November 20, 2014

What Will the Three Months of Winter Bring?

If it's this cold in the month of November, with 50% of the USA having snow on the ground this week, what does that say for the months of December, January and February that are waiting ahead? We were warned. The Farmers Almanac stated months ago that this winter would be colder than last winter with more snow. It looks like that forecast is off to a good start.

Still the hounds are warm and that is all that matters. They don't care about the cold temperatures and would stay outside I think forever if I didn't go out to call them into the house. I mean only two of the hounds don't mind it. Heidi stays outside no longer than it takes for her to dump her tanks and she SPRINTS to the door to come back inside.

I am not sure what drove my decision to try this experiment but it might be ending just after a week or so of cold weather. Then again I may continue doing what I am doing now. You will probably think I have mentally lost it when you read what I am doing.

It's strange and laughable that I would never hesitate to put a $1,000 on a crap table with no hesitation nor worries, yet I hate paying my local electric bill every month. It is the same amount every month and then in May either I pay the difference due or they pay me a refund for paying to much over the year. Then they adjust my monthly payment for the following year, which may go up or down based on current usage with a little bump for extra use. I have received refunds in the past that have always been $100 or more.

The long time readers of my blog will remember that I love Excel spreadsheets and track a lot of different things with those spreadsheets, including my monthly electric usage. The kilowatts used really doesn't vary much from year to year for me but what does is the cost of electricity. My current utility company charges more per kilowatt in the "prime usage" months of Dec, Jan, Feb, June, July and August, than it does the other six months. In this past September they had their first cost increase in three years.

To me it just wasn't worth letting the heater run via a thermostat, keeping the house warm at all times, it wasn't worth the cost. I've never liked a hot or warm house but somewhere around 65° in the winter. My heat for the house is baseboard electric with each room having it's own control switch.

A few years ago when my cost for electric really jumped higher than I liked I tried using a portable electric heater, designed like the old steam registers. It worked so well that I bought a second one. What I found to be the difference, the house temps stayed at 65° but at 1/3 of the cost of using my 1970's baseboard electric.  

Since the month of May I have built up a pretty good credit amount on the account. I made it through a few weeks of very hot summer weather without using air conditioning as I usually do. I did NOT go as far unplugging electrical accessories if not in use, didn't feel the need to go that far to save energy.

So this fall I decided I would try to use the least amount of energy throughout the winter. I remembered back to 1977 due to the fuel shortage in the US, it was recommended to keep the inside temperatures at 55°. Any of you remember that? I was lucky because I was in the process of moving to sunny southern California that month so I missed most of it. I do remember how cold my sister's apartment was during my my last visit to see her before heading west.

Well this year I decided I could do that 55°. Even during the coldest temps of the winter. I have plenty of camping gear to keep me and the hounds warm enough and in the meantime I would be saving a lot of dollars that will be refunded in May 2015. That refund was tempting enough to try to save energy used.

As so far I have been able to use the heaters sparingly, even with the temps droping to the teens last week. Even now with the temps outside in the low 20's, my house is sitting at 60°. Slightly cooler than normal but the hounds are not shivering, have not lost their appetite nor are they whining. So they must be ok.

Am I crazy?

Is this financially motivated as a retiree making less income than when I was working a job.

Am I that bored enough to try different little experiments around the house?

Or am I somewhat concerned what the increase per kilowatt will amount to?

Those were just some of the questions I asked myself as I sit here wearing insulated long sleeve shirts under a sweatshirt. Or sharing my sleeping bags for the hounds to mix and match with their Mexican blankets while I use my down comforter. I must admit with the house at 60° - 62°, my hands are colder than I expected.

Those cold hands have prevented me from finishing my Mahjong games on my iPad Mini in record time. Each game is timed and I have over 80 of those games now under 6 minutes. That game has been my new form of entertainment. Much better than tv and definitely better than any news on the tv or Internet. I downloaded a cribbage app yesterday and it was the first time in many years playing a game that I use to play every day in the 80's. I had to go back and read the rules to play the game but was able to get back into the swing of things to beat the computer.

So at least in the Mahjong game and racing on the Playstation3 playing Grand Turismo, the cold hands are a factor. The portable heaters work well and they were only $37 each at Walmart a few years ago.

The thought has occurred to me lately, wondering if future costs of electricity and the cost of owning a home in this area with extreme weather 3-4 months out of the year, will increase to the point of that the better option will be selling it and relocating. With the change of EPA laws predicted in the near future, that could raise my utility cost substantially because large power plants in Indiana are coal based. Coal is the major factor.

In closing I will say I am pretty sure in the middle of the winter when the temps outside are in the single digits day after day, the heat will come on and will be used more than I am using it now. I will still be monitoring the cost of using the electric heat as I do all my other costs. In the meantime the hounds and I are managing the experiment of saving energy quite well and leaving a smaller "footprint" on the planet.

At least we don't live in the Buffalo area.

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