25 Apr

Where We’re Starting on Home Energy Use

meter

Before we embark on this journey toward a more sustainable suburban homestead, we need to establish where we’re starting in terms of our energy usage. After all, if we have a goal of cutting our energy usage by 50% over the next two years, we need to know how much energy we’re using now and what it costs us to keep the lights on.

So here are some specifics on our situation and a little background on our baseline energy consumption.

  • House Built  in 1972
  • Brick and Frame Construction
  • 2200 SF Ranch with full, partially finished basement
  • 4 Bedrooms / 2 Baths
  • Air conditioner over 20 years old
  • Water Heater over 15 years old
  • Furnace over 20 years old
  • We recently (in the last 5 years) had more insulation blown into the attic
  • The windows were replaced in 1988 with double paned models
  • 2 Occupants (Me and my husband)

We both work from home and therefore are both at home all day using energy.  The house is unusually dark, aligned with most of the windows facing either directly north…or south with substantial overhangs.  We get VERY little direct sun into any windows except two small windows on the west side in rooms we do not use every day.  We also have a long dark hallway with a cluster of rooms with no windows -  both bathrooms, a walk-in closet and a dressing table area.  The hallway is so dark in this area, if you don’t turn a light on when walking down the hall or using the bathroom you can’t see, even in the daytime…it is like a cave!

We used a "Kill a Watt" brand meter to test every appliance in the house.

So I decided to take an inventory of EVERY energy-using thing in the house and entered it on a spreadsheet so I could see where we were using energy.  If it was a light bulb, I used the wattage on the bulb, for other things I used a watt meter (called a “kill-a-watt” meter) to find out how much energy they were using.  I created the spreadsheet to calculated the wattage, the estimated hours per day we use the item and the cost of energy (averaged) and tweaked it until it matched the amount we actually spent last year on energy (electricity and gas)

We had already replaced most of our appliances with energy star models, including our refrigerator (more about that in a future post you’ll hardly believe), but we use more lighting and small appliances (computers, dehumidifier, fans) than an average family…I’m not entirely sure why…it is hard for me to believe we keep our lights on THAT much more than a family of 4, but my spreadsheet said lighting was one of the main areas we are wasting energy.

Here is what I found:

1.     Lighting $518 per year – we have 54 lighting fixtures…some with up to 6 bulbs! For a total of over 165 light bulbs!!!!!

2.     Small Electric Appliances $441 per year – this includes things like the computers, toaster oven microwave, fans, dehumidifier, tv’s….that sort of thing.

3.     Major Electric Appliances $720 – this includes the air conditioner, dishwasher, refrigerator, clothes washer, stove and oven.

4.     Major Gas Appliances $958 per year – this includes the furnace, clothes dryer and water heater.

Grand total for Energy Consumption Before Blog challenge = $2639 per year

In a future post I will make available the actual spreadsheet I used for my calculations.

5 thoughts on “Where We’re Starting on Home Energy Use

  1. Nice website. You might report your energy usage as kWh and CCF of gas instead of dollars. Gas and electricity costs vary from place to place and over time, but the actual units remain consistent and allow for easier comparisons.

    • That is a good idea, In the future I will include at least the price per kWh I used in my calculations. Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Very nice site Mary. I’ll have to send you some pictures of our garden!

    Note that you can convert 29kWh to the heat equivalent of 1 CCF of gas, but you can’t go the other way. (Carnot efficiency limit) So from 1 CCF of gas you only get 10kWh electricity, and a lot of waste heat. With Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems you can recover much of that heat, but so far they don’t make these systems small enough for residential use.

    Let us know how your geothermal system works out. A friend of mine had his bills actually go up, because there was a problem in the controls of the system (since fixed). I’m so glad you are monitoring and showing how it’s all working. We are trying to do the same thing (drop energy consumption by half) but we have a bigger challenge: Starting at $1800 per year total energy in the same size house with 4 people. When the kids go off to college we should do better. ;-)

    Keep up the good work!

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