Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Working on Cutting Costs of My Heating Bills

One of my big fat expenses is my heating bill. My house is a huge old Victorian and she just eats up heat. Add to that the fact that part of the home is a one bedroom apartment and the tenant shares my heat, but not my enjoyment of a frosty bedroom, and you have one high heating bill. I am working on some techniques to cut that bill as much as possible.

One thing I do is pay by the "budget" plan. This means I shell out the same $146.95 each month for heat. (Can you say "ouch!"?) Granted, this also includes a warranty plan for the a/c, furnace and hot water heater, which I carry because again I am a landlord and cannot afford to be out of hot water for a day or two. If I wasn't a landlord, I probably wouldn't have it, since I can deal with cold showers. Still, I have a responsibility to my tenant to do what I can to make her apartment a good place to live. I have had my own share of sleazy landlords and I refuse to be that to someone else.

My first task is going to be to go through room to room in my portion of the home and look for anything I can seal up to keep the cold air out. One surprising spot for cold air? Electrical sockets! Put your hand by the outlet on a cold day. At my house, I could feel the cold air coming in! I have installed in all outside walls sockets little foam insulators. They are cheap and easy to install, and they really do help.

But even after putting these in, some cold air came in. Fortunately years ago I read a tip in "This Old House" magazine on how to solve that - child safety caps. My ex and I had put them in most of the sockets, but I noticed a few that weren't plugged. I picked up a box of these for less that $4.00 and made sure every outlet on an exterior wall was plugged. Here's the one downside though: these things are hard to get out! Of course, that is how they are supposed to work, they keep kids from electrocuting themselves after all, but getting them out can involve breaking a nail and saying a few curse words. So, if you use that socket a lot, you might not want to push the safety plug all the way in. For example, I don't leave any of my kitchen appliances plugged in, so I have to wrestle the plug out to plug in my mixer. I have learned to leave it out just a tiny bit so I can get a grasp on it. It still keeps the cold air out, but doesn't rip my fingernails off.

The other project I started last night was installing window insulator film. At one point (before I bought it) previous owners remodeled my house and so all the upstairs windows are new, however, some of the downstairs windows are original... from 1847. They are pretty drafty! I am putting plastic sheeting window insulators on as many as I can. The only thing I don't like about it is it requires the extensive use of my hair dryer and I can almost feel my electricity bill growing as I use it! Personally I like to buy the rolls of sheeting and tape separate. While they do make some nice kits with everything included, it limits my options with odd sized windows. Furthermore, it is less expensive this way.

While I won't see a difference in my bill because of the budget plan, it will help me from going over. In July they will recalibrate, and if I have used up more than I've paid for - I'll have a big bill due. Yes, I have had that happen in the past. However, I have also had it where I was able to use less than predicted and received a credit on my account and a drop in my bill the following year. That's really what I am aiming for!

I've got a few more winter and fall projects on my to-do list as well. I've got a hot water heater blanket to install and a few other ideas for keeping the heat in. So, if it is getting to be winter in your neck of the woods, what are you doing to keep the house cozy?

Here's what I'm using right now:

Beautiful photo by: ezioman

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