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Hard Core Energy Savings - suggestions appreciated!

(23 Posts)
gomummygoes Sat 07-Dec-13 23:29:07

Wasn't really sure where to post this...

Where I live, electricity costs are extremely high (compared to the rest of the country), and projected to increase at least another 56% in the coming two years. We desperately neeeeed to save on our monthly bills but tbh, I am not sure how to save any more than we already do. Would love any and all suggestions for some hard core energy savings, willing to try anything!

Current situation: Heating is 95% wood, air circulated by a fan that is powered only by the heat from the wood furnace itself - no electricity. Other 5% would be oil, which does use electricity to run a fan. It is probably less than 5% but depends on weather (reaches -40 here in the winter). Water is heated by oil. Don't use a tumble dryer, ever. All CFL lighting. No air conditioning, though of course we do run fans in the summer as needed at night to breathe.

All washing machine/other appliance usage is in the off-peak hours (during the night, what a pain). I run the kettle and coffee maker in the off-peak hours and use thermoses for tea and coffee; no tv or anything during the day, other than computer/tablet which are running on battery during the day and charged at night. I even iron at night. When I absolutely have to iron, that is. grin

Beyond that, the only things that run during the day are the fridge, freezer, water pump, mascerating pump, stove as necessary for meals (combined use of oven where possible), block heaters on timers for vehicles so they start in the winter, security system, and house air exchanger. Nothing we can really turn off. We do have to pump some water in the summer when the rain barrels are empty, as we grow all of our fruits/vegetables/herbs for the year. It is certainly noticable on the bill when we have to pump water. And of course right now we have the Christmas tree on a timer in the evenings.

Sorry for long post but tried to think of everything at once. Don't know what else to try but any and all suggestions greatly received!

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 10:00:51

We have similar temps outside - we only run the car engine heaters before going out, and the fan heater inside the car foe a max of 30min if taking the baby with us otherwise we don't tend to bother with it.

We also use wood and cook on/in the wood stove which we use for our downstairs heating.

We don't have fans in the summer as it doesn't get too warm and the area is secure enough to leave Windows and doors open.

We also grow veg but live on a hill so don't nee to pump water - not sure how you can get round that one.
we do have an insulated outside basement which limits fridge and freezer use.

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 10:04:05

Can you get more or bigger rain barrels?

gomummygoes Sun 08-Dec-13 18:12:46

Envious that you can cook on your stove, I desperately wish for a cookstove, but it's well out of budget range for the forseeable. We do need more rain barrels for sure, I am watching for appropriate used ones. Rain has been scarce the last couple of years.

What is an outside insulated basement? Is that what we call a cold storage? Or a root cellar?

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 19:39:59

A cold storage sounds like the same thing - an undergroud store thats outside (rather than under a building) and keeps food at fridge temps yr round.

Is using grey water (i.e washing, shower water etc) an option for the veggies?

We were lucky with the stove as it was here when we got the house and we didn't have the money to replace it, which was good as we use it all the time now.

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 19:46:20

I suppose you could batch cook a couple of nights a week and then ping (microwave) at meals times.

gomummygoes Sun 08-Dec-13 19:50:24

Sadly the garden is quite a distance from the house.

I would be interested in a cold storage though, but how do you get at it in winter?

Thanks so much for your replies, by the way! smile

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 20:06:02

It has steps down to the door, we of course have to keep it clear of snow and ice so we can get to it, but the door is close to the house so it's a little protected.

(thats OK, its fun to talk to someone living a similar ish life)

have you thourght about self generating electricity at all - we were looking into solar but don't think it would pay back in time to make it worth our while.

gomummygoes Sun 08-Dec-13 20:15:22

Ah, I see. That sounds great. Think I will look online and see what is involved in building such a thing.

We looked into solar extensively, and made it all the way to the stage where we were about to sign the contract. At the last minute, I decided to bring it to my financial planner, who basically said exactly as you have - it would not pay back in time to make it worth it. But every time the hydro rates rise, I wonder if this is still the case. This was two years ago and our rates have increased dramatically since then.

I am planning to do one side of the roof in panels when the time comes to replace our current one, but that is still about five years away.

