I recently gave Centerpoint Energy a ring and asked if they could pull the records on what Carly and I have been paying for natural gas used in our home over the time we’ve owned it. CenterPoint provides up to 15 months of data on their website (login required) but will print and mail larger data sets.
Once I received the thick envelope of data and returned it to an electronic format, I created this year over year look at monthly costs:
Ideally, I’d like to see the red line (Year 2) below the blue (Year 1) with the Gold line (Year 3) below the red. To achieve that, I need to progressively decrease what I’m paying CenterPoint Energy for natural gas.
Uses of Natural Gas
I believe this is a complete list of how natural gas is consumed in my house. I’ve tried to rank them based on how much natural gas I perceive each system consumes annually.
1. Furnace to heat water for baseboard water heating
2. Hot water heater
3. Clothes Dryer
5. Gas Grill
Cost Cutting Actions
Over time, we’ve made a few changes around the house that I assume helped lower our natural gas consumption, but the feedback loop isn’t as precise as it is with the Google PowerMeter used for monitoring electricity. Here’s what I think has helped.
Water Heater Blanket – I don’t think we’ve reduced the amount of cooking, grilling or laundry we’ve done in summer months, so the drop may be tied to the water heater blanket I purchased and installed in April 2009. I paid $26.21 for that at the time, so it may have paid for itself in only a few months. If it cut my gas costs by as little as 10 cents/day, it’s already paid for itself.
Door Sweeps – When we moved in, you could literally see light entering the house from below the doors. Closing the obvious gaps with door sweeps cost less than $40.
Expanding Foam Sealant – $5 spend on this stuff helps close drafts in tough to patch areas. For example, our front door has a skeleton keyhole that would shoot air into our home that’s 100F colder than indoor temps on coldest days. A few cents worth of foam shut that down. Don’t get this stuff on your hands.
Attic insulation – I found Owens Corning’s attic insulation calculator valuable for determining how much insulation my attic could use. Since there was already stuff up there, I picked up around 14 rolls of R-30 insulation to roll out on top of what was there. My total cost of supplies (including a face mask, gloves, and box cutter) was under $200. Rolling out the insulation took around 3 hours. I was itchy for a day after that. Before do-it-myselfing this, I also got a quote from a company that would blow in insulation. That was $2,000 rather than $200.
Programmable Thermostat Adjustments – I can’t imagine not having a programmable thermostat in a house these days. They’re cheap and help save a ton of energy since you’re only using as much energy as you need to be comfortable at any time of the day or week. The cost from $25-$100 depending on how complex a model you’d like (I use a relatively simple 5-2 model where it has one setting for weekday wake-up, mid-day, evening, and overnight temps and a second setting for the weekend routine). We got a bit more aggressive with our overnight low temp this year, which probably accounts for some of our more recent savings. At this point, our overnight temp is “chilly on the couch but perfect for sleeping” with the heat ramping back up starting early enough in the morning to make crawling out from under the covers comfortable. Then it drops off during work hours. Painless savings.
Like I said earlier, it’s tough to correlate individual projects with energy savings since the feedback loop on gas consumption is so poor. What I do know is that we spent $269 less in our second year in our home than the first on natural gas. We saved around 315 therms worth of natural gas. Converting that to a car gasoline’s energy (btu) equivalent, we burned 252 gallons less gas without compromising on comfort. Good stuff.