And he left me a lot of eggs too!
The Easter bunny arrived Thursday disguised as a City energy conservation team. The City owns the electric and gas utility. Unlike many private utilities, which want you to use more power so they can make more money, the City promotes conservation. This allows the City not to have to build (and charge me for) additional capacity to keep up with population growth.
When we bought the house in 1989, I took advantage of an attic insulation program. The City paid 80% of the cost of insulating the attic to the desirable level. My 20% share was $80. The reduction in electricity usage for cooling and heating was noticeable.
During the stimulus, the City received federal funds for energy conservation for lower income families. The City liked the program so much that after the federal funding was exhausted, the City used its utility funds to extend the program to all homes that wanted to participate. This month, the program came to my neighborhood.
The “biggie” was weatherizing my front and back doors to minimize heat and cold from entering the house. Besides insulating the exterior, they attached some sort of flexible “sweeper” at the bottom of the doors’ interior so all door sides are protected.
There were other goodies. My hot water heater’s “hot” pipes were insulated. The heater is in the house and “wrapped” so I’m not losing much heat but every little bit of heat retention helps. I was given four 100-watt equivalent compact fluorescent light bulbs (which are easily worth $10). Also, four “90-day”pleated air filters for my heat pump. About another $10 value. (Ka-ching!)
A light switch plate with a digital thermometer at the top so I can check the accuracy of my heat pump’s thermostat. Kitchen and bathroom “one gallon per minute” faucet aerators. (I already had one on my kitchen faucet so now I have a “spare.”) A low flow shower head (which I also already had in both bathrooms, but took as an emergency spare in case my multi-setting ones develop a problem.) Freezer and refrigerator “card” temperature readers which tell if the temperatures are too warm, ideal, or too cold. (Interestingly, there are two “ideal” settings so you can set the thermostat to the “lower” of the two to save some electricity.)
While the team was there, I asked about a notice I had received a week ago promoting a “double rebate” program for energy efficient appliances. The City was offering a rebate of up to $1,350 if I switched from an electric hot water heater to a natural gas one. Since my hot water heater is 30+ years old, I was interested in a free replacement. That $1,350 would cover the heater, installation of a gas line from the street to my house (which is a least 100 feet from the street) and anything else needed for the conversion.
My concern was that natural gas heaters are not easily turned off and on, if at all. I’ve got a timer on my electric hot water heater. It is on only one hour a day since there are only two of us. In researching gas hot water heaters, I saw some models where you can control the temperature to a specific degree using a digital thermostat. Still, the gas would always be “on.”
The City folks pointed out another issue I was unaware of: a minimum monthly charge. Because I would have no other gas appliances, turning the gas on for only an hour a day might use so little gas that I’d be charged the $10 minimum. Since I only use the heater an hour a day, they recommended that I not convert to gas because I probably would not save very much, if at all.
As it is, one of my credit cards is offering 5% cash back on all “home improvement store” purchases from April through June. I’ve already priced a highly rated electric water heater with a nine year warranty for about $350.
About that warranty. Most of that is tied to a part most folks don’t know about: the anode rod. This is a sacrificial metal rod in all electric (and possibly gas) water heaters.
The process of heating water promotes corrosion. The tank itself is usually lined with glass or other corrosion resistant material. But where metal fittings are needed, such as for the heating elements, there is no protection other than the anode rod. Its “weaker” corrosion properties attract corrosion to it, saving the other metals in the tank from corroding and causing leaking.
But eventually that anode rod corrodes completely. Unless it is replaced with another anode rod, the other metals start corroding and then you get a leak. The newer heaters have accessible anode rods, usually through the top of the heater. This allows you to check the condition and replace it as needed. That means the heater will last much longer without leaks.
My anode rod is not accessible from the outside; I have to take the top off. I think the reason my heater has gone 30+ years without leaking is that I hardly use it. The rate of corrosion is related to the time water is heated and since my water heater operates only one hour a day…
With three folks working, it took less than an hour for the Easter bunny conservation team to do all the work. I’ll be interested in seeing how weatherizing my two doors affects my cooling bill this summer.
Not that I’m spending a lot for electricity. Because of the cold winter, my most recent electricity bill was the second highest in the last twelve months. (The last twelve months’ usage is on the bill.) We used 523 kilowatts, compared to 449 for the same period last year. The electric portion of the bill came to almost $70.
Now, I’m hoping for an early visit from Santa in the form of a sale on my electric water heater…