Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's starting...

I just learned that our electric bill will increase by 13.2% starting in October. That means our average $45 monthly bill will increase by almost $6. While this sounds like a trivial amount, we see it as just the start of a tidal wave of higher prices coming our way. It triggered a discussion between my husband and I as to what we could do to cut our bill.

It was a tough discussion because we couldn't come up with anything appreciable to save electricity. I think most people would agree that $45/month is fairly reasonable for running a home, a farm, and a business.

Some possibilities for trimming: We could replace our ten-year-old 25-cubic-foot chest freezer with a more energy-efficient model, but an outlay of $700 in order to save a few bucks a month seems like a poor tradeoff (at least until such time as the freezer gives up the ghost). I keep nagging the kids to turn off the bathroom light when they're through (our bathroom has no window but we have two 4-watt nightlights in it, more than adequate illumination for brief visits) but so far without much luck. We could unplug the TV/VCR except when not in use, but will that save an appreciable amount of power? We could replace all our incandescent bulbs with CFL's, but I prefer not to bring poisonous objects into my home if possible.

Thoughts, anyone?


  1. What about generating your own electricity? Start up would be costly, but in the long run you would not have to worry about additional energy cost increases. You might even be able to sell electricity back to the power company if you generate enough of it.

  2. we're in an all electric, two-storey house - only five or so years old and our bills are outrageous - we want a wood stove so badly, but have nowhere to accommodate one and would have to spend a couple of thousand dollars to just weather in a small room - it's all about tradeoff for sure.

  3. We have a home, shop and hobby farm and our bill for electricity in rural Tn is about $130 a month, so $45 a month sounds like a happy dream!

  4. $45 a month would be a blessing to our family. Ours runs $200 in the summer while only using the A/C in the afternoon for about 8 hrs. a day.The kids complain it is HOT even then and they are right. It stays about 88* (the A/C just reduces the oppressive southeastern humidity.)

    The winter is not as bad. We average about $170 during the coldest part of winter.The kids again talk about how cold the house is and again, they are right. It stays about 58* in the house during the coldest part of winter.

    Spring and Autumn are the best months concerning our power bill. Those bills average about $115 then.We actually had a bill that was $88 two years ago. That was before the prices started to rise :-(

    I am just thankful to be able to make those payments. Praise GOD for taking care of HIS people!


    Amanda <><
    Matthew 6:33

  5. The poisonous substance in a CFL is mercury but in far smaller amounts than in an old fashioned thermometer. It only becomes a slight risk factor if you break the lamp. Even then it is only equivalent to consuming a few cans of tuna. I have been using CFLs for about 10 years and haven't broken one yet. Also, the ones I bought 10 years ago are still working. The cost saving is considerable.

    If you do break a CFL immediately ventilate the room and clear up the bits into a plastic bag and seal it.

    CFL's are probably only a transitory item. There are far more efficient lamps in the scientific pipeline. Some think they are being deliberately held back from production until the investment in CFLs has been recouped.

  6. To answer the various and sundry comments....

    - I'd *love* to generate our own electricity, but not sure we can afford the necessary equipment. The ironic thing is when we were first looking at properties here in Idaho over six years ago, we had the option of any number of off-grid homes. But my husband was worried that alternative power would not supply enough electricity to power the shop. Ah, the path not taken...
    - Don't give up hope on a woodstove. We actually got ours for *free.* Someone had an old rusty antique parlor stove sitting in their back lot, and my husband offered to haul it off. He wire-wheeled all the rust off, we got replacement mica windows, and once we experienced the joy of a woodstove we never went back. Sure it's not the most efficient and up-to-date model, but I figure if ONE stove can sufficiently heat a 2400 sq ft home, I have no complaints.
    - Speaking of which, it's probably the woodstove that allows us to have as low a power bill as we do. We heat exclusively with wood during our cold Idaho winters, and that saves a lot of electricity (and propane). Our house is cool in the winter (except near the stove), so if we want to warm up we go stand next to the stove. Our upstairs is completely unheated, so we use electric blankets at night. During the summers we tough it out during heatwaves with no air conditioner (we don't have one). But to be fair we don't have the heat and humidity in north Idaho that is present in the southeast. That's one of the reasons we landed up here - neither my husband nor myself can tolerate heat very well. I can tolerate cold a lot better.
    - Regarding CFL's....I'd probably be a lot more receptive to trying them if we weren't being *mandated* to use the damned things within a couple of years. Grrr, how that burns me up. We once tried a CFL and were horrified at the harsh, cold light it emitted, and promptly threw it away (this was before I knew they had to be specially recycled). Perhaps they have new and spiffier (meaning, warmer and less harsh) versions now available, I don't know and frankly don't care. But you're right - there's a lot more efficient lighting in the pipeline (LED's or whatever) that hold a lot more appeal.
    - Patrice

  7. Re. CFL's. Patrice, hope you will at least try just one of the modern lamps. No resemblance to the early versions. They are very compact, immediate starting, and I can't fault the light they emit.

