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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Electricity use update (and just how am I going to spend my savings?)

Since I've been talking about how we're cutting our electricity use, I thought I'd let you know the progress we've been making. It's been one month since we began our new reduced-electric lifestyle. We are billed every other month, so I won't actually receive a statement from the utility provider for another month, but I have been watching the meter, and doing my own calculations.

For the billing cycle, which spanned from May 10 to July 10, we used over 23 KWH of electricity per day. We are now down to about 10 KWH per day, for a savings of about $1.15 each day, or $35.00 a month!

Oh, just what am I gonna do with all my new-found riches?!! Okay, so not a huge sum of money, but $35 we save, is $35 we don't have to earn. As we don't need this savings to live on for another month (our income will be reduced mid-August, and I base each month's budget on the previous month's earnings), I've chosen to invest this savings in something that will save even more in the long run.

I had errands to run yesterday, taking me around town, including Home Depot. I bought 3 LED light bulbs to try out, two 60-watt equivalents, and one 40-watt equivalent. The 60-watt equivalent bulbs use 9.5 and 10.5 watts of electricity each, and the 40-watt equivalent uses 6 watts per hour. I placed these in frequently-used fixtures in the house. So far, the light is quite pleasing.

I chose 3 different bulbs, so that we could compare the quality of light. Two are Cree warm light bulbs, one 60-watt equivalent, and one 40-watt equivalent. The third is a bright white Philips 60-watt equivalent. The Philips bright white is in a covered fixture in a location needing good visibility, but not necessarily good ambient lighting. The two warm light bulbs are for my daughters' shared room. They study in there during the school term, and really require decent lighting. One of my daughters noticed right away that there was a change in lighting, and she voiced her approval immediately.

In my daughters' room alone, we'll save about 14 KWH per month, or $1.25/month, in cost to operate. The LED light seems brighter, and I was able to step down in watt equivalents, from the incandescents we had in there. The bulbs are priced just over $10 each. In electric savings, the bulbs will have paid for themselves in about 1 & 1/2 years, not including the savings over needing to replace incandescent bulbs frequently.

As the months progress, and our savings on electricity continue, I plan on using a portion of the savings on more conservation light bulbs. In winter, our electricity use ticks upwards, mostly due to increased need for lighting. I hope to minimize the effect on our monthly bills.

So, that's where we stand with our electricity reduction plan. Have you tried the LED bulbs in your house? Do you have an opinion on the quality of light or the bulbs themselves? How would you compare the light to that of CFLs?


  1. Lili,
    Awesome instant savings on the short term! Annually, you are looking at $420/year. Nice. I've taken measures to reduce our electric here as well.
    -dehumidifier (learned that this is an energy hog)is used ONLY while clothes washer is on
    -towels get machine dried 30 minutes, then they are air dried like the rest of the laundry
    -lights are reserved for 1 or 2 on at max, if possible. We get to spend more time together, too!
    -use of small appliances over large, electric oven
    -if using oven, do an oven meal-multiple things cooked at same time
    -we're now down to one small refrigerator and an upright freezer (energy star). Small, brown bar refrigerator was defrosted, shut off. Been an adjustment, but we're making it work.
    -no A/C except at night. We've been recently blessed with unusually cooler temperatures so none at all. Fans help when it does get hotter.
    -power strips for all cell phones together
    -energy audit last Fall completed the switch over to all CFL bulbs here, except for my oven, the candelabra sconces in the powder room, the chandeliers in both bathrooms (one we can simply not turn on). Ideally, I'd get LED's for those fixtures, just so cost prohibative now.
    -I did switch over to LED lights a few years ago for the Xmas tree, and i do like them. My next permanent home will find me seeking LED's for even more savings.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Carol,
      Every last little bit helps, doesn't it? I would like to have all my light bulbs switched over to conservation bulbs within a year or two. Some of them are a bit pricey, like the candle bulbs, or special vanity bulbs. those will be the last to be switched. Meanwhile, I hope that prices continue coming down on LEDs and CFLs.

