Saving on electricity?

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  • Mon, Mar 28, 2016 - 06:32am

    #11
    mntnhousepermi

    mntnhousepermi

    Status Bronze Member (Offline)

    Joined: Feb 19 2016

    Posts: 326

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    Cooling

AS far as cooling, when we moved in, this house had 3 window air conditioners, one quite large for downstairs. It gets quite hot here. We immediatelly took them out. The windows were worn and broken, so we replaced them with double hung windows, happened to also be dual pane, low-e — but we replaced mainly because the old ones were broken. We added a couple operable skylights upstairs, all rooms in the house have vaulted ceilings (no attic) so need openings up high to vent heat. Most nights are cool, so opening sliding doors downstairs and skyylights upstairs vents the house. On the nights that stay hot, well, we just are too hot or sleep out on the deck. curtains on the south facing sliiding doors are closed in the day.  We built a trellis and planted vines on this south side, over the deck, and for a few years, while these grew, we put up shade cloth seasonally on the trellis. At this point the house also has a metal roof with a "cool roof" coating, but this was done when the roof needed replacing when the shingles wore out and for a multitude of reasons ( Fire Safety, extreme long life in harsh conditions, ease of Solar panel installs, good for water catchment, etc…)

  • Mon, Mar 28, 2016 - 08:55pm

    #12

    Taz Alloway

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    Joined: Feb 18 2010

    Posts: 464

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    Great discussion!

Gnitabor, the .pdf link from your first post is inactive; here is the new active link: http://www.eweb.org/public/documents/energy/typical_res_cost.pdf

  • Sun, Apr 03, 2016 - 04:41am

    #13

    gnltabor

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    Posts: 36

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    Kill-A-Watt Meters – Test power consumption

Thanks Tall for the assist in fixing the link to eweb.  It's helpful to understand the actual power consumption of common devices used in our homes today and that link provides a quick reference guide to power consumption for a range of devices.  While this gives a good idea of potential power consumption, here in Colorado Springs, our local utility has teamed with the Pike's Peak Library District to provide Kill-A-Watt meters you can check out to test the power consumption of electrical devices.  Simply plug the device into a wall outlet and then plug the electric device into the meter for a reading on how much power is being consumed.  Kill-a-Watt Meters and other similar meters can help you determine the power consumption of devices when powered off and on.

  • Sun, Apr 03, 2016 - 05:07am

    #14

    gnltabor

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    Savings – Thinking Annually & After Taxes

Often times, when we think about the savings potential of an investment, we tend to think short term, such as monthly.  If an investment can save $30/month, it doesn't seem like much of a savings.  However, if you multiply that number by 12, you'll understand the savings potential of that improvement in terms that more closely align to your annual salary or income..  A savings of $30/mo. becomes $360/yr.  Think about the benefits from quitting smoking for instance.  If you multiply the price of a pack of cigarettes smoked daily by 365, you have a much better sense of what it's costing you and how much you can save by quitting.

One other aspect is to understand the cost of things in terms of the before-tax income rather than just the price you're paying.  For most of us, an incremental federal income tax rate for your next dollar earned is probably 25%.  FICA and OASDI taxes are another 7.62%  From this perspective, every $100 you save is equivalent to a $132.62 increase in income.  If you have state and local income taxes, the number would be even higher. Taken cumulatively, enacting a number of saving strategies can ultimately create enough financial benefits to equal an average annual salary adjustment after tax consequences.

  • Mon, Apr 04, 2016 - 07:19pm

    #15

    Wendy S. Delmater

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    Joined: Dec 13 2009

    Posts: 1463

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    Often neglected

Very true! Now, multiply that by buying things cash so you do not have to pay interest.

Square it by making or growing things yourself that you no longer have to buy.

We met some folks when we were getting firewood last year who were building a house out of lumber they'd milled on their own land. They were planting southern pines as a cash crop, and got free labor from folks like us who took away the hardwood, for free.

Now that's frugality!

  • Mon, Apr 04, 2016 - 11:27pm

    #16

    gnltabor

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    Posts: 36

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    One man’s trash is another’s treasure!

Great example Wendy!  You can bet the sellers didn't have a wood burning stove or fireplace and couldn't use the wood if they were giving it away.  Craig's List is another place to look for good opportunities such as you've noted here.  If you can couple that free wood with a highly efficient wood burning device such as a rocket stove heater, you're multiplying the benefits of your frugality and good fortune.  I'm guessing you had to cut the boards into the right lengths, but if you've got a trailer to haul it, it's still free hardwood, a valuable commodity.  The process you describe typically involves three key steps; first, know where to look for deals on things you can use, second, make the investment to monitor for what you need, and third, take immediate action when you see a deal.  He who hesitates is lost.

My newly married son and his wife were looking for mason jars a few years ago soon after moving to the Carolinas.  They found a listing for free mason jars and called for information.  The owners had way more than they needed but and just wanted to get rid of them to anyone who would drive out to pick them up.  All they were looking for was a few jars they could use to make Christmas gifts in, dressing them up with decorative cloth and ribbon to give to their neighbors and friends.  While they had to do a bit of work to box them up and transport them to their car, they drove away with 12 cases of jars.  Some were antiques which they sold on ebay at good prices, and still had plenty left over to make gifts and keep some for canning.

