Recap: I dared myself to see if we could keep our home energy consumption below an average of 500 kwh for an entire year.  Our house was pretty well-designed for a project like this, and the first few months turned out to be pretty easy. 

When we finally crunched the numbers in the early part of September, I was a little worried that we would not hit our mark.  While the first nine months of the year all came in below the 500 kwh mark, May, June, and July were all warm, which meant that our air conditioner was running.  This was an appliance that had not yet been used while we were observing our energy use, and it caused our home to peak above the 500 kwh mark for those three months.   In the end though, the average kwh usage per month was…492.  Phew!  That is definitely under 500 (albeit kind of in the way that $3.99 is still under $4…)

So what did I/we learn from this adventure?

1) Clothes dryers use a lot of electricity.  This makes sense when you look at the size of the plug that goes into the wall for them.  Avoid using them if possible.  And when you do use them, be smart. (i.e. a single t-shirt does not need 40 minutes in the dryer.)

2) Washing machines use up to 9 times more electricity when they wash on hot that on cold.  Yikes!

3) Heating and cooling (HVAC) was our biggest energy expenditure.  That air conditioner just burned through the kwhs.  It was interesting to see the savings in energy consumed when the thermostat was adjusted even a degree or two toward the outside temperature.

4) Efficient appliances matter.  We have an Energy Star fridge/freezer combo and it sips the energy like a miser.  Not only does it look nice, but it was an investment that is paying back dividends in energy savings now.

5) The time of day we do our actions can determine the amount of electricity we use.  For example, running the dryer at 5pm on a hot day in the middle of summer is silly.  Your home is already trying to cool down and all you are doing turning on a big space heater.  Choose a time when the house in naturally more cool.  Likewise, choosing to bake two things back to back is better than baking once in the morning and once in the evening.  As it turns out, heating up the oven takes a lot of electricity.  But keeping the oven at that temp for an extended period of time requires much less electricity.  Plus when baking in the winter, leave the oven door open when you are finished (if you can do so safely) to let the leftover heat warm your kitchen.

6) I have a very patient spouse.  She is intelligent, kind, and most of all, patient with this crazy person that she agreed to travel through life with.  This adventure was a positive one for both of us, but I don’t think I can thank her enough for letting me test all of this out to get some answers and numbers.

So in the end, I achieved the goal and I created several positive habits that help keep our home energy consumption below 500 kwh.  I can also say that I do not want to live my entire life hawkishly watching our home energy consumption.  I plan to land somewhere in the middle of the two.  I also hope to share my observations, failures, and successes with my friends, family, and community to help encourage energy efficiency and smart energy usage across our community.  If there is anyone who is looking to make their home and habits more energy efficient and energy wise (which also saves money!), please do not hesitate to reach out and ask questions.  I would be happy to help as I am able.

Take care everyone!

    

Tim Baumann, The Practical Environmentalist,

I'm an advocate for our environment who tries to think about solutions in ways that are realistic and achievable.