Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

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jacob
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Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by jacob »

So as not to hijack @unemployable's thread, I'm interested in where I find the absolute minimal utility costs in terms of geography. I'm particularly motivated to find a place in the US where heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer are minimal.

Lets focus on the cost for a "standard implementation" (e.g. what the neighbors use). No "cheating" by installing photovoltaic swampcoolers, your own well or septic system, or cutting your own wood ... unless that's considered normal in the area.

Ultimately, I imagine a heat map (of the US) that shows the combined cost of water+sewerage+heating+cooling+electricity.

To give a datapoint, we pay an astounding ~$1600/year in utility costs to run a 3/1.5 house in the Midwest because summers are hot and humid while winters are bitterly cold and water/electric comes with lots of fees and minimum use stipulations. Indeed, almost half of that amount is water and sewerage.

Having a small annual temperature variation suggests being able to skip either heating or cooling.

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Ego
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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by Ego »

Coastal Southern Californians can easily get away with no heat or AC.

Back when we paid our own utilities the goal was under $30 for gas and electric combined. Most of that was the minimum connection/service fees.

I'll have a place with free utilities for you in a few weeks, but rent is not cheap.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by unemployable »

I live in a 1br condo at elevation in the Colorado mountains. Average January low here is like two or three degrees F. My gas + electric averages out to some $50-55/month. That works out to about $40-45 for seven or eight months and $60-80 for a few months in winter.

I have AC, but in nine years I have never used it. I have never even thought of using it. I cook all my meals and do most of my laundry here so use heat for that too.

Heat is an expense, but I usually only run it for a few hours in the morning and evening in winter. I have a large south-facing window which is very effective at warming the place up on sunny winter days (which is like 70% of all days in winter). I turn the heat off at night and am fine sleeping under a few blankets.

Most of the power I use during the day is connected to powerstrips which I shut off before going to bed. This saves a few bucks a month, enough to be worth doing.

Burning wood is common here, even in expensive houses. Guess it contributes to the "mountain ambiance". I've never used my fireplace though. Don't think it would save much, and as a kid we had a fire once when my folks fell alseep in the living room without putting the fire out, so perhaps I'm still scarred (ha!) from that.

Anyway you can do a fair amount of economizing even in a cold climate.

As far as places with low overall costs I would consider the southern Appalachians, northern Arizona and New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by jacob »

unemployable wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 10:43 am
As far as places with low overall costs I would consider the southern Appalachians, northern Arizona and New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest.
Getting more familiar with city-data, setting the av temp at 50-60 contingent on a low variation, that's also what the city-data screen comes up with. Add NC/TN areas, somewhat inland.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by unemployable »

Reno/Carson/Tahoe should be pretty reasonable too, as long as it's the Nevada side. The PacNW has cheap rates as most of the power is hydroelectric. I believe Idaho is the state with the lowest per-kwh utility costs in the nation. The Southern US does pretty well here too, not only with the TVA but also with the private utilities (mostly D, SO or DUK).

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by Jean »

That's not the us, but iceland has very mild winter, and very cheap heating(close to free) and electricity. (And cheap lamb, if you're into keto)
Last edited by Jean on Tue Sep 24, 2019 3:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by theanimal »

I live in 1 br cabin 500 sq ft with large windows in Fairbanks. January low last year was -45 F and high temperature was 87 F in July. Almost nobody has A/C here. My electric costs are about $35 and heat comes out to be about $350 for the winter if I'm using heating oil (thermostat at `60) so monthly utilities are at roughly $60. Cutting wood is very common here and most homes have a wood stove and/or an oil heater.

Another alternative would be Southcentral Alaska. The winters are slightly longer but temperatures are much milder than Chicago. Summers are generally mild as well due to being so close to the coast. I don't know exact figures but utilities are cheaper than where I am at. If you interested in digging around, I'd recommend starting with Palmer.

Aren't you going to run into the same issues in NC/TN and other areas of the south with humidity? Seems like if you want to avoid A/C costs you'd need to head west.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by unemployable »

theanimal wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 1:19 pm
Aren't you going to run into the same issues in NC/TN and other areas of the south with humidity? Seems like if you want to avoid A/C costs you'd need to head west.
Yes, you'll need AC in the the southern Appalachians. But not as much as in lower elevation areas, not for as long in the year (around now is when you stop needing it) and it cools down more at night.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by jacob »

I suppose it would be smart to set the parameters more precisely. Lets say 60-80F indoors w/o mechanics. Still good?

How about Juneau, AK?

