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What is your Gas/Electricity Costing You?

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Joined: Apr 26 2003

Forgive me if this topic has been covered before.

We had our second bill from PG&E that is over $550, about evenly divided between gas and electricity. Is this par for the course in winter?

Our Eichler is 2100 sf with an atrium.

I do not think we are energy hogs. The radiant heat system is the only system we have for heat. We have a new Takagi tankless boiler (gas) for the heat, all of the flooring in the house is tile, except the bedrooms. We set the thermostat between 62 and 66 degrees. We have window coverings on all the windows except the large glass between the living room and the atrium.

We have two refrigerators, both EnergyStar certified, the dishwasher is EnergyStar. We have an electric dryer, electric oven, gas stovetop, gas waterheater.

The windows are the original single pane and our roof does have "some" insulation.

Have energy costs gone up? What are your energy costs? What do you think we can do to reduce our bill?

Thanks for any suggestions.

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Joined: Apr 2 2003

Since utility prices can vary by region (Southern California is different than Northern California), it would probably be more useful to quote the number "therms" of gas and how many KWH of electricity your billing indicates. Also, take a look to see how the consumption compares to your billing last year this time.

Without seeing those, I'm assuming the electricity rates are the same as here in San Jose. In that case, your electricity looks high to me. Electric dryers are the one of the energy hogs and your consumption depends on the number of dryer loads you run on average a week. If you tend to do a lot of wash (e.g. have toddlers or teenagers), it might provide some of the reason.

Look forward to seeing your therms/kwh. I'd offer mine but they aren't comparable because my home's profile is different (old boiler, new doublepane, pool filter/heater).

Cheers.
Jake

eichfan at rawbw dot com

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Joined: May 22 2003

Jeff wrote:
Forgive me if this topic has been covered before.

We had our second bill from PG&E that is over $550, about evenly divided between gas and electricity. Is this par for the course in winter?

Our Eichler is 2100 sf with an atrium.

I do not think we are energy hogs. The radiant heat system is the only system we have for heat. We have a new Takagi tankless boiler (gas) for the heat, all of the flooring in the house is tile, except the bedrooms. We set the thermostat between 62 and 66 degrees. We have window coverings on all the windows except the large glass between the living room and the atrium.

We have two refrigerators, both EnergyStar certified, the dishwasher is EnergyStar. We have an electric dryer, electric oven, gas stovetop, gas waterheater.

The windows are the original single pane and our roof does have "some" insulation.

Have energy costs gone up? What are your energy costs? What do you think we can do to reduce our bill?

Thanks for any suggestions.

Ours was $440 but we have a pool and there was more electric than gas.

PG&E should be tarred and feathered !!
There bosses get big bonuses and we get the shaft.

We have had our house about 10 years, three years ago the cost was at least $100 less than it is now.

I so hope that things change soon and the friends of george get there hands out of our pockets.

Opps sorry a sore subject for me
Michael C

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

ours was $300 with $230 of that for gas. Last year the total in January was $220, and in 2002 it was 180. The actual consumption was unchanged over the years, it is the price per unit that is going up.

We have a 1600 sqft 114 model with a foam roof and forced air heating.

So I would say your gas consumption is not completely out of whack, given your higher sqare footage and the atrium. I assume your roof is not insulated. Your electricity usage seems high compared to ours. We have all energy saving light bulbs and appliances.

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Joined: Apr 26 2003

Sorry, Jake, haven't had a chance to look up my therms and kwh.

I did want to add that we have a pool and a hot tub. The pool is not heated. The hot tub is electric and probably costs us about $70 per month (a luxury we would rather not live without).

I took an informal poll around my office and it seems that even though we are in an Eichler, our utility bill is not all that out of whack.

A coworker in a 10 year old house with gas forced air heat, a swimming pool (not heated), etc. had a bill of about $420 for this month and for last month. Their house is well insulated, with dual pane windows.

I guess we just have to suck it up and pay the man. :(

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

Looks like the increased electricity portion of your bill is explained with the hot tub

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Joined: Oct 10 2003

we've only been in our Eichler about 3 months (Nov, Dec, Jan) but we're already getting numb to the huge utilities cost. We're paying about $10 / day, about 2/3 gas and 1/3 electric.

Sometimes I think about just turning the radiant heating OFF and getting some nice sweaters for everybody. At $300 a month for 3 months, that's alot of nice sweaters!

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Joined: Oct 10 2003

we've only been in our Eichler about 3 months (Nov, Dec, Jan) but we're already getting numb to the huge utilities cost. We're paying about $10 / day, about 2/3 gas and 1/3 electric.

Sometimes I think about just turning the radiant heating OFF and getting some nice sweaters for everybody. At $300 a month for 3 months, that's alot of nice sweaters!

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

$300 a month seems to be quite reasonable given the current weather and gas/electric rates. Don't blame your eichler. We lived in a cookie cutter 50s ranch home before and had the same energy consumption, even though our payments were lower back then due to cheaper gas.

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Joined: May 22 2003

I have found over the years by keeping the blinds closed at night I save some on the bill. I have the original glass and it's not very energy effecient. I was thinking about double pane but that cost a ton with our windows. The "eichler window treatment" sounded as if it's not a good fix.

We do have a new roof, next some wall insulation.

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Joined: Jan 6 2004

I've thought our energy bill is high, but it sounds like I should be counting my blessings! Ours runs in the low $300s in the winter, and about $100 lower in the warmer months. I feel like we've been keeping our house warmer this winter, but that has not been reflected in our utility bills which have actually gone down a bit (I don't understand that!). We live in a 2000 square foot eichler in Palo Alto; we have carpeting in the bedroom areas, laminate in the family/living areas. We had noise solutions install "great eichler windows" a couple of years ago. I have three small children and do tons of laundry (probably an average of 10-15 loads a week).

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

Here's our stats:

1650 Sq. Ft
Family of 4
No atrium, 2 skylights
Foam roof R-19+
Double Pane windows throughout
Heat Exchanger (i.e. Heat Recovery Ventilator)
Electric Dryer, Stove, Oven
Gas water heater, radiant heat
Mostly Carpeted floors
Original wall insulation

Avg approx 100 Therms/mo. gas in winter ($0.70/therm in Palo Alto)
Avg approx 30 Therms/mo. in gas in summer
(Difference is Radiant Heat)
Avg approx. 550 KWH/mo. electric throughout year (no changes for winter)($0.07/KWH)

My bill in Palo Alto for 12/17/03-1/21 was higher than this (typically our peak useage):

Gas 124.9 Therms, $87.16
Electric 639 KWH $44.87

House is very comfortable but some of the exterior walls in the bedrooms make these rooms feel a bit cooler- especially the corner rooms with more walls facing the exterior.

Lynn

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

I guess I should count my blessings since our bill last month was 297.00. We do have a foam roof and slate floors in the main living areas and our master bedroom. Carpet is in the three back bedrooms. We have single pane windows and all the windows are covered except the big windows in the living room which faces to the back yard. I do have a 6 and 15 year old, but even with that I try not to run the washer and dryer more then a couple of days per week. I also set the thermostat to 62 which keeps the house about 68 to 70 degrees. During the non winter months the lowest our bill can get down to is about 140.00 .

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Joined: Jan 29 2004

Most recent bill (January usage)

Gas: $103
97 Therms.
1800 Sq Ft.
Double paned glass throughout
Double paned glass skylights
Foam Roof
Setback Thermostat: 68 degrees daytime, 55 from 11pm-6am
Gas Stove, water heater, radiant heat
carpeted floors
New R-13 fiberglass in walls

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Ours runs just under $300 in the winter. We have a 1536ft^2 courtyard model; Milgard double pane windows, baseboard heating, and a foam roof. The roof and the door/window replacment made the greatest difference.

I keep the thermostat set at 72 in the day and 68 at night.

