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Old 05-26-2014, 06:35 PM   #41
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Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort View Post
We have still saved thousands per year on our energy bill, and even if bought new at full price, the LED bulbs, changers and kitchen gadgets all together would only cost ~$500 or so total, making the payback period using summer energy bills under several months, while most of the products purchased should last for years.
I'm surprised that you can save that much from appliances/lights/gadgets. I would have thought the bulk of the bill would be from air conditioning/heating. Also thanks for bringing up the thermal cooker -- i probably won't get one due to the large upfront cost but it's very interesting idea that I hadn't known about.

My only tip to contribute to this thread is to use window fans instead of air conditioning. Usually we set up one fan to blow air out of the house and open a window to ingest air strategically.
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Old 05-26-2014, 06:53 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by photoguy View Post
I'm surprised that you can save that much from appliances/lights/gadgets. I would have thought the bulk of the bill would be from air conditioning/heating. Also thanks for bringing up the thermal cooker -- i probably won't get one due to the large upfront cost but it's very interesting idea that I hadn't known about.

My only tip to contribute to this thread is to use window fans instead of air conditioning. Usually we set up one fan to blow air out of the house and open a window to ingest air strategically.
Here's a good reference chart:

Home Appliance Amp Reference Chart | Electric Safety | Georgia Power
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Old 05-26-2014, 07:44 PM   #43
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In the past 12 months, my lowest daily consumption was on 3/31/2014, when we used 25KWhr.

My highest daily consumption was on 8/16/2013 when we used 120KWhr in a 24 hr period.

* Data from the online record of our utility company.
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Old 05-26-2014, 07:59 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by photoguy View Post
I'm surprised that you can save that much from appliances/lights/gadgets. I would have thought the bulk of the bill would be from air conditioning/heating. Also thanks for bringing up the thermal cooker -- i probably won't get one due to the large upfront cost but it's very interesting idea that I hadn't known about.

My only tip to contribute to this thread is to use window fans instead of air conditioning. Usually we set up one fan to blow air out of the house and open a window to ingest air strategically.
It would probably be very different if we lived some place with more temperature extremes and heating and A/C became bigger parts of our annual utility bill.

We get hour by hour online charts on kw usage from our utility company, and our biggest spikes in kw hours used came at meal times. Between the utility company charts and the Kill a Watt, we could make a spreadsheet for the day that estimated daily kwh used by category - freezer, refrigerator, outside lights, TVs, wall oven, dryer etc. and then go through line by line to lower each item. I used to use a fan for white noise overnight, but after the Kill a Watt review I bought an album of fan sounds on iTunes and just repeat some of those sounds on an iPod docked on a clock radio.
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Old 05-26-2014, 08:47 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort View Post
We have still saved thousands per year on our energy bill, and even if bought new at full price, the LED bulbs, changers and kitchen gadgets all together would only cost ~$500 or so total, making the payback period using summer energy bills under several months, while most of the products purchased should last for years.

This thread prompted me to look up our current top tier electricity rate. It is now 36 cents per hour, not 34.
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I'm surprised that you can save that much from appliances/lights/gadgets. I would have thought the bulk of the bill would be from air conditioning/heating. ... .
I think part of the point that daylatedollarshort is making is that during the A/C season, efficiency savings in appliances/lights/gadgets also translates to less load on the A/C system.

While that's true, an A/C with a SEER rating of 13 has a COP of 3.2. Which means it takes about 1/3 watt to remove an extra watt of heat. So there is a fractional improvement in the A/C costs. I haven't done all the math, but it's a little hard to imagine that this could add up to thousands per year, even at $0.3x/kWh.

Some super-rough-cut numbers - my A/C has a 40A breaker, so let's estimate 30A @ 220V = 6.6 KW. And let's say it is running a 50% duty cycle, so 3.3 kWh. If I have five, 60W incandescent lights on in the evening (that seems like a lot to me), that is an extra 300W load, so that adds about 0.1 kWh to a 3.3 kWh A/C consumption. Or roughly 3% when the indoor lights are on, which is only a portion of the day, so maybe 1% ( 8 hours/day - but really, 5 - 60W bulbs on indoors 8 hours/day?)?. And I'd assume that A/C is only used a portion of the year, so cut that by whatever that factor is. And that's not accounting for any of the heat output of the LED (fairly negligible though). So I'm really having trouble seeing where this could add up to even a small portion of thousands per year savings, but i'm always anxious to learn.

