December 21, 2012

November kWh Report

Earlier this year I took a preliminary look at the feasibility of us getting off-grid. Even though my conclusions were not promising, we have nonetheless continued to work toward being less dependent on our electric company, even if we can't be independent at this time.

With winter arriving, I have been curious as to how our changes will effect our electrical usage. Our first winter we froze because our newly installed wood heater (our only source of heat at the time), was located in the front of the house and was unable to get heat to the back of the house (which was poorly insulted back then). By the following winter our electric air source heat pump was installed, and I tried to figure out a way to keep costs down by using both. True, the kitchen and back bathroom were warmer, but our electric bill skyrocketed. Finally in January we got the wood cookstove installed in the kitchen.

This winter we decided to only use the heat pump occasionally, in mildly chilly weather. It becomes increasingly less efficient as the outdoor temperature drops, often blowing cold air out the registers. Then the auxiliary heat strips finally kick in, which really guzzle down the electricity. The goal is to avoid that.

The other day I paid November's electric bill and was pleased that compared to last year, our kilowatt hours had been cut by more than half. Weatherwise, temperatures were about the same but last year, November's electric use average was 33 kWh. This November, we averaged 15 kWh per day. I think that's pretty good for an all electric house.

That daily 15 kWh was for:
  • electric lights, used only as needed & all energy efficient type bulbs
  • 2 refrigerators (one energy star rated)
  • 1 chest freezer (energy star rated)
  • ceiling fans to circulate heat from the wood stoves
  • fan at night for "white noise" (barking dogs & the occasional zooming car)
  • 2 LED night lights with switches to turn off during the day (I got rid of the ones with light sensors)
  • computer
  • occasional use of power tools
  • occasional use of electric dryer on rainy days
  • occasional use of electric stove when I don't cook on wood cookstove, and for canning
  • occasional use of toaster oven
  • occasional use of bread machine 
  • rare use of the electric skillet
  • rare use of the little hand mixer I got for shelling cowpeas
  • rare use of crock pot or slow cooker (wood cookstove is excellent at this)
  • occasional use of heat pump, for mildly chilly days
  • vacuum cleaner a couple times per week 
  • television for watching DVDs a couple nights per week
  • radio when Dan's home
  • electric water heater, mostly for showers because I use heated water from the cookstove water reservoir for washing dishes when I can
  • morning coffee, otherwise I keep a kettle on one of the woodstoves and use a coffee press or tea pot

Something else I've been doing is to unplug things that aren't in use (that teeny digital clock on the coffee pot is worthless anyway). We put the TV and DVD player on a surge protector, so they are easy to turn off with a flip of a toggle switch. I turn off the computer at night. Another thing that has helped, has been not having to use the electric heater in the kitchen bathroom when we shower, because the wood cookstove keeps the bathroom nice and warm as well.

We do not use home heating oil, natural gas, propane, kerosene, etc., so to me, this is a significant indicator of successful lifestyle changes. I don't mind saying that I'm mighty pleased.

See also:
December kWh Report

November kWh Report © December  2012 


A. Wright said...

I've been considering these Belkin conserve power switches. My only hesitation is, is it worth the price per outlet? Not sure if you've looked at them. I think they could be good for the washing machine and a few other items we do leave plugged in but only use occasionally. They also make a timed one, for example it turns off after 30 mins or so.. great for the coffee pot.

Dani said...

Well done Leigh.

The more we share how easy it is to save electricity, hopefully the more people will be encouraged to "simplify" their lives.

LOL I notice their is no mention of an iron. I HATE ironing, and if shirts needed to be ironed RMan did his own. On the farm we don't have the energy to run the iron, so iron free shirts are the order of the day. Plus - the energy used ironing sheets is, in my opinion, a complete waste. As soon as you lie on the freshly ironed sheets they re crumpled and wrinkled. So, why bother in the first place.

Well done - more than 50% saving on last year is an excellent achievement!

Tombstone Livestock said...

Stay warm, Stay dry and Merry Christmas, I'm glad the Mayans were wrong.

Off-Grid Homestead said...

Hello! Happy to meet you! I just joined your blog..
we are also in the process off taking our home off the power grid and should be clipping the power line this July..:)
Is your water heater electric?? I only ask because that is probably your biggest energy sucker in your home... tv lights, etc,, use minimal amounts,, and are things you dont really have to do away with!
we just hooked up our cookstove to our hot water, so its supplying all our hotwater right now,,, and its made a HUGE impact! we are down to about 8kwh a day...but for the solar array we purchased still have some work to do...
IM guessing you dont have a washer or dryer...
anyhow, just a thought! we ditched our chest freezer to ( I dont think ours was energy efficient though) and just can everything.. I have a small freezer with the fridge.. :)
good luck!!!
what size solar array do you plan on getting?? that will help you decide how much electricity you need to cut to.

Woolly Bits said...

even if you're not able to go off totally, I'd say every saving is a step in the right direction! we have been trying to use less every year, and so far we have managed to do so. the trouble is, by now we've come to the point where it's next to impossible to save more, unless we really cut our lifestyle, like "no washing mashine, no computer etc.". but at least we managed to save enough to not pay more, even though the price has been rising for years:)
I hope you'll have a cozy, warm - and happy christmas:)


Sandy Livesay said...

Hi Leigh,
I see you've been cutting corners to help save on the electric bill. Just a suggestion, if you have extra space in your freezer. Add filled water jugs (I used cleaned out milk jugs). This will stop your freezer from cycling off and on to keep any open space in your freezer cold. When you need the space in your freezer, remove the water jug. This has saved us some money with our freezer. Like you we also have placed our major electronics on surge protectors. Every small appliance we pull the plug. We've also gone as far as resealing all the windows and around the doors.

