If you've been reading my blog or following my life (via my books, interviews or magazine articles) for any length of time, you know that I can be pretty passionate about certain things. Topics related to lowering our dependence have become regular fodder for this space, and much of what I discuss is actual life experience - not just theory. We do have a, mostly, local and seasonal diet. We do raise some portion of our own food. We do line-dry our laundry - all of it, all of the time (because we don't have a dryer).
And the reason we don't have a dryer is that it uses a lot of electricity. Really. Don't believe me? If you have an electric dryer, try not using it for a month, and then, use it as per usual, and note the difference in your electric bill.
At some point, I decided to attack our usage and reduce it as far as we can. I'm sure there are things we could still do much better. Like, we could be a lot more careful with turning off computers every time they aren't being used. We could replace every electric clock. We still have some light bulbs in little-used light fixtures that probably aren't the most energy efficient varieties.
Mostly, though, we have picked all of the long-hanging fruit, and our usage is just about down as far as we can get it, without making some HUGE and drastic changes. For instance, I'd love to replace our electric stove/oven with a gas model, but then, there's the whole fact that we'd simply be trading one non-renewable energy for another, and that's not how we like to do things around here.
So, the alternative is to not use the electric stove, unless we have to, and this time of year, we don't have to. We have an alternative that costs us nothing extra, and really, depending on how we've acquired the fuel, costs nothing. This time of year, we have the woodstove, and make no mistake, I take every opportunity to use it for cooking, rather than relying on electricity.
My daughters are participating in a class sponsored by the Maine Energy Education Program (MEEP). It's been very interesting. A portion of the last two classes has been an opportunity for the kids to explore their household's actual energy usage, and what's really cool is that they can see graphs that show usage by month, week, and day, and they can see when the usage spikes and try to figure out what happened on that day, at that time, to cause the spike.
I'm probably liking it a lot more than they are.
And it's made me want to work even harder to cut our usage.
What's disturbing, however, is to note how much electricity we're using, even when we're sleeping, and that's what I'm attacking right now.
We're using around 14 kwh/day on average. We use less than a kwh per hour, except when I'm cooking with the electric oven, and so we know what the biggest user in the house is, and it's something we will have to address, because, at some point, we want to make all of our own electricity, but doing so, with an electric stove, will be unrealistic, unless we cut our usage during the day significantly. My original goal was to reduce our usage to 6kwh/day, and we're using just over twice that now.
While it's frustrating trying to figure out how to reduce even further, when we've already come so far, it's exciting - like a logic puzzle - trying to figure out things we can do to get those numbers down even further. During the month of December, I'm planning to cook more on the woodstove and see what a difference it makes - and if it goes well, that might just been all the incentive we need to really work on a summer kitchen.
I'm thankful to the mom who organized the MEEP class, because she got me back to thinking about this issue in a more action-oriented mindset than I've been in for a long time, and I'm very thankful for the tools the class has given me that will allow me to really monitor what we're using, and to see where we're making gains, and where we're failing miserably.
It's going to be fun ... and we'll probably be eating many fewer baked goods ... unless we (finally) build or buy an oven to go on top of my woodstove.
I wonder if I know anyone who knows anyone who works with sheet metal ....