Friday, January 12, 2018

2017 Energy and Carbon Footprint Review

Soooo... since January seems to be the season for annual reviews, I figured I take some time to peek at my energy usage and see how it's looking.

First of all, my energy company (Xcel) offers a bill averaging service where instead of paying for your actual monthly usage, you pay an averaged amount based on you previous year's usage at the time you sign up. If your usage starts to vary wildly from the previous year, they'll adjust your monthly payment mid-year, otherwise they just adjust in on the anniversary of your sign up month.

I LOVE this service. Not only does it make it easy to budget for utilities costs, it also makes conserving energy into a fun little game. Each year as September rolls around, I start to get excited to see if I'm gonna be able to hold steady or even lower my bill. Yes, I am a total nerd.


This year I was super excited because my bill went down a bit, and my monthly energy cost (natural gas & electricity) is now only $78. Woo Hoo!

That's especially exciting since I pay a voluntary "green guilt" tax of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour on my electricity so that I can get all of it from wind power, which worked out to a total of about $73 for the year. At some point I would love to explore the option of rooftop solar, but my yard has several big trees that might make it unworkable, plus the fact that I've lost 2 roofs to hail in the 20-some-odd years I have lived here sorta makes me nervous about going that route.


Anyhow, this year I decided it might be fun to delve a little deeper into my energy usage to see if there are places I can save a little bit more, both in terms of money and environmental impact.

So, 2017 energy usage for my 900 square foot house with full basement was:

Natural Gas: 390 therms (32.5/month average)
Electricity: 4848 kWh (404/month average)

Each month Xcel sends out a cute little email that allows you to compare your usage to that of your neighbors, and mine always comes in as "better than your efficient neighbors." But I started to wonder, what exactly does that mean? And how does "better" translate in terms of environmental impact?

I know getting firm numbers on this sort of thing is sorta impossible, but I decided to explore some other options and happened upon a fairly decent carbon footprint calculator created by the folks out at Berkeley in California.



Now, I don't know if you've ever played with carbon footprint calculators, but let's just say that once you get beyond things for which you might have firm numbers - like energy use and mileage, well, the numbers start to get pretty hand wavy at best.

Nevertheless, according to this calculator, my annual carbon footprint is somewhere between 7-8 tons depending on how I answered certain questions. Seriously, it asked how much I spent per month on health care, and gave me radically different carbon numbers depending on whether I entered my insurance premium before or after the tax credit. (Waves hands wildly.) But it did say that the average one person household in my zip code with similar income is around 22 tons per year.

That's interesting, but I'm still not sure how much it tells me in terms of my own usage and how I might improve. I mean, I read another study which said that a homeless person in the US has a carbon footprint of 8.5 tons/year! So... my carbon footprint is slightly better than that of a homeless person?!?


Well anyhow, since none of that seemed terribly helpful, I decided that instead of trying to calculate my entire carbon footprint, I'd just focus on the stuff for which I had hard numbers and see what that would tell me.

Sooo... figuring that my car gets around 29 MPG and I only drove about 668 miles, that comes out to 0.3 tons of carbon emissions last year. Electricity would be the big one at 4.6 tons, but since all of my electricity came from wind power, that number went to 0. Woot Woot! $73 well spent, IMHO. So that leaves natural gas, where my emissions totaled 2.4 tons.

Looking at it that way, it's pretty clear that the biggest place I can save - at least in terms of carbon emissions, is my natural gas usage.


There are only 3 appliances in my home that use natural gas: the furnace, hot water heater, and clothes dryer.

Now, at this point I should probably mention that my home has a hybrid furnace. When I replaced the ancient furnace about 10 years ago I decided to upgrade and get whole house air conditioning as well. And since I was doing that, it made sense to pay a little bit more and get an air conditioner which could run backwards as a heat pump, because it's a significantly more efficient method of heating... at least until it gets really cold. Once the weather drops below about 40 degrees (around 4C) the heat pump has a hard time keeping up, so it switches over to the gas furnace (which is a 95% efficient model.) 

The hybrid furnace is so efficient that my energy bills stayed pretty much flat after installing it, even though I now had air conditioning. Plus, a lot of the burden for heating was switched from gas to electricity, and since that all comes from wind power, I figure that's an environmental win.

