My Insulation Experiment Results Are In- Part 3 of 3

By
Real Estate Agent with thredUP.com

 Some of you remember the experiment that I did attempting to reduce my electric bills in my house back in June where I started with re-insulation.  For a recap I went in with a Blown In Cellulose insulation in my attic which was actually recycled newspaper that took me up to an R-38.  Well, I promised that I would post about the energy savings and if there were any so here it is!

For those of you just tuning in you can view the first posts here:

Well,  I decided to wait until I received my September bill to post this.  It is generally the highest bill due to the heat in Houston.  Well,  when I got my bill I was actually quite disappointed AT FIRST.  My bill in August was $270 and the one for September came in at $277.  In all actuality the $7 difference is not that bad, but I expected it to be much lower.

I went on a mission to see what else I could do to lower my bills, but I am going to explain that in another post.  Long story short, my husband believed that our bill WAS lower.  I was on the phone with Mary Bigelow the other evening and decided to filter through my last years worth of Electric Bills to try and see if in fact they were lower.

 Some things to keep in mind before I get started:

Our summer has been very rainy so all in all, the summer has not been as hot as in past years.  Although, you would not believe that if you came to visit.  The actual savings is probably impossible to know but none the less, this will make sense.

The Main difference that I see is COMFORT.  My house is so much more comfortable now than before.  In the summer you could sit in my living room and feel a high level of humidity and just HEAT.  It did not matter what the air conditioner was set on, it was just dang hot and it would not cool down until about 8 o'clock at night.  Now, at any given time of day, it is cool. 

Hot Spots-  I do not notice Hot Spots in my home as much any more.  Before, some rooms were warmer than others, considerably warmer. 

Bugs-  The insulation that I put in is treated with Boric Acid to prevent critters from being in your attic.  Well, unless it is just my imagination,  I have a lot more bugs around the exterior of my house than before.  I still need to work on this although I am trying to find a pest control company that does not use chemicals.  That's another post in itself.

The Air-  The air in my home feels cleaner or fresher.  I don't which would really be the appropriate word.  Maybe it has to do with the reduced Humidity?  I don't know, but I LIKE IT!

Now,  $$$$.  I am only going to go off of my September Bill.  If you would like I can post the difference through the Winter time as well by updating this post.  If so, track the comments so you know when I update it.

I stated that this past bill was $277.  My neighbor and I talk about our Electric Bills and her bills were always $20-$40 LESS than mine AND they were home a lot more than us. 

  • September 2006 Bill?  One year ago?  $352.  Yes, $75 more.  The kwh used this year 300 Less. 
  • And for my neighbor- Her bill was $320 this month.  $43 more and then think about how mine was always higher.

So, it looks as though my Savings are about $75 LESS after the insulation.  To some, that may not seem like a lot of money but let's consider this:

  • Total Cost after Rebate for insulation- $665
  • Average savings each month at $60 to be safe year round
  • Total Possible Savings of $720 in just 12 months.

Sounds like a deal to me.  In less than ONE Year I will have paid for my insulation.  The only other month that my bill gets high is in January when I have the Heater on which is Electric also.  I will be anxious to see what my bill is then.

So, the end of my Experiment says-  If your home is older and the insulation is not anywhere up to code, Re-Insulate.  More than likely you will recuperate your money in a VERY short period of time.

Now,  in order to reduce my bills some more I will be doing more upgrades to the home to help make it more efficient.  Stay tuned to find why I'm doing all of this, how it will help in more ways than you could imagine, and WHY YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU DO

OH, and let me know if any of you want me to continue tracking my bills on this post.

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Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Hi Terry,  I hear that the denim insulation is a better product than I used. Plus, it is less susceptible to mold..from my understanding.

That is interesting about the hot water heater.  I was thinking about getting one of those blankets for it.  I wonder....you have me thinking now.  That is a fantastic idea!  I wonder how much I would save just by unplugging it when I'm not home.  That would be a good experiment.

The kwh used was this year over last was 399 LESS.  I think I'm going for windows next.

