Ways to lower electricity costs?

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carolinaman
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by carolinaman »

shunkman wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:29 pm Plant some shade trees. Add awnings over windows that have significant sun exposure. Are the condensing units in direct sunlight? If the house was built in 1981 the ductwork could be leaking and not adequately insulated.
+1. Good point. Our power company, Duke Energy, will do free energy audit of your home to check for energy leaks, poor insulation, etc. It can identify things you need to do to lower your energy costs.

How energy efficient is your HVAC units? New units are more energy efficient. This is a more expensive fix but if they are near end of life may be worth considering.
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I-Know-Nothing
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by I-Know-Nothing »

carolinaman wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 7:24 am
shunkman wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:29 pm Plant some shade trees. Add awnings over windows that have significant sun exposure. Are the condensing units in direct sunlight? If the house was built in 1981 the ductwork could be leaking and not adequately insulated.
+1. Good point. Our power company, Duke Energy, will do free energy audit of your home to check for energy leaks, poor insulation, etc. It can identify things you need to do to lower your energy costs.

How energy efficient is your HVAC units? New units are more energy efficient. This is a more expensive fix but if they are near end of life may be worth considering.
We are going to schedule an energy audit with FP&L. Everyone had very good ideas regarding the pool pump and attic insulation. I was planning on planting two fruit trees (lychee and dwarf avocado) in front this fall. I’m unsure if those will provide adequate shade though, so I might reconsider. We have mango trees on the south side of the house.

Our HVAC units have stickers on them with an energy score of 14. Google says that is decent.
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I-Know-Nothing
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by I-Know-Nothing »

Valuethinker wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 5:25 am
Gundy wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 5:12 am a comp:

I live in SWFL. New construction. A/C @ 75 day, 73 night.

June, July, August electric bill avg $127.

I'm surprised it's so cheap- and I don't know why. I do nothing to conserve electricity.
I believe that after one of the hurricanes Florida substantively revised its Building Codes?
Yes, Hurricane Andrew came in 92 and my understanding is that building codes were substantially changed down here after that. Unfortunately, most houses in the area we chose to buy in (for the school district) were built in the 80s.
Valuethinker
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Valuethinker »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 7:46 am
Valuethinker wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 5:25 am
Gundy wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 5:12 am a comp:

I live in SWFL. New construction. A/C @ 75 day, 73 night.

June, July, August electric bill avg $127.

I'm surprised it's so cheap- and I don't know why. I do nothing to conserve electricity.
I believe that after one of the hurricanes Florida substantively revised its Building Codes?
Yes, Hurricane Andrew came in 92 and my understanding is that building codes were substantially changed down here after that. Unfortunately, most houses in the area we chose to buy in (for the school district) were built in the 80s.
Might be that Gundy -- having a modern home - simply has a more efficient one.

If you heat your hot water with electricity it's unlikely to be more than 3000-4500 kwhr pa. Say 6000 kwhr so $120 pa @ 20 cents.

What about Time of Use tariffs? They can be really painful.

It does seem like this is an insulation problem but that it would require an Energy Audit to really know.

EDIT: insulation and possibly air leakage (again, attic insulation should help).
Last edited by Valuethinker on Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
bluebolt
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by bluebolt »

winterfan wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 7:17 am Our electric bills aren't generally very high, but we saved around $30/mo by running the shorter cycles on the washer and dishwasher. Our clothes and dishes are clean.
I know that on some dishwashers the shorter cycles use more energy. The bigger energy saver is not to use a drying cycle, especially if your dishwasher has heating elements.

https://grist.org/living/whats-the-most ... her-cycle/
egrets
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by egrets »

Possible helps:
all my lights are CFLs.
I do not use the heated dry cycle on the dishwasher, I pull the rack out and things dry in 1-2 hours.
I have the (normal) shades down 1/2 to 3/4 way on windows where the sun is (so varies by time of day.)

For older houses than yours the window recommendation is always restore do not replace. Modern windows are expensive crap. I am not sure what applies to a 1980s house.

Is your Aunt getting an elderly discount?
Valuethinker
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Valuethinker »

egrets wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:23 am Possible helps:
all my lights are CFLs.
I do not use the heated dry cycle on the dishwasher, I pull the rack out and things dry in 1-2 hours.
Depends how often you run your D/W, shouldn't make a huge difference, I don't think (but might save 1-2 kwhr per run so if you do run it 5 times a week, that's a decent saving).

