I'm not going to claim that we're off the grid (though my husband has been drooling over solar roof panels for several years), or that we're self-sustaining (though I might get a handful of tomatoes, apples, and blueberries..and possibly a pumpkin from our suburban yard). But we're making progress.
And I have proof.!
Ameren sent out a report of our energy usage this spring, comparing the last couple of years. And the graph shows a clear trend of decreasing energy consumption. Hooray!
We've been replacing light bulbs all over our house with compact fluorescents, where possible. There are several light fixtures that haven't been touched, because the lights are wired to a dimmer switch, and most CFL's aren't compatible with those. I've actually been considering swapping out the dimmers on some of them, since I don't much like dim light. (Complete tangent: my eyes see fairly well in the dark. Or in bright light. Not so much in dim light, or in darkness with bright spots like headlights. So, I am less of a fan of the dimmer switches than I thought I would be when we installed them).
In addition to the light bulbs, we are trying to make a dent in electricity usage with a few other simple things:
- Unplugging chargers and the laptop when they're not in use.
- Air-drying more loads of laundry (outside if its nice and we're home to make sure things don't escape in the wind, or inside in a drying rack set in our bathtub).
- Setting the dishwasher to air-dry instead of heat, though that means towel-drying half of the clean dishes.
- Using a shorter wash cycle for clothes--that one's practical too, as the "normal" cycle takes over an hour to complete and "express" gets the job done just as well in half the time.
- Closing shades and drapes during sunny summer days (and I'm considering adding shades or blackout liners to a couple more windows on the west side of our house).
- We've had a programmable thermostat almost since we moved into our house (I think we replaced the basic ones within weeks of closing). If you don't have one, and you're away from your house during the day, get one. They make it easy to save energy!
There's always more that we can do. Hubby's been researching solar-powered attic fans. We'd both like to add a second HVAC zone to our house (one unit is horribly inefficient for 2 storys plus basement--we get a 20 degree difference between the upper floor and the basement on a good day). The solar roof panels are a good idea too. And maybe a couple of rain barrels to help with watering the garden.
Most of the ideas are kind of big--like the dual zone or solar panels. And I'm concerned about doing the solar thing with our current roof--it's almost 10 years old out of a 15 (maybe 20 if we're lucky) year lifespan, and I'm thinking that solar shingles will complicate maintenance. The rain barrels aren't quite so huge of an issue, and maybe I'll get around to those this summer or next. In the mean time, we don't actually water the yard and garden that regularly (which probably contributes to my spotty vegetable yields).
How about you? What green-living tricks have you tried? What works for you? What didn't?