Same idea with a slow-cooker. Yes, they are not insulated, so some of that ~ 100W is heat that is escaping and would need to be removed by the A/C in cooling season. But the numbers are similar to above, and any cooking system will release some heat.


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Old 05-26-2014, 09:13 PM   #46
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When its time to recover space on my hard drive, I go to spacemonger which lets me do maybe one deletion to get the results of fumbling around for hours if I didn't have the data. So in budgeting, if you have good data, and a way to present it, you might be able to make a single change instead of dozens of little things.
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Old 05-26-2014, 09:43 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort View Post
It would probably be very different if we lived some place with more temperature extremes and heating and A/C became bigger parts of our annual utility bill.

We get hour by hour online charts on kw usage from our utility company, and our biggest spikes in kw hours used came at meal times. Between the utility company charts and the Kill a Watt, we could make a spreadsheet for the day that estimated daily kwh used by category - freezer, refrigerator, outside lights, TVs, wall oven, dryer etc. and then go through line by line to lower each item. I used to use a fan for white noise overnight, but after the Kill a Watt review I bought an album of fan sounds on iTunes and just repeat some of those sounds on an iPod docked on a clock radio.
Some utilities will allow you to install a demand controller. Have you looked into that?
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Old 05-26-2014, 09:47 PM   #48
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I think part of the point that daylatedollarshort is making is that during the A/C season, efficiency savings in appliances/lights/gadgets also translates to less load on the A/C system.

While that's true, an A/C with a SEER rating of 13 has a COP of 3.2. Which means it takes about 1/3 watt to remove an extra watt of heat. So there is a fractional improvement in the A/C costs. I haven't done all the math, but it's a little hard to imagine that this could add up to thousands per year, even at $0.3x/kWh.
Thanks for clarifying.

I think I didn't quite see how the numbers could add up in DLDS' situation because my own costs were so different: My electric bill only runs $35-45 a month so there simply isn't thousands to cut out (electricity for 2 adults in 1200 sq ft house with heating/cooking/dryer on natural gas, no air conditioning). I was confused because even if you double or triple my bill (to account for a larger family/home), there's still no way to save thousands.

I dug up my last full bill from Feb (my last bill because we moved) and we used 257 kWH @ $0.13. However, we haven't done anything to reduce our electricity usage. PG&E tells us we're using similar amount of electricity to other homes our size but based on responses here it seems like we are on the very low end for both total kWH and cost per unit.
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Old 05-26-2014, 09:50 PM   #49
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My grocery bill is always lowest when I meal plan for the week before going grocery shopping. I don't always do the meal planning and I have noticed from tracking costs that I end up spending more for groceries as well as wasting more food.

Another thing I am really bad about is buying food items I already have (buried in freezer, frig, or pantry). About two weeks ago I took on organizing the pantry and found lots of food items that had expired, lots of two or three cans of same items, etc. So after purging and organizing everything, I took a few pics (one of each pantry shelf) with the phone and if I can't remember if I have something while I am at the store, I can pull up the pic on my phone and look for it. But if you meal plan you can check for items before shopping.

Need to save money right now? Eat for the next month from the freezer and pantry until you have cleaned it all out. Only buy short-term perishable items (e.g., milk) for the month.
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Old 05-26-2014, 10:39 PM   #50
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To the OP. It is hard to know what would specifically help you without knowing more about your specific spending. I understand why you might not want to post it, but many of the suggestions given may or may not be helpful to your situation.

Some years ago, we were trying really hard to reduce spending and were having a hard time of it. I found that many generic suggestions on how to save money on little things didn't help us because we weren't spending much on those categories.

The main reason for this was that the main driver of our spending wasn't the little things, it was the big things. And, these big things were things that couldn't be changed without major lifestyle changes.

