The Rugged Individual vs Fossil Fuels

Natural Gas Meter

Living in the American Southwest, many of us see ourselves as rugged individuals. Movies, books, songs, etc. have celebrated the image of the independent westerner blazing his/her own trail. But, bitterly cold weather has popped the illusion of independence for a great many New Mexicans. Very few of us realized that a power-outage in Texas could trigger natural gas outages for thousands of people across New Mexico. It's hard to feel very independent when you and your neighbors have no heat.

Hearings into the natural gas outage have been scheduled and we can hope that solutions will be found. But the problem remains - too many of us rely on surprisingly fragile, centralized power and fossil fuel distribution systems. I'm not alone in thinking that we rugged Southwesterners should develop our local energy resources. I think may of us are now seriously considering our fossil fuel dependence.

On a warmer and positive note, here are the results from three DIY home projects I completed this fall. My weather-proofing projects were:

I had my fingers crossed that these weather proofing projects would make a difference large enough to see on our gas bill. It looks like I didn't need to worry. Here are the numbers.

Heating Bill before and after Weather Proofing
Before Weather Proofing
Jan 12 - Feb 11, 2010 (30 days)
Natural Gas used = 70.09 Therms @ $75.12
Heating Degree Days = 1015
Therms per Heating Degree Day = 0.0690

After Weather Proofing
Jan 12 - Feb 9, 2011 (28 days)
Natural Gas used = 60.8 Therms @ $58.37
Heating Degree Days = 1029
Therms per Heating Degree Day = 0.0590
 14.5% reduction in natural gas used!

Return on Investment
$166.48 = total project materials cost
333.74 Therms = Oct '09 - April '10 natural gas usage
14.5% = 48.39 therms
$1.0625/therm = average cost per therm for the past 4 years
$51.41 estimated annual savings
3.24 year estimated payback

Woo Hoo! We are making real, quantifiable progress in reducing our need for natural gas (and gas bills). Admittedly, we are still dependent on both the electrical grid and natural gas pipelines. So, I'm researching the more affordable options for solar heat and solar hot water. Moving away from fossil fuels isn't easy, but reducing our dependence on them is absolutely possible!

 Heating Degree Day - the number of heating degrees in a day is defined as the difference between a reference value of 65°F (18°C) and the average outside temperature for that day.
 Therm - the energy equivalent of burning 100 cubic feet (often referred to as 1 Ccf) of Natural Gas.

More Info: - State lawmakers, PRC want to know how utility customers got left in cold

KUNM Call-in Show, 2/10/2011

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Heating Bill Before and After Attic Insulation