Wow! The power bill arrived in the mail today: $257.82!!! For one little old lady, living by herself, in a sweltering hot house. That’s a $28.28 increase over last year’s bill, when I had a plain old manual thermostat. And I most certainly did not swelter miserably all through last July.
A couple of months ago, I switched out the manual thermostat for a programmable one, seeking the alleged savings. Come May, the first post-programmable power bill came in: fifty bucks higher than the May 2009 bill!
Well, maybe I wasn’t using it right. Maybe I was asking it to keep the indoor temperature too low? So I reset it: 82 during the day and 76 at night. And I put Gerardo up to hauling the freezer from the garage to a bedroom that serves as storage, where it wouldn’t run nonstop 24/7. This evinced a June statement that was $36 under the June 2008 bill. Ah, thought I: now we’re cookin’ with gas! (Thank gawd: If I had to boil a pot of water on an electric stove, I’d be brewing coffee over a camp stove under the Seventh Avenue Overpass!)
Encouraged by the apparent savings, I decided it really isn’t necessary for the temp to be 76 all night: if it would just drop low enough for me to get to sleep, probably a two-degree increase wouldn’t wake me up (not true, as it develops). So, pursuing another price cut, I set the thermostat to run at 82 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (at 82, BTW, because the thermostat is located in the coolest part of the house, the rooms where I actually live are around 85 or 90). Then it drops to 78 between 5:00 p.m. and 10:30, when I would normally go to bed. Between 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., it goes down to 76. Then at 12:30 in the morning it rises back to 78, where it hovers until 9:00 a.m.
Result: a $50 kick in the pants.
And a spate of insomnia. Truth is, with the thermostat set at 78 degrees, the bedroom—conveniently, the warmest room in the house—is too damn hot to sleep. At first I thought, when I woke up sweating at three in the morning, that I must be having a relapse of the hot flashes. But then I realized…waitaminit! The dog is awake, too, and the dog is sitting here panting! Dog panting. Human panting. Neither critter sleeping. It’s not “just me.”
Man oh man! When Salt River Project engages its outrageous 8.8 percent increase, that will push my summer power bills to almost $300!!!!! Where on earth is the money gunna come from?
I guess this is just another message that I need to sell this house and get into someplace smaller that doesn’t have a pool. Just what I need to do: uproot myself at the same time I’m losing my job.
Well, I’m going to try SRP’s time-of-day service—around here you have to sign up for it: the power company doesn’t just raise and lower bills for any Tom, Dick, and Harry. As a practical matter, I normally do the laundry in the morning (especially in the summer: the garage, where the washer & dryer are located, is hotter than a bygod), and the pool pump runs from 4:00 a.m. to about 10 a.m., well within the off-peak hours.
Three problems with this scheme: first, you have to leave the gate to your backyard unlocked, decidedly an unwise strategy in this part of town; and second, they nick you an extra three bucks on the service fee, cutting into any savings you might (or might not) get on the plan.
And the biggest issue: the rate in the summer peak time of day is almost twice the all-day rate on the basic plan, while the off-peak saving is only about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. And of course, the peak time of day is the hottest time of day…and the biggest power guzzler is a central air conditioner.
SRP also offers a cost-averaging plan, whereby the company divides the total of your last year’s bills by twelve. Last time I asked, this would have given me a monthly bill of $125, a far cry from the the $63 that’s typical during the winter. A hundred and a quarter is too darned much to have to fork over every month! I’d rather strain my budget three or four months a year and have eight or nine months with affordable bills, thank you.
At any rate, we now have two months of three in which bills are significantly higher with the programmable thermostat than they were with a regular round dial that I could turn off and leave turned off until I just couldn’t stand it any more…and which ran the system at 76 all night long instead of just two hours. Not very impressive!