Sure, we could turn out lights and do all the little things to reduce electricity consumption...but that wasn't why our electric bill was high. Our electric bill was high because we had a 4500 SF house with energy inefficient windows and had a pool and a guest house and 2 garages. The only thing that was going to appreciably reduce our electric bill was moving.

And, that was another thing. Lots of our expenses were tied to the fact that we had that house. Our mortgage was expensive. Maintenance was expensive from little things to the big things (repainting the interior of a 4500 SF house is a lot more expensive than repainting the interior of a 2000 SF house).

Several years later, we spend less than half of what we spent annually back then. And, note that our spending right now includes paying for college for 2 kids. Once they are out of school our projected spending will be less than a third of what it used to be.

The point is that what made the big difference was not primarily the small stuff. It was changing a few big things. The most significant of which was moving to a smaller house that was newer and required much less maintenance and was much more energy efficient.

As for the smaller stuff, we did work on some of that. What helped us was to use a budgeting program. We used You Need a Budget. See ynab.com if you are interesting.

We also looked at our budgeting to figure out what things were really important to us and to look at the budget as a whole. We worked on cutting back on things that we didn't think were worth the money (paying for someone else to clean our house for example) versus things that we did think were worth it (eating out a couple of times a month).
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Old 05-26-2014, 11:46 PM   #51
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Thanks for clarifying.

I think I didn't quite see how the numbers could add up in DLDS' situation because my own costs were so different: My electric bill only runs $35-45 a month so there simply isn't thousands to cut out (electricity for 2 adults in 1200 sq ft house with heating/cooking/dryer on natural gas, no air conditioning). I was confused because even if you double or triple my bill (to account for a larger family/home), there's still no way to save thousands.
Our utility company reports show our predicted annual usage for gas and electricity combined to now be under $1.6K for the year, previously $4k, worst year DH has tracked was $4.4K. We have much more sq feet than 1200 to heat and cool, a not energy efficient house with an electric dryer and cooking, AC and more people. We want to downsize before too long, so we don't want to spend money on insulation or anything major. The reductions mostly came from maybe 50+ different little energy saving action items all adding up, like turning off the ice maker, turning off lights, putting motion sensor LED lights in the hallways and stairs that use rechargeable batteries, opening windows in the morning when the air is cool, and a lot of the stuff previously mentioned like the drying racks, thermal cooker, solar lights outside and eliminating a fan at night.

We still have a few more action items to implement and some that are not yet reflected in the $1.6K, so I am hoping to get a few hundred dollars more below that figure before the year is out.
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Old 05-27-2014, 08:38 AM   #52
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Lots of our expenses were tied to the fact that we had that house. Our mortgage was expensive. Maintenance was expensive from little things to the big things (repainting the interior of a 4500 SF house is a lot more expensive than repainting the interior of a 2000 SF house).
I'd noted earlier that sometimes downsizing doesn't free up all that much cash when you factor in moving and transition costs, but in your case it sure did. (And DH and I are meeting with a realtor today!)

I did want to mention, however, that moving from a HCOL area to a LCOL area made a HUGE difference in our ability to save for retirement over the last 11 years. We moved for my job (market in my field dried up in the NY/NJ area after 9/11). DH and I had just married, and sold 2 houses in NNJ and bought one that was twice the size of the one I'd sold and half the cost. Housing costs (including exorbitant property taxes) were eating up half my take-home pay in NJ.

If you're in a field where you can move from a HCOL area to LCOL with little change in salary, it makes a big difference.
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Old 05-27-2014, 08:48 AM   #53
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Our utility company reports show our predicted annual usage for gas and electricity combined to now be under $1.6K for the year, previously $4k, worst year DH has tracked was $4.4K.
That's an impressive amount of energy reduction.

I see that you're including gas. If I add that in my energy bill came out to roughly $80-90 month which is only a little less than your 1.6k/year (esp. considering less people/sq footage).
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Old 05-27-2014, 09:00 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort View Post
We have still saved thousands per year on our energy bill,

I just checked our last year's total electric bill. $1,200. I can't believe I could save thousands of dollars using led bulbs.
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Old 05-27-2014, 09:22 AM   #55
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Thanks for clarifying.



