electricity usage down

Energy Use Update: I Saved $125!

It was a nice, warm day in May when I got my latest electric bill and had the pleasant surprise of finding out that energy use in our home is down 28% from this same 2-month period last year. That’s a savings of $125 on this bill – wowzers! At this rate, the super fancy outdoor clothesline I ordered will pay for itself in less than two billing cycles – I’m glad it’s justified.energy usage down this month!

How We Reduced Energy Use

Now who knows why this went down – maybe it was warmer this year than last. But our water usage was also down, so I’m guessing it had to do with my efforts to wash clothes less often, dry them on racks, and use wool dryer balls to reduce energy use further. I think I found the setting that actually makes my washer wash with cold water, so that would have helped, too.

I also installed some lovely LED lightbulbs that I got at Costco. The dryer balls were $15 and I got 4 LED bulbs for $8 ($14.99 minus some instant $7 rebate from the electric company that Costco automatically deducted). So far the $23 of investment has definitely paid off.

So it looks like I’ve implemented 2.5 of the 4 changes I set out to make in my “before” post three months ago. I was aiming to reduce usage by 10%, and it looks like we’ve exceeded that so far. Time to set a new goal? If I can do a 50% reduction by next January, that would be amazing.

Another couple of things happened that may have helped. First, our basement-dwelling relative’s computer battery died and had to be replaced. We and the computer store people tried hard to convince him not to keep it plugged in all the time. Also I recently snuck down there and set his machine to actually sleep and turn off the screen when not in use. I also tried hard to lobby for him to keep his printer off when not in use. I’m not sure if that change was adopted or not.

Can Turning Down a Thermostat Prevent Diabetes?

I’ve also been playing with the thermostat to try to wean the family off so much heat in the evenings and at night. Also at some point I closed the grate to the heating duct that goes to our bedroom. I realized we don’t really need the heat in our room in spring, and since our room is above an unheated garage, this might have had some effect on energy use.

save energy with warm Hungarian down comforters

Heirloom paplan in Budapest

I actually like sleeping in a colder room. The things I’ve read about sleeping temperatures is fascinating – it’s always interesting to me how kids kick off their covers and don’t seem to need them. Apparently we have the ability to sleep with much less cover and/or heat if we practice doing so. Over time, sleeping in colder conditions makes our body build up what’s called “brown fat,” which burns more energy than other (white) fat. This 2014 study in the journal Diabetes found that sleeping for a month in a 66 degree F (19C) room — with bedsheets only — increased the amount of brown fat, fat metabolic activity, and insulin sensitivity of 5 young men in a laboratory environment. Fascinating!

Just to be clear, I’m not sleeping in that level of cold. It’s 66 degrees or cooler in our room at night, but I have a down comforter (Hungarians love their paplan!) and a very warm partner, too.

Next Steps to Reduce Energy Use

I want to say thanks of you readers for helping me hold myself accountable through this blog. I’m encouraged to keep working on making this house into a green home and keep talking about the process publicly. I also still plan to do more profiles of folks with green lifestyles here and abroad, so let me know if you have stories to tell about thermostats, dryer-less living, or any other relevant detail. For now, here’s what’s on my list for keeping this process going:

  1. Order the new fridge.
  2. Get a fireplace insert for downstairs and put some kind of insulation under the roof.
  3. Keep heat pump (HVAC system) off and regulate temp with windows until the heat becomes unbearable this summer.
  4. Keep reducing laundry loads and install the new outdoor clothesline when it arrives.
  5. Read my energy meter and look forward to the next bill in July!


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