About That Electric Bill – the air conditioner
In recent days I’ve been reading an abundance of energy saving tips, testing them out each day to find areas where we can make the biggest changes and greatly decrease our energy usage. Why have I suddenly become aware of our electricity consumption? It was thanks to a very recent $366 electric bill that we expected to be around $200 (YIKES!). I’m blogging about what I’m learning here, and how we’ve been able to implement changes to drastically reduce our kilowatt hour usage to help us soon achieve our goal of regular monthly electric bills under $100 for our family of 10. If you’re interested in our challenge and you’ve missed the beginning of the “About That Electric Bill” series, view my first installments here:
Part 2: The Water Heater
First, let me give you some specifics to give you an idea on our family and energy use situation. We live in an 1800 square foot house that is nicely shaded by trees in northeast Florida. We have a family of 10 (almost), we do about 2 to 3 loads of laundry each day in a front loader, and 2 to 3 sinkfuls of dishes each day. We cook the majority of our meals from scratch, using our stove top and oven quite often, with the exception of sandwiches for lunch a few days per week. We homeschool and are here the majority of each day.
Air conditioning is the single most costly electric convenience in the warmer months for the average household – at least in the more southern parts of the country. This is so true for my family. To find out how much energy the A/C actually uses, we did the same experiment that we did with our water heater. We turned it off, and watched the meter for a few hours. Then, we turned it back on in the evening and watched the meter again. We discovered that our home’s air conditioning takes up about a third of my families electricity use. That means that it costs my family a whopping $120 a month to keep our home at a constant comfortable temperature of 76 degrees.
Because it’s Fall now and our average daily temperature is around 87 degrees, it’s a really good time of year for us to experiment with leaving the A/C off for the majority of the day. Yes, it still gets warm but it’s no longer unbearable.
And, because we have lived without A/C in the past during our 4 years in the northern part of the United States, I’ve already learned a lot of ways to help keep a non air-conditioned house from getting overly warm.
- Heavy dark curtains. Window dressings aren’t always cheap, so try king sized flat sheets and double them if they’re thin. If you sew you may be able to get multiple curtains made out of just one king sized flat sheet. You can also purchase a fabric glue – I think it’s called Liquid Stitch or something. You can use that to sew edges when you aren’t much for sewing.
- Fans. Use them to keep air circulating . Remember, however, that fans cool down people, not rooms. Turn them off when you leave the room.
- Ice water. Drink it throughout the day. Lots of it.
- Cold showers. Taking a cold shower during the hottest hour of the day really helps. Stand in the cold water for as long as you can bare it. It will keep you cool for an hour or more!
- Lights off. Keep all lights off unless you’re using them. You’d be surprised at how much light bulbs can heat up a room.
- Time your cooking. Try not to use your range during the warmest time of the day. In fact, the crock pot uses less energy and you can stick it in the garage while it’s cooking to keep it’s heat out of your home, so you may want to look into making more crock pot meals until the weather cools off a bit more.
- Open windows. During the cooler parts of the morning open windows to let the cooler air in, then close them up once it starts to warm up.
- Unplug your computer and TV. Computers are major heat producers, so shut them off when you’re not using them. Also, I’ve heard the same thing about plasma TVs.
Jesse (20 months) is what we call a human heater and he can. not. sleep. if he is sweaty. For his comfort and my sanity, what we have decided to do while we acclimate ourselves is turn the air on for just a few hours in the evening. Once cooled our house seems to stay comfortable enough through the night. We’ve found that the air conditioner uses an extra 2 to 3 KWHs per hour (depending on how warm it is), so after evaluating each individual day’s electricity use we’ll decide how long to leave the A/C on in the evenings, if we turn it on at all.
Regulating our water heater and air conditioner use only gets us half way to our goal however, and are only part of our electricity challenge. My next post on the subject will talk about the seemingly small things, which have added up to enormous savings in just the last 3 days of applying some changes.
Till then, If you’re struggling with opening your electric bill each month, I challenge you to get to work learning about your water heater and A/C usage. Talk to your husband, make some decisions based on what will work for your family, and get ready for my next post!
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