email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, September 12, 2014

More Energy-Saving Work

Now that the BIG DEAL insulation project is completed, I can move my attention to other energy-saving projects. I've seen charts that show the heating and cooling costs account for about a 1/3 of your total energy bill, which was more than I thought but not by a lot.  The surprise was how much hot water costs (10-15%).  That's double the refrigerator!  Now, I have my water heater wrapped up in an insulation blanket designed for water heaters, so my hot water usage cost may be lower than average.  But still, for one appliance, that's still a lot!  So...

First on the list is the water heater.  It's 28 years old, and was certainly a cheap one to begin with. 

I've been debating among a new standard energy-efficient water heater, and instant-on water heater, and a heat pump water heater.  I still can't decide which is best for ME (single person, low-volume, infrequent but frequent fast demand for cooking and dish-cleaning).  I'm inclined to the "instant-on" (heats water as it passes through the pipes rather than stores it); one medium one for the whole house and one small one for the kitchen sink.  But I'll do a final research this week.  The payback depends on the type I select.  The standard type is cheaper, so payback is faster, but costs a bit more over the years.  The heat pump water heater has a longer payback, but is cheaper to operate after that.  The instant-on type is between those. 

The choice might seem obvious in the long-term, but technology changes and maybe I'll have solar panels on the roof in a few years (see way below).

Second is replacing the basement refrigerator (which I use as a sort of root cellar for long-term storage). 

I keep a considerable amount of fresh food in the house (I don't go grocery shopping often), and my current kitchen refrigerator is good but not enough.  The previous (original 28 year old refrigerator) holds the bags of carrots, potatoes, beer, garden seeds, birdseed, and other stuff, and long term frozen stuff.  It is probably HORRIBLY HORRIBLY inefficient, so a newer modest refrigerator would probably pay for itself in just a few years.  And the electric company offers a generous rebate for replacing old refrigerators with new energy-efficient ones.  I'm guessing a 3-4 year payback.

Third, my basement workshop has four 4-bulb fluorescent light fixtures all wired into one switch.  I seldom need them all on.  Most of the time, I just need the one over the basement refrigerator.  I can separate those connections into 2 switches so only half come on at a time.

Fourth, switching more bulbs from incandescent to LED bulbs.  Any LED bulbs I use to replace incandescent bulbs will not only save money, but probably outlive me.  And replacing bulbs in the stairway fixture 15' above the floor is a real adventure.  Same with the floodlights outside the front door.

Fifth, I should consider replacing the washer and dryer.  They are over 15 years old.  I'll be checking to confirm it, but my recollection from reading Consumer Reports magazine is that the newest ones have a payback time in energy savings of about 4-5 years.

Sixth, and this one is VERY uncertain, replacing the standard heat pump with a geothermal one.  I did some initial research and most places around here like to drill holes down at a cost of about $20,000.  But there are some that seem to work just as well horizontally for $8,000.  Geothermal is VERY energy cost-efficient.  But $20,000 would take a 10-year payback.  The horizontal geothermal is slightly less efficient but needs only a 8 year payback.  But that depends on how much I'm saving with the new home insulation work just completed.  I'll have to wait to see what my Winter electric bills are now.  More research required...

Seventh and least likely, removing the 3 mature trees shading my house and covering the roof with solar panels.  I like the trees, but I'm worrying in every strong storm that one of them will fall onto the house.  Conflicting thoughts here.  I might be able to actually sell the trees (2 are oak) to sawyers.  But I still wouldn't have sunlight on the roof all day.  It's close to cost-efficient, but I can't decide.  I'll need to contact a solar engineer (not a salesman) and a sawyer who buys large trees.  But it probably doesn't make sense to do both geothermal heating AND solar panels, so I'll wait a year.

That's a new TO-DO list, but one I can deal with.

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