Sep 13, 2007 01:14 AM #15
Rainer
302,425
Terry Haugen STAGE it RIGHT! 321-956-2495
Stage it Right! - Melbourne, FL
Stephanie, don't blanket your heater if its in the garage because it wont absorb the heat.  If your breaker box is close by just throw the breaker.  Also there are gadgets you can install that will automatically turn it off and on, but gee they cost money so why not go the FREE route!  399 kwh is HUGE!  congratulations.  Here we put up our hurricane shutters early in the season and that keeps all sunlit heat out of the house.  Makes it kinda gloomy though.  This year I acutally used 100 more kwh than last, but also this year has been hotter than last with temps hovering around 100 degrees almost everyday.  I'm looking forward to next year after the insulation project, to see if we realize a savings.
Sep 13, 2007 01:25 AM #16
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Terry,  I would unplug the heater today..but I don't think it will even get over 84.  We got a nice cool front.  :)  I want to try that though.

I spoke with a builder/remodeler yesterday about replacing windows.  My common sense tells me that my huge single pane windows heat up my little house like you wouldn't believe.  $1000 to do all of the windows sounds like a no brainer investment for vinyl, double pane, low e, 5/8 inch insulated.  That price includes my big sliding door. 

He thinks that no one should replace the windows JUST for efficiency.  He thinks I will notice comfort and allergen differences more than efficiency.  It was kind like he wanted to say yes I will save..but hesitated. 

His words  " If all you have now is single pane aluminum windows in your home, you may as well have a big gaping hole in your walls.  They do nothing except keep the water out."  I would be floored beyond belief if replacing the windows DID NOT make a difference in my bills.  I am pretty sure that is what I will do next.

Sep 13, 2007 01:34 AM #17
Rainmaker
581,710
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004

This is an interesting conversation. Maybe it's a regional thing. But I've never heard of denim insulation - what a great idea! Didn't know it was less susceptible to mold (not a huge issue in Colorado). My only thought about turning the water heater off or down is : will it use a whole lot of energy to get the temp back up to use? Obviously, being in warmer climates your water heater doesn't cool off much, but it doesn't stay at a useable temp does it?

Sep 13, 2007 01:35 AM #18
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Dena,  with the humidity along the coast..mold is a HUGE issue.  :(  go to www.ultratouch.com and check out the denim insulation.

Also, I'm so glad that you asked about the water. I was wondering the same thing. 

Sep 13, 2007 01:39 AM #19
Rainmaker
581,710
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004
My guess that there is a formula. If the temp is at least X you can turn the water heater off. And vice a versa. My fear would be to have a cold front come by and forget to turn it back on. What kind of damage could it do? To the water heater and to my shower. Of course a solar heater would be ideal!
Sep 13, 2007 01:46 AM #20
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Dena,  with your climate up there I would be careful.  Down here...if it gets to 60 degrees we think it is about to snow.

I think I might try unplugging my water heater at night for a while.  That is atleast 7 hours of it not heating.  Hmm....Will be interesting.

Sep 13, 2007 01:49 AM #21
Rainmaker
581,710
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004
I wonder > hummm. I once purchased an appliance timer, maybe $10. If your water heater is electric would that work? Bet it's worth asking at the hardware store. I used it on my Swamp cooler and it worked out very well.
Sep 13, 2007 01:54 AM #22
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

What's a swamp cooler?  I have never heard of that.

I don't know if the timer would work on the 220 outlet.  Or whatever it is...the appliance plug.  It's much bigger than a normal plug.

Sep 13, 2007 01:58 AM #23
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

What's a swamp cooler?  I have never heard of that.

I don't know if the timer would work on the 220 outlet.  Or whatever it is...the appliance plug.  It's much bigger than a normal plug.

Sep 13, 2007 01:58 AM #24
Rainmaker
581,710
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004

A swamp cooler is a water pump and a fan in one unit. In dry climates adding humidity helps cool your skin. Comfort = evaporation from your skin. A swamp uses less electricity and is considered healthier than an air conditioner. They don't work were there is humidity. For instance if a storm comes in on a hot day here it would do me do good. But since Colorado usually cools off when a storm comes in it's not an issue. And the plants and furniture love them!

I'd still ask about the appliance timer at the store. It might work for the money and save you some as well. Mine was a 3 prong for 22O.

