“So far our daily expense has gone from a high of $8.08 per day to ( I believe) a low of just under $2.00 per day.”
I promised I would share some secrets from my neighbor who, though there are 15 people living in their 2-story, 3,000 sq. ft. house, manages to keep an average power bill of around $65 a month! And to top that, she’s working on cutting that by half, which she says is what her stove and oven uses.
And let me add that even she said every family is different, can handle different things, and has different needs. So don’t feel guilty if you can’t cut out or implement all the same things–just be inspired to do some thinking about how you could curb a number of spending areas in your home. It’s about frugality, challenge, and fun! (And, you’ll be en vogue with all the “green” hype 😉
Sherry said they started by turning everything off. That is, shut the power grid, the water heater–everything. That way, they were able to see what they couldn’t live without, and what they could. She pointed out that we are so accustomed to convenience, we waste a lot of energy we wouldn’t even miss.
She mentioned that they replaced all their digital clocks with wind-up ones and haven’t missed them a bit. A small savings to be sure, but it’s all those little things adding up.
- Hot Water Heater. One of the things she said they grew accustomed to was no hot water. They have officially left their water heater off for about a year now. (I know, I can’t do cold showers either!) They have a solar power water box that they use to heat up necessary water (dishes, add to children’s baths, etc.), which they put into a thermos pump, but other than that, the whole family has testified that cold showers are rather invigorating! (BRRR!!!)
“My husband was supportive of this new adventure, and not totally surprised, as I am often known to do whacky experiments at our house! The children think we’re getting to play a fun new game. Well, except when I, for the first time, forgot to turn the hot water heater back on. The first two in the showers, my husband and my oldest son got the surprise of their life on that cold winter morning!!! I have, in recent years, turned off the hot water; but I believe it was probably in the spring/summer time. I wanted them to experience what some missionaries/people in foreign countries experience on a daily basis! Now the hot water heater is off all the time and they tell me they actually enjoy the cold showers.”
Since the hot water heater is one of the big energy grabbers, this saves them a lot. HOWEVER…there is an alternative (I may have mentioned this before): try turning off your water heater during the day and only turning it on right before showers/dishes, etc. The water actually stays hot so it doesn’t use up much extra energy reheating, though it pulls all day if left on. (This is where our experiment starts 😉
NOTE: I’ve heard of some wrapping their hot water heater with blankets or extra insulation to extend power usage.
- Lights. Sherry’s family virtually goes without electric lights. They do use an occasional lamp for reading/piano etc., but other than that, they use two other sources–oil lamps and solar yard lights (is that not the coolest idea?) She added that the oil lamps (which hang on the walls out of little’s reach) add a beautiful ambiance to the room 😉 The solar lights are left outside during the day and brought in like “torches” at night.
- No Dryer. They wash a lot of laundry, so they use their energy–efficient front-loading washer. But the clothes are hung on the line–inside if raining. I heard her joke about selling the dryer all together–but I don’t think it was really a joke.
“I think we’re saving approximately $40.00 dollars a month on our dryer alone (we hang all our clothes on the line)…”
- Large appliances. Sherry experimented and found that her big deep freeze would keep food rock-hard if only plugged in every 2 or 3 days. Try at your own risk 😉
- Cooking Creativity. Rethinking meals is an important thing when you’re trying to watch appliance use. Eating more raw foods obviously helps, as does using the crock pot more (Sherry turns her crock pot off earlier than usual, wrapping it in towels to cook further.) She gave another great example: instead of cooking pinto beans to make re-fried beans (for dips, tacos, etc.), she grinds the beans to a powder first, then just needs to add hot water (from the pump) to make the bean mixture! (I guess grinding uses less that heating water?)
“We’re also working on a repertoire of no-bake desserts and we’ve gone from almost daily baking to twice a week bread-muffin-cookie-homemade pizza baking.”
Another benefit about turning everything off allowed her to see which appliances were pulling the most power. By using one at a time, she could go out and look at her kilowatt usage and determine its pull. (Look below for a handy web site that estimates appliances’ power usage.)
We initially turned our power off during Tom’s office hours! We would get all our laundry done by 7:30 or 8:00, cook whatever food we needed to prepare with the stove, get the laundry on the line, have a computer time, and turn everything off. We turned power back on at 4:30 and used the stove to heat up whatever was needed for dinner. This helped us figure out what we actually missed, made our days a lot quieter, and helped us better organize our computer/electricity time. I also noticed that my children stopped trying to turn on lights, and the little ones gave up on asking for video time during the day. We left our hot water heater on during the night which provided enough hot water for the next day.
Of course the biggies are heat and air. They usually do turn on the air conditioner during the 2 or 3 hottest months (it gets about 98 here), but I think they are up for the challenge of leaving it off this year.
Tips on staying cool? Spritzing the curtains with water (windows open, of course.)…Fans to circulate air…leaving your hair wet and put up…and by accident she got a dress off the line that was dew-damp and found it really did the trick keeping her cool! She also mentioned rethinking the order of the day: heavy work in the early morning, “down time” (reading to children in the swing) during the hottest part of the day. And with a creek out back, I’m sure her children stay pretty cool!
Knowing where your breakers are and what they go to is a must. Sherry said keeping them off altogether, besides a few outlets for computer, telephone, etc., helps with the temptation to flip on lights and things that aren’t really needed.
“It really becomes a game–a challenge to see how much more you can save. And we are hoping our children will be thinking, as they get ready to build houses, about ways to invest in more efficient ways of living. It’s all about re-thinking everything.”
For the Crawford record (this stuff is contagious!) , we’ve had our 3rd hot day of the summer (upper 80’s), so far managing to keep the air off. And remember, I’m pregnant–VERY pregnant, so kudos for that, huh? Yes, we’re hot. But it’s really not that bad, and our basement is much cooler if we get too hot. Lots of people go without air conditioner–we just have to decide if it’s worth the savings! (Although, we are at an unfair advantage: we run a wedding business with the reception room on the same power grid as our home, and I don’t think the brides will be very sympathetic to our money-saving efforts 😉
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