Virginia c.1984: Occupants enjoy more comfort using less energy?

"Be the change you wish to see in the world (Ghandi-tkx Judy)"

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Primary (E-Com) Contact:Jeanne and David (pseudonyms)
Communications (#/text):Update your E-Profile with your energy story / results
Secondary Contact:Vic, Burt, Tex and Bruce (RIP - In loving memory)
Address / Area: Broad Run (can be left blank - optional)
Near Warrenton, VA 20137
2nd Phone # (ext):Feedback / Comments Welcome! E-Com to this Entity. Easy. Private.
Primary / Website URL:

Energy conservation: One family attempts a more sustainable lifestyle with less use of grid based electricity in Virginia / Mid Atlantic region Created 11/14/07 updated 10/23/12


Original heat pump that we had been "nursing with TLC" every winter for at least 3 seasons finally "broke" this past spring. Multiple service calls with different companies had all previously said the same thing - "Can get it running, but you need a new unit!"

At 6:30am one morning the outside unit started to "hum" - LOUDLY. Closer inspection revealed a burning smell. Urgent calls to engineers at NOVEC prompted a service call to inspect (free) the remote radio controlled equipment used by NOVEC to idle the HVAC during periods of peak demand. Inspection showed that turning it back on at the breaker could start a fire!

A few weeks later after bids and lots of phone calls the new top of the line HVAC equipment became operational.

Compared to the old unit (think Ford) the new one is a Ferrari: 5 light aerodynamic plastic blades versus 4 big heavy metal ones, quiet as opposed to noisy, increased air flow (no duct changes), modern thermostat, variable frequency internal fans as opposed to just on or off and MOST important of all wired for the addition of solar panels - Our next step when we can afford it.

Budget payments (12 month revolving calculation) to NOVEC last spring averaged close to $200 per month. After a hot summer with AC, budget payments are down to $120 (September 2011). With no rate changes this equals an additional 40% reduction over all prior energy conservation efforts in this home.

Compared to the original first invoice of over $500 for December '95 - and the many other cumulative energy conservation efforts for this one home (see below), total savings represent about a 65% reduction in grid based electricity usage - for EVER!

This equates to permanent savings of about $3,200 per year or $32,000 every 10 years assuming current utility rates / NO increases (NOT going to happen)!

Next steps: Solar for summer air conditioning - Sun room addition with basement pellet stove for winter heating will drop electric bill below $100 per month - ALMOST off grid for increasing lengths of time. Plus hybrid vehicle and MORE "natural" garden areas resulting in LESS lawn to mow!



May: Removing lawn away each year (a little at a time over the last 15 years) and planting trees / letting nature take over is really paying off this spring. Counted 6 active bird nests last spring (5/1/10)! Plus, lawn now takes only 50% of the time to cut (50% finite fuel savings).

David has 2 doctors in Manassas so expanding on the "Local" theme - He is changing doctors (one after 15 years) to new ones in Warrenton = less driving and in the event of a hospital stay - local for friends and family to visit.

April: Tried growing vegetable plants from seeds (indoors for the first time). Tomatoes, peppers worked well. Problems with corn, sprouts. First group doing well in new garden - brought plants for the second group - will try seeds again next year.

Our Association Board of Directors approved a request from a group of owners to rent some equipment (small bobcat) and open up trails for horses, walking, bikes (NO engines) in the Common Areas. For less than $500 and a few days of work we now have 2-3 miles of new paths! Good exercise for everyone! Beware the black bears, especially a mummy with cub(s)!

A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker ..." used to be in every English village. A nation of shopkeepers where every resident would walk or ride a horse to pickup daily supplies (back in the day, no refrigeration). David welcomed Great Harvest Bread on Main Street in Warrenton, where everything is baked daily - a return to an old concept with modern technology to advertise when products are ready - check out their home page - Search "Template#1" and other ways to learn search techniques for Energized Warrenton. Stop by when in Old Town - plenty of parking!

March: Moved vegetable garden closer to the house to get more morning sun. Built / prepared cheap wooden boxes to hold a 50 / 50 mixture of compost / top soil from a local nursery.

January / February: Worst snow in years - schools closed too much! Kids going stair crazy. Work completed over the years to make house more air-tight really paid off.


8/10/09: Cash for Clunkers - Got rid of 1991 Jeep with 150,000 plus miles and low mpg (<17) for small truck with 25mpg - not a Prius or hybrid but a small step in the right direction. 2009 gas usage averaged 75 gallons per month. Expected to increase in 2010 due to small business development. Number of vehicles now 2 instead of 3 (no backup).

5/26/09: Not mentioned in prior notes for this residence is the longer term efforts towards sustainable living better practices regarding the garden and other exterior subject matter. Since moving into the home (Dec / '95) each spring has resulted in more lawn being turned over to other purposes including vegetables, (fruit) trees, bushes, landscaping and plain old Mother Nature (natural seeding from adjacent trees, by birds, etc.). About 50% of the lawn has been replaced and new areas occur on an annual basis.


