Wake up and smell the burning coal, Peters, I thought, after eyeing my whopping electric bill.
So far my family’s efforts to cut our energy usage resemble chopping down a mighty redwood with a herring. Not that we haven’t been trying.
I programmed my thermostat, keeping daytime temperatures at a balmy 68 degrees. My thin-skinned youngest daughter won’t shed her coat after school. I suggested that she do more housework. Hmmmm—no response.
We turn off lights religiously. My office on the east side of the house takes advantage of morning light. The girls have learned to turn off lamps in their bedrooms when they leave. They’ve really learned. On a recent trip to Hobby Lobby, their mission was to turn off every display lamp in the store.
“Stop!” I commanded, glancing around for store security. “Besides, there are thousands of lamps!”
“I know, right?” said Kate, my logical seventh-grader. “They’re wasting energy!”
“Hey!” hollered Claire from the next aisle. “There’s more over here, Kate!”
Kate scurried off, and I pondered the consequences of raising young environmental activists.
I’ve been hanging most of my clothes to dry inside, eschewing the energy-gulping clothes dryer. On cold, dry days, my clothes racks give off a pleasantly scented humidity that’s a relief to my nose.
Despite these efforts, our kilowatt usage surged during frigid January. I’m determined to find other ways to cut our energy use and save money.
Incandescent bulbs lurk around the house. Those curly fluorescent bulbs cost more, but use a fraction of the energy and last years longer than incandescents. This week I’m going to switch out as many bulbs as I can.
Just a note on CFLs: CFL bulbs do contain small amounts of mercury. They can be disposed of through most community recycling facilities, along with other hazardous materials. Like regular light bulbs, they should be stowed away safely until needed and handled carefully when they have run their course.
Phantom power also lurks in my house. Leaving devices plugged in, even if they are turned off, still uses energy. I will plug more appliances into power strips that I can turn off when they are not in use. For instance, with three females in the house, we have our share of styling tools. I can plug all of those into one strip, then turn it off until we need them. A friend of mine plugs his electric toothbrush in all night to charge, then unplugs it during the day.
If my house were a boat, it would sink. Another task this week: seek out and seal drafts along my windows and doors with caulk and weather-stripping. I will also search for drafts around air ducts.
Saving energy pays. Are you aware that tax credits are available for people who buy energy efficient equipment or use renewable energy like solar or wind? Check out the Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov). Or contact your local utility for more information. Some utilities even offer free replacement programs—you can trade out your old gas water heater (an energy hog) for a more efficient electric one.
You probably have other ideas for saving energy. Would you like to share them? A new group called Watt-Watchers is beginning this month. We’ll meet in the Plymouth Public Library on March 26 at 7 p.m. in the Jim Neu room to discuss ways of living more sustainably in Marshall County. It’s open to anyone! For more information, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.