      I think my 3 biggest electricity savers have been to unplug the old garage fridge/freezer, line-dry all laundry and use the oven only 3 days per week, and bake as much as possible in one load. But the lighting does add up. And now that quality of eco bulbs has improved, and prices come down since they were first introduced, it's a way to conserve with minimal change in lifestyle.

      Good job to you, as well. I know you have really worked hard in this area. But once you get used to new ways of doing things, it becomes second nature, don't you think?!

      Thanks for the comments and input.

    2. I meant to ask, Carol, do you use the water collected from your dehumidifier and A/C units for potted plants? I think I read on Prudent Homemaker that she collects the water from her A/C for her potted plants. We don't have either dehumidifier or A/C, but I thought this was a clever reclaim of the water. I do reclaim water from washing vegetables, and use on the garden and deck plants.

    3. I reclaim our water for our potted plants. It's expensive to run the dehumidifier so that's at least one cost savings.

      I noticed comments on using a crockpot--for whatever it's worth, economiesofkale has a good recipe for roasting a chicken in the crockpot (turns out moist!) and that has to cut way down on cooking costs versus using an oven, right?

      Another random thought--I noticed in your microwave post that you use butter to grease your cookware--is this because of the additives in the cooking spray? My sister--the one allergic to soy--has discovered that cooking sprays formulated for grill use are safe for her to use. I don't know what the ingredients are and I have no idea what the pricing is, but I thought I'd pass that along.

    4. Hi Kris,
      At least you can reclaim that water.

      FYI, based on KWH price of 8 cents (which is close to what we pay here, I realize that averages in the US are around 14 cents KWH)

      --a microwave, on HI, for 15 minutes, will cost 3 cents
      --a toaster oven at 350, for 1 hour, will cost about 3 cents
      --a crock pot run for 7 hours, at 200 F, will cost about 6 cents
      --an electric convection oven at 325 F, for 45 minutes, will cost 11 cents
      --and a regular electric oven, at 350 F for 1 hour will cost 16 cents

      Note that convection is both lower in temperature and time, as you can generally reduce both temp and bake time by these amounts with convection.

      That's good to know about the grill cooking sprays. For me, the butter is because, well, I really like butter. :-) But I'll check out the ingredients on the grill spray. Thanks for that info.

    5. Kris, your sister can get a Misto sprayer and fill it with your own oil for spraying. It's cheaper per ounce as well if you use vegetable oil that you buy by the gallon (this is versus the store brand of cooking spray at Sam's club). I have been using mine for about a month now and it has worked well. They are around $10 each, and then you just put in whatever oil you want.

    6. Lili, I just saw your comment about my blog :) That water from the a/c only worked while we had high humidity. It has been back down to normal (16%) humidity--and there is no longer water coming from the a/c. For about a week I was filling that ice cream 5 quart bucket 4 times a day! I saw a tiny little bit out there this morning, but it wasn't much--so I poured it on my aloe plant and then stuck the aloe plant back underneath the pipes.

    7. Brandy, every last little bit of water reclaimed is a help, even if only for a week. Do you get much of the humidity effect from the monsoon season that hits part of the Desert Southwest?

      I gave my step-mom a Misto a couple of years ago. In addition to saving a little money, it helps you control the ingredients in your spray. No weird chemicals or additives!

  2. Lili,
    I should add that my main bathroom has 2 areas with multi lightbulbs (small round ones-think theater dept make up room!). While we don't ever use one side of the room with this set up (right next to a large, triple window with the chandelier hanging down-which we don't use either), we DO use the strip lights for lack of a better term, in the area over the double sinks, multiple times/day. What I'd like to do is unscrew every other one and see if that still provides enough light. When I moved here, several of the lightbulbs (and others throughout the home) were missing/burnt out)and we replaced them. I lucked out and found these small, globe bulbs at Habitat for humanity, paying 50 cents/bulb. these type of bulbs and the chandelier bulbs are pricey, never mind the CFL or LED equivalents, which may/not even exist.

