Gas, Water, Electricity...reality is here

emagineerOctober 8, 2008

My local news announced new rates last night. Was ready for this, but not the astounding increase which takes place in Feb.

Water +45%

Electricity +11%

Gas +34%

Waste Water Runoff +17

They stated this increase would add $35 to the average homeowner's bill. Who the heck came up with that number? The total increase is over 100%. Which doubles my bill and I can't even remember when just one of these was $35.

So, I wake up this morning thinking about all that can be done to ease this pain. I'm already fairly conservative with utilities and do a majority of the energy saving steps. But the thought of going further conjurs up thoughts of living in an ice cave this winter.

Now we can be blessed with our little homes, any increase is not going to hit us as badly. But it is going to hit.

One of the things I am going to do is add inside window films and heavy curtains. Only one room isn't used, so I can't really close off living areas. I keep the temp at 55 during the night, 70 the first couple of hours in the morning, then 65 during the day depending upon the winter sun. Also cuddle up in the evenings under an electric blanket to read or watch TV. Although I use my fireplace a lot during winter, there are those articles about it drawing all the heat out rather than being a backup source. Will I have to rethink this too?

The water increase is going to kill me if I want to continue gardening with love. Wonder what this will mean to other's beautiful yards next year.

Have any of you heard of increases in your cities yet? And what ideas will you come up for in keeping the costs down?

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Our electric is supposed to go up 8%. Water is always an issue in Arizona, but I don't know about rates yet. We are usually in the lowest tier of consumption so that shouldn't be too much of a hit. Natural gas, no idea, but fortunately we don't get freezing cold for sustained periods.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 10:41AM
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We are lucky enough to live on a 1 acre retention pond, so we draw water out for the price of running the pump (for the gardens). In our next house, I plan to have a gutter system, and collect rainwater for the garden. Here in FL, we don't use heat at all, but A/C runs 6 months out of the year. Have you considered a wood-burning insert for your fireplace? They are supposed to be much more efficient. In a lot more ways then what we are talking about here, I think it's going to be a tough, cold winter.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 12:27PM
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Rainbarrels here too. But those increases are still going to be a killer. I noticed yesterday afternoon that our new full glass back door (which faces west) was letting in or causing a lot of heat. It has cellular shades inside the glass which we thought would be better than mini blinds, but they seem to be the semi-translucent kind. I'm thinking of putting an insulated shade over the door, at least until we can get a covered porch built.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 1:19PM
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OH I agree on the wood stove insert. We had an Oakley that was wonderful and pretty too. Sits inside your fireplace. We had a rotten fireplace so we had to run a stainless steel liner down the chimney. That was in Challis where nights dropped to 30 below or more for over a month in the winter. The norm being 10 below for winter.

Here we do not have the severe cold like that. Our electric went up 6% two months ago We just got our bill and it was 45.00 for one month. Water here is $16.00 a month and there is a huge amount of water you can use for that base price. Something like 45K gallons. Neighbor waters a half acre horse pasture on city water and it costs her an added 70 cents to her bill. This town does not have a sewer system . Every one is on septic so no charges there other than to maintain your system with that stuff. Septic stuff you flush down the toilet once in awhile.

Over all I think it is pretty inexpensive to live here for utilities. I do know where we moved from in Cambridge the city services are going through the roof. Sewer and water close to $80.00 a month and that is the flat fees. Use more and it would be higher.

I think it is just awful so many people are having to suffer the high costs of living happening now.

One thing I do do is 98 percent of the time and even through the winter I dry my clothes on the line. There is nothing like freezing whites to turn them the brightest white you ever saw. I have NO idea why. A 20 degree day time high will get a load of laundry dry. Sometimes I have to drape the towels around until the next morning for the complete dry feel.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 3:36PM
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Our electric bill did go up, but I don't remember by how much. DH reinsulated our attic this spring and our electric bill is lower than it was last year so that's great news. Our water bill isn't bad and we never use the full amount that it would take to go up to the next level, except when we had a pinhole leak in the pipes under the house, then we had a bigger bill. We have a well for watering gardens. ~ Like flgargoyle we use our a.c. 6 mos of the year and rarely have to use the heater, which is radiant, that we found probably 25 years ago, curb-side shopping. We never had it turned up all the way either. ~ We have a septic tank as city sewer isn't in our area.

I am so thankful for our little place.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 4:31PM
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All of you are really in great shape for utilities. My situation is the life of city living. I can't remember living anywhere that was less than what has been posted.

Looked at the woodburning stove, but the darn things are close to $2,000 and then there is wood which runs around $300 a cord. I love a burning fireplace in the winter and still have tons of wood. A future possibility to look at.

I was thinking more in the line of how much could be done simply/easily to make a difference. My home is actually very well built, new furnace, water heater, last year. New appliances, have a double oven stove, the top one is half size, hardly ever use the larger oven. And heavy storm windows, so I'm not in bad shape.

Of note, rain barrels are illegal in CO. This is due to our underground water retention. I run extended gutters to the garden to take advantage of runoff. And xerisacape plantings cut down on the need for water. I cut out more lawn each year and keep adding the xeriscape, which grows like weeds here.