I think I didn't quite see how the numbers could add up in DLDS' situation because my own costs were so different: My electric bill only runs $35-45 a month so there simply isn't thousands to cut out (electricity for 2 adults in 1200 sq ft house with heating/cooking/dryer on natural gas, no air conditioning). I was confused because even if you double or triple my bill (to account for a larger family/home), there's still no way to save thousands.



I dug up my last full bill from Feb (my last bill because we moved) and we used 257 kWH @ $0.13. However, we haven't done anything to reduce our electricity usage. PG&E tells us we're using similar amount of electricity to other homes our size but based on responses here it seems like we are on the very low end for both total kWH and cost per unit.

I am in the same boat with you. I have a smaller house of around 1500 sq. feet, natural gas for heat, and electricity rates are very inexpensive here. Playing around on the edges changing out bulbs and such have no meaningful change. My biggest reduction appears to have came from a secondary reason. I put a new metal roof on and replaced asphalt shingles. House is running 3/4 degrees cooler inside than last spring as the metal is reflecting the heat away instead of soaking it in. Knowing me, this summer instead of pocketing the savings I will reward myself by cooling the house to a lower temperature.


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Old 05-27-2014, 09:33 AM   #56
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Some utilities will allow you to install a demand controller. Have you looked into that?
No, I have never heard of that. What is it?
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Old 05-27-2014, 09:43 AM   #57
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No, I have never heard of that. What is it?
It is a thing that will secretly turn off your A/C when you really need it to run. You'll start sweating, not only because its hot, but also because you wonder if you need to call the repair man.
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Old 05-27-2014, 10:13 AM   #58
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For reference, I just looked up our gas/electric bill totals since 2006. The total has slightly declined each year for ~3500 sq. ft. in the NE. There have been some energy efficient changes over the years.

EDIT/ADD: Yearly, the cost is about $3500, so $1 per sq. ft. on a yearly basis.

In '95 when we moved in, one month's gas bill was over $500. That was quickly remedied by shutting off heat in the greenhouse (lol). Initially we saw some yearly comparisons for previous owners, and it was a wake-up call.

If you just look at pay-back periods, you may do nothing. We try to balance these decisions with how much better we'll feel in all respects. When we redid the kitchen, it made sense to get rid of the electric dryer and put in a gas line for dryer in next room over. That's an example of getting a win on two fronts, instead of trying to justify a purchase or improvement on just one factor.

Reminds me, time to turn off the always-on pilots on our heating systems. I think that saves more than $50 per month for the next 3-4 months. Also gives me a reason to leave heat off in September...
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Old 05-27-2014, 10:22 AM   #59
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It is a thing that will secretly turn off your A/C when you really need it to run. You'll start sweating, not only because its hot, but also because you wonder if you need to call the repair man.
We were in our area's pilot study for that device. You have nailed its purpose!

Since the OP almost lives on a shoestring already, I suggest a part time job on the weekend vs trying to save more money.
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Old 05-27-2014, 10:30 AM   #60
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Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort View Post
We have still saved thousands per year on our energy bill,

I just checked our last year's total electric bill. $1,200. I can't believe I could save thousands of dollars using led bulbs.
I didn't say everyone could, or even that my family had, saved thousands a year from LED bulbs alone. What I posted was "The reductions mostly came from maybe 50+ different little energy saving action items all adding up."

From Seeking Alpha -

"Cree (CREE) estimates that if the 5 most used 60 watt incandescent bulbs were replaced with Cree's 60 Watt equivalent LED warm white bulb, a homeowner or business owner can save $61 a year in energy costs.**Based on 6 hour use per bulb per day using national average electric rate of 11 cents per kwh.
At $12.97 per 60 Watt equivalent LED bulb, 5 would cost $64.85 + tax. This is a 100% return on investment in a little over 1 year."

Cree: Society Has Yet To See The Light - Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE) | Seeking Alpha

With many CDs paying maybe 1 - 2% a year these days, personally I think 100% ROI in one year on light bulbs is a great investment.
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