Leigh said...

A. Wright, interesting device. Not expensive but I have to join you in wondering if even that cost is worth it. Since the switch is right there at the outlet, I'm not sure how it's better than simply unplugging (which is what we currently do). It would relieve having to figure out what to do with the cord. Our surge protectors have a switch too, so that's good for multiple cords, such as our TV & DVD player. Unfortunately there are a lot of gizmos out there that sound good, but whose best purpose seems to be making the seller money, LOL

Dani, thanks! I didn't even think about ironing! Which is rather tell-tale, isn't it. ;) I don't know if we'll do as well for December, but at least we're heading in the right direction.

TL, me too, LOL.

Jaime, welcome and thank you for following! As I mentioned in the post, our hot water heater is electric. Happily we save quite a bit with the reservoir on our wood cookstove. On the to-do list for summer use, is a solar hot water heater.

At this time we have no plans to go completely solar. Cost is one reason, but especially because we can have extended periods without sun. Our 1st winter here we went close to 3 months without a sunny day. This past summer we had a lot of rain and hence a lot of cloudy days. Solar electric would be limited at best, so we don't see the point in such a huge investment.

Dan is considering other things, but that will be a few years down the road.

Bettina, well there's always a hand washer. :) Rising cost of electricity is one of our motivators as well. In the end, it does all boil down to lifestyle changes doesn't it?

Sandy, we do that too! I figure freezing jugs of water is also a way to store water for emergencies. :) We are finding that our window and door upgrades as we remodel are making a huge difference. That and insulation (of which this house has scant.) It's worth it in the long run.

Michelle said...

That is impressive! I wish I could say the same for ours. It just seems to creep up every year. I am hoping for a teensy improvement this year because it's our first winter with our ventless propane heater instead of the forced centralized air propane furnace.

Ngo Family Farm said...

Wow, very impressive! Our heat right now is gas, which is a bit less expensive than electricity here. Electric prices have soared this year it seems. When I quit using the clothes dryer (which is even energy star rated), I noticed a significant savings each month. I think not having a dishwasher also saves a fair amount. I like that you made a list of every single thing that uses electricity - I think I'll do that and see where we could cut back more, too :)

Leigh said...

Michelle, I agree about zone versus centralized heating. Funny how central heat and air was "the thing" at one time. Now they're going to "zone." We have a couple of radiator type space heaters that we plan to use when the weather gets really cold. In fact I'm huddled up to one right now since our temps dipped into the 20s and my computer is in a virtually uninsulated room. I know that means December's kWh will be higher than November, but it's got to be better than running that stupid heat pump. ;)

Jaime, my husband says that energy star simply means they turned down the thermostat setting on the dryer, LOL. At least I have the option to use the clothesline in good weather.

I'm not impressed with my energy star fridge and freezer. The seals on both are terrible which means they accumulate ice. And the fridge freezer is supposed to be frostless! I didn't think about the dishwasher 'cuz we don't have one. :) Saving electricity and water both were the reasons for that.

Theresa said...

Winter is a killer electricity wise. The short days mean lights on longer but the biggest drain, the heated water buckets for the horses and donkeys and let's not forget the electric fence, which by most standards is pretty thrifty.
It would take us years to pay back the cost of another type of fencing for the large paddock.
Good for you for cutting down!!!

DebbieB said...

Leigh, you've done a terrific job at making those lifestyle changes - they seem to be just drops in the bucket, but add up to a whole rainbarrel of savings, don't they?

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

Great to hear!

Karen said...

Congrats! It's amazing how much you can cut your power bill by just being more "aware". I'm in Florida, also in an all-electric house (except for our stove which is propane) and the summer months kill us with running the A/C. This summer I tried running the A/C only at night. First thing in the morning I shut it off and opened the house up. I was amazed at how cool the house stayed until late afternoon. It was August before I had to close the house up in the early afternoon and run the air, and by mid September I was back to nights only. I saved about $125-$150 per month! So far this winter the heater has only been turned on one time - today. We're getting over being spoiled by perfect temps all the time and dressing for the weather.

Leigh said...

Theresa, interesting about the electric fence. We've thought about it specifically for subdividing pastures, but haven't gone any farther than that. It might be something to consider solar for, though I notice those systems are more expensive. Still, as you say, it's more economical than other types of fencing.

Debbie, it's true, they really are fairly small changes. The biggest thing is habit. It's just as easy to make coffee with the French press, but I have to remember to put the kettle on. Too easy to just use the electric coffee maker. Fortunately, habits can be changed. :)

Cloud, thanks!

Karen, that's an amazing savings. There are a number of things that can keep the house cooler like you say. Amazingly, we find our A/C cheaper to run than the heater on our HVAC. Close to double the cost in winter (which is why we're not using it this year!). It's true though, that we do get used to certain house temps. But it's also true we can get over it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Leigh,
Great job on kutting your kilowatt usage! (pun intended).

One expensive option you can install is a timer on your electric water heater. If you have a pretty set routine, you can set it to come on a couple of hours before needed and shut off during the evening or during "off" hours.

Have a blessed Christmas day!

T in Deep East Texas

Anonymous said...

Oops, that should have been 'inexpensive' option.

T in Deep East Texas

Leigh said...

T in Deep East Texas, thank you for the visit and comment! My in-laws manually turned off their water heater for many years, thinking it saved them $$. When they stopped doing that, they discovered that they actually saved money by leaving the water heater's thermostat alone. It took more electricity to heat the cool water than to maintain a constant temp.