At any rate, the way the hybrid furnace ends up working is that it mostly uses the heat pump during the day and then switches over to the gas furnace at night when the temperature gets colder. So, one way to get an easy savings on natural gas is to turn the temperature down a few more degrees at night. I did have it set to 64 at night, but a few weeks ago I turned it down to 62. With an extra blanket on the bed I honestly haven't noticed any difference, so I might consider going a bit lower still. I also set it to lower the temperature an hour earlier in an effort to encourage myself to get to bed at a decent hour.


Lest you worry that my little kitties are cold at night, they each have a 4 watt heated cat bed so they can stay nice and warm.

There are plenty of other things that I might explore to save on heating costs, but these are probably topics for another post. But things I'm considering include bumping up the level of insulation in my attic, weather stripping around the attic door & insulating ceiling light fixtures, blown in wall insulation, upgrading my siding to stucco (which involves adding a layer of insulation board), cellular shades on the windows, and maybe even new windows. 

So that leaves the dryer and the hot water heater. The dryer is an easy one. I sorta got out of the habit of hanging my clothes to dry because of the carpet beetles. One way to kill the eggs and larvae is heat, so I've been using the dryer in an effort to kill off the little buggers. But since I seem to have turned the corner on that issue (knock on wood) I think it's probably safe to go back to line drying - at least for most things. I'll probably still put big things like bedding in the dryer.


Similarly, I had the hot water heater turned up to the highest setting so that I could use the hot cycle on the washer to kill beetles. But once again, there's no need for that anymore (I hope), so I've turned it down a notch or two - plus I'm going back to washing laundry in cold water.

I also bought some foam pipe insulators and covered the first few feet of pipe coming out of the hot water heater. I'd like to do more, but alas, that's as far as I can reach without ripping out the basement ceiling - which sorta seems like a bad idea.

So that leaves my Achilles heel of hot water use... bathing.


Yes folks, I am a hopeless bathtub addict. I like to soak for at least an hour until I turn into a complete prune. It is one of my true vices, and I am loath to give it up, especially in the winter time. But, since I did finally get the diverter valve fixed so I now have the option of taking a shower, I do think that some of my hot water use will go down there too - especially in the warmer months of the year.

So that's my plan for the moment. I'm hopeful that it will pay dividends both in terms of my natural gas bill and my carbon footprint - all without sacrificing anything in terms of comfort or convenience.

Have any of you ever calculated your carbon footprint or energy usage? I'm curious to hear how our numbers compare.


18 comments :

  1. I have a problem getting out of a hot shower. It's cold when I get out and I hate being cold. I'm using a timer to help me get out sooner and doing better. However, there's still room for improvement.

    Also, it's interesting that you use the phrase "hand waving". I've always said "arm waving". Not sure it makes any difference, just an observation. And I'm not sure what that says that about me if I find that interesting. :)

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    1. Hahaha! I also hate to be cold, and that's why I prefer long hot baths! Once the tub is filled, there's no guilt in staying in as long as you like.

      And I think that's hilarious about the hand waving vs arm waving thing. I've never actually heard anyone say arm waving. Do you suppose it's an east-west thing?

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  2. Hmm, this post involves a lot of math so I don't think I'll be figuring all this out. :) I'm a fan of hot showers so I won't get all judgmental on you.

    LMK if you do the blown in wall insulation. The bedroom end of our home is very chilly during these frigid days--I think we need to upgrade our insulation. We did the attic when we moved in so I'm not so concerned about that, but the walls are a problem. Also curious about ceiling light insulation as well as electrical outlet insulation. We got new windows a few years ago when all the tax credits made it affordable and that made a significant difference. We have a cellular shade over our dining window and it does seem to help. I think for me, a lot of energy efficient behavior involves a just-do-it attitude. I find that if I don't prioritize these kinds of things, they just don't happen.

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    1. Well, the thing with blown in wall insulation is that when you have a company come in and do it, they want to drill a 2 inch hole in the wall between each stud - on the inside. Soooo, that means that you're gonna have to patch the drywall and paint everything... if the walls have drywall. If the wall in question has tile or paneling, or whatever, it gets even more complicated. I looked at having it done a few years ago, and finally decided that I just wasn't up for a complete remodeling of all of my walls. But, the siding on the outside of my house needs to be replaced or somehow dealt with, and I'm hoping that I might be able to have wall insulation done at that point - with holes drilled from the outside. The other option would be to go up into the attic and drill holes in the header across the top between each set of studs and pour it in from there. Not sure how feasible that might be, so it's something to explore once the weather warms up and I feel up to crawling around in the attic.

