Coffee heat rising

Programmable-free Electric Bill

Okay, at last the electric bill arrived. This is the first full month’s summer bill I’ve had since I replaced the dratted programmable thermostat with a plain boring digital thermostat. So! The question is…

Did replacing the programmable headache thermostat with something that does not require advanced training in computer programming result in bankruptcy?

And the answer is…. Well, define “bankruptcy.”

The August 2009 bill, when the programmable thing was supposed to heat up the house during the day and cool it down at bedtime and then let the temperature drift back up when I would supposedly be unconscious in bed, was $257. Since the highest summer bill in previous years had been $229 and rates had held steady for several years, that was pretty darned breathtaking.

Since then, Salt River Project has raised its rates about 10 percent. So, in theory, this month’s bill should be around $282, approaching break-the-bank levels.

And the real bill WAS... $239.08!!!!

Wooo-HOOO! Almost $20 less than last year’s monster bill, in spite of the rate hikes!

Isn’t that something? This summer has been a little cooler than 2009, but not much—we’ve still had long stretches of 110- to 115-degree days. Except for the last two weekends, when rains drove early-morning temps into the 80s, the AC has been pounding away, all day and all night.

I figure the difference has to do with the thermostat, since the midsummer weather doesn’t vary much from year to year. After the programmable thing was installed last year (May 2009), the June bill was $49 higher than the June 2008 bill; the July 2009 bill was $36 lower, and the August bill was $28 more.

After seeing the June gouge, I ratcheted the temperature in the house way up, and so that may explain the drop in July. But I didn’t turn it down in August—and in fact, August is usually less scorching than July. And August 2009 cost almost $30 more than the prior August. So there’s no clear explanation for the $36 saving in July of 2009.

April and May were temperate this year, and so the bills that came in May and June were fairly low, reflecting the fact that I left the AC off most of those two months. June started to heat up, so the bill that arrived in July shot up through the roof: $11 more than the same month last year.

The programmable thermostat came off on July 2, and so the bill that came today is the first non-programmable thermostat month of 2010: $20 less than the bill for the same period in 2009.

How did I work this little miracle without the wonders of the silicon chip?

This new thermostat has a function called “Save.” When you press the “Save” button, it remembers the setting you started with but pushes up the temperature in the house by five degrees. So, I’ve had the thing set at 79 degrees for nighttime use, and, as soon as I stumble out of bed, I’ve been hitting the “Save” button on the way to the bathroom. This keeps the daytime temperature at 84.

That’s approximately what I was doing with the programmable thermostat, only ratcheting it up to 85 during the day, down to 76 around 6:00 p.m. so it would be cool enough to sleep by around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.,  and having it go back to 80 about midnight.

So really, now there are more hours when the temperature is in the tolerable range (85 really is uncomfortable in a shut-up house full of stale air) than with the programmable number, but the bill is significantly lower.

6 thoughts on “Programmable-free Electric Bill”

  1. Love the experiment. I’ve been thinking of trying a similar deal with those energy efficient light bulbs (though I don’t really like the mind-numbing hue they radiate).

    • @ Reasonable: Hmm… Come to think of it, the “bargain” electric bill (compared with last year’s) come after I yanked a bunch of those ugly things out of the lamps and replaced them with the old incandescents I’d stashed in a box. Guess they can’t be guzzling that many kwh’s.

  2. Wow, those bills are pretty reasonable considering your temps are above 100 degrees during the day. I also am really surprised that the non-programmable thermostat is saving you money. However, it may also be because you’re not cranking your air, your using it wisely!

  3. Now I’m re-thinking whether to install the programmable digital thermostat I bought. It will only control the heat, as our air conditioners are window units.

    Our total gas/electric bill last month was ~$250 – not bad considering it was the second hottest July on record here in NJ. This month isn’t cooling off much more, either.

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