  • Tue, Apr 05, 2016 - 05:25pm

    #17

    Wendy S. Delmater

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    Joined: Dec 13 2009

    Posts: 1463

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    our electricity saving meaures

First of all, great discussion! Here's what we did to cut power consumption.

  1. Heating: we were using  a heat pump. We now use a very efficient freestanding airtight wood burning stove in our fireplace, with a new insulated flue and chimney cap. Even though we have a short winter (SC) we save over $3K a year. And that's allowing for things like chainsaws and gasoline to go get free firewood (which is everywhere nearby.) 10 months out of the year we use our 75-gallon hot solar hot water tank instead of the electric water heater.
  2. Cooling:  We live in the deep south and were using a heat pump. BUT, here is what we did to cut the cooling bills in half. Best bang for the buck, "eco foil" in the attic a one-time $200 cost cut our ongoing cooling bill by 25%. Another 10% was shaved off cooling costs with a solar-powered attic fan. We got screen doors for nice days and replaced or repaired screens. Passive solar shade cooling included fast-growing deciduous trees on the south side of the house, Insulated shades with heat-trapping box valances and side curtains. Trick: cook when it's cool out and only reheat when you eat.
  3. Lighting: the only incandescent bulbs we have are on a dimmer. Everything else is CFL and moving to LED. We just painted the dark kitchen cabinets light beige and no longer need light in there except at night. We added a tube skylight in the windowless bathroom off the hall and it lights about 5 rooms. Oh, and a mirror at the end of the windowless hall means we almost never need the hall light.
  4. Appliances: We replaced our 30-yr-old fridge with a 3-yr-old fridge and shaved another 25 percent off of the new number from insulation coast reductions.
  • Fri, Apr 08, 2016 - 11:08pm

    #18

    gnltabor

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    Posts: 36

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    Cash -vs- Credit? and Budgeting Software

I agree with the idea that using cash ensures you live within your means, but for those with the discipline to pay their bills on time and in full, there are credit cards that will give you cash back in amounts that can make it worth your while to use one.  In addition, they provide itemized details of all your transactions and provide fraud protection in case someone steals your card, while at the same time, not tapping out your bank account as a debit card would do.  With some companies, you can actually make mortgage payments and utility payments with a credit card. 

While not everything can be paid with a credit card, the vast majority of expenses can be.  With a family of four, the credits can add up to more than $100/month.  Having a good credit score is a prerequisite to get in the game, but if you have a FICO score in the mid 700's or better, opportunity awaits.  Here's a sample of some of the best offers going… Citi Double Cash Mastercard gives you 1% on purchases and another 1% on payments with no limits.  American Express has a card that pays 6% on groceries (not including superstores and club stores), 3% on Gas, and 2% on Department Stores, with 1% on all other.  The card has a $75 annual fee, but gives you a $150 credit if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, effectively paying for the first two years in card fees.  Bank of America offers a 3-2-1 VISA card which gives 3% back on Gas, 2% back on Groceries, and 1% on everything else.  This card is limited to $1,500 in qualifying purchases for the higher cash back amounts per quarter.  Then there are cards which give 1% back on everything and run quarterly promotions with 5% back on purchases during the quarter with a limit of $1,500 max in those category purchases for the quarter.  Such cards include Chase Freedom VISA and Discover Card.

Since it's a rebate against purchases, it's not taxable.  Depending on the card provider, you can have them apply the credit against your card balance, or use it to purchase items from major retailers where the credit may be enhanced by doubling the value.

Sometimes you can further enhance the cash back benefits.  Our local grocery store has a gift card program where charging to that card and making purchases from it will give 5% of the amount spent towards the benefiting organization originating that card.  I charge the card with my AMEX card which gives me a 6% cash back, while creating income for my son's marching band program or the team they play on.

Another way to multiply your benefits is by registering your kids with Upromise.com.  This is an education savings website where you can register your card(s).  When you make a purchase from a qualifying merchant, a credit flows to their account on Upromise.  They also have a way to access online retailers through their site and earn as much as 10% towards your Upromise account, while also earning your normal discounts from the card provider.  When all things are added up, I'm saving more than $1,500/yr leveraging and piggybacking programs like these.  Again, these savings are after income taxes, so worth as much as $2,000 in an equivalent salary raise.

It takes discipline, but using credit cards creates immediate margin in your financial situation.  Imagine you've been paying cash for everything.  You apply for and receive a new credit card with cash back incentives.  During the first month you use the card, no cash is withdrawn from your bank account.  At the end of the month, you receive a statement showing all your purchases and providing a payment due date almost a month out.  In the second month, the same thing is happening, charging to the card and not withdrawing any cash.  Now the first month's bill comes due and the cash needed to pay off the bill is provided from not having spent it two months prior.  If you manage it in this way, it's only a matter of timing on when the cash moves and nothing different happens to your total expenditures. 

