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One Moment, Please... Forming habits for the better


Fri, Mar 21st, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

I’ve had quite a few people ask me how the family energy challenge has been working out, so I wanted to provide an update. On Monday, February 3, 2014, I published a commentary titled “One Moment Please... A Family Energy Challenge.” As I mentioned in that commentary, if our children could help us reduce our energy consumption they would receive funds that would have otherwise been paid to Tri-County Electric Cooperative.

After publishing my commentary, I received an e-mail from Brad Pecinovsky of Tri-County Electric Cooperative. He shared some valuable information with me regarding our personal energy consumption at our household in Fountain. He even included a chart of our energy consumption and dollars spent dating back about three years, so I could compare year-over-year.

And, as I reviewed my TEC electric bill, I noticed that our average outdoor temperature last year in February was 20 degrees compared to 10 degrees this year. Honestly, it felt colder outside than 10 degrees on average for the month of February in my opinion, but that’s what my TEC bill stated.

With colder temperatures, that means that the furnace is working overtime to keep the house heated at whatever temperature we set the thermostat. And, of course, while our furnace runs on gas, it does require electricity to blow the heat throughout the house with a forced-air system.

All things considered, I conducted a search on the Internet posing the question, “how much electricity does an appliance use?” And, I found all of my answers on www.energy.gov.

I wanted to figure out where we could have the greatest impact on reducing our electricity consumption, and here’s what I found.

Personal Computer and Monitor:

[(120 Watts + 150 Watts) × 4 hours/day × 365 days/year] ÷ 1000

= 394 kWh × 11 cents/kWh

= $43.34/year

Aquarium = 50–1210 Watts

Clock radio = 10

Coffee maker = 900–1200

Clothes washer = 350–500

Clothes dryer = 1800–5000

Dishwasher = 1200–2400 (using the drying feature greatly increases energy consumption)

Dehumidifier = 785

Electric blanket (Single/Double) = 60 / 100

Fans

Ceiling = 65–175

Window = 55–250

Furnace = 750

Whole house = 240–750

Hair dryer = 1200–1875

Heater (portable) = 750–1500

Clothes iron = 1000–1800

Microwave oven = 750–1100

Personal computer

CPU - awake / asleep = 120 / 30 or less

Monitor - awake / asleep = 150 / 30 or less

Laptop = 50

Radio (stereo) = 70–400

Refrigerator (frost-free, 16 cubic feet) = 725

Televisions (color)

19” = 65–110

27” = 113

36” = 133

53” - 61” Projection = 170

Flat screen = 120

Toaster = 800–1400

Toaster oven = 1225

VCR/DVD = 17–21 / 20–25

Vacuum cleaner = 1000–1440

Water heater (40 gallon) = 4500–5500

Water pump (deep well) = 250–1100

Water bed (with heater, no cover) = 120–380

Can you believe how much electricity a clothes iron, toaster and a hair dryer use compared to other appliances? Quite a shocker to me! So, I guess eating un-toasted bread while walking around in wrinkled clothes with wet hair can actually save you money. Hmmm... something to consider.

The Results

The results came in the form of our monthly bill, and I do have some good news.

Over the course of the month of February, all of us in the household paid closer attention to lights being left on when nobody was in the room. We turned off computers when not in use. In general, we were all more alert to what was consuming energy and questioning whether it needed to be powered down.

The end result was that our energy consumption dropped 46 percent in February compared to January for the same number of comparable days.

And, both of our children ended up splitting $44.34, so they each received $22.17.

Some people may say that we as parents should just tell our children to turn off the lights, TV, computers and everything else that “wastes electricity”, and expect that they will do that. We’ve been doing that every day for years, just like our parents did when we were kids. But, I wanted to illustrate with this all-inclusive family experiment that we are either giving that money to the utility company or keeping it for ourselves.

Our children appreciated earning that extra money, and I hope this experiment resonates with them on a more permanent basis.

Taking It Further

This winter has been hard on all of us and our properties. We have seen higher gas and electric bills. And, we’ve seen communities with freezing pipes, prompting at-risk homeowners to run a pencil-sized stream of water from their faucet day and night. Talk about high utility costs! This winter has eaten up a lot of disposable income for homeowners, farmers, and business owners across the board.

And, with our freezing temperatures this winter, I know our family spent more time inside our house using electricity for things like TVs and computers. When it’s below zero, people just don’t want to spend a whole lot of time outside.

With this particular winter, as I felt like we were burning money on utilities, I started to explore alternative energy sources.

And, while an estimated 300,000 people live “off the grid” in the United States, it seems to be at great expense. I explored geo-thermal, solar power, wind power, and any other forms of alternative energy production I could find on the Internet.

The reality is that we live in a home built in the early 1900s in Fountain, and we’d never see a return on our investment with many of the aforementioned “off the grid” upgrades. Yes, we’d save money on utilities, but we’d have to live in that home for a long, long time to justify the investment of many alternatives energy sources.

It’s unfortunate, but true. Maybe things will change in the future.

A Lifestyle Change

Managing our personal energy consumption is no different than managing our health. It’s a lifestyle, which comes with good and bad habits. We choose how we want to live.

We have to be prepared to change the way we do things in order to get different results. It takes a more conscious effort to see significant change, and then you have to commit to doing it that way all the time.

While our one month experiment was a good test for our family, and it did work out favorably, I do hope that we continue down that path of better personal energy management.

If not for the sake of the environment, then maybe for the sake of keeping some of our hard-earned dollars.

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