Reduce Home Energy Costs

Regulars readers know over the past couple years I've had some focus on trying to reduce our household energy costs. We moved into our current home at the end of 2008 and it didn't take long for me to realize we bought ourselves a money pit when it comes to energy usage.

We current live in an approx 2,600 two story traditional single family house on a crawlspace foundation with a 1994 gas pack HVAC downstairs and 2003 heat pump upstairs. We also have a circa 1994 electric water heater located in the crawlspace and a well for our water. My wife stays at home with my daughter during the day, otherwise our energy usage profile is probably very typical for an average American family.

Our energy improvement efforts began soon after we moved in and received our first utility bills. Heres a high level summary of our energy efficiency efforts:
2009

2010
  • Smarthome system pilot (07/2010-11/2011) which allowed us to have an equivalent water heater timer
  • Added additional insulation and weatherstripping on our attic hatch
20112012
  • Resealed HVAC ductwork with mastic
  • Additional weatherstripping on attic hatch to fully seal door
  • Rigid foam board insulation on top of water heater

2014

Annual Home Energy Costs
Recently I totaled our total electric, propane, and natural gas utility bills by year to see if we could notice a significant improvement in our energy cost:

Our Annual Home Energy Costs

2009

$ 2,797.77

2010

$ 2,992.30

2011

$ 2,685.78

2012

$ 2,132.16

2013

$ 1,605.07*

*Note: We were away on an international assignment for 6 months in 2013.

Initially I was surprised that there hasn't been more of a noticeable energy savings looking at our utility bills. So I dug in a little further to understand our energy consumption which turned out was pretty consistent with our energy costs.

 

Electric Kwhs

Propane Gallons

2009

14308

937.82

2010

16427

956.93

2011

14809

833.38

I've mulled it over a bit more after trying to explain the lack of obvious progress by offsetting factors like our expanding household, average temperatures, energy costs rising, and the onsite storage vs pay at consumption with propane which results in lumpy propane consumption and costs. I also need more years to get a better measure of overall improvement as many of the improvements in 2011 were done towards the end of the year and won't have a full impact on our annual energy costs till 2012 is complete.

I'm still just as focused on getting a significant long term improvement in our energy usage, but its clear it is going to require a lot more work to get there - there is no silver bullet.

Related in Energy Savings:

Water Heater Timer Project (Jan 19, 2014) I installed a timer on our electric water heater as my weekend project: Material Cost GE 15207 Hot Water Heater Timer $40.96 3/8" Clamp Connectors $1.65 10/2 wire (3 ft) $3.48 Total: $46.09 A couple years ago I participated in...

Energy Tip: Reapply Mastic on HVAC Seals (Aug 07, 2012) This past week, my family was headed out of the house for a brief vacation and I took the opportunity to reseal the joints in my HVAC system. I had long read that resealing HVAC joints would cut down energy...

Adding Insulation to Our Attic (Oct 12, 2011) I received a $10 off $50 coupon at Lowes Home Improvement with my Discover Card in the mail this week. These are a great excuse to start a home improvement project and I can see why Lowes finds it...

Comments (3)


I have been doing the same for a while now. I was surprised as well with some of the things I did not making a noticeable difference. The biggest differences I saw in my energy consumption was:
-replacing my water heater with a ge geospring, so a noticable drop in the first month and ever since.
-put in a wood burning stove, saved about 2K per year and wood save even more if I didnt pay someone else to cut and stack the wood for me. But on the other side of it I am not sure if it is worth the savings with how much time I have to put into it vs. just pressing a button and using our propane furnaces.

My father installed a geothermal system at his place and now doesn't spend much of anything on heating or cooling anymore, but it was like 35K upfront, so it will take to hit a break even.

With the baby it's kinda tough to lower the thermostat too much, we had the same issue. Using ceiling fans during the summer help keep cooling costs down. One thing I did notice about cfl bulbs is they don't last as long as I thought they would, the last set I bought I kept the receipt/package. But I love the fact in the Raleigh area I get to open my windows often (anytime it's over 60) during the winter months.

Good post, I just bought my first house & am going to be fighting the same fight to lower our energy bills. I'll be interested to follow the progress you make.

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