Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

It is Easy to Save Money and Our Planet at the Same Time

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I reduced my electric bill by more than half and so can you!

In previous blog posts I have reminded the community that humans are rapidly warming the climate by adding massive amounts of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide. It is urgent that we begin reducing these emissions now so that out climate does not change in a way that we cannot adapt. The good news is that one way to do so is to become more energy efficient and that means saving money. Who doesn’t like saving money? And if we can save the planet while doing so, well, that is a great bonus!

I have reduced my LIPA bill from $186/month in 2008 down to $86/month in 2012. $100/month right into my pocket and I have to tell you, it feels good keeping my money instead of sending it to LIPA. The images below show my LIPA bills from 2008 and present.

LIPA bill from 2008

LIPA bill from 2008

LIPA bill in 2012

LIPA bill in 2012

Back in 2008, I blogged about how I reduced my LIPA bill from $186/month down to $147/month by:

  1. Changing all of my light bulbs to CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp)
  2. Turning down the oil burner thermostat *
  3. Changing the line-powered sidewalk lights to solar
  4. Insulating all my copper piping *

* When the burner is not running it saves electricity while also dramatically reducing heating oil expenses.

I recovered the up- front cost of these changes in six months and today CFL bulbs are much cheaper so savings will come sooner today.

In a blog post titled Put a Chill on Your High Electric Bill, I showed how replacing my old refrigerator with a new energy-efficient unit is saving me $263 per year which means I will save enough money in 4.5 years to pay for the refrigerator. Every year after that is money in my pocket! The image below shows the savings from my new energy miser vs. the old energy hog.

My electric savings

My calculated electric savings with the new fridge

In my blog post titled LED Me Tell You About My Light-er Electric Bill, I showed how using LED bulbs in the most used light fixtures can save money even though the up-front cost appears at first glance to be quite high. According to Philips, these bulbs will last 18.3 years if used an average of three hours per day.  (Home Depot will replace them for life so there is no risk!)  Based on three hours per day at my current LIPA rate of $0.17/kWh, each bulb will save me $44.20 over that 18.3 year lifetime.  At $11 per bulb, the energy savings will pay for the bulbs in about 4.5 years.  (Of course, the assumption is that energy rates will not rise in the next 4.5 years.  I assume that the rates will rise and I will achieve my cost savings sooner.)  As an added bonus, these bulbs cast off almost no heat which is a huge improvement over the older bulbs that quickly heat up the dining room to uncomfortable levels in the warmer seasons.

Some other simple green actions that my wife and I do that reduce our carbon footprint and save us $$$:

  1. Hang clothes out to dry when possible.(You might wish to ask your neighbors if they mind.) BTW, the clothes smell great this way.
  2. Programmable thermostats. I have three zones and program each zone to turn down when not in use. During the day when nobody is upstairs, why run the heat there? At night, when we are all upstairs sleeping, why heat the 1st floor and basement play room?
  3. Turn off lights and unplug any chargers when not in use.
  4. Run ceiling fans instead of A/C when it is not too oppressive.
  5. Cook on the grill almost every night. Propane is much cheaper than running that range or oven every night and the oven can heat up your house during summer thus competing with your AC. Grilling is also healthier than many other ways to cook food.

Some will claim that slowing climate change is too costly. Nonsense! I have showed here how reducing my carbon footprint actually saves money and most experts agree.

I am eager to hear what you have done to become more energy efficient.

Written by Scott Mandia

June 4, 2012 at 10:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. OK, Scott, you wanted to know…

    I live in an old barn I converted myself with the help of a few good tradesmen. I lined all the 700mm solid-stone walls with multi-foil insulation. I lined the roof with both multi-foil and a 200mm layer of fibreglass. I installed a heat recovery ventilation system which provides constant fresh air to all rooms, but has a heat exchanger to capture heat from the outgoing air and warm the incoming (fantastic for eliminating all condensation issues in kitchen and bathrooms). I installed underfloor hot water heating on the ground floor, within a 100mm concrete slab resting on 100mm of dense foam insulation. I don’t use any heating on the upper floors as enough heat percolates upwards to keep bedrooms at a pleasant temperature. The underfloor heat is provided by a ground-source heat pump. Hot water is provided by 11sqm of solar-thermal panels stored in an insulated two insulated water tanks totalling 700litres. This is backed up by the gs heat pump..All plumbing was carefully lagged while fitting. I have 4kW of solar PV panels on the roof. All lighting is either CFL or LED. I don’t use air-conditioning (one of the benefits of living in the UK) or tumble dryers. The heat recovery ventilation means that clothing dried in the house — when the weather is not suitable to put washing out to dry — does not cause condensation. All appliances are low-energy.
    Propane is only used for cooking (we live in the countryside, so there is no mains gas available). I also store water from the roofs of my buildings.

