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Day Two

Despite the looming heat wave that makes one feel as though they are a cake baking in the oven upon exiting the house, Day 2 of the current family project didn’t go that badly.

The thermostat is still tuned to 78 degrees. It should be noted that it is a programmable thermostat, requiring very little in the way of complicated maneuvers to set it to the desired temperature. Previously (that is, to say, before yesterday), it had been turned down to 72 degrees. It remains to be seen what differences will be gained by having the temperature six degrees higher in the house. I only hope it doesn’t lead to “six degrees of separation”, as my husband is not that fond of hot weather.

To be quite honest, I find it pleasant in the house, at least a lot more pleasant than it would be outside.

All appliances previously mention remain unplugged when not in active use. Though it is somewhat inconvenient to keep plugging in, turning on, and waiting for things to warm up (e.g. the computer), I have noticed a side effect to this is that I don’t run for the computer every 5 minutes to update or search for something. I find myself planning and setting aside time to use the computer, so that when I am done, I can turn it off completely and go do something else.

Several measures have also been taken in the last two days that may or may not always be possible; for instance, dinner on both days has taken less than 20 minutes of energy on the stove to prepare and cook. Also, no household cleaning appliances have been run in the last two days, which will change tomorrow, as I cannot go another day without vacuuming the carpet.

Stay tuned for further updates – and to find out if the thermostat will ever come down!

I predict that, somewhat regardless of this project/experiment, the energy bill will be lower this month.

Why?

Because the power went out yesterday. For approximately 6+ hours, the power was down, not functioning, kaput…you get the picture. The entire subdivision was out for about the third time in 2 weeks.

The only thing rivaling the heat index in the area was the temperature of the smoke billowing out of the residents’ ears, as there was no conceivable reason why we should have lost power.

It should be noted that, the day before, we had gone through a wonderful thunderstorm in which it rained cats, dogs, cows, and chickens, complete with wind gusts of competing strength and rain that somehow managed to go in two different directions at once – though neither direction was straight down. All of us at home (or anywhere else) hunkered down mightily, candles in one hand and flashlights in the other, waiting for the power to flicker, surge, flicker again, and finally go out. Yet it held strong.

However, the next day, amid no rainstorms, only a heat index sufficient enough to fry bacon and eggs on the driveway without aid of a stove, with the sun shining brightly and all seemingly well, the power went out.

For six hours.

I honestly don’t know what to laugh about harder – that the power went out for six hours, or since due to this ongoing project and the fact that everything was unplugged, it was dinnertime before I had even noticed that the power was out.

I’m sure by now most people are wondering (should they be reading or following this blog), exactly what the project is that we’re doing and what it entails. Since we usually start a project sometime around New Year’s Day, and the last two projects that we’ve done have been on more of a long-term scale, it would probably help to explain the details of this one.

Simply put, we’re trying to see how much energy we can save over a 30-day period of time. That’s it. Sounds simple, right? Well, not when you think about the fact that even though we are a family of “only” three people in one house at the moment, one of those three happens to be a teenager – a teenager rabidly devoted to his gaming console. Since the advent of the purchase some 3 Christmases ago, we’ve seen a spike of more than $20.00 in our bills every month, especially when that console is left on.

Now, since that same Christmas we also purchased a chest freezer for storing large quantities of food, we’re not entirely sure that the gaming console is the culprit. BUT, since in this experiment/project/call it whatever you want, the gaming console will be unplugged and powered down when not in use, and the chest freezer will not, it might actually have more than one good result.

So, you might be asking yourself, what objects are in the house that use electricity or gas, other than the obvious (air conditioning, furnace, and hot water heater?

Without giving a step-by-step layout of the house, let’s just say…a lot. Microwave, Kitchen Aid Mixer, Chest Freezer*, Upright Refrigerator with Freezer*, Stove with Oven*, Toaster, Dishwasher*, 3 televisions, Surround Sound System, DVD Player, 2 Gaming Consoles, U-Verse Box, Parlor Organ, 4 lamps of various sizes, Electric Shaver, 3 clocks, 2 desktop computers, 2 laptop computers, printer, copier, and a fax machine…along with a partridge in a pear tree (no, just kidding, but I wouldn’t be surprised to one day see one!) 

Added to that is an automatic litter box for Mr. Kitty, our household mascot (but don’t tell him that), and a cell phone charging station that holds 3 cell phones…and usually a bunch of keys.

I have to admit, even I didn’t think about how much “stuff” we had that relied on power until I sat down and listed it all. Going from room to room really made me realize exactly why we might have the electric and gas bills that we have!

