Friday, December 14, 2007

Energy shock

Our first energy bills are starting to come in, so we can begin to see if our efforts have paid off...

Most people are feeling the effects of high energy costs, especially those here in Fairbanks. Not only do we have high demand thanks to -40 degree weeks, but energy sure costs more than it used to. Both electricity and heating oil are about 50% more than a few years ago.

We were aware of this in the planning and building of our house, so we took great measures to build an efficient house.

We added 50% more insulation value to the walls. 100% more in the ceiling. Our boiler is 90% efficient. Our radiant heating feels like 70 degrees when the air is only heated to 67. Our vapor barrier has 1/6th the normal number of penetrations, and all of these are double sealed with acoustical sealant and special tape. Fresh air will be brought into the house through an HRV, which extracts 80% of the exhaust heat, compared to 0% for older houses which get fresh air only through leakage. All indoor lighting is energy star compliant fluorescent, which uses about 1/4 the energy. Our front loading washing machine uses 1/3 the water while washing better. The list goes on.

So has it paid off? Hard to tell at this point. Our first 35 days of heating and producing hot water had an average outside temp of 10 degrees, which represents 1/7th of the average annual heating load for Fairbanks. During this time we used about 70 gallons of heating oil, which could be off some based on the tank filling method.

This number is quiet good, but not at all outstanding, which was our goal.

However, during that time, construction was (and still is) very much underway. We had only a temporary door half that time, which was completely unsealed. The HRV has not been installed, and without it our extra-tight construction causes a buildup in humidity (due to wet paint, showering, etc) so a window was cracked most of the time. We also did painting and other wood finishing, and opened several windows for about a week total to exhaust the fumes.

We're now locked down a little better, the HRV should go in this weekend, and we're expecting some of that great cold Fairbanks weather, so the next months should give us a good feel for just how well we did. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Kara Stenberg said...

Wow, so you're still doing better than the average home and your vessel isn't at 100% yet, Cap'n? I look forward to hearing how well it keeps the heat once you're all done and really sealed up.

It really is mind-boggling reading all your posts - so much more goes into building your own house than I ever would of thought.