(there's very few applications now where a CFL is preferrable to a good LED).
I have the (normal) shades down 1/2 to 3/4 way on windows where the sun is (so varies by time of day.)
To the extent that the light is not reflected out at visible wavelengths by the blind, it will make little direct difference. The light is reradiated as heat from whatever surface it hits, and glass is opaque to heat (infra red wavelengths). Thus, the heat is trapped in the house.

(white or silver blinds should have some cooling effect, because they reflect out visible wavelengths as well.

(there's an indirect effect, which certainly works with curtains and outgoing heat. You get a boundary layer between the curtain and the glass pain, and so potentially less heat loss via mixing of air currents in the room-- seems to be about 10% reduction (if the curtains are floor length). Not sure if that works for heating - I expect not)
For older houses than yours the window recommendation is always restore do not replace. Modern windows are expensive crap. I am not sure what applies to a 1980s house.
That's true if you happen to have sash timber windows. So certainly anything pre WW2 & possibly to the 1960s. The problem with PVC-U (vinyl) windows is that there's no environmentally sound way of disposing of them. They will be in the environment for hundreds of years after they are too yellowed and warped to be still in place. They should last about 20 years of useful life (I don't know how much that varies with the more extreme climates/ temperature ranges common in continental North America).

Modern windows? You get what you pay for. Most are vinyl, I believe.

The thermal specifications on modern windows v. 1960s windows? No comparison. Even 1980s windows. Modern double glazed windows are just far far better for holding heat *in*-- if you live in a cold winter climate. For holding heat *out* you can get coatings which are heat reflective but have little noticeable effect on visible light transmission.

The whole technology of glass and windows has transformed since the early 1980s. Also the failure of double glazing due to air leaks (often seen as moisture between the 2 panes) is much less due to fabrication in factory (not on site) with higher Quality Control.

However there is the problem of vinyl framing -- as above.
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greg24
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by greg24 »

After hearing all the steps you've taken, I can't help but think a lack of insulation and subpar windows are your biggest issues.
LittleMaggieMae
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

Appliances have been mentioned - but think outside the box on this one - generally older (10 years or more) TVs, Monitors, PCs, washers, dryers, dishwashers, wine coolers, etc use more electricity. Check if your appliances are Energy Star appliances - they will tend to use less energy overall. They make Energy Star TVs and Monitors. If an appliance came with the house and is band new - don't assume it's energy efficient.

Energy efficient appliances/etc tend to cost a little more and a home seller who decides to replace appliances before selling may not chose the most efficient (or even better quality) replacements.
homebuyer6426
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by homebuyer6426 »

My house doesn't have AC. What gets me through the summer is a constant stream of iced drinks, little clothing, and fans. Swimming which you mentioned is also a good idea, inflatable pools are inexpensive. Cold showers are another option.

If you go no-AC, you can open windows at opposite ends of your house to create a draft. If the day is even a little bit breezy, it's all you need.
egrets
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by egrets »

Valuethinker wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:44 am
egrets wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:23 am Possible helps:
all my lights are CFLs.
I do not use the heated dry cycle on the dishwasher, I pull the rack out and things dry in 1-2 hours.
Depends how often you run your D/W, shouldn't make a huge difference, I don't think (but might save 1-2 kwhr per run so if you do run it 5 times a week, that's a decent saving).

(there's very few applications now where a CFL is preferrable to a good LED).
I have the (normal) shades down 1/2 to 3/4 way on windows where the sun is (so varies by time of day.)
To the extent that the light is not reflected out at visible wavelengths by the blind, it will make little direct difference. The light is reradiated as heat from whatever surface it hits, and glass is opaque to heat (infra red wavelengths). Thus, the heat is trapped in the house.

(white or silver blinds should have some cooling effect, because they reflect out visible wavelengths as well.
The dishwasher is run 1-2 times a day.

LEDs are like an ice pick in the eye, in my experience. I may look at them again when a CFL needs to be replaced.

The shades are very light colored, off white.

I should have mentioned that I dump out the water in things when I pull out the dish racks for things to dry.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Sandtrap »

OP:
How often do you use the dryer (electric?)?
Is your range and oven electric?
How often do you run the oven?

Actionably:
Take a look at the things with the highest energy drain first.
a)things such as . (electric water heater, oven, dryer, etc)
b) things that are 110-120v but high and constant use (garage refrigerator/freezer, hvac system, room window a/c, etc)
c) check for something that is an energy parasite that you are not aware of.

