Free Energy News

Conrad LeBeau (West Allis) (Report No 1, Feb., 2001)

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With a cold winter and natural gas prices doubling in most parts of the nation and rolling blackouts in California, what is now a national energy crisis is rapidly becoming a financial crisis as well. When people cannot afford to stay warm in winter and cool in summer, it adversely affects their health and peace of mind. Free Energy News will appear from time to time as part of this newsletter, but not on a regular monthly basis.

Living in a ranch style block house I bought here 4 years ago, I added 12 inches of fiber glass insulation in the attic about 2 years ago. As I watched my gas bills more than double this winter reaching $291 in January, I decided I needed to add insulation to my walls. I looked at my gas bills for last year and watched the price of natural gas climb from 67 cents a Therm in May to $1.14 in early Jan., 2001. I was told the prices in February would go even higher.

Calling an insulation contractor, he told me that because I had a block house and there was some original insulation in the walls, he could not, as a practical matter, add more. He offered me no new energy saving ideas.

Digital Programmable Thermostats

Honeywell Model 3200

Digital programmable thermostats can save you from 10 to 25% annually on your heating and air conditioning costs. I found one at Menards. There are several different models, 2800 - the economy model, and 3200 and 3400. I chose the 3200 model. It is designed for both heat and AC. There are two groups of programs built into the thermostat. One is for Monday through Friday and the other is for Saturday and Sunday. In the Mon through Fri program, there are 4 daily time period to set the desired temperature. They are wake, leave, return and sleep. The settings control all five days simultaneously. You need to set the temperature you desire for each time period. The daily cycle for each program is from 12 am to midnight. Separate setting are required for the Sat/Sun program. There is also a manual over-ride for temp. settings that runs until the next time period.

Ideally, you set the temperature to a comfortable setting (i.e. 68°F while you are at home and awake) and lower while you sleep (i.e. 64°F). Your biggest savings occurs during the day while you are gone to work. You can set the thermostat for 56°F and set it to warm the house up 30 minutes before you get home. The digital thermostat has kept the house within one degree of the thermostat setting. The old thermostat had too wide a cycle range - over 4 degrees - causing the room to feel either too cold or too hot. This wide cycle range wasted a lot of energy causing the furnace room to overheat when the thermostat called for heat.

“Time of Use” Electricity

Around the middle of January, I called Wisconsin Electric and had a time of use meter installed Jan. 17th which gives me cheap electricity for 12 hours a day (7pm to 7 am) and all weekend, but more costly for 12 hrs daily Mon through Fri (7am to 7pm). On the 7pm to 7am period, I use an electric heater in each room with a programmable timer to turn it on when it is cost effective and off when it is not. The electricity costs only 2.5 cents per kW at night and weekends or half the cost of the natural gas for the same amount of heat. During the day when electricity costs 14 cents a kW, the digital thermostat turns on the gas heat which is cheaper to use. I have estimated that this combination heating system (gas during the day and electric heat at night and on weekends) will cut the heating cost about 50%.

Insulation - If you could just paint it on

Well, you can!

As I estimated the cost of natural gas, I anticipated my gas bill by February 15th could reach close to $400 a month. I said to a friend: “Why hasn’t someone invented an insulating paint that you can paint on your walls and insulate it at the same time?” He said; “never heard of such a thing.” I called several local building and heating suppliers and hardware stores and no one heard of any such product. “You’r dreaming,” said one salesman.

In January, I did an internet search using the word “insulation” and made a surprising discovery. Two websites offered an insulating paint with microporous ceramic particles and one offered the powdered ceramic particles that could be added to any kind of paint and applied on walls, pipes, inside or outside the house. The product is called “insuladd.” I printed out about 20 pages of information from this website located at www.insuladd.com (Ph No 888-748-5233).

This product has been out for several years and is the outgrowth of the Space Shuttle program. NASA found that ceramic tiles had tremendous insulation value during re-entry of the space module. Two coats of paint with insuladd added have a conduction R value or 5 and a radiation R value of 20. This is a better overall R value than 2 inches of Styrofoam. The R value measures the insulation value for resisting heat transfer, the higher the R value, the better is the insulation material.

Not including the paint, I calculated the cost at 4 cents a sq. ft for applying insuladd. An insulation product with a comparable R value at a local hardware store cost 40 cents a sq. ft. It costs about $8.00 to treat a gallon of paint with insuladd (covers 200 sq. ft). For indoors, you need only paint the ceilings and the outside walls. Manufacturer reports a 40% savings in heating and cooling costs. This weekend, Feb. 3rd, I am painting my home with Insuladd. I will let you know the results I obtain next month.

Results were about a $100 per month savings on both heating costs for the winter. Jan, 2002: As a followup I estimate about a 30% overall savings in energy costs making it a well worth investment.

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