Less costs more

After several weeks of suspense, we got our water bill in the mail today. Over the past 37 days, we used 67,000 gallons of water. It turned out to be much better than we’d feared: about 1/3 the cost of our worst-case scenario. Thank goodness we’re on a septic system right now. If not, we’d also have had to pay for “wastewater” management on all of that clean water as well.

Despite our water company’s claim that they’d send us a detailed bill, we just had our normal breakdown into services and usage. That makes it hard to analyze, but if the usage cost had scaled linearly, our cost would have been much higher. This leads us to believe that we got a discount for using more water. That is, the marginal cost (additional cost, for those who aren’t economists) of a thousand gallons is higher when you haven’t used any than when you’ve used, say, 66,000.

Our electrical company is the same way. Our first kWh of electricity cost 9 cents. Then there’s a block that costs 4 cents each. Everything above that is 5 cents per kWh. It’s very odd and not at all like other parts of the country.

The solar books that I read keep suggesting that they’re cost effective because they cut out the most expensive part of your bill. Unfortunately, in Indiana that’s just not true. The most expensive part of your bill is your first kWhs. If we bought just enough solar power to reduce our usage to the first tier of prices, we’d still be paying about $20 a month (with taxes, fees, etc.). That’s a little less than half of what we’re already paying!

This means that for solar power to be cost effective in IN, it has to be cheaper than 5 cents per kWh, because that’s the stuff that you’ll offset! That makes it even harder to justify a PV system around here.

Oh, well. For now, I’ll just thank my lucky stars that our water bill was as low as it was… and keep reducing our water and electrical use.

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