Thursday, March 8, 2012
Lowering Energy Usage by 21% in 2011
We have lowered our energy usage by 21% in 2011 according to Ameren UE, our electric company, which provides a year over year comparison of energy costs, calculates our daily averages and charts monthly usage against average monthly temperature. It was a pretty aggressive goal; however, driving our costs down was one of our prime preparedness challenges for the year.
You will see that while monthly temperature changes throughout the winter months remained basically flat, our energy consumption was drastically reduced primarily by utilizing our wood burning stove for our main heat source, supplementing with our geothermal heating system only when interior temperatures dropped below 50. Our normal main level temperature was around 70.
We have a two story home with a functional attic, a William Poole reproduction of a Beaufort, NC home from the 1700s which means it was built with cross ventilation in mind. We have dual 9 ft wide porches, top and bottom, across the front of the house. The interior is modernized to allow for a great room and open kitchen. Both the dining room and library (piano and ham radio room) have open access across the great room and kitchen to a full bank of windows covering the back of the house. Each side also has windows.
The open plan actually keeps the main level warmer as the heat from the wood burner flows into both great room and kitchen. With the stairs located within 10 ft of the fireplace, facing the optional blower, the heat is also pushed directly upstairs towards the bedrooms. The bedrooms do get chilly at night but that is what multiple layers of sheets, blanks and comforters are for. It's a bit cold when I first get up to get ready for work but really, it's nice.
No heat = no frizz = a good hair day!
We are wooded so finding fuel is no problem, in fact there's a lot of wood cleanup that can be done, particularly after some of the spring storms we've had. Neighbors help each other cutting, splitting and stacking wood under tarps to ward off moisture.
Now Spring did not show much difference in cost; however, due to the nature of our house, being that it has wonderful cross ventilation, we can keep our windows open unless it is storming. The two kids rooms upstairs have full 15-lite doors rather than windows. With full screen doors on them, and a whole house window fan downstairs, the draft created by the draw is enough to chill the bones! It's also nice to hear all the woodland night life as they croak, hoot and howl to each other. Spring peepers are the best!
Laundry costs were a key driver to our energy reduction as well. Our dryer broke- and with my husband's employment situation we could not just run out and replace it easily. The solution was to put up a clothes lines. Who would have thought that hanging clothes would be so enjoyable? My husband and I were almost fighting to see who got to hang and taken them down. (We're strange like that).
When we get to summer you will see we were lower but not as much as we should be. It's that high humidity thing that St Louis and surrounding areas have and of course I mentioned the frizz and bad hair days for work. So- the a/c might go on more at night and then back off when I left because my husband hasn't found a temperature too high for himself.
We are all electric except for a small propane tank for the stove-the kind you would have on your gas grill, not the huge tanks that are generally in the back yards. It sits outside the house with a fuel line running to the stove. The house is big and used to be full but now it's just the two of us and a part-time Taylor!
Our goal, when the economy was booming and this was supposed to be the next big boom according to the home builders association, was to live here long enough to semi-retire and then build a pole barn on acreage for cash and surround ourselves with enough land to be more or less self supportive. I know that might sound strange to some of you but the interiors are such that you can do almost anything inside and most are extremely well built so they can withstand storms. A basement or storm shelter is a must around here. Tom's an excellent carpenter and can build amazing things (mostly for other people, I'm sort of last on the list!) As it stands today we'll be here a bit longer than expected but it's enjoyable. We had a plan for years that our family would live by each other so on one side of us is my father-in-law on the other is the lot that Tom's brother and his family owns and will shortly begin building their home.
example of pole barn home