But, to a certain point, there's no sense in being uncomfortable in one's own home.
j :D

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Last edited by Sandtrap on Mon Sep 13, 2021 7:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Valuethinker »

egrets wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 10:33 am
Valuethinker wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:44 am
egrets wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:23 am Possible helps:
all my lights are CFLs.
I do not use the heated dry cycle on the dishwasher, I pull the rack out and things dry in 1-2 hours.
Depends how often you run your D/W, shouldn't make a huge difference, I don't think (but might save 1-2 kwhr per run so if you do run it 5 times a week, that's a decent saving).

(there's very few applications now where a CFL is preferrable to a good LED).
I have the (normal) shades down 1/2 to 3/4 way on windows where the sun is (so varies by time of day.)
To the extent that the light is not reflected out at visible wavelengths by the blind, it will make little direct difference. The light is reradiated as heat from whatever surface it hits, and glass is opaque to heat (infra red wavelengths). Thus, the heat is trapped in the house.

(white or silver blinds should have some cooling effect, because they reflect out visible wavelengths as well.
The dishwasher is run 1-2 times a day.

LEDs are like an ice pick in the eye, in my experience. I may look at them again when a CFL needs to be replaced.

The shades are very light colored, off white.

I should have mentioned that I dump out the water in things when I pull out the dish racks for things to dry.
Try the lower termperature LED light (2700k) that gives a "yellow" light closer to incandescent.

I think the Color Rendering Index (CRIs) of LEDs are actually better than CFLs. There are CRIs of 90+ available, now, I believe.
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I-Know-Nothing
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by I-Know-Nothing »

I’m sorry if I haven’t answered everyone’s questions individually. There’s lots of great advice here, and I have been taking notes and will be implementing a lot of these ideas. I’ll try and answer a few things:

Everything in the house is electric. Not many people in this area have gas stoves or other appliances (I don’t think it’s available in my city at all), and nobody uses gas heat. Heat is only necessary a few days a year, if that. Everything is electric, which is probably not optimal, but it’s all that’s available.

I use the oven every morning to cook breakfast for about 45 minutes. Our oven is a new Samsung that’s supposed to be energy efficient. I usually make dinner in our Instant Pot, which uses minimal energy. I’ve thought about cooking our breakfast on a countertop convection oven that might heat up the house less and use less energy. I’m not sure how much savings this would generate though, and a convection oven probably costs around $200.

I don’t use the dishwasher much, because it’s old and doesn’t do a great job getting stuff off dishes. I hand wash dishes and use the dishwasher as a drying rack.

Our fridge is an 8-year-old GE. I’ll look up the model later to check it’s energy efficiency. We also have a new chest freezer in the garage. Supposedly it costs $7 a month to operate.

The washer and dryer are in the garage. Theoretically this means that they don’t generate heat in the house. The washer is new and is supposed to be pretty energy efficient . We usually run washes with cold water. The dryer is old and could be inefficient. We’ll have to do some of the testing and analysis recommended here to see if we need to replace it.

After talking to everyone here, I think the insulation in our walls is probably nonexistent or terrible. It’s not easy to to do anything about that though, so we might have to focus on other areas. Adding more insulation in the attic is viable.

It is just not possible (for us) to not run the AC. To be honest, we leave the AC on 95% of the year, though of course it doesn’t always run. I have lived down here 30 years, and experienced AC breaking down during the summer in various apartments. The indoor temperature quickly reaches the 90s, even with windows open. I know some people can deal with this, but we can’t.

We are going to get an energy audit and do some of the other assessments recommended here. We’re also going to get another pool pump.
egrets
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by egrets »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 12:20 pm After talking to everyone here, I think the insulation in our walls is probably nonexistent or terrible. It’s not easy to to do anything about that though, so we might have to focus on other areas. Adding more insulation in the attic is viable.
I've seen photos of holes being made in walls and insulation being blown in, and then the holes patched. I have no idea if that is a fire hazard due to wiring.

In my former house I had insulation added to the attic floor and storm windows added over the existing windows (very old house, didn't want to replace the windows) and those made a giant difference getting rid of drafts and moderating the temperature in the house. There was some tax break or something at least for the storm windows.
H-Town
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by H-Town »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 5:01 pm
It looks like we used 2,415 kWh during the month of August.
What does your contract with the electric provider look like? Is it fixed or variable? How much does it cost? Can you find the fact sheet that list out the charges, etc.? Maybe you can look into finding a better contract?

