windows, before i became disabled (i probably can't do it now as i'm not allowed heavy lifting anymore), and it was a general concensus to go with fiberglass or wood double to triple pane with low e glass anywhere it was desirable to not let heat out(north facing windows is the perfect example) or to not allow the heat in. (summer sunshine can warm places up too far) i like the idea of triples for facing my neighbors homes and towards the street to block any noise and they do add to the natural insulative ability being there's another air gap. i am in agreement that argon is a waste as it does leak out. outdoor shutters are a good way to block the summer sun and still allow winter solar heating which is what i'd like in the windows that face the sun.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,999 admin
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    I am sorry I could not be of more help Niel. I know that there are jobs that just more difficult and not everyone can do (I am 51 now, and I am not sure--but washing my 2nd story solar array with a brush on the end of a 16' pole, on top of a 32' extension ladder--last week may be the last time I do that by myself).

    For insulation, I have read some places that a reflective barrier may be as good or better than blown insulation. I have read interesting things about this type of foil backed "bubble-wrap" insulation... Much of the heat loss in a home is supposed to be radiant type loss--which air barrier type insulation (fiberglass, fiber, etc.) is not supposed good at stopping.

    I don't know if it would help or not, but it may be worth just using some in one room (on the windows if single pane) and see if you notice a difference. I know that just changing to double pane made a big difference in my old, stucco walled, home (with just had attic insulation before).

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    don't feel bad bill as i'm that wonderfull age too.:cry: anyway yes the urethane sheets i glued to the walls has the foil reflective surface on it. i used 5/8in thick in some walls and in others 1in and it's in the neighborhood of r8/in. the top floor ceiling i went with 5/8in insulation board, but added 6in fiberglass on top of it, but i only got half of the top floor finished.
    i don't think bubblewrap will do much for insulating, but the reflective surface does have it's applications. by itself, it too does not do much.
    as to the windows, i would guess mine may have been some of the earliest double paned windows made. they are metal framed with some combo metal/plastic parts for the window lock and tiltdown locks. many of those have broken and the spring mechanisms used to allow counterweighting force are breaking too. when they do break i have the full weight of the window crashing closed and it scares the hell out of you. so far 6 have let go without the window glass breaking. 2 of them with broken countersprings i took. one i replaced with a unisolar 64 pv into the space it took and still had about another 6in or so at the top to seal. the other i blocked in with 8x16x4in cement blocks as i didn't see the need for that one anyway.
    everyday's picnic and it never seems to get better as time goes on. so much for my sob story, but i only want you guys to understand just some of what i'm up against and have seen that made my statement true of it being difficult in some instances because of the circumstances involved, not counting my now physical inability.
  • lamplightlamplight Solar Expert Posts: 368 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    For the foil wrap this looks like an excellent solution for an area of my house thats problematic to insulate from outside (kneewalls 2nd floor from the inside). . is that somethng youre experienced with Bill or one that you found in a search? im wondering if anyone has specific experience with particular brands of that foil type barrier? the one you link to has great specs but just thought id ask before ordering.. i was going to use foam boards inside over the drywall, then sealed air tight with caulk, then refaced with either beadboard or more drywall... this would be better as its thinner so less lost living space.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,999 admin
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill


    No, I have not used it before--It (and the vendor) was mentioned a few years ago on another board I read/post.

    I know that reflective barriers are used quite for ceiling/roof insulation--but I have not seen too much about it used as a wall insulation.

    If you do try it--maybe just use it on one wall to see if you can tell the difference (or maybe even do your own testing--make a box out of it (and a foam board type) and put a block of ice or bucket of hot water) in it and see how long it takes the temperature to change vs your foam core insulation.

    I used ~1-2" foam core board (with a very thin aluminum backing) for insulating my bonus room--under a sloped roof where you are supposed to allow ventilation too keep the roof cool/dry--and that is certainly the one room in my house where the temperature swings quite a bit--I probably should have tried something else (maybe even this aluminum backed bubble wrap) as the foam core seems to do only a mediocre job of insulating vs 4 inches of fiberglass bat used everywhere else (to be fair, this is a south facing sun exposed 45 degree / north exposed pitched roof--lots of heat gain/loss possible vs the white walls protected by overhang/trees elsewhere on the house).

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • lamplightlamplight Solar Expert Posts: 368 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    Bill thats exactly the same scenario i need to insulate.. i want to hit it on the inside as inbetween the stud is also the roof joist as you say and needs to stay clear for attic / roof ventilation. the roof/attic itself has over a foot of blown in cellulose its the 45deg sidewalls that are killing me. ive just got one small bedroom to hit so its worth the investment to try it especially as its rated r value looks better than the 1" foam and it's thinner material. this room gets cool so any change will be noticeable. if its not enough i can ad some foam, thanks.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,999 admin
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    I believe they make a sheet material that supports ventilation right next to the roof sheathing (small air channels).

    If I had to do it again, I would probably just get some corrugated aluminum or steel and rip it to the width between the rafters (if I could not find the roof ventilation stuff), put it against the underside of the roof (for cheap airflow), and stuff regular fiberglass rolls underneath... The Ridgid foam (~2" ???) I got from Home Depot really does not cut it in my moderate weather location--if you live in more extreme area, it probably would not be acceptable at all.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    Just got a meter read yesterday and this month was our lowest usage in the 3 years of history I have available. Thanks to everyone who has posted tips on ways to reduce electric usage.

    Hope someday will get some PV on the roof as well..

    Service Period Meter Reading
    Meter Number From To Prev CD Pres CD Multiplier Metered Usage

    83144634 09/26/0710/25/07 13972 A 15147 A 1.0000 1175 KWH

  • GreenerPowerGreenerPower Solar Expert Posts: 264 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill
    Just got a meter read yesterday...
    Service Period Meter Reading
    Meter Number From To Prev CD Pres CD Multiplier Metered Usage

    83144634 09/26/0710/25/07 13972 A 15147 A 1.0000 1175 KWH
    Your energy conservation starts to pay off. Elect. rate in Ihio is not bad $150 for 2000KWh (7.5c/Kwh), we pay ~0.11c/KWh in TX.
    Using around ~2000KWhs in summer months, sound like your AC is not that efficient. Look at my web site for ideas.

  • autoxsteveautoxsteve Solar Expert Posts: 114 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    Wow. and I thought I was wasting a lot of electricity. We (family of 3 + two dogs) are using about 575 kWh per month and that # is going down! (I've got over 10 65W incandescent flood lamps that work find in the garage)..... Keep looking for ways to conserve...
  • rickeolisrickeolis Solar Expert Posts: 110 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Progress on lowering electric bill

    I found two places in my home that were hemorrhaging energy without my knowledge: The central air duct going into all the rooms had several exposed openings along it that would actually allow cold air in during high winter winds.
    Secondly, and this one was worse: My bathroom was always cold, and one day I wanted to install a jet-tub in place of our regular one. So when I pulled it out there were two huge holes where the installer didn't patch anything up. (pipes and drains, etc.) So all the small gaps around the tub, floor, top and sides were getting exposed to the crawlspace of the house, which again got pressurized by high winds and right into the home!
    Both problems have since been fixed along with a bad front door air gap, so the cold air no longer runs through the home like a sieve anymore!

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