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Energy Efficiency Progress Report
Old 01-09-2009, 06:17 PM   #1
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Energy Efficiency Progress Report

I finally got the forum back up on my new computer after the hard drive died on the one I had been mooching from work.

If you remember I had the massive attic insulation replacement project with a generous amount of help from samclem and others.

So far I think I have saved nearly $1000 over last year on oil, but it might be less if I calculate the effect of lower oil prices at the moment. This will pretty much pay for all of the insulation materials.

I have also lowered my thermostats from 70 degrees (actually closer to 72 due to thermostat error) to about 61 degrees, so I cannot figure out how much of the savings is due to insulation and how much is due to lower temperature.

I am surviving freezing my butt off at 61 degrees. I have a wood stove in the den and when I am home at night and on weekends I burn the wood that had been left over in my wood shed since I bought the house in 1988 so the wood is virtually free. This heats the den to 70 or so degrees and is very comfortable.

Freezing in the morning gives me an incentive to dress quickly and get to w*rk on time, which in the current economy has become my new favorate "hobby" :-)

I am not sure what I will do when the wood runs out. I chose the "buy electricity from wind power" option on my electric bill so I am thinking that if I use my electric heater in the den instead of buying more wood it will be a green alternative and will probably be cheaper than increasing he overall temperature with oil.

I had been worried that the hot water heat pipes in the crawl space under the den would freeze when the wood stove causes that zone to shut off. However, I bought a remote thermometer and put it in the crawl space. So far the lowest recorded temperature is only 41 degrees including some nights when it was 10 or 12 degrees outside. That seems to be good news.

I have had four oil deliveries since I started the lower temperature and insulation project. All have been close to 50% less gallons than the similar deliveries last year.

I wish I lived in a warmer area because I would rather skimp on air conditioning than heat, but overall I am happy with my new conservative life style.

I have inspired a couple of my coworkers to insulate and seal their house and have been able to pass along some of the information I learned from the forum and from doing the project to the others.

Thanks again to all that helped me out and cheered me on while I was doing the work.
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Old 01-09-2009, 06:41 PM   #2
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Good to hear the work has paid off. Though 61F is more on the heroic side IMHO. DW would never agree to that inconvenience, even when she was well. Nowadays we run around 72 to 74F with the stove kicking temps up into low 80s sometimes.

Crawlspaces, unless very well ventilated, tend not freeze, though I don't know what your outdoor low temps are.

Happy savings.
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Old 01-09-2009, 06:57 PM   #3
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Have had daytime winter thermostat at 60F for many years.
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Old 01-09-2009, 07:00 PM   #4
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Joe,

Don't know this for a fact, but (back when I cared about such things) the standard line used to get us to turn the thermostat down was that each 1 degree lower saved 3% of heating bill. Obviously, that savings declines the lower the temp (limiting case would be setting the temp to outside ambient, but then, what's the fun in that!!) My best SWAG is that your 61 vs 71 probably is close to half your savings. Previous attempts on my part to save big with added insulation were somewhat disappointing although they were noticeable.

Anything you can do to "zone" your heat would tend to save BTU usage (although maybe not your total heat bill - depends on cost of alternate heat. Wood being free to you, it's an excellent choice for the den, heh, heh!)

Best heat saving we ever got was to replace original "standard" leaky windows with high eff. (and well sealed) windows. Costly, but would have paid for themselves eventually - if we hadn't moved to a spot which needed no heat and very little AC. YMMV
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Old 01-09-2009, 10:22 PM   #5
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Joe,

Don't know this for a fact, but (back when I cared about such things) the standard line used to get us to turn the thermostat down was that each 1 degree lower saved 3% of heating bill. Obviously, that savings declines the lower the temp (limiting case would be setting the temp to outside ambient, but then, what's the fun in that!!) ...
I've seen that 3% number repeated often. It's probably a reasonable ballpark, but I wonder where it comes from. Technically, I suppose you would say 3% for the first degree, then 3% of 97% for the next degree, etc.

