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Monday, October 22, 2007

Energy Diet


Last year I put our house on an energy diet. I wanted to see if a few simple changes in electricity usage could really add up to tangible savings.

I grew up in a house run by depression-era parents. "Turn off the light," was the refrain every time you left a room. "But I'm coming right back," I'd say. "Those pennies saved add up," Dad would respond, echoing the sentiments of Ben Franklin. But pennies to me didn't seem to add up to much when a candy bar is 75 cents. I'd stopped picking them up. What did it matter if I left a light on in an empty room for an hour or so?

But the press to change our habits to combat global warming kept nagging me. I read in a fashion magazine an astounding statistic that if everyone just changed one light bulb in their house to florescent, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year and save more than $600 million in annual energy costs.(1) That's 60 billion pennies! Perhaps I could get me a few of those.

I started a one-woman experiment to see how much would be saved if I just started turning off the electricity not in active use. I did not nag my family to participate. Just me, quietly taking this on.

I followed my children around like a shadow, turning off lights when they left a room. I made sure every dark winter morning their bedroom lights were turned off when they ran out the door to school. That 25 watt nightlight bulb could not shine all day long because I forgot to reach under the dresser to turn it off. Those friendly lights we leave on in the house to make ourselves feel welcome when we come back into the room, off. Cell phone charger, unplugged. Printer, off. Laundry, out of the drier the first time the all-done buzzer sounds. When bringing water to a boil, I put a lid on the pot. The first time a bulb in the kitchen or family room ceiling burned out, I left it out. No need to replace that bulb when there are seven others still working.

What I didn't do was put in a single florescent light bulb. I know what you're thinking, that's the easiest way to save energy. But I hate the light they give off and I'd already replaced our porch light, garage light and workroom lights with florescent bulbs several years ago.

So how much did that really save? Well our electric bill wasn't that big to begin with. Only $600 per year. So you can imagine my surprise when I ended up saving $?? simply by focusing on not wasting electricity.

I think I'll see how much money I can save next year by getting my children involved. I might even put in another florescent bulb and watch those pennies add up.

1. Energystar.gov