Ours is free weekend fixed term for 3 years. Cost is around 9 cents per KWH. so we do all house cleaning, vacuum, laundry, baking, etc. during the weekend.
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Jeepergeo
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Jeepergeo »

A quick dissect of your bill is as follows.

Summer, $125-$150 per month for AC.
Year Round, $75-$100 per month for pool and $50-$75 for everything else.

If you run your pool 8 hrs per day, try cutting back to 6 or 7 hours per day and see how that impacts your bill and whether the pool stays clean.
illumination
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by illumination »

Variable speed pool pump is definitely "low hanging fruit". Almost like getting rid of "half" an AC unit.

Might want to get AC units checked out, even if they are newer. Could be low on refrigerant and running excessively.

Ask your neighbors what they pay. But just realize a hot and humid climate means a lot of AC in the summer. You get the savings in the winter when other people have their "high" utility bills.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Jeepergeo wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:39 pm If you run your pool 8 hrs per day, try cutting back to 6 or 7 hours per day and see how that impacts your bill and whether the pool stays clean.
I might be mistaken, but I thought OP said that the pool pump runs 24/7.

Different situation, but it still frosts my shorts that in retrofitting our house’s HVAC, it wasn’t possible to include the pool, so we heat the pool at the same time we’re cooling the house. Perfect use case for heat pumps.
Last edited by TomatoTomahto on Mon Sep 13, 2021 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Teague
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Teague »

shunkman wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:29 pm ...Are the condensing units in direct sunlight? ...
A while back I was surprised to learn that this apparently doesn't matter. The argument is that the amount of heat transferred via insolation is negligible compared to the heat present in the ambient outdoor air.

At least that's what they say. You know, them, the ones that say such things.
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The Stone Wall
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by The Stone Wall »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:08 pm
With all those modifications, our electric bill was still $303 last month. During the winter it was between $140 and $180.
So, your base electricity usage is around $150 per month (with no heat or air conditioning) and your max monthly air conditioning usage is roughly $150 (for south Florida). It seems to me that you need to first concentrate on the base usage as that is high in my mind . As others have mentioned, that pool pump seems like an energy hog because the other electrical usage is not terribly out of line. (I am a little curious what you make every morning for breakfast as it must be yummy!) Of course, there may be something you have forgotten about, but you have listed the main ones.

Honestly, your air conditioning usage is not all that bad. It is hot and sunny in south Florida. Take a look at the attic insulation and get a sense of the temperature in the attic while you are there. In a one story house, that is a lot surface area (all of your ceilings) that is radiating and conducting heat into your living space. There may be a few dollars in savings from adding insulation and better roof vents, but I would spend money reducing the base usage in your case. (If you have zero insulation up there, then that would be a problem that needs corrected.)

But don't live a life of misery to save a few dollars:
My wife and I were out with some friends one time in October. There had been a slight chill in the air for a couple weeks and it had just gotten past the point of me turning on the heat. This couple said they refused to turn on the heat until November and just used lots of blankets and extra clothing. I mentioned to them that the incremental cost for heating their home with that small of a temperature gradient was pennies per day. In fact, they were spending far more for their dinner that night than the additional heating bill would have been for the month!
random_walker_77
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by random_walker_77 »

Point wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:35 pm Get a hand held laser thermometer and read all wall and ceiling surfaces to understand temp differences. Use it to read temp coming out of AC ducts, which should be <60°.
For figuring out what's going on, these are under $20 and can be very handy. You can use it to check for temperature increases (from air leakage) on the walls near your windows and doors.

https://www.amazon.com/Thermometer-Temp ... ads.org-20

Some libraries lend out "kill a watt" measurement devices, which can be useful to figure out how much energy a freezer/fridge/device is using. These also cost $20-$30

Besides insulation, check into air leakage at your doors and windows. A modest amount invested into weatherstripping and caulk, to stop air movement, can have a very short payback time.
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I-Know-Nothing
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by I-Know-Nothing »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:50 pm
Jeepergeo wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:39 pm If you run your pool 8 hrs per day, try cutting back to 6 or 7 hours per day and see how that impacts your bill and whether the pool stays clean.
I might be mistaken, but I thought OP said that the pool pump runs 24/7.

Different situation, but it still frosts my shorts that in retrofitting our house’s HVAC, it wasn’t possible to include the pool, so we heat the pool at the same time we’re cooling the house. Perfect use case for heat pumps.
Sorry if I wasn’t clear. The pool pump runs 10-6 (8 hours), year round. Apparently we can’t just change the hours - we have to order some part online that will allow us to change the hours. We’re either going to do that, or just get the variable speed pump.
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I-Know-Nothing
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by I-Know-Nothing »

Teague wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:53 pm
shunkman wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:29 pm ...Are the condensing units in direct sunlight? ...
A while back I was surprised to learn that this apparently doesn't matter. The argument is that the amount of heat transferred via insolation is negligible compared to the heat present in the ambient outdoor air.

At least that's what they say. You know, them, the ones that say such things.
The condensing units are a bit shaded, but still get a lot of sunlight. We’ll see what FP&L says regarding whether this is an issue.
illumination
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by illumination »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 2:22 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:50 pm
Jeepergeo wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:39 pm If you run your pool 8 hrs per day, try cutting back to 6 or 7 hours per day and see how that impacts your bill and whether the pool stays clean.
I might be mistaken, but I thought OP said that the pool pump runs 24/7.

Different situation, but it still frosts my shorts that in retrofitting our house’s HVAC, it wasn’t possible to include the pool, so we heat the pool at the same time we’re cooling the house. Perfect use case for heat pumps.
Sorry if I wasn’t clear. The pool pump runs 10-6 (8 hours), year round. Apparently we can’t just change the hours - we have to order some part online that will allow us to change the hours. We’re either going to do that, or just get the variable speed pump.
Usually, something like this controls how long the pool pump stays on for an old school setup. Newer variable flow have a timer inside the control panel.

There has to be some way someone set it up to stay on for 8 hours per day and a way to adjust that. With these, you rotate a "pointer" around the time dial for on and off.

Image
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 2:22 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:50 pm
Jeepergeo wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:39 pm If you run your pool 8 hrs per day, try cutting back to 6 or 7 hours per day and see how that impacts your bill and whether the pool stays clean.
I might be mistaken, but I thought OP said that the pool pump runs 24/7.

Different situation, but it still frosts my shorts that in retrofitting our house’s HVAC, it wasn’t possible to include the pool, so we heat the pool at the same time we’re cooling the house. Perfect use case for heat pumps.
Sorry if I wasn’t clear. The pool pump runs 10-6 (8 hours), year round. Apparently we can’t just change the hours - we have to order some part online that will allow us to change the hours. We’re either going to do that, or just get the variable speed pump.
I’m sure you were clear, my memory isn’t. :oops:
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Bogle7
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Bogle7 »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 12:20 pmThe dryer is old and could be inefficient.
Look at replacing it with a condensing heat pump dryer.
But, that will only solve the electrical use problem if your washer is a front loader.

The biggie is going to be insulation.
We had a hailstorm in 2017 and our flat 40 R-value roof was replaced with a new up-to-code 46 R-value roof. There was a noticeable effect on room temperatures on our 2nd floor.
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4nursebee
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by 4nursebee »

We use an efergy elite wireless system. Once installed you can go around turning things on and off to see what energy is used. Did this for EVERYTHING to learn. We wrote it down.

I do not care about energy scores on appliances, I care about what SEER my HVAC units are. Systems are a trade off of pay now or pay later. If I were to sell a house I would not pay up for efficiency.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Valuethinker »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 12:20 pm I’m sorry if I haven’t answered everyone’s questions individually. There’s lots of great advice here, and I have been taking notes and will be implementing a lot of these ideas. I’ll try and answer a few things:

Everything in the house is electric. Not many people in this area have gas stoves or other appliances (I don’t think it’s available in my city at all), and nobody uses gas heat. Heat is only necessary a few days a year, if that. Everything is electric, which is probably not optimal, but it’s all that’s available.
For your climate, it's fine. The next step up would be a Heat Pump (an AC that can also heat ie run in reverse) which is quite common in US southern states. Gas is cheap but the pipes have to be paid for somehow.
I use the oven every morning to cook breakfast for about 45 minutes. Our oven is a new Samsung that’s supposed to be energy efficient. I usually make dinner in our Instant Pot, which uses minimal energy. I’ve thought about cooking our breakfast on a countertop convection oven that might heat up the house less and use less energy. I’m not sure how much savings this would generate though, and a convection oven probably costs around $200.
None of this will make a huge amount of difference.
I don’t use the dishwasher much, because it’s old and doesn’t do a great job getting stuff off dishes. I hand wash dishes and use the dishwasher as a drying rack.
That's actually less efficient, because of the hot water used, than a modern dishwasher. When it comes time to replace be sure and get an Energy Star one.
Our fridge is an 8-year-old GE. I’ll look up the model later to check it’s energy efficiency. We also have a new chest freezer in the garage. Supposedly it costs $7 a month to operate.
There's nothing in it. An 8 year old GE and a current GE will be within 1-200 kwhr pa in consumption of each other, most likely.
The washer and dryer are in the garage. Theoretically this means that they don’t generate heat in the house. The washer is new and is supposed to be pretty energy efficient . We usually run washes with cold water. The dryer is old and could be inefficient. We’ll have to do some of the testing and analysis recommended here to see if we need to replace it.
Dryers *are* inefficient. Unless they are Heat Pump dryers - which are more expensive, and probably less reliable. Dryers burn c 2-3 kwhr a load (you can probably look the model up on line). You live in a hot humid climate - you need a dryer. But again - 5-6 kwhr per week x 52 weeks = 300-400 kwhr pa.

