Creating an electrical budget

Electricity meterI apologize for the lack of a post last night. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was asleep. It’s been a crazy couple of days, with work stress, the sleeping schedule that won’t regulate, and–oh yeah–we got a house and are slowly tearing it down.

At least, that’s what it feels like. Maggie and I have spent several evenings over there working until it got dark (we have the electricity off). We’ve peeled off most of the wallpaper, some of the trim, and two sections of wood panelling. Underneath is plaster, so we’re going to have to figure out what you can do with that. Paint it? Wallpaper over it?

On Wednesday, we took a break from tearing things apart to do some electrical baselining (that’s a word, right?). I’ve complained before about how difficult it is to figure out where our electricity is going. Starting from scratch gives us a unique chance to do just that.

I think this is a great opportunity to make great strides with our electrical use. Several years back, when I first took control of my finances, my first move was to track exactly where my money was going. That information helped me decide where to focus my efforts for the biggest gains. In my case, I wasn’t able to do much about my rent, but I was able to cancel cable and cut my car insurance by two thirds without feeling like I was sacrificing much.

I’m hoping that creating a baseline for our electrical use will help out in much the same way. To get started, we went around the house and unplugged everything (including the refrigerator and built-in microwave). The meter was still turning, so we started flipping breakers off until we found what we’d missed in the first go-through (an exterior safety light and a sub-panel that goes to the electric water heater).

Now that we’re sure we have no shorts in the system, we can start plugging things back in and see what our base load is. Since most of our appliances are powered by natural gas, I expect it’ll be relatively low. Our biggest power draws will be the refrigerator (according to GE’s information on the model, it’ll use about 700 kWh a year) and the water heater (I have no idea yet).

From there, we can add stuff to the system and see how it affects power consumption. For example, we can turn on all the lights and see how much more electricity that uses than having no lights on. Or, we can run the microwave and see how much electricity it takes to make soup.

Once we’ve got a good month’s worth of data, we can figure out which changes will give us the most bang for the least work.

But first, we’ll have to finish redoing the front room so that we can actually move in!

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Karen said,

    July 14, 2008 @ 5:55 pm

    HI!! I’m adding your blog to mine because I know your mom (Gini? sorry if i spell that wrong). She’s in my St. Louis Montessori training class. I’m so glad to meet more wonderfully conscious people in the world!! Kudos for all your efforts to preserve this beautiful planet we all call home — and which hopefully our children, grandchildren, and beyond will, too.

  2. 2

    Will said,

    July 15, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

    Hi, Karen! Thanks for the note (yup, Gini is right). Good luck on your papers!

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