Tag Archive: energy


When most people think of saving energy, the first thing that comes to mind is turning off the lights, unplugging the appliances, and saving electricity. But most don’t realize that saving water also contributes to saving energy.

 According to WaterSense, a partnership website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the amount of energy annually used to deliver, heat, and treat water for one household could power a household refrigerator for a year…not to mention the fact that, in some areas of the USA, this estimate actually falls on the low side, as there are areas of the country where it takes six times that amount to do the job. On average, some homes (those with electric water heaters) spend ¼ of their electric bill just to heat the water.

 So…what can be done about it?

 The best thing, first, is to start installing water-efficient products into the house. For example, this past weekend, in keeping with our current family project of energy saving, we installed low-flow showerheads in both full baths. These showerheads keep the water flowing at a constant 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute) and allow us to use the water efficiently while taking a shower. Coupled with the rule about avoiding longer than 10-minute showers, we feel this is an acceptable step in conserving water and, therefore, conserving energy.  The showerheads took less than 10 minutes to install, required only the use of plumbers tape and a pipe wrench, and frankly, are better than what we had. The new showerheads offer massage settings and a stronger, steadier stream of spray.

 In addition to the low-flow showerheads, we also installed a low-flow aerator in the master bathroom, limiting the flow on that sink to 1.0GPM. Because the sink is in use by two people in that bathroom at various times, we felt this was the best place to put it. The reason we did not install bathroom aerators in the other two baths with sinks (one a full bath, one a half-bath) was not for lack of wishing – the aerators we had simply didn’t fit the faucet.

 In the kitchen we also installed an aerator on the sink, a 1.5GPM regulating beauty that attached very easily to the current faucet (thank goodness, after the bathroom ordeal we were really scratching our heads.) The aerator is attached to a swivel, allowing it to rotate around the sink, as well as having what is known as a “pause-action lever” – a little handle that we flip up to reduce the water to a trickle when necessary. Of course, I just prefer turning the water off, but you never know!

 The aerator in the kitchen sink actually saves 30% more water than a standard kitchen sink aerator, which is set at 2.2GPM, not 1.5GPM. According to DTE, the local energy provider, that’s 7,665 gallons of water annually. We predict that we’ll start seeing the savings right away, as when we pulled the old aerator out to change it…well, some things are better left unsaid.

 We’re not as rabid as some about saving water, though the thought is constantly on our minds. We didn’t replace the turn knobs of the shower with a simple chain that will activate the water when pulled and turn it off when released, as we do tend to prefer hot water for showers and not whatever comes out (too many years of camp showers for some in this household!)

 With our new showerheads and aerators installed, we look happily forward to saving water. Next step will be to wrap the pipes coming from the hot water heater in insulating pipe wrap, and see if that helps us to save energy as well.

 Have a good day, everyone! I’m sure more adventures will soon follow.

Oh yes, before I forget…be sure to check out our pages “Home Cooking” and “The Garden Chronicles” (links at the top of this page) for updates.

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Well, week one of the family project ended with a bit of a bang – as I closed the windows despite the lower temperatures outside and turned on the A/C to allow everyone at least 3 hours of sleep. Despite being in the mid-60’s last night, the temperature inside the house stayed at a steady 77 degrees well into the wee morning hours. When I checked it at 2:00AM, it had actually gone up to 78, and showed no signs of going down.

I find it extremely embarrassing when one can almost feel the thermostat sticking its tongue out at you and mocking your efforts to save energy.

So, long story short, all the windows were closed, the A/C was turned on, and then and only then did the uncomfortable sounds of rustling around and searching for a comfortable position cease from the bedrooms. It may be because everyone finally slept in the cooler air. Then again, it might be because I was asleep myself after that, so I didn’t hear anything.

I am, however, extremely proud of the fact that despite not-to-cool temperatures yesterday, the A/C that had been turned off Monday night in an effort to save energy (and since the temperature was going down to 68) was not turned back on until almost 7:00PM, then off again at 10:00PM. The reason for turning it on at 7:00PM was because it was 84 in the house, and while the temperature was bearable and had been bearable all day, bearing it while standing over 3 burners on the stove attempting to cook dinner was just not possible, and I wimped.

But, other than that, all remains well – appliances are still unplugged 90% of the time, and I have even begun using the front door instead of the garage door (which used to be our main door) when I need to go outside for something, to avoid using the energy for opening the garage door. The only part of this project that is beginning to drag on people is the fact that it’s either/or for the TV and computer.  Something tells me that this rule won’t see it through until the end of the project.

Side note: updated recently on this blog was The Garden Chronicles, the ongoing saga of the 2011 Family Garden and all its escapades, as well as any bulk deals on produce/farmers market goings-on and what happens with it. Tune in for more later!

Well, I just recently heard a strange sound by my ear.

It was the weekend, as it went wooshing by.

Seriously, between everything going on in the house, the garden, and trying to actually go grocery shopping and get more food into the house (that the garden will not provide), I don’t know where the weekend went.

However, our energy experiment is going marvelously. We still have the thermostat set at 78 degrees, except for a few hours at night to allow us to get to sleep. It turned out 78 may have been the temperature at the thermostat, but I can tell you that one floor up, it was definately not 78 – it felt more like 108!

All appliances continue to remain unplugged unless in active use, as well as lights turned off if they’re in an area of the house that we are not using. We’ve also been trying to have either the television or the computer on, but not both at the same time. We’ve even stopped using the dishwasher and washing dishes by hand to save on hot water and energy usage.

More details and an update tomorrow…or should that be later today??

All in all, this family project is going rather well. I hardly even notice it’s going on – which is unusual!

 

Thank you!

I would like to give a very big thank you to the local power company for the blackouts and fritzes that have been going on with the power lately. For the second time this week, and the fourth (roughly) in two weeks, we lost power for about 4 hours tonight.

While I appreciate that they are willing to help me so mightily in our family project of energy savings, I question their wisdom in doing so when one of the worst heat waves in history is gripping much of the nation.

 

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’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?

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