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

7 comments:

Yahoobuckaroo's Blog said...

Hmm...you married into an Italian family with the in-laws for neighbors and a brother-in-law soon to be next door as well. Tom's brother isn't a tall cop, is he?

I know a guy out in Troy, IL. who heats his entire house with a wood furnace in the basement. It looks like a regular gas or electric furnace except you put wood in it. He told me he gets wood scraps from a lumber mill, enough to fill the bed of his truck, for around $25, and that will heat his house for a month. Must be nice!

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Better yet, an Italian/Irish family so they like to eat and drink a lot but they exaggerate beyond belief and are stubborn as hell! St Pat's is coming up so it'll be a National Holiday at the old homestead. (I hate corned beef and cabbage. I have rye bread for dinner that day).

No, not a cop. He was in the Navy for awhile and then into construction like the rest of the family. It helps to have family build the houses, keeps costs down if they are their own general contractor. Dan's wife is experimenting with a small green house, growing her own veges and herbs now. She's learning how to make the homemade remedies, something I've been wanting to do too.

Candy C. said...

Wow, what a great accomplishment cutting your energy use by that much! :)
We keep our house at about 70 during the winter too, if it gets up to 73, we start opening doors and windows! LOL!!

Laurie Neverman, The Common Sense Woman said...

That's a big drop. Good job.

I love spring peepers, too. :-)

Thanks for linking up to the Living Well Blog Hop.

Heidi said...

Hello Kathy,
I am really impressed. That's a huge savings. Your home sounds like it is designed to help be efficient too. I like the idea of an open floor design and a fan that draws cool air into all of your lower level rooms. I have a two story myself, and it is pretty energy efficient. My electric bill was $28 last month, because we are using a woodstove too for heat. My problem is cooling the second floor during hot summers. I need to get more windows upstairs to draw cooler air through. I gained some insight reading your post. I am going to talk to my husband and see if he can add a door or two or a few more windows upstairs. Thanks for sharing such wonderful insight.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

We have this whole house fan, like an attic fan but because our attic is real, we can't use it there. It sits in a spare window off our kitchen area. When you turn it on it pulls air from any other open window. At night we close all the downstairs windows, except this one that the fan is in, and then open our bedroom/bathroom windows plus the kids rooms full doors (w/screens). No one can reach the window the fan is in. It sucks air down from the upstairs and outside, cooling everything.

Now, it's not quiet- it's a fan like any other fan. It is an Air King- the biggest window model. check the site here. There is a video demo. We don't usually have it on the highest setting. And you can close the window if it rains or you leave (turning off the fan though).

http://www.airkinglimited.com/pages/industrial/window1.html

CrankyPuppy said...

21% is nothing to sneeze at, especially since they're saying that utility costs are going to go sky high this year. Great job!