A little over a month ago, Eric started looking into solar panels for the house. The process yielded some interesting information.
I’d always thought of ourselves as relatively energy aware people. I mean, we don’t run the air conditioning much, don’t leave lights on and are generally mindful of how much power we are using. I didn’t think of our bills as ludicrously high.
I was wrong. Though it’s not entirely all our fault, you’ll see.
As it turns out, the average kilowatt hour usage monthly (averaged over the year) for a house of our size is 632 kWh/month. We had been using an average of 1033 kWh/month. Jeez. And now I feel like I’ve revealed something like my weight. Anyway. We got an energy audit from Xcel Energy, during which I learned that our biggest electricity drains were our electric dryer and our electric water heater. Seeing as how we do at LEAST one load of laundry a day, our dryer gets a lot of usage. (As a side note, you always assume that you’ll do more laundry after you have kids because you’ll have their laundry to wash. What no one tells you is that they also manage to make your clothes filthy as well, so your overall laundry quintuples.) I’d always thought our water heater was gas. Of course, this explains why our gas usage is so much below the average–34 therms instead of an average 70 therms. In the summer, our only gas usage is our stove and the pilot light for the fireplace and our bill is only 7 therms/month.
So, a few changes.
Using this tutorial, I put up a couple clotheslines. (The lady may be a jailbird, but she’s got some good ideas.) We started the time-honored activity of hanging our clothes out to dry. Of course, since Colorado is well-known for late afternoon thundershowers, we also got to engage in the time-honored activity of scrambling to pull your clothes off the line before they get soaking wet again. And there was a minor emergency when a wasp got stuck in the corner of a fitted sheet and popped out of hiding while I was making the bed. A few times, we left the clothes on the line overnight and forgot it was sprinkler night. And yes, that’s practically our entire backyard, but the clothes never seemed to get in the way of kids playing. We managed to use the dryer only once.
We also made a concerted effort not to turn on the A/C at all. We’d have to open the windows every morning when it was cooler, then shut them and close all the blinds when the sun came up. It kept it fairly livable, though we did turn on the air conditioning one day when my mother-in-law was here. (See? Not my fault. I was forced to use more energy for the sake of family peace.) We also turned our water heater down a bit more and turned the fireplace pilot light off because, well, it was idiotic to keep it on in the summer anyway.
I eagerly awaited our September energy bill to see what the effect would be. I was expecting that the total would go down by around 100 kWh, but not hugely.
Our bill dropped by 300 kWh from July. Thirty percent. Our gas usage went from 7 therms to just 3. Our bill overall dropped by $46. Holy energy savings, Batman!
Obviously it’ll go up significantly in winter since we’ll have to use our dryer more and will have to run the heat. Of course, now that we don’t have little babies in the house anymore we can keep the place a little cooler and use more sweaters and blankets. Keep that in mind if you stop by this winter. We’ll never get below the average year-round simply because of the water heater and dryer, but I feel a lot better about cutting our usage at least in the summer months.
Now I just have to wait until the kids are tall enough to hang clothes themselves and then I’ll personally be able to expend less energy.