      Anyhow, I did do the wall outlets a few years ago - you can get these little foam gaskets that go under the plate of light switches or outlets - like these: https://www.amazon.com/Duck-Sealers-Variety-Decorative-283333/dp/B0040JH21W/ref=sr_1_1

      I don't know what's involved with the ceiling fixtures, but I hope it's something similarly easy. Let's hope I can get my rear in gear to "just do" a bunch of this stuff this year!

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    2. You could patch the drywall ... OR you could hang lots of tiny pictures! I wonder what height the holes would be. Could you get them to be chair-rail height, and then just add a chair rail? Or if they have to be near the top of the wall, could they do it very close to the top so you could cover it with molding?

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    3. Well, when I looked at doing it before, the height of the holes was about 18 inches above the ground - and they weren't really willing to consider doing it differently. Since about half of exterior walls were tile or paneling, I decided against it - at least for the time being. Doing it from the outside really makes the most sense to me, but there are asbestos shingles on the house (covered by steel siding.) The steel siding is shot, so it needs to be removed and replaced, but I'm not sure they'd be willing to drill through the asbestos. It's not like there isn't any insulation in the walls - they have small fiberglass bats - probably R6 or so, but they could definitely use more.

      But... I have to do more research. The bats have a vapor barrier side (the shiny foil) which also functions as a radiant heat barrier. My understanding on radiant heat barriers is that they don't function well unless there is at least a bit of air next to the shiny side... so blowing in more insulation might actually be a wash, because while more insulation ups the R-value, if you lose the radiant barrier, it might cancel out that improvement.

      So it might be that I'd be better served by going a different route. I really want to explore the idea of stucco on the exterior, and when you retrofit a house with stucco, it involves adding a layer of insulation board to the exterior - on top of that goes chicken wire and then the stucco sticks to the chicken wire. I only know this because my next door neighbors had it done. Anyhow, once again, more research is required, but the stucco route might be the best bet and allow me to kill 2 birds with one stone, so to speak.

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  3. I agree with Kris that there's a lot of math involved in this post, and I will definitely NOT be doing the math. I've kept my promise to myself about not doing math I don't have to after school.

    I'm kind of ashamed to say this, but we actually have very opposite results from the power company. We periodically get letters that we use so much more energy than the "average" home in our area, etc. I have a few theories about that, though, which make us seem a little less awful:

    1. We got those letters when Nick and I were on opposite schedules, which meant that lights, TV, etc were on pretty much 24/7. There was no turning the heat down at bed, when we weren't home, etc. since that was opposite for us. We haven't gotten one of those letters since he switched to a normal schedule, so I'm hoping that means we're doing at least a little better.

    2. There are a lot of vacation rentals in our area. I think they're probably using less power than a normal home because you typically don't do laundry or cook as many meals at home when you're on vacation. Add to that the fact that the A/C can be turned off during the summer if the house isn't rented or the heat can be turned really low during the winter if the house isn't rented, and I think it really skews the "average" usage for our area into making those of us who actually live here seem high. That's what I tell myself anyway.

    We have noticed a difference in the time that we've been in the house (seven years) as we've made improvements. We switched to a new HVAC system a few years ago and the bills went way down, we've replaced our washer and dryer, and we've done some caulking, etc around windows and doors. We have some more pressing projects ahead of it, but we plan to eventually replace some of the windows that are really thin and drafty, and I think that will make a huge difference.

    As usual I think you've done a great job with this post in explaining what you do and why without coming across as preachy or judgmental, so, again, good job on that. That's not always easy to do.

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    1. OK... you're making me feel much better about math. My picture of myself is as someone who is terrible with numbers - probably because I had an awful time in school with math, and gave up as soon as they'd let me. Amusingly enough, I ended up fulfilling my math requirements by taking computer programming classes (a brand new thing back in the 1980s) which I found to be great fun. I never figured out how the two skills were considered at all equivalent since math involved a lot of memorizing of abstract concepts and squiggles on a page (which inevitably led to hours of sobbing while attempting my homework) and computer programming was like a fun game - with WORDS not crazy symbols. Anyhow, you're making me feel like perhaps I'm not quite as bad at math as I think I am.

