With the economy the way it is, and having watched our retirement nest egg shrivel up and get all wrinkly, I decided we needed to find ways to cut our expenses.
My latest foray into frugality began last Monday when I had a technician from Conditioned Air Systems – a company out of Gainesville, Georgia – come and perform preventive maintenance on our heat pump. After he completed his work I asked him if they sold and installed programmable thermostats.
They did, but I believe they were gold plated. For someone trying to save a dollar or two wherever I can, a base price of $250.00 seemed a bit much. “Besides,” I told the technician, “I can do it myself. There’s only three wires.”
The technician quickly corrected me. He told me there were more than three wires and said the job wasn’t as easy as it might seem. In any case, I told him I’d give it some thought.
To be honest, my thoughts were already on a ‘do-it-myself’ project. I went out that afternoon and bought the top of the line Honeywell for $89.00. Just like that, I’d saved over $160.00 and, according to the package, I will soon see my electric bill drop by as much as 33%. Wow! What a deal!
I waited until Tuesday – when I’d have lots of daylight – to replace my old thermostat. I carefully read the instruction books and soon learned how many ways I could burn up my heat pump, or my house, if I failed to wire the thing properly.
I tuned off the circuit breaker to the heat pump and made sure it was totally without power. Then I pulled off the cover of the old thermostat. My ‘three wires’ were definitely a figment of my imagination. It was more like eight or nine wires that I had to label based on alphabetic codes. Of course, the letters used on the new thermostat were different from the ones on the old.
Fortunately, the installation manual had a chart to get me through the mess. It was with great trepidation that I finally turned that circuit breaker back on. But the warmth coming from the heat pump… wasn’t there!
Instead, a small red light was glowing. I found an 800 number and was soon having a pleasant conversation with “Kevin”. I put his name in quotes because he was chatting with me from India and I know that the people who man those help desks use Anglicized aliases because the typical American couldn’t begin to pronounce their true Indian names.
In any case, “Kevin” was very helpful. He walked me through a number of steps and the heat pump was soon pumping warm air into our home. But the little red light was still glowing brightly.
“What is it for?” I asked “Kevin”.
“Either your thermostat is wired incorrectly, or there’s a problem with your heat pump.” He said cheerfully.
On Wednesday, after a fitful sleepless night, I called Conditioned Air Systems and asked if they’d be so kind as to send a technician back to my house. They were very kind. Not once did anyone say, “We told you so!”
It turned out that I had one wire in the wrong place. Luckily it wasn’t enough of a problem to burn up the heat pump, or my house. I cheerfully paid the $64.00 service fee. My savings were reduced, but not eliminated… and I can now sleep more soundly.
I labeled this story as “Childhood Memories” because after setting up the programming for my new thermostat, I realized I was telling this newfangled device to do what my parents did every day.
The last thing they did before going to bed was turn the thermostat down to 65 degrees. When they awakened in the morning, they turned it back up. If they left the house for an extended period during the day, they turned it down… and so on.
I could have done all that myself and saved over $150.00.
My guess is that their behavior was a carryover from the old coal furnaces that had to be – I believe the term was “banked” – each night, and then stoked each morning. They probably got used to sleeping in a cooler environment. It may have had nothing at all to do with saving money.
One other thing they did was, I’m sure, out of necessity. They would take coffee cans filled with water and set them down in the registers on the floor. This added moisture to the warm air and eliminated the static electricity so prevalent during cold dry winters.
People pay quite a bit to install humidifiers. I haven’t fallen prey to those items yet. To be honest, I haven’t seen the cold and dry conditions here in Georgia that would necessitate such a device.
For the time being, I’ll take comfort in knowing my next electric bill will be much lower than last year’s, and the new thermostat will pay for itself within a few months time. Then, as I continue to save money, my bank account will grow and we’ll iron out some of the wrinkles on that nest egg.