Tag Archive: unplugged

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!


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.

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!


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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