|photo courtesy of Wikipedia|
That doesn't mean that we are complete victims of the energy companies (gas and electric are provided by different companies). There are several things we have done and keep doing that keep our bill significantly lower than what it could be.
- We don't fight nature so hard on the temperature. Since we moved here in October 2010, we've had actual air temperatures ranging from about 0 degrees (F) to 100 degrees (F). In the winter, we keep the (gas) heat at 65 during the day when we are up and around, dressed in seasonable winterish clothes and 55 at night when we are bundled up in warm, flannel or fleece pajamas, snuggled under warm quilts or comforters. If no one is going to be home (rare, but it does happen), we usually turn it down to about 50, since we have no pets to keep warm. In the summer, we have the thermostat set at 84 during the day, but we'll turn it down to 81 (sometimes my husband will turn it as low as 78 when he's trying to sleep during the day) if someone gets uncomfortable. At night, except during the recent heatwave when the temperatures didn't dip low enough, I'll turn off the AC and open the windows, maybe plopping a fan in front of the window in our bedroom to draw in more of that cool(er) night air. If we're not going to be home, we'll turn it off unless it is crazy hot outside (so stuff might start melting inside!), then we'll set it at 85 or so while we're going to be out. I've seen a lot of people cite health reasons as to why they can't have temperatures as "extreme" as I set them, but my asthma flares up more if I go outside into the hot days if the place I'm coming from is more drastically different and my arthritis flares more in the winter if I face more extreme temperature differences going inside and out, so I really think a lot of that argument in many cases is a mindset thing. People adapt, really.
- A programmable thermostat helps moderate the temperature. As I mentioned, we keep it programmed at 84 in the summer and just turn it down if needed. Sometimes, we don't even notice when it sneaks up another degree or two. It also works well if we forget to adjust it before leaving, since it will adjust itself up at some point if we are gone long enough! In the winter, it is nice to be able to get up and showered and everything with the heat blasting, without having to pad across the cold house to turn it up.
- Passive solar energy or lack thereof. Huh? Didn't I list that as a plus of Earthship living that we don't currently have? Well, yeah, but every time you open the curtains in direct sunlight, you are using passive solar energy, whether you want to or not. So in the summer, the curtains stay closed, at least on the side of the house the sun is on. In the winter, I open up the front door and let sunlight stream in that storm door! I've warmed the house by as much as 10 degrees by doing that, even when it is only in the 20s outside!
- If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, don't! If it is warm enough that the air conditioner needs to be on, the oven stays off. I try to limit my baking to nights when it is cool enough to compensate for the heat of the oven or wait until a cold front moves in. Meals can be prepared on a stovetop (or raw) just fine during those times. Plenty of time for baking in the winter, when it benefits the bill to have the oven going!
- Turn the water heater down as low as it can go without being off. I've seen some places suggest turning the water heater off entirely except for certain times of the day, but with our family, that just wouldn't work. Between my shower in the morning, my husband's showers in the late afternoon before he goes to work, and the kids' baths or showers in the evening, not to mention my doing dishes at all sorts of random times and the occasional load of laundry that needs to be done with a hot wash, we need to have that sucker on all the time. However, it is set slightly below "warm" (it doesn't have actual temperatures on it), which gives just enough hot water for running the dishwasher once or a nice, loooong (escape from the "mom, mom, moms" for a few minutes) shower, as long as I don't crank the hot water on all the way for the whole time.
- Don't run the dishwasher as much. With 3-4 kids (sometimes more when neighborhood strays happen by), we end up with lots of dirty dishes and I do use the dishwasher, but I try not to abuse it. I run a "normal wash" rather than a long one and leave the "warm to dry" (or whatever it is called) off. The dang kids can use a towel to dry them off when they empty the dishwasher!
- Only do full loads. That applies to dishwasher and washing machine and it is equally valid to both, as well as the dryer. If I could, I wouldn't use the dryer at all during most of the year, but since clotheslines aren't allowed here, I suffer through it.
- Unplug things when not in use. Duh. There is a reason the news channels do stories on "energy vampires" every Halloween it seems!
- Turn off the television and read a book. A real book, not some electronic book containing device that would require energy. Well, keep your devices on long enough to read my blog, but after that, go ahead and turn them off. Someday, maybe I'll get a book or two out there for you so you have that option for my goodies. In the meantime, the library has a ton of books you can read for free (I know you'd want to buy any by me!).
- Go to bed earlier so you don't have to use as many lights at night. Okay, that one is a flat out lie. I don't do that one. I do try to get the kids to do it, but they won't go for it, kind of like that turning off the television thing.