Even I don't run the clothes in cold water (I live in England). Of course, front loaders are 100% here and they use 1/4-1/2 energy of a top loader (but they don't dry internally 100% & that would be a nightmare in your climate).
After talking to everyone here, I think the insulation in our walls is probably nonexistent or terrible. It’s not easy to to do anything about that though, so we might have to focus on other areas. Adding more insulation in the attic is viable.
The attic is worth looking in to. Again, an energy audit.
It is just not possible (for us) to not run the AC. To be honest, we leave the AC on 95% of the year, though of course it doesn’t always run. I have lived down here 30 years, and experienced AC breaking down during the summer in various apartments. The indoor temperature quickly reaches the 90s, even with windows open. I know some people can deal with this, but we can’t.

We are going to get an energy audit and do some of the other assessments recommended here. We’re also going to get another pool pump.
Tick box on a variable speed pool pump. That sounds like your low-hanging fruit. People here have reported huge savings.

"Leaving the AC on" probably doesn't matter (except for the "ready" electronics, which shouldn't be much). It only consumes electricity when it is running.

For health reasons alone, you have to have an AC and you have to run it - as one gets older that is even more important**. You can probably look up the SEER on line, and as long as it is 12 or so, you are doing OK. I mean, if you replaced, it might be worth doing 18 SEER. Old ACs can run 7-8 SEER and so replacing with say 15 SEER is really going to cut your usage. But from 12 to 15 is only by less than a quarter.

Dehumidifiers can be helpful since much of the sensation of "hot" comes from "wet bulb temperature" ie temperature + humidity. However dehumidifiers also burn electricity (lots of, if on 24-7).

The main thing is to try to identify "energy vampires" like cable set top boxes/ DVRs etc. Things were a lot worse 20 years ago, and then President Bush signed an efficiency act, and US consumer electronics got a lot better. But sometimes there are old things around.

That and (maybe) attic insulation. Plus (possibly) some kind of reflective film on the south facing windows.


** too cold (relative to outside) is also bad for health. Things like shopping malls and movie theatres that cool down to 68-70 -- that's too cold. But I am not sure what the "recommended" temperature is, and I am sure you are at or above it.
HomeStretch
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by HomeStretch »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 2:22 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:50 pm
Jeepergeo wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 1:39 pm If you run your pool 8 hrs per day, try cutting back to 6 or 7 hours per day and see how that impacts your bill and whether the pool stays clean.
I might be mistaken, but I thought OP said that the pool pump runs 24/7.

Different situation, but it still frosts my shorts that in retrofitting our house’s HVAC, it wasn’t possible to include the pool, so we heat the pool at the same time we’re cooling the house. Perfect use case for heat pumps.
Sorry if I wasn’t clear. The pool pump runs 10-6 (8 hours), year round. Apparently we can’t just change the hours - we have to order some part online that will allow us to change the hours. We’re either going to do that, or just get the variable speed pump.
Is your electric rate fixed or variable? If variable, is your pool filter running at the time of day with the lowest rate? Adding a timer like the one pictured above is good to add (and not expensive) whether you change the pump or not.
harrychan
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by harrychan »

We're currently in this dilemma ourselves. After consulting with numerous professionals and estimates, we figured the best bang for buck would be to better ventilate our attic by means of installing turbine vents with attic fans and installing split unit ACs and keeping our central off. We also got an EV so that doesn't help. Last step would be to get solar.
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.
madbrain
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Location: San Jose, California

Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by madbrain »

Use a kill-a-watt on every possible device that's plugged in. Think TVs, stereo equipment, computers, your routers, Wifi system, etc.
One watt of idle (vampire) power equals 0.72 kWh per month, or 8.7 kWh per year.
Your electric rate is only 12.5 cents per kWh - far, far cheaper than here in Northern CA. Each watt you eliminate will save you about $1/year on your bill.

A lot of things use more power than they should even when idle, for example cable boxes and DVRs. You may be surprised in what you find.
Unfortunately something things can't be measured with a Kill-a-watt. The display on my Thermador oven is always hot. It's gotta be using a few watts. But it's hardwired and hard to measure. The 6 amplifiers for our whole house audio system can use as much as 20 watts each even when no sound is being amplified. That's why we put them on smartplugs to turn them on and off. It's a bit inconvenient to use the Google assistant to do that, especially as my voice is very rarely understood (25% hit rate at best :(). But scrolling through all the devices in the Google Home app on the screen takes even longer.

We have a 4700 sq ft house and we use fewer total kWh/month than you do. And our bills are lower too. Half of the kWh are offset by solar PV. The rest are paid from the grid at an average of 27 cents/kWh. And we have two plug-in electric cars also that account for at least 20 kWh/day - up to 30 kWh/day in the winter when car heater is in use. And a hot tub, and a sauna. And probably 60 smart devices. 250 light bulbs. We have a zoned HVAC system. Carrier Infinity. 2 heaters, two ACs. 10 zones in total. Typically I only cool 1 or 2 rooms downstairs on weekdays day to 74F. The rest of the house I cool down to 85F only so the cats don't die. It gets pretty hot in the foothills here, most days at 95 - 100F in the summer. A few days as high as 115F. Dry heat though, not humid.
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winterfan
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by winterfan »

bluebolt wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 8:46 am
winterfan wrote: Mon Sep 13, 2021 7:17 am Our electric bills aren't generally very high, but we saved around $30/mo by running the shorter cycles on the washer and dishwasher. Our clothes and dishes are clean.
I know that on some dishwashers the shorter cycles use more energy. The bigger energy saver is not to use a drying cycle, especially if your dishwasher has heating elements.

https://grist.org/living/whats-the-most ... her-cycle/
Yes, on our dishwasher it's called the quick cycle and doesn't use the dryer. If I open the dishwasher right after it finishes, the steam evaporates and the dishes are mostly dry.
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KSOC
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by KSOC »

Lived in Florida just north of Orlando for 17 years. 4 bedroom, 2000 sq ft of heating/cooling (all electric), ranch home(1969) with large pool. Family of 4. New windows all around (impact). Seldom used the dryer, dishwasher once a week. Normal thermostat 77° daytime, 75° nighttime. Cold weather heat was set at 68°.

1st 15 years AVG electric bill - $261 per month
The next 2 years, new water heater, new HVAC, - AVG electric bill - $191 per month
I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. | Nobody told me there'd be days like these.
tiger74
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by tiger74 »

We recently moved to the Tampa area last November, so have not been in our house a year yet. When that time comes I will request the electric provider (TECO) place us on a levelized billing plan. You have to establish 12 months of usage before they will level your billing. This has nothing to do with energy savings, but is great for monthly budgeting as your monthly electric bill remains essentially the same throughout the year. It have the effect of smoothing out the peaks and valleys of your energy usage. This would be in addition to all of the great recommendations mentioned previously.
Valuethinker
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by Valuethinker »

I-Know-Nothing wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:08 pm My husband and I bought our first house a year ago. It’s 2,050 square feet, and has an unheated pool. It was built in 1981. We have central AC, and there are 2 AC units for the 2 zones in the house. The AC units are fairly new, and we change the filters monthly. We are in Southeast Florida, where summer temperatures last about 6 months a year.

We took some measures to try to keep our electric costs down. We tinted the windows. We insulated the garage door. We got blackout curtains. We installed timed thermostats. This summer, we raised the temp in the zone we stay in during the day to 78, and the zone with the bedrooms is kept at 81. At night the bedroom temp goes down to 75. 78 is a little warm during the day, but we’ve gotten used to it. I work from home so we can’t really raise it higher during the day. Sometimes I swim at lunch if I need to cool down.

With all those modifications, our electric bill was still $303 last month. During the winter it was between $140 and $180.

I know some people locally who pay a lot more than this, but I know others who pay a lot less, and keep it cooler than us. My husband’s aunt lives nearby, in a house around our size, and she pays $90 a month, and keeps her temperature at 71. I don’t get it

Is there anything we can do to lower costs further, without spending a ton of money? We can spend some. We are due for a new roof in 5 years or so…will that help at all? We have thought about installing solar panels, but that will have to wait until the new roof is installed.