    1. In one of our bathrooms, there's a fixture above the sink and mirror with 3 lights. We did unscrew 2 of the bulbs, and it seems fine for summer light. In fall, we'll probably move up to 2 lights screwed in, as this bathroom has a northern window.

      I did see the candle bulbs in both CFL and LED, and I saw one type of the round bulb in the LED. Both candle bulbs and round ones were about double the price of a standard-style LED. So, still pricey. If you owned the home, it would make more sense to change out the fixture with something that would look right with standard-style CFLs or LEDs.

      That was a great price you got on the bulbs. I don't think we have a Habitat for Humanity store in our area. I'll have to check that out.

  3. We use energy efficient bulbs in place of every old one we have to replace. Our electric bills are n't too bad considering our ac use. For me it that just isn't optional unless we are in danger of not eating.

    I have been playing around with using less energy in the kitchen though. Last night we tried a recipe for banan bread made in the crockpot. Turned out really good.

    1. Hi Shara,
      We've used CFLs in about half of our lights. I've been slow to replace incandescents in the bedrooms with CFLs. But my one daughter really liked the light quality of the LED, so that will probably be what we do for other bedrooms, as we can afford it.

      Interesting about the banana bread. I've read that people bake bread in their crock pots. At one time, there was a special pan/liner for baking bread in a crock pot. Not only does this save on electricity over using an oven, but it doesn't heat the kitchen, so you need less A/C or fans, too.

    2. I've had great luck baking in my solar oven (which sounds more spectacular than it is... it's basically just an aluminum foil lined cardboard box with a glass top and a bunch of insulation around it). But I'm betting you probably don't get enough sunny days in the Pacific Northwest to have much luck with something like that.

    3. I've actually considered a solar oven. While its cloudy/rainy most of the year, the months of July and August are very sunny. My biggest obstacle is all the trees in our yard. I'd have to move the oven around throughout the day, which wouldn't be all that bad. I may look into plans to build one myself for next summer. I think it would be a fun project. And our deck is definitely hot enough, when the sun is on it.

  4. A little here and a little there adds up, doesn't it? How much do you think the weather has factored into this month's savings? We have had cooler weather the last few days which reduces the need for air conditioning and/or fans. I expect to see some of that savings on my next bill.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      This is what we're hoping for the entire budget, that all the little savings will add up to something very significant. We're on a roll -- both electric and natural gas use is way down. We'll have to see on the water. The water meter is in a spider-infested part of the yard. I'm really not about to go digging around in there to check that meter. I'll just have to wait for the bill.

      The cooler weather probably will impact your bill significantly. When we have a milder than usual winter I always notice a huge change in our bills. We don't have A/C here, but do use fans on the hottest of days. It has to go over 90 F for the daytime high (in the house about 75-78), for me to want to run a fan.

      I think the biggest changes to our electric use, are unplugging the garage fridge, air-drying all laundry and using the oven considerably less. We'll have to see just how much of this I can keep up when cold and wet weather returns.

  5. Congratulations! That's a non-trivial savings.

    I've got a small handful of LED light bulbs and for the most part I like them alot. I have noticed a strange phenomenon though, and I'm not exactly sure what to make of it. One in particular seems to cause interference with one television channel. Actually, I recently moved it to a new fixture and the problem seems to have started then.

    I think the "D" in LED stands for diode, and if memory serves diodes are used somehow in radio/tv tuning... I suppose I should ask CatMan since he is an electronics engineer. I have to be prepared though since I'm likely to get a 4 hour lecture on the function of diodes!

    I don't watch much television so it hasn't been a big deal, but it is curious. Have you noticed anything like that?

    1. So far, I haven'
      t noticed any interference, but I'll let you know. I don't watch much TV either. And the odds of me having the TV on while I also had lighting on are slim, for now at least. Maybe in winter when days are darker, too. That could be a major drawback for some folks, though.