Also, looking at the PNW, the long term (mid-late century) issue would be losing snow caps. This would affect hydro-power and water.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by theanimal »

Juneau will meet your temperature criteria. You'd still need to cut wood or buy heating oil. I don't know about costs, it may be higher than Anchorage area and southcentral due to being off the road system. How much do you like rain? Warmer temps bring mostly rain now instead of snow in the winter. Think 35-40 F and raining most days for 6+ months. Juneau also is a liability due to freshwater. The entire southeast was (is?) under drought status for most of the summer. Some of the nearby communities used up most, if not all of their local aquifers. There isn't much freshwater available on those islands. Juneau will be fine for a while since it's at the base of multiple glaciers.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by sky »

Andy Graham says 5,000 feet in elevation in a tropical area provides the ideal climate:

https://www.hobotraveler.com/climate/index.php

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by unemployable »

sky wrote:
Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:23 pm
Andy Graham says 5,000 feet in elevation in a tropical area provides the ideal climate:
I think Quito wins that battle.


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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by ffj »

I just spent a week in NC near Grandfather mountain. The temps were crazily different in the mountain climate. Check out the Newtown/Linville area. I left my house to 95 F weather to practically shivering where I stayed, a mere 200 miles away. It was humid though.

What about Hawaii? It's like 82 F year round in Oahu with a nice breeze.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by Chris »

ffj wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:08 am
What about Hawaii? It's like 82 F year round in Oahu with a nice breeze.
Yeah, many US islands enjoy little temperature variation year-round. Saipan has the least-fluctuating temperatures in the world.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by George the original one »

If you're looking at PNW, you'll stay along the coast to avoid air conditioning. Here at my Oregon home in the foothills of the Coast Range, typical summer high temp is 75F with a few days stretching to 80F. We have no air conditioning! Record hot years like 2015 & 2016 had about 7 days total where we went over 80F. Instead of building heat in the late afternoon like the Willamette Valley, the sea air cools things beginning 3:30-4p to where we're at 70F or below by 5p.

Our winters require heating, with overnight lows typically in the mid-20s during infrequent cold spells. Usually it is above freezing. Woodstoves are common around here due to unreliable & expensive electricity. Natural gas is often available in the towns, but not outside the towns. My house does not require stoves to be lit or heat turned on until daytime temps are below 55F or overnight temps hit freezing and we tolerate 60F-62F indoors for overnight lows.

Further south on the Oregon coast will get you more mild winters without getting hotter summers. Bandon to Coos Bay is considered optimal winter, where heating requirements are minimal. Down there, going inland to Coquille is about as far as you'd want before the summer heat makes air conditioning desireable. For internet access, it is worth noting that Coos Bay is the landing point for an undersea intercontinental cable to Japan.

Water is a well, sewage is septic. Inside the towns, you'll be on municipal systems. We're 12 miles from a chain grocery, but it's relatively easy to find a closer location and still be outside the municipal system.

Trash pickup is under $40/mo.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by Laura Ingalls »

There is data on this. It’s called combined heating and cooling degree days. IIRC Green Bay WI was one of the worst and Napa, CA was one of the best.

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by zocab »

Can't speak to the US, but for a while I was in a town in the UK which gets somewhat cold (freezing point/0C for a few weeks is typical) - we never had to turn on the heating in relatively modern apartment, purely thanks to the combination of good insulation and having the hot-water boiler and tank located within the apartment (or does having that count as cheating?). Summers were mild hence no cooling needed either. [But when I lived in an older and more exposed building, the heaters did have to work somewhat hard in the winter.]

I guess my main point is: if you don't go below freezing point much, then sufficient insulation for a small apartment could result in no heating costs - beyond heating water for showering (unless you're Jacob). Standalone buildings have more surface area to lose heat over which probably reduces flexibility a bit. (I've not really seen any buildings - both appartments and SFH - built to such standards in the US however. But you could probably DIY additional insulation, and I do mean something like 30-40cm of insulation.)

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by sky »

Here are the top ten LOW Heating and Cooling Degree Day Climate Divisions:

Florida Keys
California South Coast Drng
California Central Coast Drng
Louisiana Southeast
Florida North
Florida Northwest
Florida Everglades & SW Coast
Florida Lower East Coast
Texas Upper Coast
California San Joaquin Drng

2018 Heating and Cooling Degree Days by Climate Division, Ranked
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

Map of Climate Divisions
https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/monitoring-co ... -names.jpg

Data Sources, Climate Divisions in numerical order
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

I got the data from here: https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/ ... gree_days/

from this link on the above page:
Daily 1981-2010 normals based on these raw data are available here: 1981-2010 Climatology

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Re: Minimizing the cost of utilities by area

Post by sky »

This page now has the names of each climate region, listed by total heating and cooling degree days in 2018.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

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