It is worthwile to note that in the list above, items marked with a * will not be unplugged at any time during this 30-day project, as the results would not be worth the money that could possibly be saved. Case in point: what good will it do to unplug a freezer that holds $500.00 worth of food? Answer: not much.

The rules for the very first part of this project are very simple: everything not marked with a * on the list above will be unplugged when not in active use by one or more people. That was actually done at 8:30AM today. I am proud to announce that most of the day was spent without having 90% of the electronics on in the house, including clocks.

To make things easier, some electronics located close to each other such as the DVD player and surround sound system have been connected to a power bar with a single plug, but even that will be powered down and unplugged when not in active use. Same scenario for things such as the desktop computers.

Laptops, cell phones, etc. will not be allowed to charge until they are fully depleted of battery, if they are used at all, and then only for the allotted amount of time needed to reach “full battery” as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. They will not run on plugged-in cords at all.

Mr. Kitty’s automatic litter box will also be unplugged, though it will be plugged in once a day to assure that it can run through at least one cycle.

Items that are connected to power bars but are not in active use will remain turned off until needed, then turned off after use.

We’re still figuring out what to do about the air conditioning, though as it’s July the heating system should not need to come into play at all! For the past two days I have been trying the thermostat at a balmy 78 degrees in the house, which has (to me) proved quite comfortable, though not to others. The dirty looks I’m getting might be a clue that this needs to be discussed and remedied, but for now, we’ll see how it goes. I must say, we picked a great time to start an energy project – right in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave!

Well, let’s see how the first night goes – more on this tomorrow! Night all!

Well, today marks the first day of our new family project: energy saving in the house. 

Experts have long been arguing in various forms of media, from paper newspapers to online blogs, that appliances in the home use energy even when they are not plugged in. While no one in this house claims to be an “expert” at things such as the mighty home appliance, aside from sticking the occasional tongue into the light socket (just kidding!), it would be an interesting experiment, to see how much energy could be saved in 30 days by unplugging vs. just turning things off.

To get things started, allow me to say that we are avid, if not rabid, proponents of turning things off – constantly. Leaving lights on in the house, especially if no one is in the room, is considered bad. Things are expected to be turned off when no one is in the room, including lights, personal electronics, and any and all appliances that can be.

So, what will make this project different than everyday life? The fact that things are now not only going to be turned off, but unplugged as well. While not everything in the house will be unplugged – I can’t imagine a day without the refrigerator, unfortunately, and the results of leaving the freezer unplugged could be unpleasant, a conscious effort will be made to unplug, turn off, and generally “power down” anything that is not 100% in use by those in the household.

Does this project include only unplugging things? No, of course not. While that is the basis for the project, other things will have to take place, such as making sure the windows and doors are  completely shut when the air conditioning is on (I say that with good humor, considering the summertime weather), installing low-flow showerheads and aerators in faucets, converting as many traditional light bulbs (if not all) to CFL bulbs, watching the use of appliances that must stay plugged in, and other miscellaneous items that will be noted in this blog.

Also, health and safety trumps all. We are not about to risk heatstroke on days with a heat index in the triple-digits for an experiment in energy savings. A/C use will be heavily monitored and regulated, but there is a limit to what the human body can be expected to take in some situations.

As of 7:48AM EST this morning, the meter read 54606 kWh. I wonder what it will read in 30 days?

The First Post…

Well…here it is. The first post in my (our) brand-new blog.

This blog is meant to be a showcase of our family projects –  past, present, and future. Some wonderful things have come out of these projects, not the least of which are family togetherness, along with a new and beautiful respect for some things that, quite possibly, we had taken for granted before.

The current project? Energy saving.

When? Starting tomorrow…or, if in the Eastern Standard Time zone, in 49 minutes, at least according to the clock on the computer.

 The hope? To see how much energy can be saved in the next 30 days.

Why?

Well…why not? It seemed to be as good a project as any, and as I stated before, some wonderful things have come out of past projects.

What past projects? More on that later…

As you can see, things are still a little rough around the edges here at lifetimeprojects, which hopefully will be polished in the next few days. Like most projects, the site will be considered a “work in progress”.

Just for the record, ‘energy savings’ will not mean living like a hermit going back to the stone age. While the idea in itself is not as distasteful to me as it would have once been, I doubt it’s completely possible. Rules on the project tomorrow – along with, hopefully, an actual meter reading (if I don’t have to spend all day on the phone with the electric company).

So, for now, the first post is finished. Tomorrow is a whole new day…and the start of another family project.

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