      But anyhooo... I'm quite sure that your opposite schedules had an enormous impact on your energy use. I mean, when you think of it, it's almost like running 2 separate households under one roof. I'm so happy for you that you no longer have to deal with that. I imagine it would be pretty hard on one's relationship as well.

      And it is rather amazing what a difference modern HVAC systems make, isn't it? I couldn't believe how much more comfortable the house was after I replaced the furnace and got AC. I'm still debating what to do about the windows. I have old single pane windows, but there are storm windows on everything except the basement, and those help a lot. For a while I did the plastic stuff in the winter, but then Smoky the Destroyer came along and put a quick end to that! Seriously, shredded plastic everywhere! If you do your windows, I'd be curious to hear if you think it's worth it in terms of cost vs. energy/comfort.

      Thanks again for your kind words regarding the judgment stuff. I really don't want to come across that way, and I also don't feel judgmental about it. I fully recognize that what works for me won't work for everyone.

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  4. On solar roofs: they used to be connected in such a way that if even one panel got shade, the whole thing stopped working, so I decided I'd rather have shade trees than solar energy. But I've heard that now they are connected in such a way that only the shaded ones stop working, so yay!

    Also, I've asked, and apparently solar panels are very good at withstanding hail.

    I feel like I calculated some sort of carbon footprint sometime in the past, but I don't remember, and like you said, the link you have is, well, very thorough!

    However, I was willing to do *some* math.

    You said you averaged 32.5 therms/month last year--I averaged 11.75. That's because I live somewhere hot. I think I never turned on the furnace last year, though this year I did decide to set it at 60, so it has come on a for a couple of days.

    I also have a natural gas stove, water heater, and bathroom wall heater. Research showed that using the bathroom heater to just heat the bathroom costs more than using the furnace to heat the whole house, so we never turn that on anymore. (Also, I heard it might be dangerous and/or no longer in code.)

    We do use the stove and oven, though we also have a(n electric) toaster oven that we use instead of the big oven most of the time.

    I don't have a clothes dryer, but I do use a ceiling fan to help dry my clothes, and I turn it up during the day in the winter to keep the drying time down to 24 hours (if I flip the clothes in the middle). So basically I use electricity to dry my clothes.

    For electricity, you average 404 kwh/month and I average 792. Again, I live somewhere hot, and we have a deal that we keep it as hot as my boyfriend can stand it in the summer (75) and and cold as I can stand it in winter (60).

    But that doesn't explain the whole difference, because my two lowest months last year were 428 and 435 kwh, both higher than your average! So you totally win on that one!

    I'm not sure what my car use is, but it's way higher than yours. That's partly because whenever we want to go across town or my boyfriend has a far-away job, I encourage him to take my car rather than his truck because it has way better gas mileage and pollutes less. But also, I don't bike much. I always walk when I'm going somewhere less than 2 miles away--except when my boyfriend is driving anyway, which is usually. (So I usually shop by car, though I walk to the library, gym, and a few other places.)

    Oh, and I took a road trip with my mom (using her car), from Texas to New England and Canada via Indianapolis, so that wasn't so great. Technically, she was going to go anyway, even if she was by herself, so I can blame it on her, but I did encourage her and add my weight and the weight of all my stuff to the car!

    In case you're interested, I also calculated my water use--29 gallons/month. My boyfriend takes a lot of showers (at least one per day), and he likes to blast the water, plus we wash a lot of dishes by hand, and my boyfriend drinks a LOT of water and thus pees a lot, so I think you're going to win. But we do have a water-saving shower head, we don't take baths, our toilet uses 0.6 gallons/flush, and we don't water the yard, so that helps.

    In other news, I also pay extra to have my electricity officially come from wind. But apparently I am only charged an extra 3/4 cent per kWh, or half as much as you. Since I use twice as much electricity, I guess it still comes to about the same number of dollars per year though!

    One other thing--I definitely go through a lot more electricity and water when I have a roommate than when I don't, but it's not double. (Maybe the water is, but total utility cost is less than double, so I still save money.)

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    1. Energy nerds UNITE!!! It's fascinating to me how much difference climate makes in terms of energy use. I'm sure that in your area where humidity is an issue, heat is much more difficult to handle.

      I generally set the AC at 80 and lower it to 74 at night. But I also have a whole house attic fan which makes it pretty easy to cool the house in the evenings without using AC. Honestly, I hardly had to use it at all last summer.

