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 loads of dishes each day.  We cook the majority of our meals from scratch, using our stovetop 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.

As I wrote on Saturday, we were pretty stunned by our electric bill.  We thought we were doing pretty good here and didn’t expect the $366 electric bill we received a few days ago.  The bill came at a good time, however, as I had just finished reading an old post of Kelly’s where she gave some pretty extreme energy reducing tips.

I immediately re-read her post, and a bunch of others, and soaked up a ton of excellent, eye opening information!  When we realized how much we have been paying for convenience, like having hot water available even when we’re not using it, or having our LCD TV (which is actually our computer monitor as we don’t have cable) on stand-by all day long, we were shocked.

I was a little meter maid this weekend.  I wrote down everything in a notebook, checked the meter hourly, noted what we had turned on or off each hour, and watched the changes.  The initial changes we made brought our electric consumption down by half to about 45 KWH the first 24 hour period. And then, after a few more changes it went down by another whopping 16 KWHs to only 29 the second 24 hour period!

Under 30 KWHs a day is our initial goal and will bring our power bill down to about $90 ($.09 per KWH here) – So we’re going to work to keep it low every day with continuous monitoring and constant work to better the electric bill situation.  It doesn’t hurt that I find challenges like these fun.
And notice I said ‘initial’ goal.  I already have a secondary goal of less than $60 a month.

It does appear that the two biggest energy suckers in our house are the water heater, and the air conditioner.  Turning off just those two things for 6 hours in the middle of the day is what brought our KWH usage down by  half!

So, right now I’m going to write about how we plan to use our water heater more efficiently and frugally for our family.

The Water Heater
Did you know that your water heater continues to keep the water in the tank hot throughout the day?  It works to keep that water hot when you’re not home, when you’re sleeping, and when you’re not using it.  In our case, we figure we’re paying at least $30 a month just for the convenience of having the hot water ready on demand all the time.  If nobody was home for the month, I read it would only cost about $4 a month to keep the water heated (a little skeptical about that though).  Either way, that wouldn’t work with a family around, using the hot water on a regular basis without thinking anything of it.

Armed with this new knowledge, we ran a little experiment.  We turned the water heater off at the breaker on Saturday around noon, monitored our KWH at the meter during that time, and found that it would be quite beneficial for us to leave it off all week long, turning it back on only on Saturday afternoon for church showers.  My husband doesn’t mind cold showers, and neither do my boys.  Kait and I aren’t too keen on them, but we both shower only two or three times a week so it shouldn’t be too horrible.  Plus, I have to admit that in the warmer part of the afternoon a cold shower doesn’t sound so awful.  When we camp in the summers I often find that a cold camp shower can keep me cool for an hour or two afterwards.
Another thing we found was that the water heater kept the water hot through the evening on Saturday, even though we turned it off at noon. 

Also, if you decide to only turn your water heater on just for showers remember to allow about 45 minutes for it to heat up, depending on your tank.  Then, turn it off again at the breaker right after your shower so you don’t pay for the water to reheat.  If your concerned about the money it costs to keep the water hot verses the money it would cost to reheat it once a week, think about this –
When you take a hot shower your water heater has to reheat all the water again afterwards.  When you’re turning on the water heater in this new situation it’s using the reheating time before the shower, instead of afterwards – just so long as you remember to turn it off right after your shower.
Did I explain that clearly?  Make sense?

If you’re interested in drastically cutting your power bill, I challenge you to try this first step very soon.  Pick a 6 hour stretch of time today and monitor your KWH usage at your meter.  Then, the same time the next day turn your water heater off at the breaker and monitor your KWH usage without it.  See how much energy you use, remembering to keep a notebook with your KWH usage written down by the hour. Make notes about your findings and ideas, then talk to your husband and find out what he’s willing to give up for a month’s experiment.  In the end, it’s you and you husband who need to decide for your family what conveniences are worth what amount of money. 

Next I’ll write about air conditioning.  We’ve found that, as of right now, the convenience of keeping our house nice and cool is our biggest energy sucker, and to blame for a third of our ridiculously high power bill.

Stay tuned…

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