That says going from 70 down to 60F would be .97 ^ 10th ~ 26% saving. 70 down to 65 (or 65 to 60) would be ~ 14% savings. I would think this would depend on the average temperatures. A 5F delta from 70 to 65 isn't much % wise compared to a -30F average ambient, but it would be half if ambient was 50F. That seems to say that lowering the thermostat in really cold weather has less of a percentage impact on the heating bill. But that is when you are using high absolute amounts of heat.

It's tough to do good comparisons. I wish I knew, something tells me I'd keep the heat higher more often if I knew the real dollar impact. But we like it cool at night ( ~ 58-60), I only turn it up as much as I feel I need during the day (generally ~ 62-64), and it goes up in the evening if some of us are sitting around relaxing. Then back down at night. A bad gas bill for us is in the $200-250 range for a month. Largish house, so-so insulation and windows.

-ERD50
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Old 01-09-2009, 11:29 PM   #6
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Wow, you are really saving some dough, and we're only halfway through the heating season! 61 F is a bit nippy--at least it gives you one reason to look forward to the office: you can warm up.

Those little electric heaters don't cost much to run (about 15-20 cents an hour at the average national rate for electricity). If you can find a plug-in timer that is rated for 14 amps, you could set it up to turn on 30 minutes before you wake up to pre-warm the bathroom or the bedroom. I'm sure it breaks all kinds of safety rules, but I think if you use common sense about where the heater is placed it would be fine. That morning heat would cost just 3 bucks per month, I know if I were in your shoes I'd probably do it.

Congratulations! Your insulation work and your conservation habits will pay off even more when heating oil goes up in price again.
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Old 01-10-2009, 12:37 AM   #7
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Congratulations!

My wife and I have been working on our own energy saving projects and, despite electric rates going up 53% since we moved into our house, our actual electric bill has increased only by 10% (all electric heat here in the south). So we must be doing something right! I have identified a few more air leaks (the most noticeable one is right under the front door) and will take care of that ASAP.

We keep the thermostat around 68F during the day, 65F at night which is cold enough for me to sleep well but not too cold for my wife. What can I say, I love it cold... When I was growing up the house was always pretty cold. We only had 1 fireplace to heat up the whole house and my parents used to let the fire die at night and... open the windows (with outside temps often in the 10s-20s).
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Old 01-10-2009, 08:27 AM   #8
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We keep our home at 65 from 8am to 6pm then it automatically sets back to 55 until morning. For the 3 plus winters we have been here the usage of natural gas has been 2005/6: 2.71 ccf per day, 2006/7: 2.23 ccf per day, 2007/8: 2.51 ccf per day, and for 2008/9 thus far it has been 1.91 ccf per day (117 ccf for the 61 days involved). We have a three level Condo which is approximately 3,600 sf. The basement is about 60 percent below ground level and stays relatively warm in the winter (and cool in the summer) without very much heat/cooling. We generally do not use the upper level of the home (loft with guest bedroom and a bathroom) but it pretty much stays at a comfortable level. The main level is where we live and we have a gas fireplace (which we virtually never use - we look at it as emergency source of heat should we lose power to the furnace. We also use one of those heating bed pads you put below the sheets - one of the greatest inventions I have experienced. BTW Natural Gas rates are all over the place so it is very difficult to access cost over different periods of time.
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Old 01-10-2009, 09:10 AM   #9
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We have a high effecency gas forced air heater. It has a condenser to get the moisture out of the exhaust, and this means that you can't set the temp below 60. When we get up in the am, we set it at 64, and leave it then till shower time. We turn it up to 66 and then back down to 64. In the evenings, we set to 67 or so.

