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And by the way, I also reduced my carbon footprint!
I got my electric bill for January of 2006, and was shocked at the usage! 798 kW for one month! Then I did some research and found out that the average ( read – normal ) American uses 1300 kW a month, and the average Vermonter uses about half. That seemed excessive and wasteful to me. I got it in my head that I was going to do something about the energy I use, and reduce it significantly.
I changed my light bulbs to CFLs. I still have a major concern about the mercury in the new bulbs. Why can’t we make things without heavy metals for once! This was not going to be enough, and I wanted to do more. Maybe do something about our holiday lighting for the following year. Our average had been around 400-500 kW, and the shorter days and holiday lights were probably to blame for the increase. I ditched all of our ‘tiny lights’ and purchased the new LED lights – a tenth of the power consumption over those tiny lights!
Then I turned off everything in the house and went out to see what the meter was reading. It was still spinning around like a top! WTF! It turns out that there are appliances that are in standby for our convenience, and they use up to 40% of their draw when off. So, I put power strips on everything, and cut direct outlet power to the TV, DVD, microwave, DSL modem, computer, printer, etc. until the meter started to slow down. I also took out our motion sensor lights – as these were being tripped by wildlife and strong winds moving the branches.
That isn’t where I stopped! I was going to think outside the meter!
We spend the most time at home in the kitchen. It was small and had only one window. The lights were on all of the time we were home, day or night. So I put on a kitchen addition and an additional 10 windows. Now we’re talking natural light! Almost never have a light on during the day anymore. And we also have a nice solar gain in the winter months.
I also thought about our fridge situation. We use two refrigerators – six kids, five grandkids = two fridges. I had one in the basement and thought it was silly to have it in the same space as a running woodstove ( more on heating later…). So I got another fridge, and in the winter it’s running in the garage where the average temperature is the target temp in the fridge. In the summer, the basement average temp is 55, close... We switch between the refrigerators in the fall and spring and move the food to where it makes the most ambient sense. Someday, some genius will invent a fridge that sticks outside the house seasonally, or at least is louvered to outside air. It’s just silly that during the winter, we don’t take advantage of the outside temperature. It’s even sillier that in the summer, the effort to keep things cool in the fridge, it pumps out heat from the condenser into the living space that you are probably trying to cool with an air conditioner!
In the end, this last January electric bill was for 298 kW vs. the 780ish kW the year prior. My goal is 100 kW a month, at least in the summer… or maybe get a wind generator and make our goal spinning the meter the other way! More to come.............Dan