Riot for Austerity Challenge: Facing the Electric Bill

Last month I told you about the Riot for Austerity challenge to reduce our emissions to 1/10th of that which the average American uses. At the time I didn’t have the figures for my electric usage. Today I want to update you on how I am doing and how far I have to go to reach my goal.

Once I had my figures I needed something to compare them to.Ā  I borrowed the following image from Shrink That Footprint, the article is well worth a read but if you are short on time this graph may open your eyes to the electric consumption in your country.

It is truly shocking to see how much more electricity the US and Canada uses than the rest of the world.

In the Riot for Austerity Challenge, we are attempting to reduce our electricity usage to 90 KWH per month. This would result in 1080 KWH per year. This would fall between Mexico and Brazil. Looking at the graph, that’s a huge reduction from the average US household.

So where did my figures fall? My energy usage varies from 6 to 8 KWH per day. Using the average of 7 my totals are 212.92 per month or 2555 for the year, which puts me squarely between Russia and Italy.Ā  I still need to cut my usage just over half to meet the challenge.

Pinch that Penny back in 2007 stated that energy-efficient homes could have electric usages as low as 14 KWH per day. I am torn between feeling frustrated knowing I have to find cuts equal to half what I currently use and cheering because my numbers are half that expected in an energy-efficient home.

Reducing my usage to 3 KWH per day is going to be tough.

Items I don’t have or use myself:

  • Microwave
  • Vacuum
  • Television, DVD player, stereo, or satellite dish (which does use electricity)
  • toaster oven
  • electric can opener
  • coffee pot (one is used infrequently when guests are here)
  • hair dryer or other hair tools
  • clothes dryer
  • clock/radio
  • air conditioner
  • space heaters

All light bulbs have already been converted to LED

There are things here I can’t see eliminating which are:

  • My two sump pumps which keep my basement from flooding. Without the second pump I’ve had flooding so bad my furnace was immersed in water. This only runs when water is present but it’s still needed.
  • The dehumidifier in the basement. Again this is to keep mold problems from developing. It’s the one thing my son insists I keep in the house as my “landlord”. I agree with him as it’s better to prevent mold than try to eliminate it later.
  • The clothes washer.
  • The electric stove, although I could see about using the slow cooker more often.
  • The chest freezer: unless the cost of using the stove top for canning saves enough electricity to eliminate freezing foods.
  • The electricity to run my grass mower, I figure electric is still better than gas-powered with the fumes alone they give off.
  • Finally, the electricity to charge my wheelchair.

Where I might be able to cut back

  • The dishwasher. I only use this maybe twice a week but I could do more hand washing.
  • Watching the amount of time I use my laptop.

There you have it. I use 4.5 times less electricity than the average US household and just shy of half the average UK home. I may fall short of the ultimate goal and I might have to be okay with that in the end. Looking back at the graph, it’s feels good to see where I fall compared to the average US household.

If you want to see how much average appliances and tools cost to operate you might want to look at this chart.

So where am I on the challenge?

  • I use zero gas for cars
  • Natural gas for heat and hot water is non-negotiable at this time
  • Electricity needs cut in half still
  • Water usage is below the figures set for the challenge
  • Finally food. I have a ways to go but having just bought more plants for the garden I will be closer to this figure soon.Ā  Within two years I expect my fruit needs to be satisfied completely from my own land. My property now has: One almond tree, two peach trees, three apple trees, one apricot tree, one plum tree, rhubarb plants, 6 raspberry plants, 4 blueberry bushes, and 50+ strawberry plants. That’s in addition to the annuals which include zucchini, lettuces, onions, leeks, peas, cantaloupes, two types of squash, watermelon, quinoa, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and to experiment with marshmallow plants.

 

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20 thoughts on “Riot for Austerity Challenge: Facing the Electric Bill

  1. Well we judge ourselves against our neighbors which the power company provides each month and we always come in below everyone else. Of course we are not comparing ourselves against other countries. But it is nice to have that simple comparison.

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    1. If I was the neighbor using the most energy I would not want everyone around me to know. šŸ™‚ Seriously, I think it’s nice to have that comparison to gauge yourself by. Might even motivate a bit of friendly competition to reduce for some.

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  2. sigh…

    cannot see me getting any where close, any day soon…

    I was truly shocked at where you sat, so to speak. .You are so energy careful…wow.

