As Claudia and I continue to question everything in our minimalistic quest, we stumbled across another area for improvement: electricity usage.
Over the years, we have always focused on reducing energy usage throughout the big house by installing programmable thermostats, unplugging devices not currently being used, purchasing triple pane windows, heat pump hot water heater, new roof with ridge vent, LED lights, etc.
Even with all of this, we are still on a budget bill for electricity that hovers around $235 per month. I should add the disclaimer that we have two electric cars (added to the family in Jan 2014) that are always charged at home. And electricity is our only source for heating our home.
Here’s a snapshot of our energy usage per month for the last two years. The good news is that our electric company is starting to install smart meters in the area, which will allow us to monitor usage even closer. This should allow us to determine the exact dollar amount per charge for our electric cars and identify other areas for improvement.
Here’s the same chart in Average $/day. Overall, $5-7 a day (assuming mild temperatures throughout the year) seemed reasonable for washing clothes, taking hot showers, charging electric cars, cooking food and heating/cooling. A $5 Starbucks latte will only get me a few hours of energy!
Goodbye Big House, Hello Small House!
Having a small house (leaving 1500 sq foot to 500 sq foot) will reduce our heating/cooling needs considerably. How much? We’ll let you know in a couple of months! What I can say is that this should come in a conservative 1/3 for the heating/cooling portion of the bill since it’s 1/3 of the space. We also upgraded the small house to include R38 insulation in the roof and some decent windows (not triple pane but still good ratings). Here’s a picture of our central air heating, cooling and filtration system for the small house. This is roughly the size of a small dorm fridge (small house = small furnace = small utility bill = happy Garrett and Claudia).
Energy Efficient Appliances
Our small house’s refrigerator and dishwater are estimated to cost $110 per year to run, or $9.16 per month.
Tag for the refrigerator/freezer
Tag for the dishwasher
We also opted for a hot water heater that is 30 gal; currently, we have a 50 gal hot water tank. No need to maintain the temperature of such a large volume of water if we aren’t going to use it. This will also force us to take shorter showers, which saves us water as well as the energy required to heat that extra water. We looked into on-demand hot water heaters but for the added upfront cost, the requirement to add a second utility (gas) and the concerns I have with the small orifices within the unit becoming clogged over time, we felt the old school water heater was the cheapest and least maintenance option. I did a test during the winter months that made me feel a lot better about the efficiency of our hot water tank. I let the water inside get up to temperature, turned off the hot water heater via the breaker, came back after a day of work and found that I still had hot water. Although it was a lower temp than what the unit maintains, I was still surprising how little it changed.
Our Hopes and Dreams
With these changes we are hoping to decrease our budget bill for electricity to $135 (includes the two electric cars), which will be a $1200 saving per year. Since we focusing on utilities that are coming into the house, we are also going to investigate our water usage, so more to come on the waterfront.