Maximize Your Energy Savings at Home
LESLIE: Carl in Alabama has a question about what’s cheaper; gas or electric? How can we help you, Carl?
CARL: Hey, I was listening to your show four or five weeks ago and somebody called in and the answer to the question was by far, hands down, gas was cheaper and I don’t think it is but (inaudible) …
LESLIE: The debate floor is open. Let us hear your point.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Alright, give us your argument. Give us your argument, Carl. Why do you think that …?
CARL: Okay, I run an iron foundry in Florence, Alabama. And we’re heavily energy intensive – okay, this is on the business end – and plus, I have natural gas appliance in my home.
CARL: And by far, I think they do warm a body better than and they heat water a lot better. And it was cheaper five years ago but per BTU or therm of gas per kilowatt of electricity, by far electric is – in my area – is a lot cheaper (inaudible) to operate.
TOM: Hmm. Well, what kind of heating system do you have inside your house, Carl? What exactly …?
CARL: Oh, it’s a … it’s a 1999 Lennox, 96 percent efficient.
TOM: Oh, it’s a pulse … it’s a Lennox pulse furnace?
CARL: No, it’s not a pulse. It’s the generation after that.
TOM: Okay. Well those are really good furnaces and I’m … and I’m … I would be surprised if that was not more efficient than any kind of electric system you could put in. Of course, resistant heat is the most expensive. The only thing that could possibly compete with it – although, I don’t think it could on a long-term basis – might be a ground loop heat pump. But the problem with the ground loop heat pumps is that they’re good until the loop breaks and then you’ve got to tear up your yard to replace it.
CARL: Okay. Just … what I did this year, since gas has gotten so high – it’s like 140 percent higher; it’s $2.12 per 100 cubic feet and I was paying 79 cents for it a year ago. And like if I had my gas heat on right now, it would be like a $5 to $700 bill. I’ve got a 5,600-square-foot home and I’m just using space heaters; I haven’t turned the gas on at all. And I’ve been running water …
TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, if you’re going to use the space heaters on a room-by-room basis and basically not heat your house in a central way, sure.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s when you decide what’s important to heat or not.
TOM: And sure. But you compare that and say it’s cheaper but it’s not really a fair comparison because the space heaters are not … are not heating the same volume that the entire system is designed to heat. If you have that kind of a gas bill, it sounds to me like you might want to take a careful look at all of the energy-wasting features that could be in the house – I mean everything from drafts and weather-stripping and insulation and things of this nature – to see what we can do to tighten that house up.
CARL: Well, I got these low-e windows and the hydrogen or nitrogen – whatever they are – filled (inaudible). I mean it’s … the best of everything in 1999 was put into this home.
TOM: One of the things that you might want to think about doing, Carl, is having an energy audit done of your home. Your local utility company might offer to do that; many do.
LESLIE: And most do them free of charge.
TOM: Yeah. And a good …
CARL: TVA does that.
TOM: A good part of an energy audit, if you can find somebody that does this, is something called a blower door test.
TOM: And a blower door test, basically it’s a fan that pressurizes your house and once it’s pressurized it can determine exactly how much leakage you have in the house and where those leaks are.
TOM: And I suspect you’re going to find areas in that house that could stand some energy-efficient upgrades. And now is a great time to do that because not only can you actually make the improvement but you can get the government to help you pay for it.
CARL: Trying to do the best I can. You were very informative and thank you for having me on your show.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Carl. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The website is moneypit.com. 888-666-3974.