Friday, June 11, 2010

C'mon Baby, Light My Fire

Staying cool and comfortable comes with a price.

Just ask the millions of Americans who struggle with their utility bills each year. Unexpected temperature extremes in summer and winter can pack a punch in the pocket book, and that means budgeting for the unknown.

It's no fun having your utilities shut off. Trust me.

Getting ready for my big move to Over-the-Rhine, I decided to call up the good folks at Duke Energy and prepare to have my utilities transferred from my Oakley apartment to the new digs near downtown. During the conversation, I asked the customer service rep. what my utility bill will average in OtR.

Her quote was an average $180 more than I'm currently shelling out.

This wasn't a big surprise; the new apartment is big and has two-story ceilings in some spaces. That means I'll be heating and cooling a bunch of space I won't even be using.

That, or I'll be sweating or freezing my ass off.

I decided to turn to my Facebook and Twitter brethren to ask for energy efficiency tips. Surely I'm not the first person to weather such gigantic utility bills, right?

It was very clear that I'm not.

The online peanut gallery was full of inventive and humorous suggestions. See for yourself:
  • Insulating windows in winter can help a lot. Helps keep cold out/hold warmth in.
  • Box fans are a life-saver in summer. They can down right freeze you out as early morning comes. In winter, just freeze.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with CFL's. Summer: Fans in windows. No AC unless having guests over. Line dry laundry if you have a balcony with sunlight. Dress less. Winter: insulate windows (plastic works good). Shorter hot showers. Hang dry laundry over heat vents inside. I can go on and on... When my fridge and computer aren't on, the electric meter is dead still. Duke energy doesn't like us much. :)
  • spooning.
  • I'm w/ XXXX... Gotta be less clothes!! lol
  • Buy several fans. Embrace sweatiness. Sweaters in the winter.
  • In the summer I'm a box fan in every window kinda girl. In the winter I put bubble wrap on the windows (cheap insulation)
  • winter=sweaters
  • definitely take the time to cover the windows with plastic in the winter - HUGE money saver -
  • Fuck a sweater. Get a man.
  • With house w 1/s being great room lots windows=solarium, we have oscillating fans on floors in each room, 3 in great room
  • 4 cold weather invest in insulated drapes if U can 4drafts. Lots of throw blankets/turtlenecks. Try flannel sheets, too.
  • eat frozen grapes in summer and get comfortable sitting around in your underwear! Winter = red wine and hot baths...
  • programmable thermostats work wonders. energy-saving lightbulbs.
  • thermostat you can program, if landlord allows. Fans, especially window fans. Lowes sells window films for winter & summer.
  • If 4th and 5th are on the top floors it'll be good in the winter and bad in the summer (heat rises). I'm in the top floor of my building, and that's how it is. If the building is brick, make sure you keep the blinds drawn...seems like it holds heat or cold once the apartment warms up for the summer, it's warm and you're stuck with it.
  • if it's an old building, the windows were likely placed in such a way that there will be cross-ventilation. check that out and open windows that are opposite each other and keep closed the ones adjacent to those that are open. that's how they cooled back in the day before A/C.
  • Unplug all appliances, chargers, etc (esp. the appliances with clocks/timers) because they are constantly sucking up power even when you are not using them. And turn off everything in the room when you leave the room!
  • Shades closed, fuzzy slippers, spooning, a furry pet or two.
So... what are your suggestions for keeping the utility bills at bay? Stripping down to your skivvies in the summer, and piling on the woolenware in the winter?

Please tell me you have something else up your sleeves!

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Phil said...

I like the cross-ventilation idea. It's true that old buildings with those high ceilings were built to stay cool pre-a/c. However, you'll also be dealing with city heat.

Will you have access to your water heater? Maybe not in an apartment, but if so, turn it down a few degrees. Heating water takes a ton of energy, and especially in the summer you won't want it at full heat!

Anonymous said...

For me, the key is constant cognizance. I have to force myself to constantly be aware of lights or televisions that are on, putting the air/heat on what would feel comfortable...then raising it (up or down respectively) another 2or 3 degrees, unplugging unnecessary computers, etc. Duke has forced us into this way of life, the jackasses! gggrrrr. Duke is SO off my Christmas card list! :)

TGirsch said...

There are a lot of great ideas in there. The programmable thermostat really makes a bigger difference than you might think. No sense keeping the house comfortable when you're typically not in it. And there's no need to go all or nothing. Don't heat above 68 in the winter, and don't cool below 78 in the summer, and you'll be reasonably comfortable without being miserable, and without having a huge bill. Even one degree of difference in thermostat setting can save as much as 5%.

The CFL idea is certainly a good one -- especially in the summer, as incandescent bulbs throw off a remarkable amount of heat, fighting against your AC.

Insulating the windows in the wintertime is another good idea. They actually make a product you can use to caulk the windows closed in the winter, but then easily peel the caulking out when springtime rolls around. Do that and put plastic over them.

If your apartment doesn't have them, install ceiling fans. But have them on ONLY when you're in the room. The idea that running a fan full-time saves energy is a myth.

Finally, see if Duke Energy will do a home energy audit for you. Many utilities offer this as a free service. They'll examine your digs and tell you where the easy savings are.

Tony B said...

Dojo Gelato Daily Deliveries. That may up your bill, but it's a tasty bill.

Sophia said...

In this humid weather A/C is a MUST in tall buildings. I was on 3rd floor of building with a flat black roof. You get upper building stuffieness depending on sunlight and structure of building.

Box fans for windows are ok but for HELPING your A/C to be spread around better, Oscillating fans are the way to go. Spreads the coolness, they are quiet, too. Box fans are good 'white noise' but can over heat easily if used on faster speed than low or has been my experience. We leave oscillating fans on in great room for an hour or so if we run errands as w/o them, the stuffieness builds up.

I do use a box fan in a long narrow L shaped hallway for ventilation and evening up the AC & in open window days for ventilation.

I can't tolerate heat/humidity due to health reasons (keeping cool= no fainting) But we can't afford the AC really cool.
Thus it's temp is on 78-80 with oscillating fans in great room & when I am in bedroom. If possible and you have floor registers, put osc fans in front of vents. At night for sleep, we turn it cooler maybe 76(so we can sleep EASIER) During the day we keep warmer temps & drink ice water, tea,etc.

Putting plastic over some windows for winter is ok but can take away views. And if you need to open window to freshen up inside, no can do. INSULATED DRAPES (while might seem outdated compared to those vertical hanging blinds) helps IMMENSELY! On cold days keep closed unless sun is coming thru those windows. :)

I'm huge at keeping lights/tvs OFF in rooms I am not in. You are getting lots of tips.

Also depending on window size, you know those silver things you put in windshield to keep cars cooler? You can buy similar material (at Lowes or Home Depot) and cut to fit in a drafty window, snugly. Easy & fast to remove & put back. Before we got new windows, i used this in one bedroom window & a middle room. They did not face the street so did not look too hillbillyfied..and we just did this at night. Helped immensely when it got close to zero out. This may not be an issue for you since you will get residual heat from floors under you and walls around you.

This is way more than I meant to write & you needed to know. Sorry, lol. Yet I am sure I forgot something!