Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Budget: Being Energy Efficient

After getting our newest energy bill in the mail and being completely satisfied with the reduction of cost, I thought it was high time to share some of the ways that we try to save energy (and therefore money) in our home.

We haven't yet been in our house for a full year so it's hard to really compare last years' bills to this, but it is interesting to compare month-to-month. Our energy company does a great job using regional average temperatures, bar graphs, and plain-and-simple kWh usage to help me, the consumer, understand what might be effecting my bill.  From May's bill to June's current bill, we have happily cut our energy usage in half despite regional average temperatures being 6-degrees Fahrenheit higher than the previous month. Impressive, right?!  Being diligent about energy consumption has made the biggest difference.

For full disclosure reasons, I should say that when I say "we," I mean "me," -- I'm not called for the A/C Nazi* for nothing!

Ten Steps to Becoming Energy Efficient in Your Home

1. Use cold water only -- When you wash your laundry, switch the button to "cold/cold" so your water heater doesn't have to produce more heat than necessary! Your clothes will still be clean and everything will smell fresh in the end. Believe me, we have been doing this for two years.  If you have members in your household that have the nasty habit of "accidentally" using the cold/hot or warm/hot option, just do what I do -- turn the hot water spigot off behind the washing machine! Problem solved.

2. Turn off monitors/place computer in sleep mode -- It is unbelievable how hot our living room can get if we've had the television on for long periods of time. We generally prefer to watch movies at night when the house is cooler anyway, but if you must watch television during the day, try to limit your time on the tube.  On that same note, it helps if electronics (especially computers) are turned off or placed in sleep mode when not in use.  I have noticed how warm the room can feel if I have been on my laptop too long or what the office feels like when J.'s monitor has been on. If all of that heat is being generated, imagine how much energy is being used!

3. Turn off the A/C -- What is your thermostat set at? Ours is almost always off, but if turned on, we keep it at 79-80F. It's simple. Walk to your thermostat/air conditioning control unit right now and just turn it off! This will make a huge difference in your energy bill, and if you follow the next few pointers, you will realize how dependent you have become on A/C when you don't need to be at all!

4. Open windows -- Oh my gosh. This can make a huge difference when trying to naturally control your inside environment.  Even on days where it's 82F out, simply opening windows gets the air moving so it doesn't feel so stuffy inside.  Personally, it really helps my mood if blinds and windows are open, letting in natural light and air. I feel happier outdoors (and I know there are body chemical balance reasons behind that) so bring the outdoors in with you! More than likely, it will motivate you to get off your rump and do something that day! My husband has the awesome habit of opening the blinds in our bedroom before he leaves for work on my days off so it will be easier for me to wake up (sans alarm, even!) and it is motivating to hear the birds singing me a tune.

5. Turn on fans -- This goes with the point above. Fans help circulate the air, and while there is no way for the fan to physically cool the air (as J. often tells me), it really does help give you that extra breeze you need to get the cross-wind action going from the outdoors to the indoors.  I know it's not just me that finds it incredibly peaceful to fall asleep to a whirring fan. Sigh.

6. Think "cool"  -- I sincerely believe that internal temperature control begins with the mind.  I think I first heard this mantra when I was about 8-years old and in the dead of August in Florida our A/C broke. My cousin and I were walking around with our bathing suits on, sucking on ice cubes, and my aunt kept saying "think 'cool'".  It sounded ridiculous then (do any of you remember how long and thick my hair was at the age of 8??), but as an adult I can appreciate the sentiment.  If I start feeling overheated, I like to go to several other rooms in the house to compare. If one room is feeling warmer than the others, I try to figure out why (is an electronic gadget turned on? are windows closed? is the fan off? is the sun beating in through a completely open window?) and fix the problem. In the meantime, I'll stick it out in the cooler room, relax, and think "cool."  It works - you should try it!
7. Stay hydrated -- Oh my gosh, the wonders of iced water.  A few weeks ago I picked up a BOGO reusable water cup/tumbler from World Market and that bad boy and I haven't parted since.  I carry it where ever I go and it helps keep my internal body temperature in check (not proven by science, but not one part of this post is research-based, let's be honest here).  Nothing tastes better than cold water when you are hot. Delicious! But really, I think when one is better hydrated, it's more difficult for the outside environmental changes to make an extreme impact on your experience. Fill up your cup and drink!

8. Wear less clothing -- I am not saying you have to walk around your house naked (but, by all means, if you feel motivated to do so, more power to ya! -- just doesn't mesh well with my "keep windows open" rule), but take off your shoes, change into lighter and more comfortable clothing so you can relax in the beautiful environment you have created in your home. If you have long hair, put it up! There's really no excuse to turn the A/C on just because you don't want to mess up the "awesome 'do" you spent so much time on (really, your hair isn't that awesome and there are much more important things in the world).  I really enjoy wearing a house dress when I'm relaxing around the house -- less clothing, the skirt doesn't stick to your skin, and you can feel the air (presumably from the fans) on your legs. Nice! Note: I would wear muumuus, but J. put a stop to that long before we even started dating. Double sigh.
9. Spend time outdoors -- Why are you sitting in your house anyway? Is what you are doing vital to being inside? Okay, so you might have to clean up.. Well, put some athletic shorts and a tank on, clean the house up, and then take some time outdoors. Find a tree to sit under and read a book. Do some work in the yard. Ride your bike. Tend to your hydrangeas.  Whatever you do, you can probably do outside. The best part of the summer? The breezes. The birds chirping. Watching the sun get lower in the sky. Seeing the lightning bugs come out. You don't notice these things if you are cooped up inside. Seize the day!

10. Visit the library -- When you think you can't take it anymore and you have completed steps 1-9, the next best thing is to go to your local library!  A/C, a plethora of entertainment, and best of all -- it's free! You can interchange visitng the library with running errands, going to a coffee shop, or just driving around the block in your car with the A/C on (hey, this post is about energy savings in your home not your vehicle) to cool down.

The point is, it helps to be prudent about energy (and water) consumption. The resources we have been blessed with are truly gifts from God and He calls us to be good stewards of them.

Tonight, after getting home from our Bible study group meeting, our house was still 84F despite fans on and windows open. What did we do? Turn the A/C on for a brief period of time until the house cools down (it's 76F outdoors), and then we will simply turn it off and let nature do it's job!

In what ways have you found energy savings in your home?

*This is not to make light, or in anyway diminish, the horrible acts of human cruelty that occurred during WWII

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