Thursday, January 26, 2006

Me vs home heating bills

It's a battle to the meter-reading date, that's what it is. Like many Oklahomans, we have natural gas heat (and stovetop and oven and hot water heater) and electric other stuff. Like many folks this winter, a few weeks ago we received our first semi-astronomical home heating bill of this scarily expensive winter. I sure don't want to see a bill for that many dollars again. The electric bill and natural gas bill had both nearly doubled. The battle is on, I said.

Layers: ON! Son2 and I are home most of the day, most days, so the thermostat is set at a comfortable temperature. That is, comfortable if I'm wearing 2-3 layers of clothes (turtleneck, dress, maybe big shirt) and am active (working in kitchen, doing chores, etc.). The kids seem oblivious, but I make them wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks at home. When I'm sitting down for a bit, even with layers I feel a bit cool. So...

Everyone uses lap blankets if they're sitting down anywhere in the evening or on a cloudy day or working on the computer/knitting/reading/etc for a long while. Dear husband and I might even put blankets over our shoulders after the kids are in bed, when...

The thermostat gets set quite low for overnight (as in: shoulders uncovered? brrr!). The thermostat is at the top of an open staircase and cathedral ceiling. Up there it's set at 63-64F for overnight; 68F for daytime; 65F from the kids' bedtime until later evening. One can only imagine what temperature it is down at the house's main level, where...

The main-level floor in the common areas is finished concrete (the foundation, actually). That's a bit cold in winter, you know. So everyone wears socks all the time, and dear husband and I definitely wear shoes or slippers as well.

Everyone has their winter blankets for their bed, and flannel sheets. The kids wear thermal pajamas. When it's especially cold and/or windy outside (rare for us so far this winter), and the house is losing heat more rapidly, the thought crosses my mind that nightcaps are not a bad idea at all.

I love sunny days!! When it's sunny, I take full advantage of the heat our downstairs sunroom and upstairs little sunny room pump into the house in the afternoon. I also open all of the blinds and let as much sunlight into the house as possible...

And keep closets and cupboards closed all the time. And keep our bedroom, at the top of our open staircase/cathedral ceiling, closed during the day to avoid heating that room unnecessarily with ambient heat.

I strategically choose when to (a) use the gas oven and (b) use the electric clothes dryer, because they heat the house. Typically I try to dry clothes in mid-morning, when I'm a bit cold; use the oven by noon or before dinner; and dry clothes in the evening.

Cold plates cool off dinner pretty quickly, so we're heating our plates in the microwave if the oven is not warm! I try to use the microwave oven for at least some cooking and reheating. I think I need to get out the crockpot and do some dinners in that.

As for the water heater, we have always used cold water for most clothes washer cycles, and the new dishwasher is fairly frugal with hot water and electricity (we don't use the heated dry cycle).

To warm up from the inside, I eventually get moving and do chores if I get cold, and I try to remember to make a pot of hot tea for the afternoon and another for the evening. My nighttime chocolate treat is now a cup of instant hot cocoa!

I'm contemplating ways to rig a clothesline in the sunroom. Sunlight is cheaper than the clothes dryer...

I looked up how to read the gas meter, and tried it. I think we're wayyyy below last month's use, and the prices has only gone up a small(er) amount. (The gas company's Web site lists the current month's cost we'll be charged.) That's if I read the meter correctly. We shall see.

Time to read the electric meter, too, and see how that's going. That would be mostly: the heat pump (for heat on mild-yet-cool/cloudy days), the clothes washer and dryer, the fridge, the freezer, computers, and lighting (though we switched almost every bulb that's on for more than a few minutes at a time to compact fluorescents in the fall).

As I'm writing this, I am wearing a turtleneck, a denim dress, wool socks and shoes; I'm sitting in the upstairs loft at my computer with a heavy lap blanket over my lap and legs, and a fleece shawl over my neck, back, and arms; I'm drinking hot tea; and I'm comfortable. When I go downstairs to watch a little TV and knit for a bit, I'll leave this blanket and shawl at my office chair, fill up my mug with more hot tea, grab a down lap blanket for my legs, and make a cozy nest on the sofa for an hour or two.

With all of this effort, I am very grateful that our winter has been quite mild so far. I think with a more normal winter our indoor attire would include hats, fingerless gloves, and vests or pullover sweaters, plus maybe I'd have bought long underwear for myself. Or at least wool- or silk-blend tights...

WOOHOO! I just checked the gas company's Web site; they've read our meter and we dropped from 10.3 Mcf delivered (billed this month) to just 4.1 Mcf delivered (to be billed shortly)!!! Woohoo!!

2 comments:

The Ranter said...

Set your thermostat on 50, to keep the pipes from freezing, and buy a small electric space heater to use in a small room in your house where you can do most of your living. Our 1200 square foot house had a heating bill of $342 and that was with the thermostat set at 60.

Barbara said...

Good to 'see' you, Ranter!

We *could* do what you suggest, but at this point we're pretty happy with the tradeoff of moderate (not rock-bottom) winter heating bills for a house that requires moderate layering and activity and is comfortable enough in the common areas even though they're all under a cathedral ceiling. Our natural gas (heat, cooking, hot water) and electricity (fridge, freezer, air blower for furnace, clothes dryer, electronics) bills totalled $240 pre-battle and $150 for the next billing cycle. The first is not as sky-high as a lot of folks I know, and the second is manageable in our budget.

Of course NOW we're in the deep freeze, with highs below freezing for probably a week before it warms up. I gotta get going on baking breakfast breads/coffeecakes, and baking bread in the afternoons to get some good heating off the oven use...