The other thing that helped quite a bit was replacing our appliances with Euro ones: Bosch dishwasher and Bosch front-load clothes washers both use 1/4 the amount of water and thus far less energy. They also heat it, rather than taking it hot out of the hot water heater.

In the summer, our bills run about $150 (we have AC).

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Joined: Jan 29 2004

cathye wrote:
Bosch dishwasher and Bosch front-load clothes washers both use 1/4 the amount of water and thus far less energy. They also heat it, rather than taking it hot out of the hot water heater.

Currently, it is cheaper to get the hot water out of your gas-based hot water heater rather than using electricity within an appliance to heat cold water. That's why almost no one (in this country) has an electric water heater.

European appliance offer this feature because there are lots of European homes without central hot water heaters. But in this country, this feature increases your energy bill.

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Joined: May 8 2003

I live in Sunnyvale, CA in a 1200 sq ft Eichler.

I have the programmable thermostat to turn on the heat for 2 hours in the morning from 4:15 am to 6:16am. By the time we get up, the house is nice and warm.

I turn on the heater at 5:00pm to 8:00pm, which provides sufficient amount of heat for the night.

Gas price: $124 (113 therms)
Electric: $53 (455 Kwatts)

This by far has been our most expensive bill. On average, we pay about $120 during the winter season.

- Jimmy

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Joined: Apr 12 2003

We live in a 1750 sf atrium model in San Rafael, new boiler for the radiant heating, no window coverings on the single pane, non-heated swimming pool-pump/filter on 4hrs day, some roof insulation, gas dryer/range, thermostat set to heat to 62-64º at 6am, and turn off, then heat 7ish to 64º for 2 hours, then off. Last PGE bill was $290. We were home a week over the holidays so heater was set to 64º during daytime then.

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Joined: Feb 6 2004

I've got a set-up close to boeronicus, although we keep our house a bit warmer while we're at home. But I can supply a before-and-after remodel picture:

Before: Jan 99: Gas 202 Therms
After: Jan 04: Gas 126 Therms

The difference?

o double-paned low-e windows everywhere
o new radiant heat system (5 zones, timers, new slab)
o insulation everywhere
o new tankless water heater for 2 bathrooms
o new refrigerator
o window shades
o 400 sq ft more house! (to 2200 sq ft total)
o gas stovetop (instead of electric)

Still the same as before...
o foam roof (which helped quite a bit when it went on)
o San Mateo weather (cold, windy)

And our summer bills are even more dramatic. We used to have to run the heat 12 months a year at night. Now during the summer months, we barely run it at all, as the passive solar qualities of the house absorb enough heat during the day to keep it warm throughout the night.

Next up...
o solar power to start cutting into that electricity bill!

-JT

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Joined: Jan 29 2004

jtoupin wrote:
o new tankless water heater for 2 bathrooms

This is interesting. I'm assuming you did this to provide quicker hot water to your bathrooms? Have you found these units to be quiet? I suppose any noise they make is masked by the simultaneous sound of flowing hot water. I'm using a noisy, less elegant solution to this problem, called the Chili Pepper Appliance.

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

To boberonicus!' comment that my electric bill WILL increase due to use of Euro appliances: It has not. It has gone down, holding all else constant. Then again, I don't loose a lot of sleep worrying about energy cost. We purchased the Bosch due to their superior performance and their energy efficiency was just an attractive side benefit.

Cathye

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

The 'euro' appliances will use less energy no matter what because they use less water.

The issue of gas vs. electric is difficult to answer. Conventional wisdom has that gas is more efficient and better for the environment. But with the current energy market you cannot tell for sure. In winter, gas prices tend to go up while electricity prices stay stable due to regulations. Moreover with gas it depends on the efficiency of your water heater, how long your pipes are and so on. I wonder if anyone has done the math to see at which gas price electric washer/dryers run cheaper.

Another drawback of the electric washers is that they need to run on 220V, and you cannot run your washer and your electric dryer concurrently unless you upgrade your circuits.

