09 December 2009

Practical Steps towards lowering your utility bill.

A friend wanted to know the practical steps towards reducing my energy usage and decreasing the amount I pay on my energy bill.

I believe when I moved into my apartment back in May, my first two bills were about $20 to $22 dollars. That was with living my normal lifestyle without taking extra measures towards being more eco conscious.

Here is what I do and I know its not conducive for everyone. (Remember I live alone which means I live in a controlled environment in a small city apartment)

  • Live alone. While some say its cheaper to live with roommates, I have found its cheaper to live alone. Or at least, if you live with roommates, live with someone who is conscientious about their energy consumption and amount they spend on utilities. My former roommates were more than ok with spending $100+ on the electricity bill. I was NOT ok with that. By living alone or living with people who are like minded you know that the lights are being turned off. You know that energy isn't being wasted. If you have children, you can teach them to be conscious of the energy they consume. I actually came across a toy called the Power Hog that children are to plug into the wall. And when its fully charge, there is something to indicate to the kid that they can unplug the piggy. And when the piggy runs out of charge, the child has to feed it a coin to turn it back on thus teaching the child that energy isn't free. Anyone know what I'm talking about. Even without these crafty little strategically marketed "green" toys, you can teach your children to turn the lights off when they leave a room, to not leave the water running, and such.

  • Get outside. During the summer I spent little time at home. I work a full time job and I stayed active in either theater shows, beach volleyball teams, traveling, bike rides and such. By spending time outdoors, I was spending less time at home with lights on, watching tv and wasting energy. So add a thing or two to your schedule. Instead of watching tv with your children, take them to the park. Its free! Cable and Electricity are not.

  • Unplug appliances from the wall or use surge protectors. The ONLY thing plugged into my walls on a consistent every day basis is my Fridge and Stove...which I don't really count. And my router for my wireless internet because if I unplugged that, it would take forever for it to reboot. I unplug my lamps from the wall. I unplug my phone chargers from the wall. My microwave stays off and unplugged unless I need to use it. So does my blender, printer, external hard drive and other chargers.

  • Use less artificial light. This may be harder for some people rather than others. This lady that I work with always makes fun of me and says I like living in a cave. For every light that she turns on at work, I want to turn another off. I am quoted as saying that "fluorescent lights suck my soul away." I only like using enough light that's necessary. As little light as possible. Whenever I skype with Mr. Officer he complains about not being about to see me. While he has 20 lamps on, I think I have one on. "I know what I'm going to buy you," he says, "A desk lamp!" Its funny but its also true of me. I don't really like turning lights on. Turn on the lights only when you need too. Use candles. Use natural lighting. I have lots of windows in my apartment. Therefore I can use the sunshine for many things. In the mornings I just wash my face and brush my teeth. Since I'm not styling my hair or applying makeup, I don't really need the light on. When I shower, I shower with the light off. It feels better that way. Right this very moment, how many lights are on in your place?

  • Own less stuff or own multi-functional devices. I don't have a flat iron. hot curler. blow dryer. dvd player. tv. wii. radio. alarm clock. toaster. food processer. Because I have less stuff. That's less stuff to use. My laptop serves as a laptop and a radio and a tv and a dvd player. Since I wear my hair natural and use simple styles like twist to make other styles, I don't need a blow dryer, flat iron, curler or anything else. (I don't even own a brush or comb!) My blender doubles as a food processor. My boiler toast my food just fine.

  • Open the windows and Drink Water.  Because my air runs on electricity, I specifically did things differently as oppose to turning the air on. I kept my windows open for most of the summer. Since our summer this year was more like spring, there weren't too many HOT HOT days. If I were hot even with the window open, I'd SOMETIMES turn my ceiling fan on. But MOST times I'd drink water or lemonade. I'd eat popsicles and gelato.
So that's what I did. And by doing so I took an already cheap bill of $22 down to $15. But keep in mind, I live alone in a small apartment and I don't own as much stuff as the average person and I have an natural aversion to artificial light in the first place.

What to do when you live with roommates who don't care about energy consumption and the money they spend on utilities?
  • Move Out or Find a Subleasee. (You can't change people. You can impact and influence them. But only to a certain point. And some people give no priority to the environment or the weight of their energy usage. Let those people be and move on and move out.)
What to do when you live with a spouse and family?
  • Since its your family, you have greater influence on what people do in the house. And while a spouse may not be too keen on your new granola ways, I'm pretty sure they are keen on saving money. Why spend a saturday in the house with everybody watching their tv's in their own room or listening to their ipods or talking on their cell phones when you can go to the beach as a family? Or go on a picnic? Or play a game? 

What were ways you lowered your utility bill? I'm looking to bring my bill from $15 to $13. Any advice on what else I can do? (I could watch even less tv on Hulu.com than I currently watch. Then my computer wouldn't drain as much and I wouldn't need to charge it. Instead I could spend more time journaling and reading books. I could also spend intentional weekends going "off the grid" with an elective blackout. )


    Hannah said...

    That pig is super cute. I absolutely don't need one, but I really love the idea of it.

    Our electric bill right now is usually around $40 (for two of us), which I think is pretty good, considering Josh works from home during the day, and that also includes the electric (energy-saver) heater we use in our bedroom at night (we turn the gas heat for the rest of the house way down low - just high enough to keep pipes from freezing, since we're obviously not using it).

    Although it's not for electricity/money purposes, sometimes Josh will head to the bookstore or Starbucks to do work. Obviously we're not using electricity at home, but he is using electricity there - it's just electricity that's shared with other people and would still be on regardless of whether he was there or not. So, in that sense, it's being a little more green.

    SLY said...

    I think you are doing a great job with your utility bill too.