Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Riot for Austerity: Gas

How lucky we are to have a gas line coming into our home. There are people in this town without gas, and in the many days without electricity they were unable to cook or take a hot shower. I would have cooked on the grill in this case, but I'm glad to have had the choice.

While we use gas for cooking and hot water all year, we use it mostly to heat the house. To reduce our gas use, we did an energy audit and had the house sealed and insulated about 6 months after we moved in. In the cold months we keep the heat at 58 during the night and 62 degrees during the day. My mother is a terrific knitter, we wear her sweaters, hats and socks around the house. There are blankets that she knitted in every room ready for snuggling.

I have divided our average use into 6 cold and warm months from November to April and May through October. Our average gas use in those warm months is 18 therms/month. For the cold months it is 140 therms/month. For 2010, our lowest month was August with 9 therms, the highest was February with 329 therms.

Our house was insulated in the middle of the February 2010 billing cycle, and it made a huge difference. Comparing the November to February gas use (in therms) before and after insulating is dramatic.

November before insulation 87 after insulation 76
before insulation 166 after insulation 124
before insulation 329 after insulation 191
before insulation 259 (insulation installed during this month) after insulation 196

The average comparing these months (210 vs. 147 therms/month) shows a reduction of 30%. I do not remember the exact costs of insulating the house, but I know we got a $2000 state refund that covered about half the cost of all the sealing and insulation work. I estimate our mid-winter gas bills have been reduced by about $100 per month. I consider that a pretty quick financial return on our insulation investment as well as a real plus for the environment.

According to wikipedia, the average American household uses 980 therms/year. I'm not sure how this is calculated. Does it include houses, in Florida for example, that need a lot less heat but need more air conditioning electricity. What about people who don't have gas and use electric for cooking and hot water or oil for heat? Confusing. If you have a clearer statistic on gas use in the North East using gas for cooking and heating, please comment. Our total use from September 2010 to August 2011 was 956 therms, slightly less than average.

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