Energy Efficiency

We have always prided ourselves on being quite efficient about our power usage.  Then, we recently had a jump in the bill.  We tried a feature offered by our local electric company that would compare our household’s usage with similar homes in our neighborhood.  (It’s an old neighborhood, almost everything dates from the late 40s and early 50s.)

It seems we use 30% more energy than our neighbors this year, and even a bigger percentage more than last year.  Part of it we can explain–we have guests, and we have been operating the window unit in the spare bedroom.  However, it is a small unit (hey, for one bedroom what do you really need???) and it is a fairly new unit that is Energy Star rated.  Over three quarters of the homes in our neighborhood are like us and use window unit(s) to cool their home as well, so the difference between a central heating/cooling unit and window unit is irrelevant.

Houses from this era are poorly insulated, if insulated at all.  Our “insulation” in the walls consists of  two layers of 1″ thick wood planks.  (Actual 1″ planks, not the modern version which is thinner after being planed.)  In addition, the most used rooms of the house, where the main window unit is located, is facing more or less to the west.  In late afternoon, the house begins to warm considerably, and the unit is straining to accomplish cooling until the wee hours of the night when it finally catches up.

I think the unit is too small for efficient cooling.

Then comes the other problems.  I have developed health problems that make temperatures over 80 degrees F. intolerable and even potentially life threatening.  In addition to the underlying health problems, the medications used to treat them further erode my ability to cope with heat.  With cold, it’s easy to pull on fleece pants and a sweat shirt to stay warm.  I haven’t figured out a way to cool off if the electric is out.  I depend on the air conditioner and fans to keep me functional.

We need to reduce our power usage to keep the bill down.  We’re heading into the worst of the hot season now.  Granted, our guest will soon be leaving and that unit will be shut down, reducing some of our power usage, but it also means that the primary unit will be working harder to keep up.

So I have priced alternatives that are more efficient. The best choice solution would be a mini-split system.  The price? Serious ouch.  Like we-can’t-afford-efficiency kind of ouch.

So what is our solution?  I think we’re going to have to replace the window unit with a larger one for several reasons.  First of all, this one is now five years old, and probably past its prime.  We may be better off cleaning it, then using it in the seldom-used spare bedroom, relocating that small unit to the office, which does not need continual operation.  Then, with a new, larger and also Energy Star rated unit as our primary unit, we should see a reduction in our power usage.  With the added savings, more money can be diverted into the home improvement fund, which *hopefully* will lead to having insulation blown into the walls, creating a much snugger home with better efficiency.


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