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Chalco Donating Member (817 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 11:24 AM
Original message
Insulation and energy costs
Hi, I recently discovered that I'm paying twice as much for my energy bills as my neighbor. He has a brick house that is larger than our frame/vinyl siding house.

The older half of our house (built in 1935) has blown in cellulose fiber in the walls and attic which was done in 1980. The newer half was built in 1990 and was built to code. Has the cellulose in the walls and attic settled? We went up into the attic yesterday and I measured the depth of the fiber and it was 4 to 8 inches. I bought some insulation (R-38) and covered up the hatch which was not covered.

We have 2 floors and a basement which we recently put a bathroom in. The guy who put the bathroom in said that we didn't need the insulation that was underneath the first floor joists. We said he could remove it. He removed it in February. The walls are cement block and there is no insulation.

Another possible problem in that we have 3 sets of sliding glass doors on the south side of the house with no drapes. (We love the view.)

Any advice on any of this? We're spending $4500 a year on energy bills while our neighbor is only spending $2000. We both have central air and heat with natural gas.

Thanks!
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 11:58 AM
Response to Original message
1. how old are the units? if his is newer that might be your answer? n/t
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 01:03 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. too late to edit, the windows on the south side should actually help
with heat gain during the day, but you'll want thick curtains for nights and cloudy days

:shrug:
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Chalco Donating Member (817 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 02:18 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. Here's more data
His electric was 795
Mine was 2124

His gas was 1753
Mine was 2124

Looks like the biggest difference is in the electric which is interesting. My A/C is new and his is 10 years old. My gas furnace is 20 years old, don't know about his.
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Digit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 06:06 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. I had one odd electrical problem which added to my woes
I hesitate to even mention it because it must be rare, but here goes.

My ac new 12 seer.............neighbors was 30 yrs old (original to house)
My windows all new triple pane low e/argon...theirs 30 years old
My house 2000 sf............theirs 1850
Same kind of heating, installed at same time (gas)
Water heater...both gas
My dryer GAS.........theirs 20+ years old ELECTRIC
Two people in my home...........three people in theirs
No freezers inside or outside.......they have OLD freezer in unconditioned space (shed)
Oh, and by this time I had insulation added to the attic and any air leaks stopped in the crawl space.
Additionally, they had a Jenn Aire

Their home had always been kept up by the owners, so the windows were in okay shape. Mine had plenty of deferred maintenance when I bought it such as the screens falling out, the putty disintegrating on the outside...etc.

I could not understand why my electric bills were so much higher than theirs!
After numerous calls to the town's electric coop and several electricians deciding I was nutzo, the fourth electrician finally found the culprit.

I had a corroded ground wire in my panel box. He said as a result, any electrical useage was amplified with this condition. Now things are fine.

Just two years ago their A/C died and I talked them into a heat pump instead of just replacing the A/C. Boy are they ever happy! They almost died when I told them my heating bills for this past winter!


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Chalco Donating Member (817 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-08-06 06:32 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Wow, that's interesting!
Last nite I got on Pepco's website which led me to <http://www.ase.org/content/article/detail/971 > where I did a home energy checkup.

According to this "check up" my bills should be around $2000 per year, when in fact they are $4000+. According to the check up my old appliances are costing me a lot. But the most puzzling thing is that their estimate and my actual bills are so far off.

I think I need some serious evaluation of what's going on in this house and don't exactly know where to start. As you said, should I have an electrician out here? I've actually had lots of electrical work done in the last year--I added an art studio out back and rewired the basement. As a result the main panel was completely redone.

Anyway, I'm at a loss here.
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Digit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-08-06 09:20 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. I would do some things first, mind you I am no expert
At the time, I still had the meter with the wheel so I could actually SEE how much energy was being used.
I unplugged everything...checked meter to see if it was running, with A/C off of course.
Then I tested different appliances to see how much energy they drew and what was drawing energy even when turned off but plugged in. You know, those "instant on" TV sets and such.
Oh, and I already had my dishwasher set to "air dry".

I vacuumed under the fridge in case cat/dog hair had accumulated.
The energy person came out and sealed leaks in my ductwork, so THAT was taken care of.
THEN I began calling electricians as a last resort since they are expensive. Not so much to look for a problem but to ask WHY.
Geez, I had copies of my bills and my neighbor had furnished copies of her bills...I really did my homework. I even had one of those outlet testers.
Our natural gas bills were not at issue although mine were higher. I had higher square footage plus a gas dryer.

Being dismissed as a looney old lady just made me more determined to find the answer!

Damn, I just re-read your post...you have Pepco? Don't they do energy audits?
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Digit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 12:05 PM
Response to Original message
2. Doesn't that drive you crazy?
My neighbor and I had the same situation.

First, I would want to know if it is the electricity or gas which is so far off. In other words, heating or the cooling.
How old are your furnaces and what efficiency? Are they both the same?
For your southern windows, especially the large glass ones, you can buy window film at your local home depot or lowes to cut down on the heat gain.