The increase just floored me and can't imagine how most people are going to deal with it. Especially those who also don't have the ability to even pay for upgrades to their homes.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 6:03PM
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I can't imagine rain barrels being illegal. Hope Texas doesn't go that way. I guess a way around that would be a water garden aka holding pond.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2008 at 6:42PM
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On a similar note, many municipalities are facing increased pressure to lower property taxes because as home prices soared in past years, tax revenue increased proportionatly. Funny thing, as tax revenue increased, the municipalities found ways of spending all of it and are now dependent on revenues continuing at that level. Now, with home prices dropping, home owners are demanding reduced tax assesed values which will mean decreases in revenue which the towns, cities and counties are having a tough time swallowing. Boo Hoo! But what's fair is fair. If taxes went up when values went up then taxes need to come down when values fall.

Increased petroleum costs are obviously a factor but I don't think all of the increase can be blamed on that one factor. The tax angle might explain some of the water, sewer and waste fee increases.

Just a thought.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 7:39AM
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The SW has aquafers which are layers of rock which hold water underground (lake). NM has one of the largest, almost the size of the state. A great deal of water is used from them, specifically wells. This is why rain barrels aren't allowed. Any moisture repelenishes the aquafer lakes, which are becoming lower as time evolves. Actually, I'm not sure where all may be located. Am more familiar with CO and NM.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 8:02AM
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I guess that doesn't make sense to me because rain barrels hold at most 55 gal each, and it is used on the same ground the rain would have fallen on.

What part of CO are you in? My dh is going to Durango next week.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 11:58AM
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As a follow-up to the post I put up earlier today, I found the following in an article on today. It all comes back to government's absolute addiction to taxes.


"The next few shoes to fall? The traders pointed to a looming disaster in municipal finance, where cities and states that have lost their backstop from troubled insurers are facing lower property- and sales-tax revenues from withering home values and shrinking consumer sales."

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 5:18PM
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Marti, I don't think anyone really understands the law. The link below is from a blog, really well done, on the issue. With links to the laws.

Scott, We have already felt the shoe drop in city services. Police calls are for life/death situations. You cannot call if someone has a big ole' party next door or suspect something illegal is being grown. They have priorities set. Even the time when a call will be answered is up for grabs. Whether any of this is actual cost cutting or someone's off thinking is beyond me.

All of this sounds like I live in a terrible town. Which is not the case. We have been honored with many top 10 best places to live and amenities abound. Perhaps this is why they taking are taking the low road. We may have been given too much or taken too much. I haven't kept up with the financials of the city...probably time to do so. I know my property taxes have not gone down though.

Here is a link that might be useful: Denver Rain Barrel/Gray Water Law

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 6:00PM
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Good link, guess I'll mark off Colorado and New Mexico as my retirement states.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 7:24PM
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Retirement? I let a spouse get me off my path towards financial independance. We are divorced now. Because of the financial losses associated with that and the lost time/value factor, I was researching countries like Panama and Costa Rica for retirement. Based on the movement of the stock market recently I have shifted my web searches to Kenya and Chad!

All joking aside, this may become a popular forum soon.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 7:54PM
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LOL Scott. I have a friend who married a guy from Egypt, and they moved there. Now her mother is considering moving there because it is so cheap to live there. On just her American social security income, she can live like upper class there.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2008 at 9:22PM
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This is an off the wall idea, but my kids and I have been playing with the idea of a compound. Haven't come up with any other definition. Buy a piece of property large enough to enjoy nature and build small log cabins, open one room spaces. The downside is cost of each for utility connections, etc. which could raise the price per unit, going over the cost of a multiliving home.
Building a multiliving home was another idea with 3 separate living quarters . Each living area would be on one side of a kitchen/living room combination and have patios separating them. I guess you could call it a triplex, but it would be planned like a larger home (for code).

Also buying a property that had a larger home, remodel to fit the above idea. Or find a place that already has rental units on it. The area I live in has large lots with small homes which have added small rentals in back. You don't even know the rentals exist unless looking for them. This isn't allowed now, was done before code changed years ago.

We also thought of finding a place with existing cabins and upgrading, remodeling. This would eliminate a lot of code junk since they are already there. A lot of these exist in the mountains and many are only 20 min. from here.

Our thoughts for this was for all being able to own a home and share the expenses/ammenities of such. And the belief it would be less expensive than 3 different properties. My legacy could be shared now instead of later. Part of our discussion came about with their concern regarding my getting older. A reality I dislike, but one that is there. I don't care how old I get, the thought of living with one of them or other options is not something I want to do. Plus they need their space and although we are family, I don't like intruding on their lives.

This isn't something we would do now, thinking in 5 years. Doesn't hurt to play with the options. And possibilties in the future may be just what we are thinking.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 8:22AM
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emagineer, I have thought along the same lines, but for my in-laws, my mother, and us. We all like each other, but it would be tough to live in the same house for various reasons. My goal is to be off the grid, or as close to it as possible.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 2:05PM
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I guess we might have a small compound. My mother will probably build a small place on our property, if her health holds out. She is 82, and living alone far from family. Everybody agrees that it should be separate dwellings, including her. If it works as planned, her place will run of off of our utilities and septic, and once Mom passes, we'll have a small guest house. I wanted to get my brother and sister together, pool our resources, and buy a lot more acreage for an eventual compound, but I'm the only one who thought it was a good idea.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2008 at 7:41AM
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