This is kind of a strange thing to write about but I made a great decision and I’m proud to tell about it. Maybe it will help you save some money too.
About a month ago during a most wonderful Spring in Houston, we had cool breezes and delightfully mild temperatures. It felt like southern California. Gorgeous. Anyway, I rarely had the air conditioner running and very few of the other appliances were used. We grilled outside and watched very little TV so I expected my electric bill to be quite low. My swimming pool pumps run about 6 hours a day while the weather is cool. All in all, my consumption was very low. However, when I got my electric bill for the 2 months of March and April, my charges were $155 and $135 respectively. How could that be? At the same time, my friends were reporting bills of $75 or lower!
I had been watching my energy consumption reports that I receive weekly from Reliant Energy and the usage didn’t seem to jive with my costs. Reliant offers a free home evaluation for energy efficiency so I gave them a call and made an appointment.
By the time the evaluation crew got to the house two weeks later, we’d already gotten the new double-pane, low EV windows installed which was already making a huge difference in heat transfer. This was a project that I’d planned during my normal remodeling project for the house. Now that they were installed, the crew confirmed that it would be a huge energy savings, though the return-on-money-spent would still take about 10 years to recover. Still, we know the windows had to be replaced.
To my surprise, probably the biggest use of electricity was coming from the electric hot water heater. According the the manufacturers yellow ‘efficiency’ label, the heater would use about $400 per year in electricity. That doesn’t seem like much, but divide that by 12 months and guess what that comes to? $33 a month! That means with my pool pumps using about $50 a month and the water heater using $33 a month, I’m already at $83 for my monthly bill, not counting the cost to cook, watch TV, run the porch lights at night and all the other smaller appliances. Holy Cow!
Moving on, the crew climbed up in the attic and inspected the insulation and the Heating and Air Conditioning. That was when they found something that potentially was causing lots of energy loss.
The plenum, which is the big box on the end of the fan and evaporator coil on the air conditioner, had lots of leaks and actually had a huge leak on the bottom of that plenum. Huge amounts of cooled air were spilling out into the attic and cooling the attic instead of being directed into the ducts to distribute to the house. It needed to be fixed and the rest of the leaks in the duct work taped, sealed and cemented.
It was a job that I did not look forward to. The attic often reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit and crawling through the attic with all that fiberglass insulation blowing around and getting stuck in my arms – well, I wasn’t crazy about doing that.
I called my local air conditioning man, Victor who gave me a bid to replace the plenum, then inspect, tape, cement and fix the rest of the duct work throughout the entire attic. In my head, I was figuring this would cost me over $1,000 but to my surprise, he told me it would cost $575!
I have been trying to do as many repairs and remodeling jobs as I can by myself to save money and because I enjoy doing it but with a price like that for that sweaty, hot job!? You bet I took him up on that bid.
So for $575, I now have a totally efficient air conditioner system that blows lots of air with much greater flow now that the leaks are fixed. I have new windows and I’ll follow up with more attic insulation as soon as my other repairs are finished. In the meantime, I’ll be checking my bills and watching how long my air conditioner ISN’T running!
Here’s a few pictures of that repair and the hard working crew that spent a couple house up in that hot attic.