Slow as Molasses in January

Challenge #2: Staying Warm for Winter.

Charles jokes that I have a reptilian nature; I tend to be cold and love to sit on a warm rock. That may help explain why it took a while to get our electricity monitor installed. It sat on the dresser for a week before I finally opened the package and read the directions.

It’s been running since January 24, and we’re having fun seeing the readout change as we turn things on and off. We noticed that our low usage runs about 3 tenths of a kilowatt per hour while the biggest electricity consumer is the clothes dryer at 4 kilowatts per hour. While a dryer does help keep the towels from being stiff, I think installing a clothesline will make the biggest difference in our electricity usage. They are the original solar-powered clothes dryer, and remind me of my childhood.

As far as keeping warm this time of year, we rely on an old gas- burning floor heater. I think it dates from the 1950s when our house was built. We turn it on and off manually and usually run it for just a couple of hours in the morning or evening. The house is small and warms up fast, especially when the girls are not home and we can close their bedroom doors. Of course, Charles tends to radiate heat, so he likes things cool, and I usually just bundle up or snuggle up.

The thermal leak detector we received as part of our Green Families Challenge kit shows we’re doing a pretty good job minimizing heat lost to the outside. We installed dual-paned windows and added extra insulation to the roof some years ago. To maximize heat retention, we still need to replace the single-paned sliding glass door and garden window and insulate the walls and floor.

Our hot water heater runs on gas pretty efficiently (most of our appliances are Energy Star rated), but since it’s located next to the clothes washer, hot water has to travel about 20 feet (6 meters) to get to the bathroom and 26 feet (8 meters) to get to the kitchen. Hot water that stays in the pipes when we turn off the faucet then cools, wasting the heat and water when we turn the tap on again. Perhaps when this water heater “tanks,” we can replace it with the on-demand type. Do you think we’ll need three: for the clothes washer, kitchen, and bath? We usually run the dishwasher and clothes washer with full loads, and I’m pretty sure our showers are only about 10 minutes long. We’ll be getting a shower timer soon to know for sure. Last summer we got rid of our lawn and put in native plants, so our water usage has dropped significantly, and we feel we can splurge a bit with longish showers.

So our biggest challenge was to just start using the tools that increase our awareness. Now that we are measuring our energy use, we can choose to change our behavior and measure the results. Time for me to go get a clothesline; January is almost over.

Patti Turkle

Read Patti’s previous post, Modern Art: A Footprint in Pen and Ink.

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