January 16, 2013

December kWh Report

Our electric bill for December arrived the other day. I have to admit I wasn't too sure what to expect when I pulled it out of the mailbox. While it wasn't quite as good as last month, it was incredibly better than December 2011.

Our daily average for last month, December 2012, was 17.35 kWh. That's a little more than November's 15 kWh per day average, but compared to last year, it is an amazing difference. Last December, we averaged 47 kWh per day. That's a 63% decrease one year later.

We continue to do all the electricity saving measures I mentioned in my November kWh report. A space heater likely accounts for the increase from November. For the most part December was fairly mild, until the temperatures took a nosedive the weekend after Christmas. It was rainy too, which meant I used the electric dryer more than I like.

I credit the decrease from 2011 primarily to our wood heat stove and wood cookstove (for both cooking and heating.) In addition to not having to use the electric range and heat pump much, we also no longer have to use the electric heater in the kitchen bathroom, because the cookstove heats the back of the house so beautifully.

Cooking potato pancakes & applesauce on the wood cookstove.

Last year I tried to figure out a way to balance using the heat pump and the wood heater, but our electric bills were still way too high. This winter, we have been using wood for heating and cooking, and you can see the difference.

Our electric heat pump is our biggest energy gobbler. In 2011 for example, we used the heat pump during both summer and winter. During the spring and fall of that year, when it wasn't used, we averaged about 18 kWh per day. That was before we installed the wood cookstove, so usage of my electric stove is included in that average. In summer, with the air conditioning and thermostat set at 82° F, average usage jumped to about 30 kWh per day. In winter, with the heat pump on and thermostat set in the low 60s, we averaged about 50 kWh per day. And that's with an energy star qualified unit! And as if to rub salt on the wound, we were still cold!

Riley sprawled in front of the wood heat stove, warming his belly.

I do not do all my cooking on the cookstove. "Big" baking is done with the electric oven. Friday night pizza for example, because my pizza stone does not fit in my cookstove's small oven. Also baking projects where I have two baking sheets in the oven at the same time.

I admit I don't expect January's average usage to be so good. This will mostly be due to keeping a space heater in the hall bathroom while we work with things like wall paint, stain, ceiling tile adhesives, thinset, floor tile mortar, etc. All these materials require a minimum temperature that the room cannot achieve without a heat source. Still, this is an example of choosing to use electricity as a tool, not as a necessary dependency. Because of that I'll feel like it was money usefully spent. I'll also be please with whatever savings we can manage.

December kWh Report © January 2013 


Ngo Family Farm said...

Wow, those numbers are amazing!! With no woodstove (yet!), we're still very dependent on electricity and natural gas. I do save quite a bit by not using the clothes dryer very much, though. And we don't watch TV or have a dishwasher, so I think these things save us some as well. Every little bit helps :)

Judy said...

New windows, doors and more insulation are all big savers, too. I am curious though, as you button up your house, how are you and Dan planning to provide fresh air to sustain combustion for your wood stoves?

Dani said...

Well done Leigh! You've assessed where your power usage is highest, and are taking steps to, as you so rightly say' "use electricity as a tool, not a necessary dependency" and thereby reduce your dependence and requirement of that luxury which so many see as a right and modern convenience, instead of a privilege.

The Cranky said...

Amazing difference; I'm so looking forward to getting our woodstove next year.

Leigh said...

Jaime, anything that produces heat (or cool) really requires a lot of electricity! We've had so much rain for the past two weeks that I've had to use my dryer as well. It's old and not very efficient either. But as you say, every little bit helps!

Judy, very good question. We discussed that issue when we had long time ago plans to build. With this draughty old house however, a fresh air source hasn't even come up. Not sure if we'll live long enough to see the whole house air tight!

Dani, thanks! I've come to realize that electricity, like money needs a proper place in the mindset of our lives. And balance! We humans have a hard time with that, LOL.

Jacqueline, it's tough because we have to stay warm. It's not like we can opt to freeze all winter. The flip side to the woodstove is having enough wood!

Sandy Livesay said...


It's so amazing to have your electric bill substantially less than before. Understandably, you still need to heat an area where warmth is needed to complete work (bathroom). Having a woodstove makes a world of difference in many aspects. I would rather have the woodstove and only use my electric when absolutely necessary. When baking and not able to use the woodstove to do so because of the size of the pan, the alternative.....use the electric oven :-) Eventually in the future things will be different allowing for more savings,for now do what works for you :-)

Farmer Barb said...

For a smaller stone, have you tried the ceramics supply houses? They have fire brick that will usually break apart to shape with a chisel and a hammer. Just a thought.

Renee Nefe said...

Those numbers sound wonderful to me!

The other day while doing laundry I fussed over having to use the dryer because it was too cold and wet outside to line dry. But then I realized that I was heating the house with the dryer and saving on the gas (I know it's cheaper though). But my plans for this summer are to have lines just outside the laundry room door and take advantage of the heat outside.

Laura said...

I wasn't here last December (when we also had a cold snap), but I know that when I use my electric forced air that my bill goes up (duh). I've been trying to keep its use to a minimum, relying on my wood stove and a fan to move warm air to the back end of the house. I live in a 14 x 67 Old mobile home, so it's a straight line, which makes it easier. November's bill was a little over $70 - I had basically run out of wood, or was lazy and ran the heater more. For December, I had been more reliant on the wood stove, and had the heater set at 50 (the lowest it will go). Lately, when I get up to stoke up the fire, I've been upping it to 60 to help the fire get over the deficit faster. It will be interesting to get my bill, which will be here in a couple of days. It's been very, very cold here for the last 3-4 weeks, with single digit lows and not breaking freezing during the day. We're now in a warming trend (yay, I think) and may finally lose all the snow. Still freezing at night, but in the 40's during the day will feel like summer!!

luckybunny said...

