The Geezer Freezer: How 60 Minutes Can Save You Thousands on Your Electric Bill

Even if you retire early, life continues to present a steady parade of opportunities and problems.

In our latest life episode, Mrs. Moose and I are moving down from the mountains and into the house that she and her brother inherited from their father.

One big opportunity: free housing in a desirable neighborhood with likeable neighbors.

One small problem: ginormous electricity bills. How high? During 2013, the house gobbled up 8,371 kilowatt hours (kWh)—averaging 698 kWh per month. During the first nine months of 2014, the average gobbling grew to 860 kWh per month. At this increased rate, electricity will cost more than $1,000 this year.

So why is the electrical footprint of this house so revolting?


The Geezer Freezer lurks menacingly behind my bike

One likely culprit lurked for decades in the garage: a Montgomery Ward Signature upright freezer purchased in the late 1960s. Its door gaskets were cracked. So too was the plastic shell underneath the bottom shelf (on the bright side, someone had covered the crack with duct tape). I figure this leaky monstrosity gobbled about 200 kWh per month. This reflects a reasonable midpoint between: (1) the 100 kWh our 1990 Amana fridge draws at our old house (as measured a few years ago by a borrowed kWh meter); and (2) the 300 kWh we shaved off the bill at the new house in the first month after we disconnected the offending freezer (we didn’t bother borrowing a kWh meter beforehand because we were anxious to staunch the bleeding).

Disposing of the freezer took only an hour’s work. First, we unplugged the thing and transferred the edibles over to the kitchen’s fridge-freezer. Then I went online to sign up for our local utility’s appliance recycling program. A week later two guys drove up and loaded the freezer onto their truck. The haul away was free and the utility will send us a $50 bonus check for our troubles.

So how much value will we receive in exchange for defrosting forever?

I have three answers for you.

My C answer goes like this. Dispatching the freezer will save us about $20 each month in electricity (200 kWH * $0.10 per kWh = $20). Since I lived in the last house for 20+ years and hope to live in this next house for just as long, I’m looking forward to 20 years with a freezer-free garage. This will save us about $4,800 ($20 * 12 months * 20 years = $4,800). Add in the $50 we’re receiving up front from the utility and our savings total $4,850 ($4,800 + $50 = $4,850).

My B answer calculates the earnings we’ll receive if we take the monthly savings as they accumulate and deposit them in a tax-free vehicle such as a Health Savings Account (HSA). For this purpose I use a future value calculator. This chart reports how much we’ll have gained at the end of 20 years under three interest rate scenarios:

Interest Rate Future Value of Savings After 20 Years
4% $7,446.62
5% $8,358.31
6% $9,406.33

My A answer calculates the “present value” of the future income stream produced by the freezer’s departure. For example, the chart above reports that at 5 percent interest we’ll have gained $8,358.31 twenty years from now. Using a present value calculator, I figure the amount I would have to deposit today at 5 percent interest in order end up with that same $8,358.31 twenty years hence. Present Value measures in today’s dollars the economic boost we’ve received in exchange for ridding ourselves of the ancient kWh hog. Here’s a chart of present values under the same three scenarios reviewed above (note that present value is inversely related to interest rates; in other words, the higher the rate of interest the lower the resulting present value):

Interest Rate Future Value of Savings After 20 Years Present Value of 20 Year Savings Stream
4% $7,446.62 $3,350.70
5% $8,358.31 $3,081.74
6% $9,406.33 $2,841.62

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Does a geezer freezer lurk in your own garage? If so, now’s a good time to check whether your utility will haul the appliance away for FREE (and even bestow upon you a nice bonus check). No matter how you choose to figure it—A, B, or C above—an hour’s worth of work can save you thousands.

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9 Responses to The Geezer Freezer: How 60 Minutes Can Save You Thousands on Your Electric Bill

  1. Myles Money November 3, 2014 at 8:13 AM #

    You may already be aware of this (I always seem to be late to the party) but leaving things like the TV, stereo and computer plugged in — even when they’re turned off — accounts for a significant amount of electricity in the home. All that time you’re at work and sleeping and the TV is on standby… you’re paying for it just the same way as if you were watching it!
    Myles Money recently posted…Halloween #SmartMoney RoundupMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose November 3, 2014 at 2:04 PM #

      Good point Myles. You can stop these kWh sucking vampires by hooking them up to power strips and turning the strips off whenever the appliances are idle.

  2. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom November 3, 2014 at 1:40 PM #

    We had a pretty new freezer and we still decided to unplug it. Our fridge freezer turned out to be enough space for us (just oddly shaped). By making changes like this, we finally started seeing real changes to our bill. Good luck in the new house!
    Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom recently posted…A Simple Life Without The ChickensMy Profile

    • A Noonan Moose November 3, 2014 at 2:01 PM #

      Thanks Emily!

  3. Free to Pursue November 11, 2014 at 10:06 AM #

    Great article Noonan. You have given me ammo to go after the fridge we have in the garage (at least to get to unplug it). I just can’t justify it sucking up electricity for its meagre contents and the once-a-month potluck goodies. BTW: I suspect your NPV gets quite a bit better when you offset the % return with expected rate of inflation, which only makes the present value of A look better ;).
    Free to Pursue recently posted…What Colour Do You Want Your Christmas to Be?My Profile

  4. David November 14, 2014 at 10:14 AM #

    I have a large upright freezer in my garage that is used seasonally. During summer and fall I fill it with produce from my gardens and meat I raise myself. I unplug it in late November when the outside temperature is cold enough to keep things frozen. When warm weather arrives in April I have eaten most if its contents. I pack the small freezer in my kitchen and make a serious commitment to eat the rest as quickly as possible. Then it is unplugged again until I start filing it for the next winter. This seasonal use has cut my electricity bill by $80/year compared to using the freezer year round.

    • A Noonan Moose November 14, 2014 at 1:45 PM #

      Great approach David! My sister in Maine does something similar. There’s an old fridge in her basement that gets powered up for the holidays to handle the many parties and returning kids. In mid-January or so it’s shut down. She gets the extra cooling-freezing capacity right when needed without having to pay all year for it. Thanks for commenting!

  5. No More Waffles November 16, 2014 at 4:05 AM #

    I can imagine a freezer from the late 60’s eating away at your electricity bill, Noonan!

    Great job getting rid of it. It’s quite impressive to see the future savings of only 60 minutes of work.
    No More Waffles recently posted…Net Worth Update: €47,787 (+5.08%)My Profile

    • A Noonan Moose November 16, 2014 at 8:07 AM #

      Thanks NMW and congrats on your latest jump in net worth!

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