As the first week of the current family project comes to a close, it occurs to me that I never quite defined exactly what the “rules” were for it, especially in regards to saving energy in the house. While we usually don’t make a big deal of these things (the ‘rules’), as far as the projects go, because each project is different and because the main factor is personal growth, it does help to define at least some parameters to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

It also helps to state that though there are parameters and rules that define all of the projects, they are flexible, with really no hard-and-fast consequences on ‘breaking’ said rules. For example, if during this family project someone accidentally left the computer on, there wouldn’t be much done about it except to note that the computer had been on all night in our notes and take that into account when the next energy bill came.

The rules that we have come up with are as follows:

  1. All appliances will be turned off when not in active use by someone, except in cases where they are necessary to our health and survival (e.g. the stove – has anyone ever tried to get behind their stove and unplug it? I think not!)
  2. All lightbulbs will be switched over to Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFL’s) wherever possible. In cases where it is cost-prohibitive to do so (there are several inset, flood-type lights throughout the house), these lights will be used for no longer than absolutely necessary.
  3. Either the television OR one desktop computer can be turned on, but not both at the same time.
  4. Laptops and cell phones will be expected to run on their individual battery power, not house energy.
  5. All laundry will be washed only once a week, including hot-water loads, except in cases of emergency (e.g. household illness, etc.). Family members may have input on the day chosen.
  6. Outside spigots may be turned on for no longer than 1 hour per day. It is strongly recommended that, unless necessary, watering the garden and washing the cars be limited to 1/2 hour per day unless garden or other conditions deem otherwise.
  7. For charging devices, such as for cell phones and/or laptops, these devices will only be used to charge said electronics, not run them, and may only be plugged in for active charging when the battery is completely depleted.
  8. The thermostat will be set no lower than 76 degrees during the daytime, and will be allowed to reset to 72 only for nighttime sleeping conditions from 11:00PM-7:00AM.
  9. Showers are limited to 10 minutes per person or less. Taking longer than the allotted time runs the risk of someone shutting off the hot water! (We’re just kidding on this one, but don’t tell the kids that…)
  10. Low-flow aerators will be installed in the house – don’t take all day to wash hands, brush teeth, etc. If possible, turn the water off during the parts where you are not actually using it.
  11. Should the temperature outside be lower than 75 degrees during the daytime and/or 70 degrees at nighttime, the air conditioning will be turned off and the windows opened.
  12. Blinds and window treatments will remain shut during the daytime hours, especially on south and west-facing windows, to allow the cool air to remain in the house.
  13. Most importantly: All family members are to think about what they are doing! Think before turning on a light, the television, a computer, the gaming consoles, etc. Is there something else that needs to be done instead? Could you instead read a book, take a walk, do something else? Make sure all electronics or other things are turned off when done, especially lights when leaving a room. Be aware of your surroundings. We’re not saying do not turn a light on when going down stairs in the dark – we’re saying that when you are done with the light, turn it off, don’t leave it on and go wandering elsewhere.

While these are the guidelines that we’ve set out to follow during the project, there are others that have been kicked around and thought about but not ‘finalized’ yet. Examples include a No-Electricity Night – where we use no electricity or energy, instead playing board games, talking as a family, reading books, having an ‘indoor (or outdoor!) campout’, or just going to bed early. Also discussed has been a  No-Stove Night – in which everything for dinner is cooked on the grill, or we have a cold dinner/picnic in the park, something like that. Since the stove is gas, this might prove to be beneficial!

While we encourage and hope everyone in the family will help us out with this project, we understand that there will be slipups. For example, the other night I forgot to unplug the television, which is also on the same power bar as the DVD system and  surround sound. Fortunatley the gaiming console that we have long suspected of raising our electric/gas bill $10.00-$30.00 per month stays unplugged no matter what unless someone is actively using it.

So, there are the guidelines for this family project. Keep the lights off (we’re not Motel 6), think about what you’re doing, and keep energy costs in mind. The rest we’ll figure out as we go along – just like we always do.