12/7/08 updates: Working with original heat pump during the winter has proven to be a challenge - Unit no longer goes through "heating" cycle to keep ice from forming on the coils in the exterior unit - Workarounds include going to backup electric heat that does NOT use the heat pump - May seem expensive but not when managed with space heaters and other heat sources such as a wood stove

May / 08 - Residence: Electrical consumption averaged 1410 kWh per month in 2005 / 2006. Rolling 12-month average has dropped to 1209 KwH per month, a 15% reduction. Our BEST / LOWEST month usage was previously 868 and our spring utility invoice had a record low of only 697!


Vehicles (3): 2007 gas usage dropped 24% to 98 gal/mth - 2008: 80 gallons/month (18% ytd).

Education: Attended the solar energy display in Washington DC (metro of course), CCAN (University of Virginia campus), PEC and Energy Awareness events (May 2008 - 46 Virginia companies listed as AEEE for each organization thanks to IntraGroups). Viewed a Maryland residence - 90% off grid - changes retro fitted into 92 year old home included solar, non-wood burning stove for winter heating and propane for cooking.

Strategy: To continue the energy savings journey. Plan to replace the leased vehicle with a hybrid, add more insulation to the attic, and replace the original heat pump with varied source heat generation units including solar radiant (floor) heat, solar heated water, solar attic fans and tubes to introduce natural light to upstairs closets and darker rooms. Combined this should introduce another 20-35% savings for grid-based electricity in our home.

Critical success factors to saving grid-based electricity: Lowering / raising thermostat in winter / summer, re-insulating doors, better use of blinds (closed more in summer during day while people at work -open during day in winter and closed more at night), turning off lights, replacing bulbs (CFLs), and following proven examples from other IntraGroups members of simple ways to reduce electrical consumption.

Our private IntraGroups network of "energy saving" families has been fun (celebrating success) and useful for energy knowledge transfer / sharing / conversation.


Cars: Fuel (gas) usage in 2006 usage averaged 129 gallons / month. Vehicles: 1991 Jeep Cherokee, 2005 Jeep Liberty, 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee (leased for 27 months, returned early in 2009).

Jeanne changed jobs reducing commute to 20 minutes (from 120) and mileage from 100+ miles / day to only 20 (for work)! David drove 5 times to Ravenswood WV in 2006, early 2007 on business - 356 miles each way guzzling

2011+ Strategy: This residence is going off-grid with solar, geothermal, sun room, passive thermal heating, windmill (for well water) and micro-hydro - stay tuned for details - A model home for Homeowners Associations - Increased value and 'sale' ability in ANY market!

The right people doing the right things at the right time! Energized for everyone! Our WINTER Benchmarks / Base Marks for grid-based electricity. Time to upgrade / replace equipment / install backup HEATING? During the summer when costs are LOWER!

Energy Conservation: There are many ways to do this - do what works for you! It is a journey, not an event!

Photo shows elevation, house faces west. 2800 square feet with HVAC (all electric), Built 1987. 2 adults, 1 teenager, 1 young adult, 1 cat and 2-3 dogs. Wood stove. Almost 2 acres with lawn size reduced each year. Well. NOVEC electric utility. Septic tank.


When sharing your best practices a photo helps others adapt your ideas to their situations. NO limit on text. Be as verbose / humorous as you want to be. Contact info can be masked as in this example (pseudonyms) and personal notes are welcome (RIP).


Backup NOTES along this conservation journey ...

A) Utility from Invoices

Lowest kWh monthly usage: 741
Highest kWh monthly usage: 2481
Average kWh (past 12 months): 1306 (24 months is better if you can get this data)

B) Utility from Electric Meter (Winter 2010)

February - Lowest overnight 12 hour usage (8pm-8am) 48 kWh
February - Highest daily 12 hour usage (8am-8pm) 9 kWh

Record snowfall insulated home making February heating lower than March. Last home to have snow on the roof either better insulated, or, inside temps better managed for homes of similar construction, elevation, topography, lifestyle, number of occupants, etc. Use space heaters in bedrooms with individual thermostats / timers. Use humidifiers to supplement cntral heating system to keep humidity between 40-50% in winter (feels warmer). Central thermostat varies between 60-64 (national is 68) based on outside temps, sun, time of day, etc. Comfort levels pleasant with appropriate clothing and warm bed coverings at night.

March - Lowest overnight 12 hour usage (8pm-8am) 54 kWh
March - Highest daily 12 hour usage (8am-8pm) 16 kWh

Daily awareness of utility usage really increases knowledge of home and energy habits, comfort levels, equipment efficiency, energy management, etc. Clocks changing (earlier) requires thermostats to be re-adjusted and does save energy despite the inconvenience

April - Lowest daily 24 hour usage (8am-8am) 11 kWh
April - Highest daily 24 hour usage (8am-8am) 39 kWh

Windows open, HVAC off. Overnight heating only with wood stove / space heaters as needed. Filters cleaned.

Now that energy (heating) is better managed and all other best practice processes have become habits (takes 30 days) - daily meter recording suspended until air conditioning is used on a continual basis this coming summer. Opening windows and using house to attic fan in late afternoon / evening to draw in colder outside air. Utility invoice dropping every month this year, so far.

Extra Base Marks: Elapse time between 1000kWh. First measurement: 23 days. Next measurement: 34 days. Next TARGET: More than 40 days!

Attention to detail = SUCCESS!

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