Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bright Lights, Big Bill

Goal #2 for 2006 is to reduce our household's collective energy consumption on as many fronts as we can. I thought we'd start with electricity since that's the only utility that we pay for in our apartment. (Yes, I know that we have to be just as concerned with the fossil fuels that we don't pay for with our greenbacks but which our earth dearly pays for. But I'm all for starting somewhere, and the utility that affects my pocketbook seemed like a logical place.)

Step One: Data Collection. I finally signed up for online access to my account with our electricity provider. Why didn't I do this earlier? Now I can save paper by not getting bills and save money by not using stamps. Duh. After an easy online registration, my account information popped up on the screen. Here, in a handy bar graph, is our apartment's electricity usage over the last year:

I also downloaded this chart of our kilowatt usage for the past 12 months:

01/06/06 - 160
12/06/05 - 116
11/04/05 - 201
10/04/05 - 201
09/06/05 - 179
08/04/05 - 139
07/06/05 - 112
06/06/05 - 112
05/10/05 - 90
04/07/05 - 90
03/08/05 - 114
02/05/05 - 139
01/06/05 - 86

Step Two: Data Analysis. A couple of things are pretty obvious from this data. First, the kilowatts used in January 2006 (160 KWH) are almost double the kilowatts used in the same month last year (86 KWH). Second, I can't blame the high kilowatts of the past few months (December doesn't count because we were out of town for a few weeks) on the short days of winter when January, February, and March of last year saw much smaller electricity usage. Third, the electricity usage increased in September when our daughter was born.

Step Three: Conclusions. While we think that we are doing well with electricity conservation, we obviously need to do better. We certainly can do better because, well, we did just last year. What could have caused this spike? I think we've gotten a little lax about leaving the computer on during the day rather than putting it on sleep mode. Also, the Bean goes to sleep with music on and sometimes the small cd-player in her room is, um, left on during the day. We also seldom used the guest room that is now converted into a nursery. That means we're using electricity in another room.

Step Four: Action Items.

  • Turn off the darn lights! And computer! And stereo!
  • I love the idea of CFL bulbs, and I have one in a lamp in the living room. I plan to replace the other bulbs as they burn out. I just can't bring myself to replace them before then. You know, the whole waste not, want not thing.
  • Finally get that carafe I've been wanting so that we don't have to leave the coffee maker turned on all morning.

Step Five: Solicit assistance. I'm determined to get February's kilowatts below 160. So tell me: what else can we do? What am I missing? And how many KWH is your household using per month?


  • At 10:26 PM, Blogger breadchick said…

    YIKES!! I just looked at our usage. Our usage last month was 412 KWH. Now, MBH has to leave his many computers on at night because he runs a server farm but I know we can do better too! We leave lights on in rooms because we are going to be "right back" and then 20 minutes later, we aren't back. So, lights go out when we leave a room. We have a couple of the CFL bulbs and really like them. It is time to replace the rest of the bulbs. Thanks for making me take a closer look.

  • At 10:40 PM, Blogger baloghblog said…

    do you have an electric stove or gas? That would be a big energy user. Go room by room and write down everything that is plugged into the wall, and lights that are used. You'll be surprised what is plugged in and drawing electricity, and somethings you're not even aware of. You could always spring for a kill-a-watt, and then you could see where the use is coming from. I imagine though, in an apartment, that lights are your biggest culprit.

  • At 11:12 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    breadchick - my husband is infamous for leaving a light on because he's going "right back." I hope that making our numbers public will shame both of us into practicing what we preach!

    bahoghblog - We have an electric stove. I do cook and bake a lot. Unless I'm baking something that requires some precision, I try not to preheat the oven. I usually turn it off before it's done too. Good idea about doing an audit of what's plugged in. I keep the computer and desk lamp on a power strip that I turn off at night to avoid the phantom usage, but maybe I ought to take a closer look at the other appliances. I thought that we were doing well with the lights, but the usage has definitely creeped up so I've got to get more vigilant. I am jealous of your kill-a-watt!

  • At 8:15 AM, Blogger baloghblog said…

    Being in an apartment, you might consider a toaster oven for smaller dishes. They are smaller, and use less energy to get to the desired temperature.

    We are going to switch to a gas range as part of a strategy to replace appliances with energy efficient ones.

    Another strategy that I think that we are going to employ is to light table lamps, and a bedside lamp, with a low watt CFL bulb, and keep it on at night. This will dissuade us from turning on the overhead lights which burn several bulbs at a time.

    15W bulb x 3 (one for each room) = 45W x 5 hours a night = 0.225 kWh/night. Better than having the overhead lights on.

    (One other tip, I am considering an LCD monitor for my next computer purchase. They use approx 1/3 the power to run - and are getting much cheaper to buy.)

  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger breadchick said…

    We have a gas range and dryer and I don't use the dishwasher everynight, just for our big dinners when we have lots of dishes (and then use energysaver mode with no dry, cool water rinse, etc). Our biggest culprit is our server farm and MBH light leaving on. MBH is an IT professional and works out of our home. I know that when he is on a jobsite away from our house and we don't have to keep 5 computers running all day/night 24 hours a day because of his work, my usage goes down. Thankfully we have learned to turn off monitors, et al during the night. I think though I'm going to go do a inventory of things we have plugged in we don't need to keep plugged in.

  • At 12:14 PM, Blogger Melissa said…

    I am ashamed to admit that our electric/heating bill is the equivalent of 1/3 our mortgage. We pay (cringe) close to $300 a month on a payment plan (cringe . . . head lowered). We know where we can save, and yet we are lax about doing anything. We have a furnace that is over 50 years old, so that's a major culprit. With five people in the house, I am always running the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer. I'm guilty of leaving the computer on the majority of the day (it's become a source to a world beyond mommyhood). Also, the TV is on despite the fact that I'm not watching it (for background noise . . . like three children don't provide enough of that already!). I'll write it on my "To Do" list to sit down with the hubby and get serious about cutting costs. We want to add on to the house in the future, and that money isn't going to come from me sittin' around looking pretty! Thanks for an eye-opener and a swift kick in the rear end!

  • At 3:56 PM, Blogger spiral said…

    I just think it's so cool that you got so many people thinking with this post: Bravo! I've been cutting down on usage a lot lately with the new light bulbs and what not, but there's always room for improvement, and I dig the graphs.

  • At 7:11 PM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    Maybe you drink more nice, hot coffee in the winter?? Also, a baby is a person for electricity usage, so what changed? A 33% increase in population! Then there is all of that coffee to make up for the sleep deprivation of a new born . . . oh wait, OUR 7 mo. old bean is bored with the 10 year old and the 7 year old, so 'net time is over . . .


  • At 7:22 PM, Blogger Andrea Rusin said…

    ERP! More than 160, that's for sure. I'll check and do some analysis. I think you just gave me tomorrow's blog post! Thanks.


  • At 11:40 PM, Blogger Andrea Rusin said…

    Ahem.. Just over 500. It's the multiple computers, I suppose. But I'm going to get to the bottom of this.

  • At 5:02 PM, Blogger nulinegvgv said…

    At what temperature do you keep your thermostat set?

    "Heating your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. Typically, 49% of your utility bill goes for heating."


  • At 9:15 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    We usually keep our thermostat at 68. We don't pay for our heating though as we live in an apartment in a house where the landlord pays the heat bill. Of course, conservation isn't just to save money (in fact, that's just a collateral benefit to me) so we try to be conscientious about keeping the temperature down. We turn it down to about 66 when we go to bed. We'd keep it much, much lower if we didn't have a baby in the apartment.


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