For those who like a cooler house (under 67), I recommend fleece. We have fleece pants and tops. REI sells fleece socks. With fleece, you can be comfortable sitting, reading the paper.....over time, I think you adjust.
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Old 01-10-2009, 09:28 AM   #10
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OAG, I have to agree with you about the bed heating pad - MUCH nicer than electric blankets. However, the OP may stop getting out of bed on time if he gets one

ta,
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Old 01-10-2009, 11:25 AM   #11
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To keep warm in the house, I use the old ways: wool sweaters for the day, goose down bedding at night. Drink plenty of warm herbal tea before going to bed. If needed, bring the bed to temperature using a hot water bottle.
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Old 01-10-2009, 11:31 AM   #12
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Have had daytime winter thermostat at 60F for many years.
My wife would kill me if I tried that. We have an electric heat pump set to 68 for winter and 78 for summer. Typical winter electric bills are about $100, which includes all electrical usage. And since the "shoulder season" electric bills tend to be around $60-70 (i.e. when neither heat nor A/C is often needed), I assume it's costing about $30-40 a month for the heat.

Heat pumps actually work pretty well here because it rarely drops below about 20F (we tend to get 2-3 days a year where it gets down into the teens overnight). Plus, we don't have any other gas appliances, so I don't want to pay a $15 per month "account fee" for gas service year-round when we'd never use it except for about four months in the winter.
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Old 01-10-2009, 12:04 PM   #13
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I like flannel sheets for reducing the trauma of getting into a cold bed, but DW doesn't like them. She's bought into "thread count" BS pushed by the sheet manufacturers--hogwash! Lower thread counts=thicker threads=thicker sheets=longer lasting! Okay, it may feel a little like sandpaper once you get below 60 or so threads/inch, but that will encourage a little less sleeping and a little more productive time. And everyone is interested in losing weight, what could be easier than sanding off a pound or two of unsightly epidermis while you sleep over the course of a year?
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If needed, bring the bed to temperature using a hot water bottle.
Another trick that works well: Fill a large old sock with rice and sew/tie off the end. Put it in the microwave until it is toasty, then plunk it into the bed. We have a sock with about 24 oz of rice in it, it takes approx 2 minutes in the microwave to bring it to temperature. It stays warm a long time, and no worry about fluid leaks/spillage. We've re-heated it about 50 times now, I'd guess it will last indefinitely. As a bonus, it gives off a very faint smell of warm rice every night, which is nice.
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Old 01-10-2009, 01:22 PM   #14
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My wife would kill me if I tried that. We have an electric heat pump set to 68 for winter and 78 for summer. Typical winter electric bills are about $100, which includes all electrical usage. And since the "shoulder season" electric bills tend to be around $60-70 (i.e. when neither heat nor A/C is often needed), I assume it's costing about $30-40 a month for the heat.

Heat pumps actually work pretty well here because it rarely drops below about 20F (we tend to get 2-3 days a year where it gets down into the teens overnight). Plus, we don't have any other gas appliances, so I don't want to pay a $15 per month "account fee" for gas service year-round when we'd never use it except for about four months in the winter.
50F at night.
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Old 01-10-2009, 01:24 PM   #15
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I like flannel sheets for reducing the trauma of getting into a cold bed, but DW doesn't like them. She's bought into "thread count" BS pushed by the sheet manufacturers--hogwash! Lower thread counts=thicker threads=thicker sheets=longer lasting! Okay, it may feel a little like sandpaper once you get below 60 or so threads/inch, but that will encourage a little less sleeping and a little more productive time. And everyone is interested in losing weight, what could be easier than sanding off a pound or two of unsightly epidermis while you sleep over the course of a year?


Another trick that works well: Fill a large old sock with rice and sew/tie off the end. Put it in the microwave until it is toasty, then plunk it into the bed. We have a sock with about 24 oz of rice in it, it takes approx 2 minutes in the microwave to bring it to temperature. It stays warm a long time, and no worry about fluid leaks/spillage. We've re-heated it about 50 times now, I'd guess it will last indefinitely. As a bonus, it gives off a very faint smell of warm rice every night, which is nice.
I love my flannel sheets.

It's also good if the cat goes to bed before I do.
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Old 01-10-2009, 01:33 PM   #16
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Hmmm - I had my 'programible' thermostat croak the other day. Replaced it with a simple old school one - turned it on 72 and leave it there.

We'll see how Jan compares to last year's - dip to 65 at night and 68 during the day. Natural gas.