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    1. Living alone, most of the time, it’s easy to control keeping lights off in rooms not being used. But the downfall is I could spread my numbers out if I had more people in the house. For instance if three of us lived here then I could divide the cost of the stove/oven, sump pumps etc by three of us which would reduce my footprint drastically. It is what it is. That said even when the children are here for a month in the summer my usage doesn’t go up much. The difference is simply from the 6 I use to 8 when there are three of us.

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  3. You’re definitely a good role model for the rest of us! I hope you will keep us updated on this blog about how you get your fruit trees to bloom. I’ve tried raising my own dwarf citrus trees (indoors, since I’m in the northeast) and it was not a success. I think I got two limes total (and no lemons or mandarins). I’d like to try apple trees (outdoors!). I hadn’t even thought of almond trees–interesting!

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    1. You might want to stop by later tonight, and see what was found today. šŸ™‚

      I want to try growing dwarf citrus fruits indoors but worry I’ll kill them. I do fine with plants outside. I say that as long as I can stick them in the ground and not touch them again they thrive but if they have to be indoors I’ll kill them. That’s why I only keep succulents and easy care plants indoors.

      You might want to consider almond trees. They produce within 2-4 years if you get a young one. They are a thirsty tree so it makes no sense to grow them in California which has water issues. It also drives me crazy that California grows just almond trees for acres and has to have bee keepers from around the country bring bees to their state just to pollinate them. The crazy things we do to raise food.

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  4. I like the change in the name of your blog, Lois. Suits it much better.
    Good luck with your fruit trees. Having an almond tree is interesting. I would love to have a garden but health reasons and of course money won’t let me. Plus, I’m lazy. LOL Good luck in your electricity challenge. I’m ashamed to say we do use a lot of electricity here. It’s by far our biggest bill. šŸ˜¦

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    1. Jackie, thank you. You are the first who has commented on the name change. It felt right as opposed to the previous name that I just came up with on the spur of the moment without considering if it matched my content.

      The cost of putting in a perennial garden is much more expensive than annuals. I paid a bit extra to get older trees to get fruit sooner. This year I sunk over $300 into trees, shrubs etc. in addition to the small amount I put into seeds for the annual edibles.

      Almond trees are easy to grow up to our zone 4 which means all but the far north can grow them. There’s no reason to grow all our almonds in California where drought conditions exist for a tree that is quite thirsty.

      My biggest bill is by far my heating bill. When I lived in a mobile home the electricity was much higher especially in the winter having to run heating tape to keep our pipes from bursting. I do know some who stacked hay bales behind the skirting to keep the cold out and were able to avoid plugging in the heating tape. Another friend had her clothes dryer vented under the house and scheduled laundry for the coldest days for the same reason, although a dryer is a pretty big hog of electricity. Hang in there, we all have our limits on how low we can go in energy use.

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  5. Well done Lois.. with the cost spiraling I think we should all have to look at ways to cut back.. We turn everything off of standby too.. Its our freezers that use a lot.. and when I use the electric oven i try to bake and do lots of things in there that are a similar temp at once.. This also saves.. Putting less water to boil in the kettle.. Or if you have a thymus pour remaining hot liquid into that.. I dont.. but I know some that do..
    Lots of little ways to help .. xxx

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    1. I too unplug everything when not in use. I don’t have anything that works on standby so that’s not an issue here. I think my freezer is the biggest hog but it’s one thing that I am not in a position to get rid of yet. I did chose a chest freezer instead of an upright model because it uses less electricity.

      When I make tea, I heat a pot of water then keep the extra in a thermos to keep warm throughout the afternoon, not only does it save energy it’s a convenient way to have hot water on hand.

      I’ll take any suggestions on reducing my bills further. Appreciate the suggestions.

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  6. First of all… thank you so much for the new URL – When you changed the name, Blogger’s reader just said you were gone. Anyhow, I’m so glad to have found you again, and I do love the new name.

    Your electricity footprint is already impressively low, so it would take some real out of the box thinking and/or investments in order to get it much lower. I don’t know if you really want any suggestions on how to reduce further, but I can think of a few things you could try. Not sure how much impact they would have and whether or not it would be worth the hassle/investment.

    1) You could try building a simple solar cooker to cut down on electricity use for preparing food. It might be a fun project to do with your grandkids. All you need is a few boxes, old newspapers, some aluminum foil, glue, a piece of glass and then some old graniteware cookware to make it work. It wouldn’t eliminate your cooking costs, but it could help – especially in the summer. I’ve cooked everything from chicken to cornbread in mine!

