Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Keeping Track of Utility Expenses

by Chiot's Run

Here at Chiot's Run we strive to keep our utility bills in check through various methods. We collect rain water to help reduce water usage. We keep our house cool in the winter and warm in the summer to reduce gas/electric usage for heating and cooling. We keep electronics plugged in to power strips that get turned off. We have some appliances in the house that aren't efficient and we're slowly switching them to more efficient models as they wear out. Our water heater is one of these appliances, it's electric, it's 14 yrs old, but still going strong. We'll be switching to an on demand gas water heater when it dies. Until then we do what we can to maintain the current model to keep it running as efficiently as possible. We drain it yearly to get rid of sediment, and closely monitor our electric usage so we know when one of the elements has burned out. When our electric bill is $5-$10 higher than usual for a couple months we know it's time to install a new lower element (this usually happens every 3-5 years for us). For a few dollars we get a new one from our electric co-op and we install it. We're hoping the water heater will last a few more years while we save for a nice tankless water heater, which are much more expensive initially. We've already researched and chosen the one we want in case our current water heater doesn't last as long as we hope.

We keep a close eye on our utilities with a graph. I made a spreadsheet and each month I enter the total amounts used for gas/water/electric. This helps me chart our usage and it lets me know if our efforts to reduce our usage or at least maintain are working.

What tips do you have to keeping track of your utility usage?


brightandnew said...

If you are in the UK then there is a good online tool you can use to record your weekly meter readings. allows you to tell it the cost you are charged per unit and works out your weekly spend on electricity and gas (i think it may also do water and oil?), the kWh you have used and your co2 output. There is also a facility where you can get together with a group of friends and make a 'Carbo Club', where you will be placed in a ranking table against other people within your club.

I've found this website to be a really helpful tool in keeping track of our energy use.

africanaussie said...

Hi interesting post, We have our name down for a solar water heater,(great rebate offered by the government here in Australia) but until that arrives we have been switching our hot water heater off for two days, then on for about four hours which is all it takes to heat up again. (there are only two of so we dont use that much) Seems to be working quite well.

GooseBreeder said...

Here in Ausieland the rebates may be good but the sot of installation is unnecessarily high.Hopefully it will reduce in future and be more efficient.
Saving your own water is esdsential and necessary if like us you're not on the mains.Solar is then not a possibility as the overheated water in Summer discharges into the gutters and goes back into the tanks. Sometimes with new systems I hear they dump the lot!! Not good news for something that is also heating the atmosphere more than it's heating the water and is actually very inefficient in it's present form.Something to ponder!

Mountain Thyme said...

I was always very frugal in my use of resources.....I thought. Till we moved waaaaay up the slope and now live at about 8,300 feet.

Water is scarce in the west and mid-west although some people don't think it will be a problem. We had to dig a well, we have all the problems that go with that. Every drop of water is accounted for. I bought a new washer that only uses 15 gallons for a load, my dishwasher uses less than 7, our toilets use 3/4 gallon per flush with the use of gravity for the rest of the job, I do not use the disposal; rather, I use old cloths to wipe (not rinse) the dirty dishes into the garbage pail and then only run the dishwasher when very full.

When I wash veggies such as parsley, celantro, spinich, etc., I use a colinder and a hugh bowl. This water is than used to water the inside plants.

I have two barrels connected to the downspouts to catch rain water and snow melt. By the way, that has only become legal in Colorado within the last yeat. Before that, you were supposed to let that water go to the groundwater and then to the streams, etc. OOPS!

As for the gas and electric, well, that is a whole other topic.

Tree Hugging Mama said...

I really like this idea. I also like the idea of weekly reads instead of monthly reads. I will have to consider that for us.

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Like you, I have almost everything electric plugged into a power strip, which is turned off unless in use. A bottle of water in the tank of the toilet. Short showers. Keep the condo cool in winter, and used fans instead of the air conditioner last summer.

I've got to cover the sliding door with something like a bedspread-turned-into-a-drape. There's a LOT of cold air coming in through there!

Chookie said...

GooseBreeder, the tank's steam valve will only discharge water to the gutters if it gets *too* hot, and is to prevent tank rupture. I have had solar HW for 10 years (in Sydney) and AFAICT the steam valve has only operated twice, I suspect on the hot day *after* a day when I didn't use any hot water. The amount of water discharged will depend on the temp reached, of course,and on the temp of incoming water as well. You are correct to say that the solar heater water should not be put into your drinking water -- that's in case there's been a leak from the heat exchange fluid. Possibilities include draining that gutter to a garden water tank.
Get local, up-to-date advice before deciding against solar water heating.

africanaussie said...

Thanks for these comments on solar hot water - must do some more research.