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Old 01-10-2009, 03:41 PM   #17
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I mentioned previously in this thread that I bought new windows when I lived in the midwest. Actually our really big saving by doing this was that we could now use the windows as passive heating and cooling devices. In the midwest, spring - early summer have many days which get "nippy" at night but warm up to the point some folks actually use AC. What I learned to do was to capture warm air during the day and keep it at night. In the late summer - early fall, the process was reversed. Cool the place down at night and button up during the day. I rarely used AC or heat from April through Oct. though temps would often go as low as lower 40s or high as mid 90s.

It took some "management" and I had to keep DW away from the windows, heh, heh! (She just didn't seem to get the process.) I estimate savings at near $100/mo. for those 6 months based on neighbor's experience and comparison of heat/AC bills when not going to this effort. Guess if I didn't "enjoy" saving money, it might not be worth the effort, but (heaven help me and wife forgive me) I loved it! Talk about bragging rights at w*ork!!
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Old 01-10-2009, 04:03 PM   #18
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I mentioned previously in this thread that I bought new windows when I lived in the midwest. Actually our really big saving by doing this was that we could now use the windows as passive heating and cooling devices. In the midwest, spring - early summer have many days which get "nippy" at night but warm up to the point some folks actually use AC. What I learned to do was to capture warm air during the day and keep it at night. In the late summer - early fall, the process was reversed. Cool the place down at night and button up during the day. I rarely used AC or heat from April through Oct. though temps would often go as low as lower 40s or high as mid 90s.

It took some "management" and I had to keep DW away from the windows, heh, heh! (She just didn't seem to get the process.) I estimate savings at near $100/mo. for those 6 months based on neighbor's experience and comparison of heat/AC bills when not going to this effort. Guess if I didn't "enjoy" saving money, it might not be worth the effort, but (heaven help me and wife forgive me) I loved it! Talk about bragging rights at w*ork!!
I second this - although we really didn't calc to the decimal place how much we saved - it does work.

heh heh heh -
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Old 01-10-2009, 04:27 PM   #19
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Thanks for all the replies to my post.

I did get the replacement windows about 7 years ago and they make a big difference, but this year bought a shrink wrap kit for $10 that does 9 windows. I have done several windows, especially in the unused rooms where it does not look stupid.

I have flannel sheets and they make a big difference. I also started sleeping with a knitted cap since my bald head is a really efficent heat exchanger.

Being single I do not have to worry about pleasing the wife. I read that while women can survive life-threatening cold better than men they are more susceptible to feeling cold at less extreme temperatures. The reason had something to do with the fat distribution and the rate of blood flow through the hands and feet.

I also do what one poster mentioned in the summer - open the windows in the night to let in the cold and then seal up and close blinds during the day. That, combined with opening my attic hatch to feed air to my exhaust fan, allows me to not use air conditioning almost at all. The fact that I am crazy enough to be willing to sleep on top of the bed with no covers when it is 85 degrees also helps.
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Old 01-10-2009, 04:36 PM   #20
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Thanks for all the replies to my post.

I did get the replacement windows about 7 years ago and they make a big difference, but this year bought a shrink wrap kit for $10 that does 9 windows. I have done several windows, especially in the unused rooms where it does not look stupid.
Had most windows replaced ~15 years ago.

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I have flannel sheets and they make a big difference. I also started sleeping with a knitted cap since my bald head is a really efficent heat exchanger.
Can't sleep with a cap on; I semi-tunnel under the covers.

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Being single I do not have to worry about pleasing the wife...
All I have to worry about is the cat.

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I also do what one poster mentioned in the summer - open the windows in the night to let in the cold and then seal up and close blinds during the day. That, combined with opening my attic hatch to feed air to my exhaust fan, allows me to not use air conditioning almost at all. The fact that I am crazy enough to be willing to sleep on top of the bed with no covers when it is 85 degrees also helps.
Much the same. Do not like A/C, used it one day in '08. I did buy a window fan for the bedroom, and do start out with no covers at 80 or so.
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