A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Comparing Apples and Oranges: A Problem for the New Green Consumer

I make plans for my home with each new year. Much of these plans is an on-going project to improve my home’s energy efficiency and water usage. I read posts from others proclaiming their financial savings, and I think back to a homeowner who contacted me last year. Where were his savings?

Some of you may be hoping for extra money in your pocket each month by installing features that will make the home more green. You may then be disillusioned to find that you appear to have no savings. What happened? A little investigation is needed. Pull out your utility bills from last year. In Houston, we had several rate increases in our electricity bills. The fluctuations in price can be dizzying. What I found was that even though the usage has been reduced, the cost of what was used went up. If we compare what might have been your bill to what it was, you can see that steps taken did save money. With energy costs going up again, you may find that more reduction in energy use is needed to keep the bill at the same amount.

Water is also becoming a precious commodity, and municipalities are starting to charge more accordingly for it. We had no big raises in price, but there is a little twist for people who are starting to use graywater systems, but did not see the cost go down. Take a look at your water bill. There is a charge for water and then sewer. All cities that I am familiar with include trash removal charges under sewer, but the remaining amount of this charge is from the water going back into the sewage system. How does the public works department determine how much water you are putting into the system? Is there a meter? Probably not, but there could be. Most homeowners forget that the city uses a simple formula to charge you, water in equals sewage out. With a graywater system, that formula becomes inaccurate. If you do use such water again, you should contact the city to find out about metering the sewage. I knew of one homeowner that did have this done, and it saved him on his water bill.

Do not be discouraged if you do not see immediate savings by going green. You might be, but you do not even know it.

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