Saving Money on Home Energy

It’s getting hotter outside, so it must be time to adjust my power utility bill payments upwards! My wife and I and our two boys live in an old (built in 1951), small (1,034 square feet) house with 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, and 1 car garage in the flatlands of the Easy Bay Area, where temperatures can reach 100 plus during the dog days of summer (and even into the 110+ range for a few horrific weeks).

I just looked at our energy bill for the past year and noted something very alarming: We consume more energy than most of the similar homes in our area! We try to be very conscious about our energy use. We turn off lights when we’re not using them, open windows when it’s cooler outside than inside, we’ve put CFLs in all the sockets where we can, etc.

But we do run the A/C in the summer and the furnace in the winter, quite liberally. I grew up in a house where we had to wear layers of clothes because my grandparents didn’t (couldn’t?) pay huge power bills. $60 used to be a LOT of money to pay PG&E (our local energy utility company) when I was a kid. I pay WAY more than that now. But that’s to be expected. So imagine my horror when I saw this:

energy use graphYikes! I use darned near the most power in my neighborhood. Now, I can attribute some of that to the fact that I have 2 small children. We wash and dry a TON of clothes, every day, multiple times per day.

My sons also run hot, so we keep the house relatively cool (or at least we try — see a future post tentatively entitled “Not Burning Down the House”), around 74 to 76 degrees F in the summer.

We do this by opening windows when it’s cool outside in the early morning, and sealing up the house when it’s hot outside. We’re researching the purchase of either an attic fan or a whole-house fan; right now, we’re weighing the costs versus the benefits.

Nevertheless, our house must leak like a sieve. I’m at my wits’ end trying to figure out how to conserve dollars by conserving energy. Is there a huge bang for the buck that I’m missing? Need I unplug everything to save $20 a year?

We do everything that I’ve suggested in my weekly Two for Tuesdays posts with respect to saving energy. We wash our dishes after we go to bed and we let them air dry.

Next on our list, after the attic ventilation project, is to tint the West-facing windows and perhaps put up awnings or build a patio on the West side of our house. Insulation is out of the question, as our house, as I’ve said before, is old and it’s made of stucco. We’ve consulted with a few experts about insulating the walls, and there are only two ways to do it: Re-do the drywall on the inside of the house and insulate while we’re at it (this will NOT happen) or blow it in from the outside. This is not a good option either, due to the way houses were built in the ’50s — many, many, many holes would have to be drilled for the blown-in insulation installation, then a repaint. It would be rather costly.

Since we’ll only be in the house the next year or two, how much should we invest? With the housing market the way it is, I don’t really want to invest anything in it.

But we’ve got to find a better way to keep the house cool and save some money on the energy bills.

Any suggestions?


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