Is wind an option where you live?

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 20:23:47

large wind turbines are very popuöar here, but I don't think a small (roof mounted) one would be worth the investment as we are on a hill so protected from the wind in some directions, and we have too many close ish neighbours to get a midsize (free standing) turbine in the garden. (there are a few anti windfarm people in the area)

I assume you already have energy efficient appliances?

Would batch cooking work so you only use the cooker at night?

(we don't get cheap elec at night so I'm no sure what hours class as the night time)

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 20:28:30

assume you already wash at 30degrees and keep your fridge and frezer full, we put newspapers in the work fridge to keep it full.

gomummygoes Sun 08-Dec-13 20:55:25

Appliances are Energy Star rated, except a dishwasher that came with the house. But it's only run when full, at night, on Energy Save mode, no heat dry. Our rates are about 2/3 now at night, used to be 1/2. Night is 9pm-7am I believe (it has changed a few times).

Wash most things at 30 degrees, which saves me oil as our water is oil fired. About twice a month I do a load of hot for those things that need it. Fridge and freezer frustratingly (when you want to get at anything!) full. Newspaper is a great idea! We use old water bottles and ziplock bags of ice, which serve a dual use as misshapen ice packs when getting groceries,etc. I batch cook a few things but could probably do more, certainly worth trying. That may be an area to look at overall, as I do a LOT of cooking when I think about it, and baking as well.

I wonder about wind as we certainly have a lot of it, but suspect we would be met with similar resistance.

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 21:24:32

Ground source heat is popular here but if your worod is cheap probably not worth it.

We're hoping to renovate a garage so the cats a

Is saving on electricity purely a cost thing - are there other areas you could save in instead?

purplemurple1 Sun 08-Dec-13 21:33:06

Sorry my phone went bonkers!

We are renavating an old store in to a garage so the cars will be warmer to heat the to start in the winter, - is that an option?

I can't think of much else.

LisaMed Sun 08-Dec-13 23:56:39

I honestly think you will have done all of this, but just in case...

Is everything unplugged when not being actually used? I mean, even if the washing machine is not on is it unplugged? Two electricians have separately told me that it can drain a few pennies that way.

Ages ago I went around every single socket in the house and unplugged everything I could get away with, and I really ought to do it again. How about the computer? Phone chargers? I have a gas stove with an electric clock that really ate electric and I unplugged it.

Save shower/bath water to flush loo? Is the water costing electric to pump? If so then there are things like putting a brick in a cistern to use less to flush, using a bowl in a sink and not wasting a drop, saving the water you run before it gets hot to flush/water plants/wash windows/fill kettle etc.

Do you use a slow cooker? it is amazing what you can cook in that for 150w. If you want fresh veggies cooked then the microwave is an economical way or you can put them in a steamer over a pan of eg boiling potatoes. You can cook all sorts in a microwave! Are you in a part of the world that can use a remoska? I am also looking into the energy saving side of a halogen oven. There is a thing where you can pour boiling water on pasta and leave it in a thermos for about twenty minutes and it is cooked (or that may be urban myth)

According to a energy site you save money if you boil the water in kettle first before pouring it over potatoes/veggies/pasta that you are cooking on the hob.

I shall watch this with interest as I talk a good game but really need to get going on it.

gomummygoes Mon 09-Dec-13 01:31:42

Purple - neither can I! smile But thank you so much for all of the suggestions and yes it is fun to chat to someone living in a similar way! It's an electricity thing but also a money thing I guess. Fundamentally it's financial, but in all other areas we are SO ridiculously careful these days that the only place I could think to improve was electricity......but this was highlighted by the fact that our electricity costs have DOUBLED since we last reviewed our family budget, and that we have just been advised that it is going to go up another 56%-ish in the next two years! So, it seemed a valuable place to put a bit of effort into, iykwim.

Cars are already in the (uninsulated) garage; need to be plugged in about two hours minimum before starting when really cold, an hour is usually good in more moderate cold. Mine is on a timer and DH on a remote control plug in as his hours are variable.

Ground source was popular here for a bit, economical, but the few people I knew with it had to put in supplementary heat anyway, not exactly sure why.