    My bills? Very low, considering the large room sizes. In summer I export more electricity to the grid than I use. In winter I use a small amount of electricity. As you say, the satisfaction of being economical is immense. Another pleasure is showing people around and showing them how they too can avoid consuming energy.

    The thing I picked up on from your blog that’s also worth saying, is that if your house contains a lot of thermal mass it can be a false economy to switch heating on and off. A very well-insulated house like mine will retain its internal heat, and its better to retain a constant low background heat in winter than to switch areas on and off. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a well-insulated house will stay cooler, longer, in summer and require less energy to keep cool. A win win.


    June 4, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    • Now that’s the kind of stuff I want to here. Common sense. I would follow much of all that except for my personal preference to INCANDESCENT lighting. I will not compromise on quality of light. That’s where the BAN OF INCANDESCENTS is rude. I hate white-LED, Fluorescent, and CFL lighting. It turns the place into a hideously lit place of no-life zone. So my version of above would be all the above but with carefully selected an somewhat dimmed wattages of INCANDESCENT lighting. Just come to Australia, everything is badly lit now. However there is just starting to become some rebels who get these INCANDESCENTS from somewhere and are putting them back into such places as restaurants and some specialty shops. The yellowish-white WARM lighting is highly recommended for hotels, motels rooms, restaurants, cafes, any where that mood quality lighting is required. And in homes after a harsh day at work under fluorescent, you should be treating your family to quality warm lighting of INCANDESCENT. Don’t make them suffer as they have been all day long at work. Cheers, Ron Lentjes. For the calm and safe INCANDESCENT lighting of the world. Don’t forget, the INCANDESCENT was banned FOR THE BETTER PROFIT OF $$$CFL$$$. If you didn’t know that, do your research.

      Ron Lentjes

      June 5, 2012 at 12:58 am

    • John, what was the upfront cost of these chnages and how long did it take to recover them? BTW, I have a colleague here who still has to pay $15/month to LIPA when she ends up creating more electricity with solar than she uses. Criminal.

      Scott Mandia

      June 5, 2012 at 7:14 am

      • It’s a very difficult question to answer, Scott, because the energy saving measures I took were an intrinsic part of a total renovation of the barn — which, to give you the picture, was without a roof when I bought it. Consequently the cost of installing insulation was no more than the cost of the materials used. By this I mean, for instance, if you’re installing a concrete floor, the cost of including 100mm of insulation is just the cost of the insulation — it costs no more to lay a concrete slab on to insulation than it does to lay it onto the sub base. Most insulation in the roof and walls — when undertaken during the build — requires no special skills, neither does pipe lagging, so the installation cost is simply a slight increase in the time needed to compete that element of the build. Components for the heat recovery ventilation came to ~£1,500 ($2,250), while fitting as part of the internal build added perhaps 5% to the cost of walls and ceilings.

        I would estimate, in total, energy efficiency measures added no more than 10% to the cost of the build, which was around £150,000 (~$225,000). Any way you look at it the payback time will be no more than 10 years. However, in my view, payback times are a bit of a red herring. We have a system of energy performance certification (EPC) in the UK. Every house is assessed and a certificate issued before it can be offered for sale. Mine is graded A. (I’ll send you a copy of the certificate if you email my address). The hope is that gradually, as people become more energy-conscious, they will start to value the EPCs and be willing to pay more for a house with a higher grading. Thus payback time becomes irrelevant because the expense of fitting insulation is seen as an investment.

        What comes out of this of course is that the time to fit insulation is at the time of build. Retrofitting can require a big expense and a major upheaval.