  8. Hi Patrice, I wish my electric bill was only $45.00. I do not know how you do it.

    I quit using my dishwasher and saved about $20 a mo. I use only cold water to wash clothes and that saves a few bucks. This winter I am putting new seals around my doors. I found I was loosing heat from the loose and fraying seals. The seals are cheap.



  9. For a very small energy savings, buy LED nightlights. I have one in each bathroom and one in the hallway. Each one consumes 0.3 watts. And they are equipped with a light sensor, so when there is other light, they turn off.

    And a way to consume more electricity, that is good, is a ceiling fan in the room with the Wood Stove. Circulate the heat around the room more, so that the room is warm, not just the stove.

    As for CFL lights, here is the Official EPA website saying exactly what to do if you break one. Suffice to say, I threw mine out after reading this. And if for some reason you can’t clean up a room yourself, the cost of a Commercial Cleaning for a 10 ft by 10 ft room is about $1,000. This does include a vacuum cleaner with a mercury filter. All Vacuum cleaners for home now, would only break the mercury up into smaller particles and spread it around the house!!!!


    Dave Jones

  10. Dave, I like the idea of the LED nightlights. We have a bunch o' nightlights scattered around the house, and most of them are the types that stay on all the time (because I've found that turning them on and off trashes the 4-watt bulbs). So LED's sound like a great alternative.

    I may as well address the issue of clothes dryers, too. Someone sent me an email asking how much money can be saved by not using a dryer. Answer: a lot. I've always line-dried our clothes during warmer months but used the dryer in colder months. When I switched from using our dryer in the winter to using a clothes rack in front of the wood stove, our propane usage dropped in HALF. Yes, half. Back in Oregon when we had an electric dryer, using the clothes line dropped our power bill by $20 a month, quite a bit for back then. Dryers are one of the most energy-sucking gizmos out there, no matter how you slice it.

    So purchase two or three clothes racks (keep an eye out for them at thrift stores) and put them up in your bedroom or other room you don't use too much during the day, and hang the clothes on them. In winter it may take a whole day to dry, but who care? Think of the energy you're saving.

  11. Oops, I forgot to ask - Dave, where can I find LED nightlights?
    - Patrice

  12. Patrice

    Amazon.com has the LED nightlights.


    Item #4 is what I have. And the light is directional.

    I buy mine at Lowe’s hardware, but I doubt if you have a hardware/lumber store that big up there!

    As for Solar power, a thousand watt panel with actually produce about 150 watts per hour, if where you live it is just about sunny all the time. The best power is produced on days when you have to wear sunglasses when you go outside. And the least power on days when you turn on the headlights of your car to drive in the daytime. And nothing at night. Even Arab dawn, when you can tell the difference between a white and black thread, generates no power! Many power companies will loan you the money at zero percent interest for 20 years, but they will be the ones to install it and their installation is a high cost item! And at the end of the 20 years you can see if you made money because you lived in a sunny climate or lost money because you live in a cloudy/foggy/rainy environment.

    Wind power is decent, if you have lots of wind. With wind power there is a minimum and a maximum for the wind. So if a windmill is 5 – 20 mph, only with the wind between those two numbers will generate power. The higher the second number, the higher the cost. A maximum is needed so that the windmill will feather in very high winds! And don’t forget the cost of the tower and the tower base! But say for outdoor lighting, windmills are good source of power. On nights when the wind is blowing and you want to check out the outside, there are lights to do it. And when it is quiet outside, you don’t need to check outside.

    Lastly, if you have a stream flowing through your property, you could put in a small hydro-electric plant. If you do this, whatever you do, don’t tell the federal or state government!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even thought all the water that flows onto your property flows off of you property, they still want pounds of flesh. Dr. Robinson (I think) of Access to Energy found this out. The feddies wanted over $5,000 for yearly permits for the small one that he installed. And that heated his entire house with electric baseboards heaters. But he had to pull out the entire installation.

    I live in the Sacramento valley. When the daytime temp is over 95, I set the A/C to 85 for the daytime, and 80 for nighttime. With a whole house fan And my electric bill is over $60 a month and I am very happy with that! I don’t have a workshop making cups either!

    Dave Jones

  13. Our electric bill was $287 a month in Ohio last year on even billing. I know it will be more starting this month. We are desperate to lower it...just don't know how with 5 children and a big, drafty farmhouse. We keep the thermostat at 64 in the winter and haven't used the air much at all this summer. I was looking forward to a reprieve...but I suppose our not using the air just compensated for the price increase!

    We have a woodstove but no place to vent it. Any ideas?

    PS. $45/month sounds lovely

  14. Dear Patrice, Just found your site this evening & have read every one of your posts, thus far, since the first one from 2009. I don't know if it matters at this point, but unplugging your t.v.will save you quite a bit of electrical usage. It's called 'phantom usage'. I use a surge protector & shut off the t.v. everyday before I leave for work.