Yes, any savings are great savings for sure. This is really interesting. Excellent you've been able to do this!

Florida Farm Girl said...

I've never tried cooking on a wood stove, although I grew up with a grandmother who did -- one of those huge things.

Good for you, reducing the kilowatts used. For the size of our house, it's not too bad here. We try to do the little things we can.

Mama Pea said...

Isn't it great to see that you're going in the right direction? That's said a little tongue-in-cheeck 'cause I well know how much time and effort it takes to get set up the way you want. Some things we've tried just haven't worked and we feel like we've taken a couple of steps backward. Up until this year when we got another wood stove installed in the living room, we had to heat that part of the house with an L.P. furnace in the basement. Not only was the basement too warm, but the darn thing guzzled gas like crazy. This year we've used so little L.P. gas we feel giddy! Little by little, step by step . . . we'll all get there!

DebbieB said...

I love that you can CHOOSE whether or not to use electricity. You've really cut down your usage, and the expense that goes with it!

Leigh said...

Sandy, it is an amazing cut, more than I thought it would be! Often times I can use my toaster oven for baking, which helps too. I still use my bread machine too, another energy savings over the electric stove. :)

Barb, true confession. I actually have a smaller pizza stone! We just like having a large pizza, so there are some leftovers. :)

Renee, that's exactly how you have to look at it - dual purpose! And who doesn't love the freshness of line dried laundry.

Laura, I don't envy your cold weather. I complain with lows only in the 20s. I know you'll find the right balance with the two heaters.

Donna, about a $150 savings!

Sue, this house is so draughty that it's hard to keep it warm. Our new windows and insulation in the walls do help. I agree that we do the little things that we can because they do add up to a big difference.

Mama Pea, yes! And I can so relate about the feeling of going backwards sometimes. We felt like that when we put the HVAC unit in. On the other hand, I'm glad we didn't try to invest instead in solar. We can go for weeks without sun and I suspect we'd be just as cold as with the HVAC!

Debbie, I love being able to choose too! I think that's really a bottom line for us, not being dependant. And that in turn leaves us money to invest in things like better windows and more insulation! Win-win. :)

NancyDe said...

We have the highest utility costs in the nation, where I live. We significantly cut down with hanging our clothes (under a roof, because it rains ALL the time - 220 inches a year, heating our water with a heat pump style water heater as well as solar water heating, and using photovoltaic panels to generate some electricity, and having a gas stove top). I would still like to cut more, though. We're lucky not to have to heat our house very often - and we do have a fireplace with piping to circulate heat. Good job on what you've done!

Unknown said...

got to love the woodstove, we use ours all winter, and in summer we only cook on the BBQ, I hardly ever use the electric stove now :)

Unknown said...

Good for you! I keep bugging my hubby to get a small woodstove for us, but he's a no-go. I'm not done working on him yet :) We always have tree trimmings, lots of free wood available...

Benita said...

But think how much better next year will be.

Nothing feels as warm as a real fire. I grew up in a house that had a fireplace in the living room with a heatilator and blowers. Coming home from school on a cold winter day, we'd build the fire back up and let it get hot while bringing in more wood and doing the rest of our chores. Then, after supper and dishes, one or the other of us (whoever beat the other to the fireplace) would toast our toes on the hearth and take a nap. Ahhh....

I also remember rolling a piece of cheese up in a slice of bologna and roasting it on the hot dog prongs to hold us over until supper. That was a wonderful treat.

Sue said...

It is fun to compare, and my electric company makes it easy by putting a bar graph of the last year, plus the actual numbers for the current month and last year same month.

Like Laura (who's a friend), I live in an old mobile home (mine is a double wide). I heat exclusively with wood, and shut off all the bedrooms except mine (all the kids are grown). Some heat makes it back to my bedroom, but not much (I have a heated mattress pad, so my bed is warm). And, following your example, it was fun to look at an old bill (I had November). My usage when up a bit - 22 kWH/day to 28, but not bad considering mine is an all electric house. Keep up the good work!

Leigh said...

NancyDe, I cannot imagine all that rain. We've had it every day this week so far, and over 2 inches today. Too much!

Liz, we love to cook on our BBQ in summer too! I dabbled a bit with solar cooking last summer, and would like to do more of that. Last summer we had a lot of rain and too many cloudy days.

Nancy, show him the kind with a see through window like a fireplace! That's the kind we have and we love it.

Benita, I love that story. What a great memory. You are so right about wood heat. It's the best. I'll have to get some bologna to try that idea too.

Sue, it's only fun if I do better. :) I'd have to say that for an all electric mobile home, that's pretty good. Those are tough to heat and cool.

Brenda said...

Just joined your blog today and recommended you to my cousin as well. There is such a great assortment of Ontario living ideas in here that I ought to be busy reading for a very long time!
I did see in your goals a plan to build a new chicken coop... you may enjoy the "play by play" in an earlier blog in TheArtofDoingStuff. Karen is in Toronto and has made her own incredible looking coop. Just a thought.
I look forward to catching up and learning as I go along. Thanks for sharing your life.
Cheers from Oshawa Ontario

Julene said...

Your report has spurned quite a bit of talk around our house! Something must be done..further to bring our numbers down. Thanks for the information because it is so helpful.

Laura @ LivingOurWay said...

Great job on saving electricity. I really wish we could do wood heat and cooking but due to respiratory problems we can't :-(. I am seriously gathering supplies for a solar cooker though and can't wait to try it.