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Joined: Feb 6 2004

Quote:
This is interesting. I'm assuming you did this to provide quicker hot water to your bathrooms? Have you found these units to be quiet? I suppose any noise they make is masked by the simultaneous sound of flowing hot water. I'm using a noisy, less elegant solution to this problem, called the Chili Pepper Appliance.

Indeed, quickness had a lot to do with it. The original water heater is still in the garage, about 50' away from our master bathroom. It used to take several minutes for the hot water to arrive. The other consideration was supplying a whirlpool bath tub after the remodel. Instead of going from a 30-gal traditional tank to a 90-gal tank, which was still going to be 50' from our bathroom and still going to rot out in 10 yrs, instead we decided to try a tankless system mounted on the exterior wall under the eaves along the bedroom wing. Just needed to run cold water and gas to it. It now feeds both baths, while the kitchen and laundry are still on the original 30-gal tank system. When that goes, I'll probably replace it with a tankless system, too.

As for noise, it's not noticable compared to the water flow (but you might ask my neighbor). The only complaint I have about the unit (Takagai TK-2) is that it just generates adequate pressure for a good shower. When you have a tank system, you get the full 90psi flow off the main feed until your hot water runs out. With a tankless system, you get an endless supply of hot water, but only as fast and hard as your system can heat it. There are three known solutions to this problem: a) live with it (it saves water and gas, anyway); b) buy another tankless unit and hook them up in series; or c) feed hot water from your tank system into your tankless system. We chose (a).

The other major issue you might run into is that it can cost quite a bit to install one of these units in a place where you don't already have a hot water heater. You need gas and water lines, plus a chimney/venting system and electricity. It helps to use a contractor who's comfortable and experienced in the installation of these units. Our plumber was quite good overall, but had no experience with tankless systems.

-JT

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Joined: Jan 29 2004

jtoupin wrote:
Quote:
Our plumber was quite good overall, but had no experience with tankless systems.

I wonder why tankless systems haven't caught on in this country. They're such an obvious improvement:
- no cathodic protection required (no tank)
- lower gas bills
- unlimited hot water supply

I suppose the initial price makes people balk. Anyway, thanks for the great writeup. Very interesting stuff. And as for making your water heater last longer, consider flushing it annually and checking the sacrificial anode every couple of years. These steps will triple the life of the tank.

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Joined: Jan 29 2004

cathye wrote:
To boberonicus!' comment that my electric bill WILL increase due to use of Euro appliances: It has not. It has gone down, holding all else constant. Then again, I don't loose a lot of sleep worrying about energy cost. We purchased the Bosch due to their superior performance and their energy efficiency was just an attractive side benefit.

Cathye

I'm sure that your new appliances are more efficient than your old ones. And they'd be even more efficient if they didn't heat their own water.

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Joined: Feb 6 2004

Quote:
And they'd be even more efficient if they didn't heat their own water.

I'm not so sure that's true 100% of the time. For example, let's say that you need to keep your hot water tank at 130 degrees so your dishwasher functions w/o having to heat its own water. That means the entire tank is always kept at that temp, even though you only need 108 degree water for bathing and other household chores. Wouldn't you be better off keeping the tank at 108 and using the local heater on the dishwasher? This is particularly true if you have a large water tank (like maybe you have a Jacuzzi).

-JT

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Joined: Jan 29 2004

jtoupin wrote:

I'm not so sure that's true 100% of the time. For example, let's say that you need to keep your hot water tank at 130 degrees so your dishwasher functions w/o having to heat its own water.

I believe that all dishwashers heat water. The issue is hooking it up to hot, or cold. And in this country, hooking it up to the hot water supply reduces cost, because using electricity to heat water is expensive.

But in the words of Dieter, this discussion has become tiresome. 'Course, I started it. Sorry for the digression. Let's hear more about Therms!!!

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Joined: Jan 4 2004

Most dishwashers require a hot water supply.

renman

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