Actually Lisa I've not done most of those things! I do have electronic stuff on power bars but had no idea a washing machine could use power when not running?! Just assumed it would only be things with chargers/instant-on/etc., but that things that just had motors wouldn't draw anything unless they were actually running? I guess I really do need to look at those things further. So you actually unplug everything you are not using? Did you notice a big difference overall?

Water does cost electricity to pump. We have the most efficient toilets, showerheads, etc., that we can buy, but I believe the dishwasher is a guzzler when it is used, even on it's energy saver mode.

What is a remoska?

I do not use a slow cooker. I did years ago when I was working 12 hour days/6 days a week and did not feel like cooking (or moving for that matter) when I got home, so I probably have one kicking around somewhere I should pull out. Maybe new ones are more efficient though, this would be at least 15 years old! <dates self> Do they really save overall, when they are powered on for so long? That is an interesting possibility.

Oh my I am writing an essay, sorry! blush

LisaMed Mon 09-Dec-13 08:33:32

On a quick google I found this which compares oven use in the US. It's a bit of a tricky one, though. Using that as a basis for a best guess, a slow cooker would use @ 150W in an hour, a microwave would cost @ 800W for an hour (except it would be a few minutes normally) and an oven at hottish for casserole cool for roast heat I think (please do not rely on me, but I think would be about 1000W for an hour. So a casserole in the slow cooker would use cheaper meat and be cooked for eg 8 hours, or 1200W or in an electric oven for an hour and a half and use @ (guessing!) 1500W but possibly not as tender.

I can't seem to find the wattage of generic electric ovens but you may be able to google your model. That is how I look to compare, how much energy does it use in an hour.

Two separate electricians from two separate cities five years apart told me about the unplugging, but if there is a 'standby' light or integral clock then it will draw some power, the one on the cooker actually did make a difference to the bills. Apparently even just plugged in with no clock/light/timer it will still pull a tiny, tiny current.

A remoska is a small mini oven from Lakeland. The linky is here I can't remember the wattage but it heats a small space with it and they are really good.

btw do you eg fill the oven with as many baking potatoes as will fill it then freeze and just microwave when you need them? Potatoes seem to take a lot of energy to cook in any way but boiled.

purplemurple1 Mon 09-Dec-13 09:11:46

I was thinking about travel tbh (assuming your living remotly and this is a lot) - do you check tyre pressures, remove anything (parcel shelf, tools, seats that aren't needed), drive economically etc

Could you use a moped/bike in the summer?

The other things I don't do but should really look into more.

Using 0% credit cards, cash back etc

Using cash back sites when renewing your insurance etc and comparison sites to make sure you get the cheapest deals for these and your energy, phone, internet etc suppliers. Threatening to leave your current provider to get a better deal.

Maing sure debts are cleared (or at least the interest lowered) and savings are properly managed so you get the most interest on them - hard at the moment but there are some deals around.

specialsubject Mon 09-Dec-13 18:35:40

I don't think the OP is in the UK to use those web sites, not with a murderous climate like that!

purplemurple1 Tue 10-Dec-13 09:43:44

I'm not in the UK either the sites were for explanations of the terms and topics really.

gomummygoes Tue 10-Dec-13 13:38:52

Will definitely look into the comparison Lisa, thanks!

Travel is a big one Purple, and no we are not that efficient about it. I drive a 4x4 (out of necessity!), but it is generally loaded with gear. Lots of emergency type stuff. Nothing I'd want to take out, but I would believe it does impact fuel economy. Moped or bike not an option as it would take me a loooong time to get anywhere. smile No, not in UK. But sites still have useful info.

Don't have a 0% credit card. I chose a really high interest one as it is no annual fee, and I never really used it for much beyond booking hotels, etc. That may change though, and switching would be a good thing to remember then.

Sadly, we only have one provider for electricity, phone, and internet here. I would dearly loooove to be able to threaten to leave the hydro company! smile

specialsubject Tue 10-Dec-13 14:30:58

as a matter of interest OP, where are you? (obviously not precisely!)

gomummygoes Tue 10-Dec-13 22:08:29

Special, I'm in Canada. Not the far north, but further than many and quite rural. smile

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