This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From the utility companies: a good tip and some bad news

Posted by Matt

Does anyone ever read their utility bill inserts or email newsletters? I've been surprised at how much helpful information they can contain. Here are the latest items worth sharing:

"Send Your Water Heater on Vacation" - This is a great little article that I found reminding everyone to turn off their water heaters if they are going to be away from home for more than 24-hours. I try to always do this, but learn from my experience and do something to ensure that you turn the heater back on right when you get home. It takes about an hour for the water to warm up. The article recommends leaving yourself a note, but I also set a reminder on my cell phone as a backup. Murphy's Law almost guarantees that if you forget to turn the heater back on, the first time you notice it will be when you need a shower (as my wife experienced...Sorry!) Update your vacation checklist!

Now for the bad news.

You thought gas prices were getting bad? Well, wait until you get your winter heating bill (assuming you use gas for heat). I recently received an email from the gas company (similar to information they posted here) that warned of a potentially huge jump in rates at the beginning of November. The initial projection was an increase of between 35 and 40 percent, although they now are hoping it will be slightly lower. Given that our gas bill is usually a significant portion of our expenses in the winter anyway, even a 20% increase would be significant.

After our high costs last winter, we are already considering a few options to reduce our gas usage. I have the highest hopes for switching to space heating in our bedrooms at night instead of having to heat the whole house just when it gets coldest.

Whatever you do, start planning now. If you're on a tight budget (i.e., you don't have a lot of extra cash available for heating bills), start looking for extra things to trim out so that you can keep your family warm this winter.


Craig said...

The space heater is an option, but not at good as it may first sound. They use huge amounts of electricity. All you are really doing is shifting the energy use from gas to electric.

Having said that, we have one that we use from time to time but only on the coldest of nights. When it's on full power, and it needs to be at full power to actually heat our bedroom it’s using 1600 watts (it’s a radiant heater like the one in the pictue).

What we do is turn the heat off in the house when we go to bed and invested in some nice flannel PJ's and thick bed sheets and blankets. This may not work as well if you have little ones. They will need the space heater.

Matt said...

We used a space heater for our son's room last year as he often wiggled out from under his blankets. We did observe that the heater used a lot of electricity when it was running, but it had a thermostat in it so it only ran intermittently.

I haven't done any calculations yet to determine whether it will actually save money, but was hoping that heating the smaller amount of space would be better than running the furnace all night. On cold nights, the furnace runs almost constantly and our rooms are still sometimes cold (because it does not have adequate capacity post-remodel).

I'm worried it might be too expensive to electrically heat our master bedroom because it is much larger and has a vaulted ceiling, but then again we are better at staying under the blanket pile. :)

Craig said...

We also have an electric blanket or rather an electric mattress pad. We turn it on about an hour before going to bed then turn it off when we get in. The bed gets all warm and toasty and if it gets really cold, we can turn it on again. I'm sure that it uses less electricity than the space heater. With the electric blanket the space heater is almost never used.

Matt said...

An excellent suggestion! Makes more sense to just heat the bed, since we'll mostly be using it while we're sleeping. The late night bathroom trips are going to be extra chilly though. We'll check out electric blankets this winter.

We also checked into zone heating, but it wasn't a good match for our house and heating system.