Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Energy Audit


While reading the monthly Rural Missouri catalog we get from Laclede Electric Coop, Bryon saw that for $60 they would send someone out to do an energy audit of your home. Since one of our goals has been to drive our electric bill down each month (especially in the winter) this seemed like a good idea.

Our home is around 4,000 square feet with the upstairs and ground level and it's all electric heat pump and cooling so after years of leaving every light in the house and three televisions on (sorry Dad) I finally see the benefit of turning that stuff off. Now I'm the one going around turning lights off behind Grace.

My Dad and Bryon had been trying to get me to do that for years but old habits die hard. Since we are on level pay, our bill for the entire house runs $170-$180 a month and each month when I get the statement I like to see our consumption at least less than that month the previous year.

Last week, Laclede Electric sent out a guy to do our energy audit. Frankly we were feeling pretty smug because we actually thought we had things pretty efficient. We changed over to almost all compact light bulbs last year upstairs and down and it made a noticeable difference in our bill. We also use our pellet stove all winter. The pellet stove takes about a bag a day at $3.99 a bag so we pretty much know cold weather is going to cost us $4 a day just for heat. We had also wrapped our two hot water heaters before cold weather got here.

For the last year or so, we have been powering down our computers when we aren't using them and I think that has made a difference too. Even though the per kilowatt price has gone up our usage and monthly average has still gone down. We have curtains over all of our downstairs windows and close them at night to retain the heat. I've even been covering the upstairs windows with blankets this winter and we keep the temp around 55 degrees because we just aren't up there much during the week. We crank it up on the weekends if we are up there watching movies or entertaining.

So when the guy got here to put the giant vacuum on the house, we didn't figure he was going to discover much. Boy were we wrong about that. He put a plastic door seal over the front door and put a barrel fan in the hole and cranked it up and our house started leaking air like a sieve. We felt cold air being pulled in around most of our windows and through the car siding on the north side of our house, around every can light and through our outlets. We built this house and we know how much insulation is in it... a lot... but that didn't stop all the gaps and cracks we didn't even know we had. Our back deck french doors were leaking cold air in like crazy all around the seal of the glass. And upstairs... well, let's just say there were a lot of problems and it was like air conditioning up there with all the breezes blowing through the house.

And all that cold air was being pulled in by a regular old barrel fan, not some high powered super sucker of some sort. So you can extrapolate and imagine what a nice stiff north wind was doing to our house.

He wrote up a report for us and made several suggestions of how to close some of those leaks and make our house more effiicient. The good news is that Laclede Electric will reimburse half of your expenditures for making your home more energy efficient up to $500. (I would say most electric companies likely have a similar plan). Well Bryon went to Lowe's that afternoon and came home with $300 worth of supplies.

He took the trim off the french doors and caulked the daylight out of them (yes, you could literally see daylight all around the glass when the trim came off. He's caulked can lights, cracks, wrapped the hot water pipes under the house (which has made an immediate difference in getting hot water to our faucets faster and hotter). I put little outlet insulator pads behind all the outlet and light face plates (let me tell you, you'll be surprised how many of those you have) and he's been busy sealing up all the holes and cracks and leaks in some of the most unlikely of places.

We didn't know when we scheduled the audit, but they actually gave us a big box of materials to help with some of the usual energy sucking suspects. There was actually probably close to $60 worth of stuff there.

So while it cost us some money upfront, I think it will be well worth it in the future.

I can't wait to see next month's bill.

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