        Re. Micro-electricity generation. I’m not sure how the US system works. In the UK the power you generate is metered independently of the power you consume. Consequently one receives an amount per KWh generated independently of any that you use. The bill for electricity consumed is metered separately and paid as normal. The saving arrives when you compare what you paid out over what you’ve received for electricity generated. On top of this, as well as being paid for it, if you can use any electricity yourself before export, it won’t be recorded on your incoming meter. As you can imagine the take up of PV in the UK has been dramatic since the government adopted the scheme. Incidentally, they’re now making it a condition that before they’ll allow you to sign up to the PV scheme you must also have improved the energy efficiency of your home.

        I hope that’s useful.


        June 5, 2012 at 8:06 am

  2. This is what we use for drying clothes. Works great.

    Rick A. Baartman

    June 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm

  3. How long is this $$$CLIMATE$$$ $$$PROFITEERING$$$ going to continue? Don’t be such sheep fools! Use common sense. Do your research. It’s all about making money. That’s it. Done. The lies you here all day long. Wake up! Now Australia has CARBON TAX. Get it. This gov’t has been trying to find ways to INCREASE TAXES all the time. They are taking you for a ride and you just haven’t got the guts to get out of the fun park (They are having fun watching you take the bait and thinking you are saving the planet). They are fishing for your wallets. Dumb stupid people you are. If you want to save energy, use common sense. Somethings you can compromise on, others you can’t. I refused to compromise on lighting quality. I hate the look of Australia shops and hotels and motels and restaurants and white street lighting. Total total disaster. That is not the way to go. That is pure rudeness. Cheers, Ron Lentjes.

    Mandia: I prefer the green money in my wallet more than having a “perfect” color light in my room.

    Ron Lentjes

    June 5, 2012 at 1:12 am

    • Dumb stupid people you are.
      Compliments, Ron. You have a great way of convincing your audience with your rational arguments.

      Rob Dekker

      June 5, 2012 at 2:42 am

    • Where on earth are you in Australia that you have no choice of colour in non-incandescent lighting?

      You have to try pretty hard to get away from the ubiquitous hardware chains – and every one I’ve been in has choices. Lots of choices. The last time I was in one of the 2 major supermarkets they also had a whole *wall* of various combination of size/colour/shape to suit just about any domestic light fitting made in the last 50+ years.

      I share your loathing for harsh commercial lighting, but that doesn’t affect what you can and can’t buy for domestic purposes.


      June 5, 2012 at 7:32 pm

  4. […] my blog post It is Easy to Save Money and Our Planet at the Same Time I showed how I was able to reduce my energy bill by more than half. Energy efficiency is something […]

  5. OK, a couple of months late but here are some of the things we do in the UK.

    1. Pay for a 100% renewable energy tariff from a dedicated small renewables company. Our flat has no gas (unusual in the UK), but this means that all our energy bill is going towards renewable power generators.
    2. Rent a small apartment (perhaps 500-600 square feet, though I haven’t measured it precisely). Lack of extra space also encourages us not to buy endless crap to fill our rooms (with embodied carbon in every item).
    3. Selected a south-facing apartment with a very wide street (really a public square) to maximise our passive solar. We very rare need to put any heat on for 9-10 months of the year.
    4. Wash clothes in cold water.
    5. Dry on an internal clothes line (see #3 for getting this to work well).
    6. Minimal use of hot water. Just a little to wash up and then short-ish instant hot water electrical showers.
    7. No TV. This also has the advantage of not filling our heads with advertising designed to make us discontent with a modest lifestyle – saves a huge amount of money and energy to not buy into consumerist mindset.
    8. Turn off appliances at the wall when not in use. No standby. We make one exception for one plug that is just darn tricky to access.
    9. Small bar fridge. Although the model came with the apartment and isn’t the highest efficiency, small is amply sufficient for us.
    10. Wear appropriate clothes to minimise need for heating.

    All up, for a household of three members, we run an annual electricity bill of under 4,500 kWh (and 0 for gas), which is a tiny fraction of the average UK energy usage (itself a fraction of typical US usage). We’re not living in a cave and there are no hair shirts in our cupboard (no room for anything useless like that anyway!).

    Byron Smith

    August 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm

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