Electric rates went under the spotlight last summer here in Wellington as rising costs and higher rates were surprising a lot of folks as their monthly bills began to arrive. Myself and others were concerned to say the least - reactions varied from disgust to "what do you do?" No matter the reaction it's important to realize rates are going up in a lot of places and for a variety of reasons.
A "Business Insider" internet article regarding the nation's electrical infrastructure stated "...the US electric infrastructure, which already contains trillions of dollars of sunk capital, will soon need significant ongoing investment just to keep things the way they are. A power plant built during the rapid expansion of the power sector in the decades after World War II is now 40 years old or older, long paid off, and likely needs to be replaced. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the entire energy infrastructure in this country a barely passing grade of D+."
Not going to belabor the point, just wanted to demonstrate that rates will likely never be lower than they are now and are equally likely to continue to increase in the future as those infrastructure and other costs are addressed by the industry as a whole. So, what do we do?
I decided (after venting a bit) that I would be proactive and try to determine if my electricity usage at my home was being handled wisely so the first thing I did was survey my surroundings and what I discovered very quickly was WASTE...and lots of it! It was nothing I had ever thought about before, never had to. The recent rate increases and the likelihood of more though painted a different perspective than previously held. I don't need the ceiling fans on in every room, only the room I'm in and if I'm gone, not at all. I don't need the dehumidifier in the basement to run constantly 24/7, it accomplishes nearly as much by me just turning it on for an hour or two a day. I don't need to run my clothes through a 15-20 minute wash cycle nor do I need to dry them to the bone - or worse yet, redry them in the morning to get the wrinkles out! I've even started hanging my jeans out to dry, reducing my monthly dryer loads about 50%! (That saves a TON of electricity!) I can invest a few dollars more up front for LED lighting and suddenly realize after nearly converting over completely, I haven't had to buy bulbs for a long, long time! (The LED spotlights above my garage doors have already outlasted (time-wise) the conventional spotlights by 600% and only cost twice as much. I had a refrigerator in the garage, churning away with 3 cans of 2 yr old beer in it, that was it. Those 3 beers probably cost me $150-$200! The refrigerator is gone - and so is the beer.
The point is, we all have similar wasteful situations, perhaps with different items than listed here but we have them nonetheless. Any one of them doesn't seem like a big deal when you add them all up though, well, it really adds up! I opted this summer to purchase a small 5,000 BTU Window AC just to keep my computer room/bedroom cool (I spend a lot of time in that room awake and asleep)...and set the thermostat on 84 for the central air which would take care of the rest of the house. That has worked out very well. The small window unit which I only leave on for an hour or so and then use the ceiling fan for 2-3 hours before I get another blast of cold air from the window unit and so on and so on. I'm fortunate too because I have a lot of shade trees around the house and I'm the only one here so I can control my environment much easier than a couple and definitely a family with kids. Many of you have commented how your kids leave EVERY LIGHT on in the house and other electrical items as well...I know that's a problem, I used to be a kid and did the very same thing.
Knowing high rates are here to stay and are going to only increase, perhaps there are ways to get the kids more aware of the waste they create and develop less wasteful habits to carry on into adulthood...seems worthwhile to me. Challenge them, show them how much more quickly the analog meter in your backyard runs when the AC is running, or the dryer, or all the lights are on (compared to when those things aren't running or on)...having them visualize it can enhance their interest some in reducing their usage perhaps. Maybe setup a contest with your kids, figure out how many KW hours you used during a certain time last year and make a family challenge out of it to reduce that usage by 20% or 30% for the same time period this year and if they do - a special trip somewhere or something!! Just thinking out loud...(or in writing I guess!)
I've only done this for 3 months or so but to be honest, it's no longer an experiment at all, it's become the norm. When I leave a room, the light and ceiling fan goes off. I use other electrical items as minimally as I can and still accomplish what needs to be accomplished without hardship....and here is the proof it works. Check out these comparisons for April through June 2016 vs April through June of this year...pretty exciting and that extra $274 plus left in my pocket (and I never left the house to earn one penny of it) is the payoff. Isn't that kind of like a part-time job? Add money to your pocket or leave it in your pocket, the end result is the same...more money in your pocket!
2016 - 3090 KW $685.05
A 61% reduction in KW HRS used! / A 40% reduction in $$ spent! / HARDSHIP - NEGLIBLE!!
This is a 7 month experiment (Spring thru Fall) so expect another update in a couple of months and then a final update in early November. Until then, remember...
LESS POWER is MORE POWER (Wow, that's really deep!) :)