January 2009 Archives

January 28, 2009

Learn to Double Check Your Meter Reading

meters.jpgI have to start with a confession -- I'm the type of person who pays bills without looking very hard at them. Once, I signed a credit card charge slip for $1,500 that should have been $15. That's probably why I married someone who is the exact opposite and will stand by the grocery store checkout line mentally adding up everything on the receipt while I'm already carrying the bags to the trunk.

But he gets the last laugh a disturbing amount of the time. In fact, having seen how often mistakes happen, I've started checking things more carefully -- in this economy, the only mistakes I want to see on my bills are the ones where they forget to charge me!

And he got to tally up one more moral victory yesterday, when our gas and electric bill came. "That's a lot higher than normal," he said. "Huh?" I said, looking at the numbers cluelessly. "C'mon, let's go read the meter," he said. "You can do that?" I asked.

Five minutes later, I was feeling much more empowered, having witnessed for myself that, indeed, the gas bill showed a meter reading that was much higher than our real-life meter showed. And it's not much harder than reading your car's odometer. Even with the old-fashioned type of meter (which we of course have), where the arrows swing around as if on a clock face, you basically just look at whichever number each arrow is pointing at, in succession. Click here for pictorial instructions.

The happy ending: We'll be getting about $150 back on our gas bill very soon.  
January 8, 2009

Don't Give Up on Buying Green

With the economy down, you might assume you can no longer afford the "luxury" of a home built using green construction techniques and materials. But the latest reports show that other buyers who've done the math are still convinced that the energy-saving features of green construction make it a good deal.

See, for example, this article by Mari Saito in the Philadelphia Business Journal, describing one condo buyer's shock that her monthly electricity bill went from about $280 per month in her former loft to just $76.

And in a related article by Diane M. Fiske, the Journal describes how one local developer is coming up with efficient ways to build homes that are both affordable and energy-saving. An important part of the strategy is the use of SIPS, or "standard insulated panels." These panels are made of wood (either young farmed trees or leftover wood flakes) and a foam insulating material. They're precut to the designer's specifications and put together on site, like a giant puzzle. They're getting high reviews for environmental friendliness (like reduced wood waste) and tight, heat-conserving qualities.

By the way, if you're building your own house, SIPS might be a good option as well. For more information on SIPS, see: