Monday, May 16, 2011

Minimizing our Footprints

Most of my life, I have dreamed of living “off the grid.”  I wanted to live out in the country with a few acres of land, a little cabin, a goat for milk, chickens running around and eating whatever I grew and canned.  At the age of 30, I have come to enjoy marriage and the modern conveniences of our home.  That being said, I would still like to attempt to live “off the grid” in terms of our dependency on fossil fuels.

Our home is situated on an acre of land.  There are no gas lines in our area, so we use propane to heat our home along with a wood burning fireplace.  I do not like how much we are paying each month for the use of electric, nor do I like how much we use. A few years ago, I invested in a meter that plugs into outlets that will tell you how much each appliance or gadget uses in electricity.  It was fun to use, but somehow burnt out. 

I did a personal audit of our electric bill to determine how much electricity we use.  The numbers were surprising.

On average, we use:

  • 38 kwh / day
  • 1,144 kwh / month
  • 13,733 kwh / year

I am not sure how this compares “on average”, but these numbers are astonishing to me.  I would like these numbers to be lower by half over the next couple of years.

We are aware that our home is inefficient and we have many projects planned in the future to help make it more efficient.  They include:

·        Energy-Saving “Conserve” Switches and Power Cords
·        Hang laundry on the line more often
o     I love the retractable laundry line I got for Christmas two years ago: it has two lines so I can hang two loads at the same time!
·        Install more insulation in the attic
·        Heat / Cool only the rooms we are using when we are using them
o     Air conditioning unit is only in our bedroom and is turned on about an hour before bedtime
o     Ceiling fans keep the rest of the house cool
o     Keep the thermostat low and heat only the rooms we are using (we do this a lot with propane logs in the Family Room)
·        Replace windows
o     We have replaced two windows since we moved in
o     We would like to replace a couple of windows every year
·        Replace hot water tank
o     Our home came with a (broken) 80 gallon hot water tank.  Hubby fixed it for less than $50 and we have yet to replace it.
o     Our home has only 1 bathroom: 80 gallon hot water tank is complete over-kill
o     Looking forward to a 30-40 gallon tank and the energy savings!

I have been interested in solar panels since we moved into our home; however, the cost to minimize our electric usage today would be upwards of $20,000.  We bought our house, a foreclosure in desperate need of repair, for $35,000.  I have a hard time justifying $20,000 in solar panels.  My thought process is that if we do the little updates to our home as mentioned above, we can lower the amount of electricity we require to run our home, in turn, lowering our cost for solar panels in the future. 

This blog is linked to the Homestead Barn Hop!  Please come and join us!

Have you done an energy audit on your home?
If so, what do you plan on doing to make it more efficient?


  1. It's so difficult when you need to invest first before you get the benefits.... We are in the position of our house and water being heated by oil. I dislike this fact sooooo much, and we'd love a solid-fuel stove to do our heating (we live on the Isle of Lewis, and could cut peats for our year's supply of heat - a lot of work over the summer, but free fuel for the rest of the year). But our problem is the initial outlay of the stove and the pipework we'd need to change. I know it would pay itself back in around 5 years so it would be *so* worthwhile, but it's finding the few thousand pounds Right Now..... Decisions, decisions! x

  2. I have been thinking of different ways to do this myself. New windows and doors are a must here. Also getting rid of so many things that plug in. I am going to take a look at the conserve switches also. I have considered an attic fan as the upstairs gets extremely hot in the summer. This year we are trying to go as long as we can without using the air conditioner. We are also getting our wood stove prepared for the winter along with a supply of wood as we are hoping to use that to heat the house and use the heat as little as possible. Check out No Impact Man if you haven't already.

  3. I am in an 1860s house, with still some of the original breezy single pane windows, being heated by fuel oil. We have learned to hang heavy tapestries over the windows in winter and every door has a draft stopper. There is no A/C in our plans. As others have said, it is the initial cost of improvements that make them difficult, even when you do much of the work yourself.
    Simple things like unplugging appliances and phone chargers when not in use make a big difference. I am guilty of leaving the tv on when I leave a room, but I often don't turn on lights until far after dark.
    Each of us has our quirks and preferences. Education to make smart choices is key.

  4. Sounds like you have good plans!! :D Can't wait to hear how you can cut your bills! With 6 kids I don't even want to think about what we're using, but we did do without using the heater for the winter and just used the fireplace and that was a savings. Now if we could just go w/out! Too hot for that! :)
    Have a great day! Love reading your blog!!--S

  5. We're a family of 7 and I think on our last electric bill we used an average of 29 kwh daily. Of course, we don't have any AC running right now. We only install them in the bedrooms when the heat is incredibly obnoxious in the summer.

    I highly recommend trying line drying. My dh built a fabulous outside clothesline. I'm sure line drying has helped a lot with our electric bill.

  6. Well this really got me to thinking so I pulled up my prior electric bills and I was shocked at how much electricity we use!

    2009 - Avg 48.277 (245 days 18828 kwh)
    2010 - Avg 49.368 (364 days 17970 kwh)
    2011 - Avg 42.81 (120 days 5138 kwh)

    In 2010 we did not use the wood stove at all due to the chimney not being cleaned out. I really hope to get this number down.

  7. Vicki,

    Your home is strictly electric. We heat with propane and our numbers arent off by too much! Not to mention, you have many more people living there than we do!

    The only thing we can do is make small changes. We'll get there...eventually. :-)