Yes, adding insulation in the attic is a good move. I found I had the original insulation from when my 1971 home was built. It was scant, to say the least.

I have a crawl space and had my ductwork wrapped and insulated as well.

Sometimes your local electric company will do testing for you to see where you can tighten up.
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 02:32 PM
Response to Original message
5. There are far too many variables to make more than a guess, so here's mine
Blown cellulose is a reasonably good insulation .... but ..... it has a propensity to settle and condense in both wall cavaties (leaving the tops uninsulated) and in attics (reducing the trapped air and thereby the R-factor. That said, wall insulation matters less than ceiling insulation. You may want to consider adding more insulation over whatever's up there.

Those sliders are a problem both summer and winter if they're single glazed. If they're double glazed, that's better. If they're low e, that's best. Yes, drapes will help.

The basement walls don't need insulation assuming they're mostly below grade. Our basement, as an example, is below grade opn two sides, but falls off to fully exposed at one corner (we have a walk-out slider there). We insulated the exposed walls some years ago and it made a huge difference.

The biggest source of potential heat loss are the doors and windows. What are yours, particularly in the older part of the house? If original, storms will help, but replacement is really the answer. They make new windows in the style of the old ones if that's an issue for you.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-07-06 02:47 PM
Response to Original message
6. First, figure out how you're going to cover those sliders
Edited on Mon Aug-07-06 02:49 PM by Warpy
while you're not actively enjoying the view. You're having heat pumped into the house whenever the sun is up in the summer and you're losing radiant heat through them on winter nights.

Second, consider finishing that basement, waterproofing and insulating it. Consider putting the insulation back. I think your plumber was afraid the pipes to that basement bathroom would freeze. I lived in a wood heated home in New England where the only source of heat in the basement was a well insulated electric water heater, and my basement never froze. Insulate the pipes if you want extra peace of mind.

Third, consider adding some extra fibreglass insulation in your attic space. It certainly can't hurt at this point.

Fourth, consider the 5 degree rule. Turn your heat down five degrees in the winter and keep the house 5 degrees warmer in summer.

Fifth, consider hiring an insulation contractor. He'll pressurize the house and go around with a smoker to see where your house leaks. Caulking doors and windows and insulating outlets on exterior walls can work wonders.

But get those sliders covered, willya?
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Longhorn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-08-06 07:55 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. You mentioned something that hasn't come up, unless I missed it.
Thermostat setting. We have two programmable thermostats. one for each unit (upstairs and down.) In the summer, we keep it at 82 when we're not around and 78 when we are. In the winter, it's 64 when we're not around and 68 when we are, except we keep it at 64 when we sleep, using an electric blanket to stay warm. The settings certainly make a big difference in bills!
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Chalco Donating Member (817 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-09-06 06:52 AM
Response to Original message
11. Update, more research
Edited on Wed Aug-09-06 06:53 AM by Chalco
I called Pepco and was on hold for an hour before getting a human who said they don't do energy audits anymore and referred me to someone else who referred me to a company who does it for $450. Give me a break. The Pepco lady did state that much of the rise in my bill was due to a 38% price increase, however, that doesn't account for the fact that my neighbor has the same price increase and has lower bills.

38% increase.

The energy audit described testing for all leaks from everywhere in the house, infrared scanning of all walls, ceiling, etc. It sounded comprehensive, but for $450? Not so sure.

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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-09-06 08:59 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. 38% increase?? Holy crap! n/t
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Lisa0825 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-09-06 01:33 PM
Response to Original message
13. House Sealing
I found this yesterday. There was a lot I didn't realize in it.

http://www.energystar.gov/ia/home_improvement/home_seal...
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-09-06 02:27 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. great link Lisa, thanks! n/t
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Chalco Donating Member (817 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-09-06 08:53 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. Thank you so much!
I'm going to study it tomorrow and get started!

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Lisa0825 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-09-06 09:04 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. You're welcome, both of you!:-)
I know I learned quite a bit about what to look for while reading it. For example, I had no idea that wall sockets are insulation leaks!!! :wtf:
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 08:47 AM
Response to Original message
17. my windows leak dust like crazy in the new house
I gently pushed on them and the panes are loose in the frames

i gotta go to town and get a whole bunch of caulking before winter
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Chalco Donating Member (817 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 01:09 PM
Response to Original message
18. OMG!
I just got a letter from PEPCO saying that they are raising my bill to $264 a month or $3168 a year due to a price increase.

I'm going under. I'm retired. This is unbelievable. I'm so afraid I'm going to have to move and leave my home and community. This is unbelievable.

I'm beside myself with worry.

WTF is happening to us?
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 02:01 PM
Response to Reply #18
19. Chalco
I'm so sorry :hug:

maybe you have a friend who could move in to share expenses?

this country is just going to hell in a handbasket.
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Chalco Donating Member (817 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-11-06 02:28 PM
Response to Reply #19
20. Thank you.
I have a husband! So don't need a room mate. But...I do wish he made more money!
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