I decided that I needed to look at my utilities again instead of assuming I can’t do anything about them. The fact we can always make changes, some more drastic than others, if we’re willing to take the time to look.
I thought I would look at the ways I use electricity to see if I could reduce, replace, or eliminate usage. I’m using the PECO Energy Smart Choice site to do my energy audit; you can check with your local electrical company to see what they have available. Looking at the energy usage chart on this page, heating and space conditioning typically use the most energy, with water heating behind at 15% and refrigerators and freezers the third largest, running between 6 and 15%.
Heating and Space Conditioning
Our house is heated by an oil-fired furnace that uses electricity to ignite. As I’ve mentioned before, the furnace is ancient – about 30 to 40% efficient – and needs replacing. We’re savings towards a new energy-efficient oil furnace. In the meantime, we use a programmed thermostat to run the furnace in the winter. We keep the house at 67 during the day and 58 at night.
We don’t have central air. However, during the summer, we do run individual air conditioners in the bedrooms when the Philly weather gets abysmally hot and humid. The second floor bedrooms in particular need air conditioning. We have a whole house fan that we run at night during the summer which helps. We try to put off installing the air conditioners as long as possible, and we take them out of the bedrooms as soon as we can. We also keep the temperature on the air conditioners pretty high, about 80, when we run them.
We have 2 places we heat water with electricity – the laundry room and the kitchen (the dish washer). Since clothes washers use the most energy to heat water, I need to look at how I wash clothes and other items. The only time I use warm water to wash is when I’m doing whites and lights. I do this type of load twice a week. Typically, I use warm water with Shaklee’s Nature Bright whitener and let the load soak overnight. Switching to a cold soak overnight would save heating 8 loads each month.
Other than upgrading to a more energy efficient dishwasher at some point, there isn’t much I can do about making our dishwasher more energy efficient. I’ll have to look elsewhere for savings.
Refrigerators and Freezers
As a family of seven, we need a larger refrigerator to accommodate more food. When our 12 year old fridge finally died last year, we went with a GE Profile side by side fridge. Side by side fridges are less energy-efficient than fridges with the freezer on the top. However, our needs as a larger family were more important than energy efficiency. We needed a fridge that could hold 4 to 5 gallons of milk, and other larger containers.
For about 5 years, we’ve had a 20 cubit foot freezer in the basement. It’s more expensive to run than a chest freezer, but again, as a larger family, the upright freezer model works better for us. Last year, when we were having issues with our freezer, we bought a second 20 cubit foot upright freezer. Despite adding $60 on to our electric bill yearly, the additional freezer has become extremely useful. We use it to hold additional produce from our vegetable garden plus storing extra milk during the summer. However, when we used up a lot of our frozen produce, we turned one freezer off and moved the rest of the food to the original freezer. We’ll be turning the second freezer back on this month.
This category covers the dryer, the toaster oven, the convection oven/microwave, mixer, bread machine, yogurt maker, crockpot, and the stove.
I’ve already eliminated the dryer from our regular routine. I occasionally use it in the winter to help dry the sheets and diapers, but that’s really it. The washing machine is another story since I typically do 3 loads every day. Twice a week I wash the cloth diapers and covers; this load will go away when I potty train my 3 year old. I do need to use hot water to wash the cloth diapers for sanitation purposes, and I use a cold rinse.
Our stove is a gas one; however, I prefer to use the convection oven/microwave if I have one thing to bake. If I got back into the routine of making a double batch of bread weekly using the sponge method, I could eliminate using the mixer, the bread machine and the convection oven.
I love using the crockpot and yogurt maker to make our yogurt weekly. If it weren’t for these tools, I would constantly mess up the yogurt. Using the crockpot is so easy, and I have so much leeway in moving the new yogurt into the yogurt maker for incubating that I would never give it up.
We use the convection oven/microwave a lot in our home. This is one area where we could definitely cut back both for the budget and for health reasons. Typically we use the microwave at dinner time to quickly warm up leftovers. When I’m baking, I’ll melt the butter or heat the water in the microwave instead of doing it on the stove. Using the stove would involve some extra cleanup depending on which pan I choose.
Next week I’ll take a look at the rest of the items in PECO’s energy usage breakdown.
Previous Posts in the Series:
Thrifty Thursday at Coupon Teacher and Frugal Friday at Life as Mom
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