It helps to use a budget if you're going to try this for yourself.  Having a budget, and actively managing your expenses will ensure you don't overspend just because the credit card has credit available.  I recommend http://www.mint.com  the free online budgeting software from Intuit.  This software allows you to link your credit cards to your Mint account and automatically categorizes the expenses from the card(s) so you can easily see how you're doing against your budget.  This is especially helpful if you're using cards as a couple, since it consolidates the purchases regardless of who makes them.  You can also link your checking and savings accounts.  Though payments made by check don't automatically apply to an expense category, if you have recurring payments of a set amount to an organization such as your church, you can categorize them as recurring and they'll automatically post to the proper expense category without further updating of each transaction.

  • Fri, Apr 08, 2016 - 11:08pm

    #19

    gnltabor

    Status Member (Offline)

    Joined: Apr 21 2010

    Posts: 36

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    Cash -vs- Credit? and Budgeting Software

I agree with the idea that using cash ensures you live within your means, but for those with the discipline to pay their bills on time and in full, there are credit cards that will give you cash back in amounts that can make it worth your while to use one.  In addition, they provide itemized details of all your transactions and provide fraud protection in case someone steals your card, while at the same time, not tapping out your bank account as a debit card would do.  With some companies, you can actually make mortgage payments and utility payments with a credit card. 

While not everything can be paid with a credit card, the vast majority of expenses can be.  With a family of four, the credits can add up to more than $100/month.  Having a good credit score is a prerequisite to get in the game, but if you have a FICO score in the mid 700's or better, opportunity awaits.  Here's a sample of some of the best offers going… Citi Double Cash Mastercard gives you 1% on purchases and another 1% on payments with no limits.  American Express has a card that pays 6% on groceries (not including superstores and club stores), 3% on Gas, and 2% on Department Stores, with 1% on all other.  The card has a $75 annual fee, but gives you a $150 credit if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, effectively paying for the first two years in card fees.  Bank of America offers a 3-2-1 VISA card which gives 3% back on Gas, 2% back on Groceries, and 1% on everything else.  This card is limited to $1,500 in qualifying purchases for the higher cash back amounts per quarter.  Then there are cards which give 1% back on everything and run quarterly promotions with 5% back on purchases during the quarter with a limit of $1,500 max in those category purchases for the quarter.  Such cards include Chase Freedom VISA and Discover Card.

Since it's a rebate against purchases, it's not taxable.  Depending on the card provider, you can have them apply the credit against your card balance, or use it to purchase items from major retailers where the credit may be enhanced by doubling the value.

Sometimes you can further enhance the cash back benefits.  Our local grocery store has a gift card program where charging to that card and making purchases from it will give 5% of the amount spent towards the benefiting organization originating that card.  I charge the card with my AMEX card which gives me a 6% cash back, while creating income for my son's marching band program or the team they play on.

Another way to multiply your benefits is by registering your kids with Upromise.com.  This is an education savings website where you can register your card(s).  When you make a purchase from a qualifying merchant, a credit flows to their account on Upromise.  They also have a way to access online retailers through their site and earn as much as 10% towards your Upromise account, while also earning your normal discounts from the card provider.  When all things are added up, I'm saving more than $1,500/yr leveraging and piggybacking programs like these.  Again, these savings are after income taxes, so worth as much as $2,000 in an equivalent salary raise.

It takes discipline, but using credit cards creates immediate margin in your financial situation.  Imagine you've been paying cash for everything.  You apply for and receive a new credit card with cash back incentives.  During the first month you use the card, no cash is withdrawn from your bank account.  At the end of the month, you receive a statement showing all your purchases and providing a payment due date almost a month out.  In the second month, the same thing is happening, charging to the card and not withdrawing any cash.  Now the first month's bill comes due and the cash needed to pay off the bill is provided from not having spent it two months prior.  If you manage it in this way, it's only a matter of timing on when the cash moves and nothing different happens to your total expenditures. 

It helps to use a budget if you're going to try this for yourself.  Having a budget, and actively managing your expenses will ensure you don't overspend just because the credit card has credit available.  I recommend http://www.mint.com  the free online budgeting software from Intuit.  This software allows you to link your credit cards to your Mint account and automatically categorizes the expenses from the card(s) so you can easily see how you're doing against your budget.  This is especially helpful if you're using cards as a couple, since it consolidates the purchases regardless of who makes them.  You can also link your checking and savings accounts.  Though payments made by check don't automatically apply to an expense category, if you have recurring payments of a set amount to an organization such as your church, you can categorize them as recurring and they'll automatically post to the proper expense category without further updating of each transaction.

  • Sun, Apr 10, 2016 - 11:35pm

    #20

    Mike Dill

    Status Member (Offline)

    Joined: Nov 08 2009

    Posts: 28

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    Cutting power usage

Wendy, I went for the 'spray in' reflective film in my attic, and the summer temperatures up there have gone down by about twenty or thirty degrees. While not 'sexy' these improvments, like insulation, work for as long as you own the house.

I use a heat pump for heating and cooling, as wood is hard to come by here in the (southern nevada) desert. I also put in solar panels, which cut my electric bill in half. Now that I have an electric car I expect my electric use will go up again, but I am looking at a few more solar panels to get to the mythical 'net zero". 

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