Our Replaced Lightbulbs - All 42 Of ThemAs part of our Get Off The Grid project, we’ve learned that we are wasteful consumers of electricity. We certainly didn’t intend it to be so, but with knowledge comes power (if you’ll pardon the pun).  And we’ve learned that we’re using more than our fair share.

Our Challenge

If you’ve read Carl’s previous Get Off The Grid posts, you’re aware that our ultimate goal is to get off the grid entirely.  To generate our own “no impact” energy by installing solar panels.  Still, because of financial reasons, that goal is a ways out.  (I hear banks like you to have jobs before lending you money.)  In the meantime, there are some “low hanging fruit” that it just makes sense to tackle.

This week, we’ll be going through our “power cutting checklist” and trying to reduce our household consumption.  Our reductions will be focused on a few key areas identified as part of our Get Off The Grid project – mainly lighting, appliances and hot water.

Our Tale

This week our take isn’t too long.  Still, for those of you who’d rather cut to the “dollars and cents”, please jump to Our Findings. For those of you who want the details, here they are.

The Excesses

A couple of week’s ago, Carl began looking into our household energy consumption.  He started by reviewing our monthly electricity bills.  There he learned that we use, on average, 1814 kWh of electricity per month.  Given that not all energy in our province is from “green” sources, the energy we’re using is creating some serious carbon emissions.  (For more details, check out Carl’s previous post: Get Off The Grid (Part 2): “Watt” You Need To Know.)

Carl then went through our house on a relative rampage to figure out what was using all of this electricity.  In very Carl-like fashion, he made a detailed list of all of our appliances.  (I’m more of a “guesstimate” kind of girl.)  If you’re in the mood for some light reading (haha), check out Carl and Andrea’s List of Household Electrical Items.

What To Do

Based on Carl’s analysis, we decided to cut back in a few key areas right away. This week we put those plans into action.  Here’s what we did.

Changing lightbulbs from incandescent to CFLLights out!  I cannot say this with enough exclamation points!!!  We replaced 42 60-watt incandescent lightbulbs with 13-watt Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs).  In addition, we “downgraded” another 8 60-watt incandescent lightbulbs to 25-watt incandescent lightbulbs since the bulbs were not available in CFLs.  We also downgraded our 5 50-watt pot lights to 35-watts – the lowest wattage we could find.

Lights make up around one quarter of a household’s electricity usage.  (Source: The California Energy Commission)  For us, this translates to 454 kWh per month.  We reduced the energy used by our lighting by about 75 percent – or 340 kWh per month – 4080 per year.  Changing all of these lightbulbs cost us $250, but it’s going to save us about $27.21 per month – $327 per year.

Appliances – do not “reduce, re-use, recycle”.  Our old appliances were using loads of energy.  For example, we had a tiny college dorm style mini-fridge in the basement that was using more energy than our large kitchen fridge – about 7008 kWh per year – that’s 32 percent of our total energy usage – or $560.  Of course, we unplugged it almost immediately upon learning this.  It turns out “Energy Star” is not a sham.

Go dirty.  Not that kind of dirty.  I’m talking about bathing here.  This is a family blog.  Seriously, heating water is wasteful and pricey.  We like baths here, but we’ve put them temporarily on hold (kids excepted) until we install a solar water heater.  We think cutting down on bath water will likely save us 128 kWh per month – or 1536 kWh per year – about $123.

We also started turning off our coffee maker when we’re done rather than letting it time out.  No joke, we think this will save us about 329 kWh of energy per year – or $26 if you’re counting.

Hang out the clothes.  Or rather, when the weather is consistently abysmal like it has been all summer, “hang in the clothes”.  We have a fairly energy-efficient dryer.  Nonetheless, we have 2 small kids – 1 of whom is in cloth diapers.  We do loads of laundry (if you’ll pardon the pun – again).  The Energy Star Guide says our dryer would consume around 945 kWh of energy per year (about $75 in electricity), but I have a feeling ours is much higher.  Regardless, this is an easy thing to change.  My mom donated an old clothes drying rack to us last week and we set it up in our basement.  It’s not for always, but I think we’ll use it around 50 percent of the time, thereby saving 473 kWh per year. Now if only we could get the scent and feel of line dry.  Come on sun!

Our Findings

Is It Sustainable?

These were simple changes.  Other than starting to dry some of our clothes in the basement and postponing the odd bath, we’ve really made no lifestyle changes this week; however, we’ve drastically reduced our carbon footprint – by about 1,119 kWh per month – 13,426 kWh per year – 10 tonnes of CO2 emissions (according to Carbonify.com).  Remarkably, that’s a 62% reduction.  We would need to plant 50 trees to offset that much carbon.

For the more financially motivated of you, we’ll save around $1,074 each year by simply changing our lightbulbs, reducing our hot water usage and unplugging our old appliances.  We can definitely keep up with this.

The Goodness

You know, sometimes the easiest things are the hardest to actually get ourselves to do.  Cutting our power usage really required no planning, no preparation and very little effort.  Just a trip to our local home supply store and a couple of hours to change lightbulbs and unplug 1 inefficient appliance.  So why did it take us so long?  Sometimes I think that when things are too easy, we make the leap that they must also be insignificant.  But if everyone took a couple hours to change some lightbulbs and unplug their inefficient appliances, we could make big strides towards conserving our energy and, eventually, not requiring harmful energy sources like coal and oil.

We still thrive to reduce our energy consumption.  Our energy usage was bad previously.  Now it’s just average.  It’s not all we can do, but it’s all we can do today.  It’s a start.  A good start.



Interested in our other challenges? Check out The Goodness Challenge.

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About the Author

Just a small town mom trying to make the world a better place for my kids. One small change at a time.

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