For today's part of the No Impact Experiment, I was asked to look at ways to reduce my power consumption by going through each room of my house and listing everything that uses energy. I then was asked to determine if I was going to eliminate or mitigate use of that item. Rather than going through each room writing things down, I decided to look at the situation in a more holistic way by looking at my energy use systems- the lights, heat (or A/C in the summer), laundry, electronics/appliances, and water heater- and discussing each below.
The area of lighting is where I can see that I need to make changes. In my old house in Illinois, I used energy efficient CFL's in every room and this rental I am in now has recessed lighting with flood light type bulbs. Both the dining room and living room are set up so that if you flip the switch on the wall, no less than four of these lights will come on at once. They put out so much energy, that last week when it was cold in the house, I noticed a two degree rise in temperature on the thermostat in the living room about an hour after I turned the lights on. From now on, I am going to make the use of these lights off limits and use floor lamps with CFL's instead. Other than that, we are very good about keeping all unnecessary lights off and using natural lighting or even candles to light the way.
I am doing a pretty good job in regard to heating. Last week was pretty cold here with highs in the 40's and lows in the 30's and I only used my heat for a few hours around dinner time to take the chill out of the air and even then, I only heated the living room. Because our living room is zoned separately from the rest of the house, we just ran the heat in that room and hung drapes between the living room and the other rooms to keep the heat in. We left the bedrooms unheated and slept quite comfortably in our 50 degree bedrooms under down comforters. I figure as long as the low temperatures stay above freezing, we can keep the heat off in most of the house. When it does start to go below freezing, I will program our thermostat's to stay at 50 degrees all the time with the exception of the living room which I will put at 60-65 degrees when we are at home. I use a thin down sweater to help keep me warm or wrap up in a down sleeping bag when reading.
In regard to the laundry, I don't use the dryer, having given that up long ago and only do about three loads in the washing machine a week. We wear clothing over and over again and only throw it in the wash when it really needs it.
Electronics is an area where I don't know how I can change much more than I already have. While I would love to get rid of the TV and could live quite happily without it, my family enjoys watching sports and a few other shows each week. We don't own an energy hogging plasma TV so that helps keep the energy use down at least. While I could live without the TV, I would find it harder to live without the computer. I find that I am on it each morning for a few hours and could certainly do a better job of turning it off when not in use. I do turn off all electronics overnight with the use of a power strip and unplug other appliances when not in use to avoid phantom power.
The use of hot water for showers is where we could certainly make changes. I noticed that I took longer showers when the weather was colder last week and need to be more cognisant of that. Also, my 13 year old son tends to take very, very long showers. I timer of some sort would come in handy. On the upside, I only shower every other day.
This exercise was very helpful in making me notice some small changes I could make that would result in energy savings. Because I have been aware of my energy usage for a long time and have made lots of changes in this area already, I don't feel as overwhelmed as I did in the trash part of this experiment. I am glad I am blogging about this because I will have a concrete idea of what I need to work on going forward and it will be harder to walk away and go back to my old habits.