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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Saving Money Going Green in Tallahassee

Many folks think they are doing something noble when they buy a hybrid car or recycle newspapers - but usually they lose more time or money than they save.

But there are some very simple ways to "go green" in Tallahassee and save some money in the process. Presently - the city is offering an energy challenge between neighborhoods. A few months ago - city hall asked people to sign up for the contest. Simply put - they compare your energy use from a year ago with your consumption today.

We live in Woodlands Drive near Myers Park. I signed up - and am proud to say - as last reported - our neighborhood is in first place.

I made a few changes in our home to try to save money - I mean - energy. I have taken advantage of several incentives offered by the city. Basically - I did three things:

1. I added a foot of blown-in insulation to my roof. The city has a program that pays for almost the whole job. I ended up paying roughly $200 to dramatically increase the R-value of my roof.

2. I replaced a giant old electric water heater with a new highly-efficient tankless gas water heater. The main reason I replaced it was because our old water heater was about 90 feet away from our bathrooms. It used to take forever for my shower water to heat up. Now my tankless Rennai gas water heater hangs on the side of the house right next to our showers. I now have piping hot water instantly - no longer wasting a lot of cold water going down the drain. The city also gave me a $675 cash rebate for replacing the water heater. It ended up costing about $500 out of pocket for this high quality of life improvement.

3. I replaced all of the windows on the house. Our home was built in 1980 and it still had the cheap spec windows in it. Not only do these new windows save from heat loss - they look great - tip in to clean - and can be opened both on the top and bottom. The federal government gives a tax credit up to $1500 for replacing windows. My total cost was $1000 out of pocket for 10 windows.

They were the major changes. I also installed gas logs in my wood burning fireplace - bought a new refrigerator - a new dishwasher - and new energy efficient washer/dryers. I needed them anyway because the old ones were shot - but again the city gave me a cash rebate per appliance.

One of the neat things about Tallahassee's utility web page is that you can look up anybody's energy use - and how much they pay for water - sewer - electricity - gas.

Anyone can go into this web page -
and look up anyone's utility bills and usage. If you have a neighbor that is always bragging how "green" he is - you might enjoy showing him how much energy he is using compared to you.

The following charts show my cost and usage comparing Nov 2008 to Nov 2009 usage. I am sure there are many other factors that changed my usage. Maybe we weren't home as much in 2009 as 2008. Maybe the weather was better in 2009 than 2008. Maybe the cost of energy dropped from 2008 to 2009. As they say - "your mileage may vary."

My total utility bill dropped from $341(Nov 2008) to $238(Nov 2009) - roughly $100 less - roughly a 30% savings. The changes on the roof - windows - water heater - cost about $1700. That means in 17 months - they should pay for themselves. If the energy rates go up - they will pay back sooner. After that - I am making money. Not only do I save money - but the improvements made my home nicer to live in.

Our gas bill went for $45 to $21. The gas consumption went from 1800 to 700 cubic feet.

Our electric bill went from $205 to $137. We went from 1222 KWH usage to 979 KWH.

Our water bill went from $15 to $10 - from 6600 gallons to 3500 gallons.

Our sewer bill went from $38 to $30 and the usage went from 12300 gallons to 6100 gallons.
Our home is 3BR - 2BA - about 2000 square feet. We have a two car garage - a pool - a hot tub - a separate guest house and workshop. It is just two of us living here - although we have lots of guests.

I enjoy helping the environment - but I enjoy saving money even more. There was no magic to all this - you can do it too. Kermit the Frog said it was not easy being green - I guess he never lived in Tallahassee.

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