I’ve heard that installing impact windows could help, and would obviously be preferable if a hurricane hit. However, they are really, really expensive, so it would take a long time to recoup their costs if they only lower electric bills $40 a month or whatever.
This looks like a bit-by-bit solution.

You have to be comfortable in your own home. So you are not going to run it any hotter (and maybe should be a little cooler). You are going to wash clothes and dishes, you need a dryer, etc.

New appliances are more efficient, to be sure. But there are tradeoffs - front loading washing machines are far more efficient in water & electricity, but conversely there are problems (the machine never entirely drains of water) especially in a humid climate. Heat pump dryers and water heaters are 3x more efficient, but are more expensive and may be less reliable. Your fridge is up to date enough - does not need to be replaced. When you do replace an appliance, you want to consider energy efficiency - but it's seldom worth replacing one early.

Replacing HVAC is a big step. So you need to eliminate everything else before you go there. It would be worth knowing what the SEER is on your installed system (if you google the model number?). "fairly new" - that probably means they are SEER 12/13 (the minimum required was raised in the 2006 Energy Conservation Act signed by President Bush) and that's good enough (a new installation now, which wasn't simply lowest cost, would probably run SEER 15 to 18). I don't think you are going to do this one any time soon.

1. is try to find out what individual items are consuming, as best you can, using a Kil-O-Watt type meter (sometimes public libraries have ones to borrow).

2. (related) is energy audit, possibly provided through your own utility. It may well be that your attic lacks insulation or the AC is pulling in superheated air from the attic, somehow.

3. pool pump. Many here have testified how much money they saved by moving to a more efficient pump (variable speed). So that's absolutely worth doing. Especially if you have Time Of Use electricity rates.

4. awnings on South or West facing windows. To be considered. In the summer months you want the maximum shading.
illumination
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by illumination »

I would just encourage the OP to find a reputable HVAC tech and have the ac units checked out. That's usually where there's an issue.

I had a rental property with excessively high utility bills in the summer for the size of the home and much of it turned out to be a disconnected duct. It could also be something like the units are just a few pounds low on refrigerant, forcing them to run excessively in order to get to the set point. All of these are relatively easy fixes. Just be cautious as there will be a push to simply replace the units and use it as a sales opportunity. If the units are say under 10 years old and working properly, a newer unit for the sake of utility savings is almost never cost effective.

Also keep in mind, an electric bill going up $150 or so a month in the summer in Florida is not unheard of. My utility bill amore than doubles in the hottest months of summer. Don't suffer in your own home to save $30 a month. The "aunt" that pays $90 a month in the summer that lives nearby and keeps her house at 71 as a comparison, something is being left out like they get a subsidy. Just not a realistic comparison.
random_walker_77
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by random_walker_77 »

That disconnected duct example above can really waste a lot of energy. Think about how much cold air would be blown out of a duct into your attic. Now consider that all that air came from inside your house and will be replaced by an equivalent stream of hot & humid outside air seeping into your house. So that duct is costing you two times over: once for the lost cold air, and a second time for the hot replacement air!
clutchied
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by clutchied »

I put in R60 into my ceiling and it cost the same as replacing 1 window.

It's made a huge difference in comfort for the house. Heat and cool escape out of your ceiling and roof. Try that before anything else.
LittleMaggieMae
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Re: Ways to lower electricity costs?

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

It might be worthwhile to check all the exterior doors - the weather stripping and sweeps. My SFH rental in SWFL (built in 1978) is charming in it's "almost all original" well maintained state. I just had the handy man replace the weather stripping and sweeps and re-align the front door (so it closes correctly) to help keep the cool air in and the humidity/heat out. The weather stripping/sweeps were fine 2 years ago when I purchased the house. it's just normal maintenance.

To the OP, it might be a good idea to read up on how the position of your house (and windows) effects the inside of your house for the area you live in.
It's all about the position of your house in relationship to the path of the sun. Thinking about this may also help you decide the best placement of a shade tree or tall plants that may help block the sun from hitting your windows in the early morning/evening.

Since your house was built in the 80's - any original landscaping that for years helped keep the house cool may have gotten to the end of it's life (or perhaps was thought to be "big and ugly") and so was removed BEFORE you purchased the house in order to make the property look tidy and neat.

You may be re-starting the "plant stuff to help protect the house and yard from the sun" cycle from the beginning.
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