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by Share Brandt

Missing Tulips

As I write this month’s commentary we are in the throes of what I hope is the last blizzard of the year. I am ready for spring and the longer days are teasing me into thinking its right around the corner. Easter has come and gone and still no tulips at the State Capitol!

This has been a long winter-heating season. Like you, I have been watching my electric rates climb in recent years. I remember when it cost less than a dime for one kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. We used to describe one kilowatt-hour as the amount of electric energy required to operate a 100-watt bulb for 10 hours. Most of my bulbs are CFLs now and they use about one-fourth as much electricity as the old incandescent type.

More Tasks Ahead

I have already done the obvious things for energy efficiency like replace the old refrigerator with an Energy Star model. I also got rid of the old family chest freezer from the 1970s; some of the stuff in the bottom had not seen the light of day for over 10 years. These changes made a big difference in my electric bill. But then the price went up again.

I know there is more to be done to make my house more energy efficient; I just haven’t gotten around to doing it. So this spring I have made a commitment to take the next steps. I finally found the right model of foam gaskets for the rectangular switches and outlets in my house. I made it my weekend project to install them. When I took the first switch plate off, I noticed right away that it was cool and drafty around the electrical box.

We also put new weather stripping around the front door. Next we did a walk-through of the unfinished lower level. We purposely don’t heat this area much because we don’t spend a lot of time downstairs. But clearly it wasn’t just cold; it was drafty. I looked up at the top of the basement wall where the house rests and there is no insulation tucked inside. It will need to have all the cracks sealed before applying the insulation.

There are all kinds of cool products to choose from to make these efficiency improvements and with a little advice from an expert I am sure my husband and I can complete these tasks. Just a little bending and stretching, measuring and cutting, and in a few hours our work will be complete. I will let you know next winter how much it impacts my electric bill in an all-electric home.

Bracing for Hikes

Wisconsin already has some of the highest electric rates in the nation according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (see the map on this page). And electric rates are expected to continue to trend higher due to tighter government regulation and the high cost to comply with new rules.

Knowing what’s to come, I finally decided to stop procrastinating and take action. Will you? If you don’t know where to begin, contact your electric cooperative and the staff there will help you get started. Happy home improvements!