This summer we set ourselves the goal of reducing our electric bill so we can supplement with solar power. We have done enough research to know that we can use solar effectively, but our only limitation to how much solar power we can get is how much power we use (the more you use, the more panels you need, and they are pricey!). During the month of August, when we first started seriously exploring this idea, we casually started paying attention to turning off lights and not using the AC (which we hardly need anyway, since our house is fairly well shaded). We got down to about 750 kwh that month, from around 800 or so. Starting with our September billing cycle, we made a conscious effort to not use what we didn't need. Here are some of the ways we reduced our use.
We built a clothesline. I had been wanting one for some time, and we just hadn't gotten around to building it until September. Using a clothesline means timing your laundry correctly. I learned to check the weather and do a load the night before a nice day, so I could hang it out early the next morning. Our line isn't in the sunniest spot, but if it's a bit breezy, it takes about half a day to dry a full load. I washed a bunch of secondhand baby clothes one day and hung them all out at once. They were so adorable! So for the entire last month, we haven't used the dryer. It's a little dodgier now that it's getting cold, but still doable.
We switched every light in the house to fluorescent bulbs. We noticed immediately that they seem dimmer, but that's because they take about 30 seconds to achieve full brightness. Now we're totally used to them.
We made a habit of unplugging things. In my office, the computer, printer, DSL modem, router and so on are all on a power strip. We make sure to turn it off every night or if we're gone all day. We keep the microwave and toaster unplugged unless we're using them. The TV is more of a challenge, since we have Tivo, and for anyone who has Tivo you know that if you unplug it, it takes about 10 minutes for it to reboot. So that we've just left on, though we're thinking about the power strip plan for the whole TV/stereo/Tivo thing. It might be a drag, but I'd rather save power. And, we're watching less and less TV lately anyway, so I'm ready to scrap the whole thing, but Todd is not a fan of that idea. If he can't watch the Chargers, he is not a happy man.
We turned our water heater thermostat down. The label on the device was not especially technical, with heat levels labeled as hot, A, B, C, and very hot. Ours was set at very hot, which Todd estimates to be about 140 F. We lowered it to hot, which we think is about 120 F. It works for the shower, but it's not ideal for a bath. But we don't take that many baths anyway, and we can always raise the temperature a few hours before we want to take a bath, if need be.
The basic idea is that anything that produces heat uses a ton of electricity. Today we got our bill from September and we had lowered our kwh to 568. That's almost 200 kwh. Our bill was about $90. We are super proud of ourselves and will keep thinking of ways we can conserve. But we wanted to share these ideas with you so that you can lower your bills and your electricity usage. Remember that in Virginia, the chances are your electricity runs on coal, which is incredibly destructive to the environment. And we may be huge Obama supporters, but even he needs to realize that this "clean coal" notion is total BS. So every little thing you can do to reduce your impact makes a huge difference when we all do it.