Condo Blues: How I Slashed my Electric Bills without Moving into a Yurt

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How I Slashed my Electric Bills without Moving into a Yurt

Last March I started my own personal 20% Energy Reduction Challenge . My goal was to reduce the amount of electricity in my 1500 square foot free standing Condo used for the year by 20%.

Everything in The Condo runs on electricity except for the natural gas hot water, fireplace, and furnace.

I didn’t want to add solar panels or wind turbines to my home because they are a poor return on investment where I live. I also wanted keep all of my current non-Energy Star appliances. Everything I had still worked and it would be too costly and wasteful to replace. But most of all I wanted to see if I could meet my goals this way because a slew of Greenzillas insisted that I couldn’t do it without alternative energy and installing new energy efficient everything. I thought I could.

Of course if something broke beyond repair and had to be replaced during the challenge then I’d replace it with the energy efficient equivalent.

It’s now March 2009 and time to total my monthly results. Turns out that I didn’t make my 20% goal – I BEAT IT. I reduced The Condo’s electric use by 32% during 2008. I used an average of 15 Kwh of electricity a day, and paid only $534.00 in electricity bills for the year. All of this with Central Ohio’s wild mood swings of extreme cold winter weather and extreme hot summer weather!

During the 20% Energy Reduction Challenge project I didn’t suffer or sit alone in dark. I worked at home on a desktop computer in a home office. I still decorated The Condo with outdoor lights for Halloween and Christmas. I kept the refrigerator plugged in. Husband still cooked meals using our electric oven and stove, and I still kept washing full loads of dishes in our dishwasher. And yes, we still used our non-Energy Star central air conditioner in the summer.

How did we do it? With a lot of new habits, and less than $200 in home improvements – most of which went towards switching out the rest of our incandescent light bulbs to more energy efficient models.

  • First I did a home energy audit to get an idea how much electricity we using in 2007 so I could set realistic electricity reduction goal for 2008.

  • I switched out all but 5 our incandescent light bulbs to a variety of energy efficient light bulbs. The 5 incandescent light bulbs are the candle flame type bulbs. I tried the CFL type but switched back to the incandescent models because the candle CFLs looked like 5 little, erm, marital aids in my bedroom chandelier. I’m no prude, but the last thing I want to see before I go to sleep at night is five of those, ahem, facial massagers staring at me from the chandelier over my bed.

  • Killing the vampire power on our electronics made a significant difference in reducing our electrical use.

  • We tried to follow the one person per light per room rule . It wasn’t always possible but it made me more aware that I should turn out the lights after I leave a room.

  • I washed full loads in cold water in my used 1987 washing machine and still saved money on electricity until the washer croaked beyond repair 6 months into the project. I replaced it with a small HE washing machine and continued to wash only full loads of laundry in cold water in it.

  • For the first six months of the project I line dried laundry inside The Condo not so much as an electricity saver, but because my dryer had little dryer fires in it when I used it even though I religiously cleaned the lint trap after each use. I replaced the fire hazard dryer with the companion model to my HE washer and used it for the last six months of the project.

  • I changed how long we kept our outdoor Halloween and Christmas lights on during the evening.

  • We used our small electric kitchen appliances to cook instead of the large electric oven and stove as often as possible.

  • Installing solar shades and keeping the windows open helped cool The Condo during the summer. I also changed when and how I ran the central air conditioning.

Once our new habits took hold, saving electricity became pretty easy. If we can reduce our electrical usage this way maybe you can too. Are you up for the challenge?

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