      Similarly, clothes dry really fast here. In the summer when I hang them outside, sometimes the first things I hang are almost dry by the time I finish hanging the load! In the winter, I hang things on racks, and if I strategically place them near furnace vents, everything except the really thick stuff gets dry overnight.

      I haven't calculated water use yet - but I think I suck there. With the combination of my bath habit and the garden/yard, it adds up quickly. I also don't have a low flow toilet. Long story there, but I decided to keep the old one when I did the bathroom - mostly because of issues with the new toilets not playing nice with the old lead pipes. But I do have a few bricks in there so it's not as bad as it might be.

      But... you can't possibly have meant that you use 29 gallons per month - think the average usage is something like 50 gallons per person per day! So if you're only using 29 gallons per month that would be pretty incredible!

      Anyhow, I think your electricity usage also might be impacted by the fact that you have 2 people living there. I know it's much more efficient to have 2 people in one house than to live alone, but I'm sure it still takes more electricity for 2 people than one.

      Anyhow, I'll let you know when I calculate my water usage, but I'm pretty sure it's not gonna be pretty!

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    2. Ha ha, you're so right about the water! The unit of measure was hundreds of gallons, not gallons, so my average was 2,900/month which apparently is about average for 2 people. Thanks for catching that--I really did want to give you true numbers!

      When I'm alone, I keep the summer indoor temperature between 80 and 90, but my boyfriend would be miserable at those temperatures. We also have a whole-house fan, but since the low temperature in the summer is between 75 and 80, it doesn't help us. When Robin gets full-time work again, I'll try leaving the A/C off all day like we used to when I also worked. Then turn it on when he gets home.

      Or, to be nice, an hour in advance of that--it takes an amazingly long time to cool down our house. And this is even though one company told us that our A/C was too big for our space and we should replace it with a smaller one. No, we went with another company. Apparently most people don't leave their A/C off all day, they just set it for a higher temperature. Well doing that uses A LOT more energy, so we don't do it.

      Our humidity is around 50%, which is a lot compared to some places but nothing compared to Houston (90%+) where I lived before, so it seems fine to us.

      Hanging laundry outside in summer, I haven't noticed the first things being dry by the time I got the last things up, but I have noticed everything being dry by the time the next washer load was done (except maybe thick cotton things like blue jeans). Unfortunately, I don't like the fresh-air smell of line-dried clothing. To me, it's more of a wet-dog smell. Also, there is the risk of bird poop.

      Since we rarely have the furnace on, putting the laundry rack near the furnace vents would only rarely make a difference. So, we can't use all the exact same strategies, but it's still so fun to read about yours!

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    3. Hahaha... wet dog smelling laundry doesn't sound very appealing! I think humidity might have something to do with that too - I think our average humidity is something like 35%, but it's not uncommon to have numbers well below 20% in the summer. And in the winter, the furnace dries out the indoor air so much that everything gets static. Lots of people actually have whole house humidifiers! So hanging clothes inside in the winter helps that a bit.

      Anyhow, I think there's debate about setting the thermostat up and down during different times of day. Some folks say it's cheaper to just set it at one temperature and leave it. I have noticed that turning the heat down at night really saves energy for me... maybe it has to do with the sort of furnace? I think the gas furnace has an easier time raising the temperature than the heat pump. Anyhow, I'd love to find some real data on that whole topic since most of what I've read is simply anecdotal.

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    4. Right, static! We definitely have that sometimes (especially when I wear tights!) but not actually that often.

      **

      Air conditioners are either on or off. (I don't know if this is true for furnaces, too.) They keep a house at the desired temperature by turning on for a while to get to the temperature and then turning off and on to keep it there. (If your A/C is too big for your space, it will turn off and on too frequently.)

      If you leave the A/C off throughout a workday, then of course it has not turned on at all. Then when you get home, it has to "work harder" by just being on longer. There is no way to save money by having it on more during the day.

      I think people just want to be more comfortable when they get home, so they make up these stories. (I just sit in front of the vent, so all my dripping sweat feels good in the cold wind!)

      We "tested" this anyway because so many people are so convinced--and that was the highest electricity bill of my life.

      Now some companies charge different rates at different times of the day, so maybe people using those companies could still save money, but not energy, and not because they are preventing their A/C from "working too hard."

      Like I said, I don't know if furnaces work the same way. I think mine does.

