This is the fourth
and last of a series of articles giving an actual example of what can be done
to convert a drafty old house into an efficient and comfortable home. Dan, one
of our readers from Kansas, graciously provided the information.
Revision 9 (2006) Summary
- Replaced blue flame 12,000 BTU wall heater with Comfort-Glow natural gas fireplace 18,000 BTU vent free
- Replaced front door with energy star compliant door
Revision 9 Description of work and results
Gas fireplace: Well with the great results of our blue flame gas heater (12,000 BTU). I had the chance to upgrade to a new gas fireplace for $200 (last years model). Since we were kind of going for a more Victorian look in the house, the Comfort Glow natural gas fireplace seemed to be more appealing than a white metal box hanging on the wall. The new gas fireplace was 18000 BTU and 99% efficient. It works during a power failure.
Front door replacement: It starts out like this; a family member replaced their front door to one with a big oval window thermal door. I acquired the old one. Just the door not the frame too. Our local lumberyard carried a replacement door frame kit, which I purchased along with the brick molding kit too.
It came with the modern door
weather stripping, like the new ones have. After assembling the frame and trim
kit, I mounted the door in the new frame. Then I proceeded to remove the old
door and frame. I needed to do a little reconstruction that I was not planning
I found some dry rot and had to replace about a foot of wall and insulate
around the wall by the door. I soon had it installed and before I could install
my old storm door, the family member that bought the new door decide to buy a
new storm door that would not block the big oval glass door they just bought,
so I got it too. This one even had a screen in it, unlike my old one.
Apparently, we did a really good job installing it when you open the front door now you hear vacuum. You have to push the storm door shut when you go out, unless the front door is open.
Revision 10 (2007) Summary
Energy assessment and changes
- Purchased P3 Kilowatt meter (used for checking power usage of lights and appliances)
- Replaced old incandescent lights with CFL lights 4 each month
- Attic removed all blown cellulose insulation and re-installed rolled R-13 insulation correctly craft paper side down.
- Attic installed additional R-25 insulation over the R-13, upgrading to R-38
- Installed window insulation kits on all windows
Revision 10 Description of Work and Results
Energy assessment and changes: It starts out with the purchase of a Kill-A-Watt meter. It allows you to plug things in to it, plug the Kill-A-Watt into the wall and see how much power that item is using. Also, it has the ability to record, for up to 99 hours, how much power was used if it is a device that cycles, on and off, like a freezer or a refrigerator, but only works with 110-volt items. (Not the clothes dryer or kitchen range)
I went on the holy quest of power saving. I knew how much power the lights used and some of the other items in the house. Most devices have the power consumption sticker on the bottom of it or on its wall transformer. (EB Note these stickers show the maximum power rating, not actual power draw, but they do give you a starting point.)
I started a excel spreadsheet of listing everything in the house plugged in the wall from the lights to the cell phone. After finding out about the usage rate of power, I started a second column with the number of hours each device was used. I mean I checked everything. On some of the devices, I had to use the recording feature on the Kill-A-Watt meter for the refrigerator since it doesn’t run all the time.
I start to see where my money was going by checking the main electric meter outside on the house every day. I came home I walked right by it so I would write down the reading. By reading my monthly electric bill, I was able to make another spreadsheet giving the approximate price of the electric power and the other charges incurred and could calculate my monthly bill day by day though out the month.
Each day we would become more aware of what we were spending and started changing our habits. But, most of this was guessing, because of the 220 volt appliances that I could not measure. I used some creative formulas and they were approximates. We started to see where the money was going.
In March of 2007, we started changing out our old incandescent
bulbs for CFL's. We changed about two every 2 weeks or about four a month. We
tried three different brands of bulbs; one worked OK but had a long warm up
time and one of them failed in less than 3 months. Second brand we tried was
the Philips bulb they looked like regular light bulbs, kind of. They also had a
long warm up time. They were equal to 60-watt light bulbs.
A little later we tried,
the GE coiled type lights and the first one were daylight color and I did not
care for that effect so we got some soft white lights and I liked those. The GE
CFL’s seemed to have a faster warm up time and a little less wattage than the
Philips bulbs. By another observation, we saw that the ones equal to 40-watt
bulbs were pretty much instant light with no warm up time. They gave, for the
most part, just about the same light as the 60-watt equal ones.
By July, we had most of the lights changed out. All lights were changed out, even the lights I considered short time usage lights, like bathroom, closets, utility room, rooms that you are not in very long.
This year too was the first year we tried out the window insulation kits; we stuck them on all the windows in the house. It did not take too many days, watching the plastic move in and out, to see the windows were leaking worse than I thought.
That year was the best the heating bills we had ever been. I also bought the book form amazon.com on how to put your house on an energy diet. It got a lot of good clues for finding wasting energy and some good laughs along the way.
Revision 11 (2008)
More Appliance Upgrades
- Replaced washing machine
with energy star compliant Fisher & Paykel Ecosmart washer
- Replaced microwave oven with 1,000 watt Emerson (replacing the 1,800 watt unit)
- Replaced coffee maker Mister Coffee (1,400
watts) with Black & Decker 800 watt unit
Revision 11 Description of Work and Results
Replacement of the
washing machine: a clear case of had too, the bottom stabilizer springs broke
and the drum almost fell though the bottom, yeah shot. A family member, who had
done a lot of research and went to see a demo of the Fisher & Paykel
washers was impressed and bought one.
People don’t normally brag about there
washing machines, but this machine is impressive. I had to go see for myself
and, sure enough, it was true. At $600, it was a little pricey but, after using
it for about 6 months I say it had really paid for itself. It spins out a lot
more of the water that normal ones leave behind.
With more water spun out it does not take as long to dry the clothes. Example it used to take 90 minute to dry a load of towels, now only take 45 minutes that less drying time, at 5,000 watts per hour, that is money in the bank.
Replacement of the microwave now, knowing the cost of the wattage, and our old one was having some problem, we bought a lesser wattage one not a lot smaller but 800 watts less. A microwave is not used for long periods of time but every little bit helps.
Replacement of the coffee maker: the old one died off and was an energy hog. The new one had a neat feature there was a thermal pitcher and no bottom heating element that stays hot. When this one is done, the power goes off and the coffee stays warm in the thermal pitcher and does not go bitter.
A new tool in my arsenal is the TED meter(The Energy Dective meter), a neat little device it has a transmitter that sits in the main panel of your breaker box and has 2 leads that clip over your main lead from your outside meter. Then 2 more wires / leads that connect to a breaker and to the neutral bar in the box and you put the cover back on.
When you plug the display in somewhere, you get a signal and it will show all power that is being used in your house right now, this second. When programmed correctly it will estimate your monthly electric bill and show your daily usage. That’s the big one for us. It is kind of a game here trying to see if we can get our daily usage lower than yesterday or the day before. We see what the big appliances are using. It keeps a history for 13 months (so they say) I have not had it long enough to verify that. It has alarms so you know when you have broke or went over the level you have set for yourself. It also a great tattle tail if someone left something on all day or all night.
Revision 12 (2009)
Goal for next year is to finish replacing the other windows in the house and finish insulating the last two walls.
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