  6. That's great to know about LED lights - I haven't seen them in the shops here, but maybe I haven't been looking hard enough. I've always used CFLs (buying them every time I move into a new house) and have been happy with the light produced from them.

    1. Hi Economies,
      I'm sure you'll start noticing the LEDs in the lighting section soon. I didn't really notice them in stores until about a year ago. Then there were so many choices available, that I couldn't help but notice them.

  7. Lili

    That is a great savings! We just got our bill for gas and electric, and talk about MAD! While we used less than last year (they do a comparison on their billing), the $/kilowatt went up by almost 50cents!! Yikes. So I am doubling down and killing off the electricity wasters! Also, we have a dehumidifier in which we save for watering inside/outside plants, along with water containment outside to collect the rain... can't say they are rain barrels since they are 250gal! All the same, keep up the great posts about cost savings, they are coming in handy... whether the income drops or not, the prices seem to keep going up... thanks and have a great day!! Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa,
      It is disheartening to be doing everything you can, and have rates continue to climb. It does make installing solar panels seem like something to look into.
      Good job on water conservation! That must keep your water bill down quite a bit!

      Thanks for the encouragement, it is appreciated!

    2. We have begun talking about solar and wind this past week. Our electric company has raised rates every quarter for the last 9 years, and they were just bought out by a company that I have heard doubles bills after buying out electric companies.

      I cut $200 in electric bills from the first year that we moved here, and that was 7 years ago. However, the bill is up $100 now from then, all because of rate increases. Last month was only a partial rate increase, and next month is usually my highest bill of the year, so I am concerned. We have had a 75% cut in income for several years and I need the bill to be lower.

      We have a friend who lives a few blocks away, off grid. He has 4 windmills and he has solar panels. He sells solar panels. We would prefer wind as he said it was more effective but we are thinking that with rising costs it would be a wise thing for us to consider. I have been considering what to do about the lightbulb situation, too. We have dimmers in most rooms but the CFLS rarely come in dimmers, and not in the size for our fixtures (which are smaller bulbs). We didn't like the old CFLS; they were very yellow. My dad just bought some that looked almost like natural light; those were nicer. I don't have dimmers over the bathroom vanities but they still need shorted bulbs, or otherwise the bulbs will stick out. I have been thinking about replacing those with leds or CFLS when they go out, but I don't know which to use. I appreciate your review of the leds!

    3. Hi Brandy,
      Some of the less expensive LEDs I found at Home Depot, are dimmable. And they have come out with a larger selection of bulb sizes and shapes. I noticed they even had chandelier bulbs (which have the smaller stem). One of our bathroom vanities has the small stemmed bulbs in the main light fixture. This bathroom gets a lot of use by 2 teen girls. I am hoping to replace those bulbs with LEDs or CFLs when the current incandescent bulbs burn out.

      I think considering solar or wind would be wise, especially considering your circumstances. You need electricity just to make your home comfortable in summer. And with rising rates, it would put you in control, instead of anticipating the next rate increase. Even here, in Washington state, I know people who have solar panels, and we consider it from time to time. I'll be watching to see how the entire industry goes forth. My guess is solar or wind installation could become affordable for many in the next decade.

      Thanks for your comments!

  8. I replaced 2 of my fixtures with LED the rest with CFL because of the sale price I received. My son found a sale at Costco and called me. 3 LED bulbs cost $4 and the CFL cost 49 cents each. There was a limit of three LEDs which were only 4 kw bulbs. I like them in the vanity area of my bathroom, but 4 kw was too little to read by so I gave it to a friend. I do like the quality of the lighting better with the LED but have to admit these CFLs are better than ones I've had in the past. If you don't have a membership to Costco maybe you know someone who does and can watch for the special deals on the LED?

    Great job cutting your energy use!

    1. Hi Lois,
      That Costco sale sounds terrific! I agree on the quality of light having improved with CFLs over the years. Those first ones, that we bought almost 20 years ago, just seemed too much like the light from tube fluorescent fixtures of industrial buildings.


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