I rent a house from a friend. The house belonged to her mother, who passed away recently. It has ancient electric appliances that I'm sure are costing me plenty on my monthly bill. Since we're probably not going to replace them any time soon, I'm looking for help on how to conserve as much as possible with these old appliances, especially the water heater (it's a square, porcelain model). Any suggestions?
Turn things off! That old water heater should have something that looks like a light switch near it. Turn it off mid-morning, on before dinner, and off when you go to bed. Find what rhythm works for you. Close off rooms. Don't heat the oven unless you are ready, and then plan your meal so all of it cooks at one temp in the same oven. Watch the clothes dryer, too! Don't overload it, put a dry hand towel in it when you start the load, it will accelerate the drying process.
Depending on how long you will be living in the house, and if the homeowner doesn't want to buy the appliance themselves, maybe you could reach an agreement with your landlord/friend. Maybe you could replace the appliances, one at a time perhaps, and deduct the cost (most to all) from your monthly rent payments until it is paid off.
A lot of landlords will waive a rental payment if the tenant is making improvements to the property. You would be saving on rent payments for a few months as the appliance is being paid off, and seeing the benefits on your utility bills. Not only will you be creating a more economical home, a little at a time; you would also be helping the owner to update the home for the next renter/buyer.
You should call your local power company. Our EPA (Electric Power Association) does free energy conservation assessments. They should be able to do an evaluation of your home and give you some suggestions.
Make sure the heater is wrapped in insulation. Turning off the shower while lathering up can save a bit of hot water. Look into an alternate energy generation supplier if available in the area.
I'm an energy auditor in Needles, Ca and would like to give a few tips that might help. Yes, old appliances do use more electricity, so make sure the coils on the refrigeration are free of any dirt and dust. Check with your utilities to find out if they offer "blower door" whole house evaluation. Basically it de-pressurizes the house to locate leaks. If you could image a 3'x3' hole in an exterior wall, that could be the equal of all the small leaks combined in a home. If they don't, then use common sense by looking around doors and windows for drafts. Carry a wet bath cloth and slowly run your wet hand at suspected leaks, which is best done during a windy day. You'll feel it if there is. Caulking and insulated foam works wonders. Pay attention to pipe/wall penetrations to the outside as well as the interior walls that can lead up to the attic such as under bathroom/kitchen sinks.
Where is the water heater located? If exposed it will help to purchase an insulated wrap and insulate both inlet and outlet. They serve as heat sinks drawing heat away from the tank. These are a few quick fixes that won't cost a lot.
Want to save money running old electric appliances?
Water Heater: It's just as efficient as a modern one--100% efficient. The problem is that electric water heaters cost twice as much to run as natural gas models. To make it cheaper to run, cover it with an R10 water heater blanket. That will reduce heat loss and lower it's cost of operation.
Range: Old electric ranges are just as efficient as new ones, the technology has not changed much. To lower cost of use, group your baking so you can fire up the oven less often. When boiling water on the stove (say for spaghetti), turn down the power to medium after the pot boils since that's enough to keep the boil going and use less power.
Refrigerator: Here's where you're getting hit. Fridges today are much more efficient than older models. However, if this is a really old fridge, and is not frost-free, you're probably better off than if you had a frostless model of newer vintage. Either way, the best thing you can do is make sure the door gasket(s) seal well (look for gaps) and replace if necessary. I paid $40 to replace mine--parts only. Also, pull the fridge out and vacuum the coils--collected dust hurts efficiency.
If you're planning on staying there at least three years, you might want to get a Green-Plug. It's a $30 device that claims to reduce appliance energy consumption--check your local home center.
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