Sep 13, 2007 02:10 AM #25
Rainer
302,425
Terry Haugen STAGE it RIGHT! 321-956-2495
Stage it Right! - Melbourne, FL
Stephanie, the ones for the hot water heaters run around $75 bucks.  A swamp cooler is an air conditioner mounted on the roof of the house which basically sprays water into a fan that distributes the water in the form of mist going through the duct work.  Very efficient, very low energy use, usually found in the desert or dry climates only.
Sep 13, 2007 02:10 AM #26
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP
Ok,  we call it an evaporative cooler.  We're on the same page now.  They use them in El Paso and other areas of Texas that are not as Humid.
Sep 13, 2007 02:26 AM #27
Rainer
2,989
Paul Box
Drake Homes LLC - Oklahoma City, OK

Stephanie,

Looks as though your heading in the right direction so far with the additional cellulose insulation. Although some people think that more is better, once you obtain an 8" (R38) rating more isn't really better. With Fiberglass blown in insulation,  once you exceed the 8" you actually decrease the (R) factor. Different materials used create different end results.

As far as the window replacement, going from a single pain aluminum to a vinyl or thermal block window will increase efficiency if installed correctly, also the low-e factor will result in energy savings.

Testing the water tank theory may result either way from one house hold to another due to use. I see that the recovery of non use could exceed the normal operation in total kwh use. Timers are available for this type of installation, I would consult an electrician though for proper installation and wattage rating.

Additional energy savings can be accomplished in a variety of ways including but not limited to the proper way to remove heat from the attic area utilizing powered air exhaust fans instead of static ventilation, these are not normally installed by most builders and are a less-expensive way to reduce the heat build-up in attic areas and are thermostatically controlled.

Keep up the good work and if we all saved 1 kwh we may end up breaking the utility companies!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

   

Sep 13, 2007 03:54 AM #28
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Hi Paul,

Down here with the heat...the electric fans are really counter productive and they only last for maybe a few years.  I looked in to that one.  :)  A Radiant Barrier Spray on paint would be more effective.  I am looking in to windows and appliances right now.  Everything else at this point would really not be cost effective considering I want to move soon.

Thanks for the information on the Water Heater.  I don't know what I will do with that.

Sep 13, 2007 03:59 AM #29
Rainmaker
334,644
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager
Good analysis, Stephanie - you should put a table up to demonstrate it a bit more graphically.
Sep 14, 2007 06:36 AM #30
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP

Thanks Jeff,  I was going to try a table..but I didn't know how to do it to make sense.  I'll do it when I add information month to month.  Maybe.  :)

Sep 14, 2007 06:53 AM #31
Rainer
13,178
Gabe Swinney Asheville New Urbanism
Gabe Swinney - Asheville, NC

Stephanie,

I appreciate you making an experiment out of yourself.  Please keep us posted. 

Sep 14, 2007 08:48 AM #32
Rainmaker
202,803
Stephanie Edwards-Musa
thredUP.com - The Woodlands, TX
knitwit at thred UP
Hi Gabe,  it was interesting.  I am working on my next experiment now.  :)
Sep 15, 2007 01:58 PM #33
Anonymous
Carl Donovan - ConservationPros.Com

Stephanie,

I guess it's a little late now but it's important to note that insulation does not stop the movement of air.  In your hot Texas summers you've got an oven in your attic.  Everywhere you have a hole from attic to conditioned space (light fixtures, fans, vents, registers, attic hatches and pull-down stairs, plumbing chases, etc.) you have a leak.  The thermodynamic property of heat is that it always moves toward cold.  The superheated air in your attic is, by virtue of the "stack effect", leaking into your living space and causing your A/C to work twice as hard, costing you more money and consuming more than its fair share of precious electricity.

Next time, and for all of you considering adding insulation, make sure you get a contractor who will address "air sealing" your home before burying all those leaks in a mountain of shredded newspaper.

According to the EPA you can save 10% or more on your energy bills by air sealing your home without any added insulation whatsoever.  In addition, you'll improve your indoor air quality and comfort.

Remember, you've got to get out of the "red" to get into the "green". 

Thanks for your entertaining and enlightening post.

Carl Donovan, Conservation Pros, Asheville, NC

Apr 08, 2008 12:35 AM #34
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knitwit at thred UP
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