    2) For lighting, I have often thought about trying to use solar LED garden lights indoors. There are some where the charger is on a cord rather than attached directly to the light – so I’ve thought of trying to mount the charger part outside of a window or something like that. A few strings of white LED Christmas lights strung around the top of the walls would probably provide enough ambient light, though not enough for tasks or reading. Not sure how much difference it would make, so I haven’t explored the idea further, but it might be worth considering.

    3) They make solar chargers for laptops, and there’s also a company called Goal Zero which makes even bigger solar chargers which are designed for camping, RV, or emergency power. The Goal Zero systems are not exactly cheap, but they’re very intriguing. Basically they use solar panels to charge a big battery which they call a power station. The battery has standard outlets on it and can be used to power anything from a laptop to a refrigerator (depending on how big of a system you got.) Here’s a link if you’re curious: http://www.goalzero.com/solar-kits

    4) The other thing I always tell myself I should do to cut back on power use is to (ahem) go to bed earlier so there would be less need for lighting! I don’t see myself making that happen any time soon, but it’s nice to fantasize about!

    Anyhow, those are my thoughts! Can’t wait to hear how this challenge progresses!

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    1. One more crazy lady thought on saving electricity. You might be able to improve the efficiency of your chest freezer by putting a blanket or some sort of insulation on top of it (top, but NOT the sides). I discovered this by accident when I was doing some basement rearranging and piled some blankets on top of my freezer to get them out of the way. When I took them off it was FREEZING underneath. You don’t want to put anything on the sides though, because modern freezers don’t have coils – instead they’re designed to shed their heat by running the exhaust lines over the insulation just under the metal sides so the sides shed the heat. Anyhow, I checked online and the one concern with putting a blanket or other insulation on top is that you can get condensation which could lead to mold or rust if you’re not careful. That didn’t happen to me, but our climate is much drier than yours.

      And I’m assuming you already know that the freezer is much more efficient if it’s full, so you should always put jugs or water or something similar inside to fill up any empty space. OK… I’ll stop with the crazy lady ideas now. šŸ™‚

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      1. That’s a great idea! My freezer is directly next to the window and while it only gets brief morning sun it’s still heat. I’m going to give it a try.

        Yes, I did know about keeping the freezer full. I keep jugs I fill with water and fill any empty space. When I stock back up in the summer months the water is thawed and used to water the gardens or let the children play.

        Btw, your ideas are never crazy!!

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    2. I always want more ideas on reducing my footprint!! I’ve considered many times building a solar oven. I’ve talked myself out of it just as many times because I don’t have a lot of places to set it where it would get all day sun. But having the kids here for a month each summer it would sure reduce the amount of cooking done on or in the stove. I’m going to round up the materials and have that as a project for my oldest grandson to help me make this year as he loves making things. Crafts the girls do don’t interest him but this sure would.

      The solar garden lights is interesting too. I wonder if I could use them as night lights along the stairs for safety when the kids are here.

      A solar charger for my laptop/cell phone has been on my mind for a while. I didn’t know you could charge a fridge with them. Definitely going to check that out.

      Now as for going to bed earlier, that’s not going to happen. I’ve tried so many times and next thing I know I’m back to my body’s desire to be up really late.

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      1. You generally only need a few hours of direct sun (2-3) for solar cooking – unless maybe you were trying to cook dry beans or something that takes a really long time. Anyhow, here’s a link to a post I wrote years ago with info on what did and didn’t work for me: http://ecocatlady.blogspot.com/2012/06/lovin-my-solar-oven.html

        And here’s a link to a site with tons of different designs and plans: http://solarcooking.org/plans/

        If I had it to do over, the main change I’d make would be to use a slightly deeper box and angle the lid much more steeply.

        Now… let’s see if wordpress lets this comment through with two links in it… šŸ™‚

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        1. I had thought about solar ovens after seeing Ed Begley, Jr use one but didn’t think about building my own until I read your post a while back. I thought about it but ended up deciding not to build one because living in the studio apartment I didn’t have space to store it when not in use. Now that I have more space I don’t see a reason not to give this a try.

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      2. Just wrote you a comment with a few links and, as I thought it would, WordPress flagged it for moderation – just wanted you to know it’s there! šŸ™‚

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