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  5. You're straight killing us on metrics. We have no natural gas anymore, but even in our 'off months' like right now where the AC isn't on, we're using between 500 and 600 kwh. The pool is a bit of a culprit, as the pump runs a couple an hours every night to keep the algae from forming.

    But man, when the summer rolls around. I don't even have the guts to show the figures. We keep the house at 81-84 as that's about as hot as we can stand, but with a little one on the way...it's going to be worse in summer 2018.

    We do pretty well on the car (one fill up a month) but we're still way, way over your incredible figure. Under 700 miles a year? That's amazing.


    Seriously, well done. I'm crazy impressed.

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    1. I'm sure the pool is a big energy suck. Do you have to heat the water as well? I've never had a pool, so I don't know much about it, but I saw something on TV once about a solar pool heating system - it was basically just these black plastic sheets with tubes running through them, you roll them out on the roof and pump the water through them. Anyhow, it looked remarkably low tech, which intrigued me.

      Have you ever calculated the ROI on rooftop solar? I would imagine your area is well positioned to take advantage of it. I know the prices have come down and efficiency has gone up, but I still don't know if the payback period makes it financially worthwhile or not.

      Anyhow, when you compare the numbers - especially with driving, I think you have to take into account that you're two people and I'm one. And once the little one arrives, you'll be three. So if you divide out your usage per person, you're probably beating me hands down!

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  6. Love these kinds of posts! You're home so much more than I am since I work outside the home so I think your numbers are awesome when you take that into consideration! My best electricity month ever was 207 kWh, when I was in college and living alone in a small apartment. Now as a family of 3, we average around 650 kWh in the winter and 800 in the summer. We've hit 1,000 kWh during the hottest month of the summer twice. Our house is fairly new and rated as an "Energy Star" home so we do have pretty great insulation, appliances, etc. The only thing I'd like to upgrade is our hot water heater because I know it uses a ton.

    Please let us know if you decide to get the insulation done . . sounds like such a good idea. I wonder if your electric company could help you figure out if it'd be worth your while? I know I hear about electrical audits on the radio sometimes.

    Before having a baby, we kept the heat around 55 during the day and 50-52 at night and our cats were just fine so yours might be too. They still hang out in our unheated basement (which is 50-60 all winter) without issues. Now we keep the heat at 66 during the day and 65 at night. I hope we can lower the temperature again once L is older and will sleep with blankets on (and keep them on!).

    As for water - we average around 85-90 gallons a day, not too bad. We have low flow toilets, faucets, and shower heads, and we all spend time at work or daycare Monday-Friday so that definitely helps.

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    1. Yay! Another energy nerd! Back when I was in my tiny 250 sq. ft. apartment in the early 1990s my energy bills were so small that I never really looked at them - they were around $10/month. So I'm impressed that you actually know what your usage was when you were in an apartment!

      I actually did have an energy audit done when I had the company come out and look at the wall insulation. They said that they couldn't recommend sealing the house any tighter without adding some sort of fresh air recovery vent. Hmmm... Anyhow, that was all part of the low income energy program during the Obama era - so I'm not sure how well trained the people were. When I asked them about the whole radiant heat barrier thing, they guy gave me a blank stare. Anyhow, as I mentioned to Deb above, I think more research is in order. But a quick glance online shows that they make insulation board that goes up as high as R-13 - so if I do stucco the house, that would probably be the way to go.

      And I think your cats much be much less fussy/spoiled than mine. Jasper starts to become little mister misery as soon as the temps dip below 70 - so that's why we went the heated cat bed route. And for me, 68 appears to be the comfort limit - at least without coming up with a much better system of clothing. I tried setting it down to 67 and immediately I had numb toes and was shivering all the time! So that was a fail! I did buy some little microwaveable heaters to stick in my slippers though, so maybe it's worth trying again. I am quite impressed by your polar bear thermostat numbers. I'd be a block of ice with the thing set at 55!

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    2. haha I kept an Excel document with all my usage in kWh so I could recycle the bill immediately but still track my numbers. :)

      I'm okay with a little discomfort (I tell myself I'm supposed to feel cold in the winter and hot in the summer) but I can understand you drawing the line at 68 - I'd turn up the heat if I was numb too! Maybe you could lower the heat further on in the winter? I know when we get random 50° days in February, I'm outside running around with no coat because it feels so warm, whereas if we have a cold snap in September, I can't handle a 50° day without bundling up.

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