Thursday, August 30, 2007

Electricity Challenge

Inspired yet again by Rhonda Jean I have decided to make my current "cut our spending" challenge the electricity bill. As with most frugality projects, this also has an impact on the environment so there are lots of benefits all round.

In timely fashion, our latest electricity bill arrived in the mail yesterday. As expected, it was quite a large bill. Thankfully, our usage was a little down on what we used last winter. But it was still quite a shocker. The total of the bill was $762.94!!! Our average daily usage was 45.5kWh.

I know.... :-( Thankfully winter is our worst month for electricity usage by FAR! Our usage over the rest of the year hovers closer to the 20kWh per day mark.

Interestingly enough, the topic of electricity bills has come up on a yahoo group I'm on. So there's been lots of talk about electricity usage around the place of late. So yesterday, as part of that discussion, I was contemplating why our winter electricity bill is so high.

We don't have any gas here so ALL of our power usage (other than the solar hot water system which is at it's lowest effectiveness during winter) is electricity.

The tumble dryer is 1 culprit. Once upon a time I would wait for finer days to do my washing. But now that I wash 7+ loads a week, I just don't find that practical. I need to keep up with a load a day or I get overwhelmed. We do have plans for an undercover clothes line but with starting from scratch with our own place, these things all seem to take time (and money) to get established.

By far though, I think our biggest problem is heating. We built our house in such a way that we get a wonderful lot of winter sun through the north windows during the day. Unfortunately with the bedrooms on the south side, we struggle with the temperature in the bedrooms overnight. We don't heat them all the time, only when one of us is sick. We seem to have a tendency toward asthma and croup so whenever someone gets a cold they get a horrible cough during the night and the only thing that helps is warm air. With 2 column oil heaters and a fan heater for heating the bedrooms during this time, I think that's where our biggest usage problem lies. I've seen some bedroom heaters that are very economical that I've been wanting to get for the kids rooms. Looks like I need to bump them up to a higher priority on my "to buy" list (for next winter).

While this all sounds really bad (our electricity usage I mean), we have made HUGE improvements in our electricity usage since we moved house. It used to cost us around $3000 a year in electricity. Around $900 in winter and summer and $600 in the in between seasons. The reasons for it being higher were partly due to paying for many of my FIL's older appliances (he had an outside room at our house for his own use). Installing a solar hot water system and purchasing our own fridge (we had an old one on loan at the other house) have also helped as has going to a single meter. We were paying for multiple meter readings at the other house with a separate meter for farm usage. Here the farm is all on our house meter (but it's actual usage of electricity is fairly minimal).

The first year we were in our own home, our usage dropped by almost half. Since then the bill has been creeping up a little - partly due to increasing electricity prices and partly due to the fact that I just haven't focused on trying to keep it down.

We've made a start with the $$ side of things. DH rang our electricity provider yesterday and asked if we were on the best deal they could give us and they've offered us a 5% discount on all future bills. So that's $$ in our pocket for very minimal effort. :-)

For the purpose of this challenge though, I'm going to focus on kWh's rather than $ as that seems to be the best comparison to be made. Our electricity costs, being rural, are higher per unit than some so the easiest way to compare is to focus on our actual usage in kWh's. It's also a way to measure in between bills as I can read the meter as often as I like. :-)

So, I talked to the kids the other day about doing an electricity challenge and they are all excited about the fact. We've decided that we'll begin next Monday when I've taken a second meter reading and we can use that as a comparison as to whether we're making progress with our efforts. I'm focusing on the environmental benefits rather than the $$ benefits with them. They discuss the environment quite a bit at school so it fits well with what they're learning.

For the past couple of years, we've continued to budget the $3000 that electricity was costing us at our old home and have been using our electricity savings toward paying for our solar hot water system that we installed when we built this house. Now that the costs for that
are covered, DH and I had a conversation the other day about what we might do with our electricity savings. For some time now, I've been interested in installing solar panels for our electricity use. The cost has been somewhat prohibitive for us. So DH suggested that we earmark these savings for saving up for this. I was so excited that he seems to be finally on board with the idea!!! So, that's what we'll be doing. Another "compounding" effect for both our finances and the environment!!! We save money and energy and those savings go toward the possibility of saving more money and energy in the future! :-)


Anonymous said...

I will look forward to hearing more about your electricity challenge. And great that the kids are excited about it too.

You have now given me some motivation to look at our consumption and see where we can reduce it. I'll keep you posted.


Kin said...

Good Luck! That sounds excellent, especially with the savings for solar power idea also. Great idea!

We're happy with ours at the moment, but of course it could always be lower ....

Ali said...

wooh ~ your power bill scared me, but at least for you, it's a reduction.

I am finding it interesting this week as I'm doing the electricity audit too!!

We intend to get a solar hot water heater and I have been turning the computer off for a few hrs in the day. As we have broadband I find it sits on all day long and then I'm more tempted to sit in front of it :)

lightening said...

Priscilla - look forward to hearing how you go.

Kin - there is always room for improvement in most things but it's okay to be satisfied as well.

Ali - our power bill scares me too. LOL.