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Using Less Electricity - My Case Study


I have a goal of using less than 400 kWh per month of electricity, as part of my eventual frugal goal of getting off the grid entirely. Since I am on the low-income electric savings program, I get a certain discount off my bill each month depending on how many kWh I use. If my monthly use is less than 400 kWh, I get a 30% off discount. Right now I am at 540 kWh a month.

It should be pretty easy for me to reach my monthly 400 kWh goal, with conscientious energy use.

How I am Living:

This is with two people and four cats living in a very insulated tiny house of less than 200 square feet. We don't have central heating or use our water heater, and the only fridge we have is a dorm-sized one. I am using the fridge in my RV as an auxiliary fridge, and I really need to clean that out and turn it off. Everything in there becomes a science project anyway. :)

How I Use Less Electricity Now:

- All my lightbulbs are compact florescent bulbs (CF bulbs) instead of the old incandescents that use a great deal more energy to create comparable light.
- I don't use a clothes dryer. I have plenty of fresh air and sunshine in my yard, and hang things off of a dollar store line strung between trees. When I previously lived in an apartment, I simply ran smaller, more frequent loads and hang things around the house inside to dry. Even in Seattle, everything would be dry and ready to put away by morning.
- I have a very well insulated small home. This lets me use one wall air conditioning unit for cooling, and a small space heater for warmth.
- I use a solar heater for bathing (the cheap black bag kind you can find at sporting goods stores), so I do not need a hot water heater. For others, a tankless water heater is something to consider. there is no need to heat water up all day long if it's not being used. Those without children can research tankless water heater, propane shower setups and solar showers.
- I read at night with an LED light powered by a solar charger the size of my smartphone. I could also use candles, lanterns, or oil wicks as an alternative.
- I usually cook in the microwave or using an electric crockpot and electric kettle. I have a hot plate as well. Learning to cook over a wood stove would be even better, or I could make a solar oven, or even use a camp stove or BBQ out on the patio. I will be exploring more options along these lines. I enjoy this kind of research!
- I don't use small appliances that can easily be handled free. For example, I don't use a hair dryer, an electric can opener, or a food processor. Instead I use, in order: the air, a hand can opener, and a hand cranking food grinder.

How I Can Use Even Less Electricity Soon:

- I really need to unplug my RV from my electric system. I have it set up to pull electricity for the lights, the microwave and the fridge. This is unnecessary - whereas I used to live in that RV, now I have my little house studio in the backyard instead. So I need to use my small, dorm-sized fridge more wisely.
- I could use laundromats instead of my home machine for washing clothes, or make a move to have less clothes and do them by hand. I have my eye on a plunger-bucket set-up. If my clothes were all sturdily-made and I washed them by hand, they would last longer anyway. Families with children would find this more of a challenge and probably not worth the effort. For just me, and just Dan, this would be very adequate. In the meantime I am still using my washing machine. I will note all changes in my kWh use as I proceed with all my ideas.
- I would like to explore changing out my CF bulbs for LED ones. I know at this time it's not an easy process, but I bet technology will keep improving things until this is a realistic option. I remember back when a CF bulb cost almost $20, and now I can find them for $1 each in the dollar stores!
- At a garage sale, I found a small but well-made pot bellied wood stove. It would fit nicely into a corner here in the studio, and there is already a flue set up for it in the roof. If I could get this installed before next winter, I might not even need the space heater at all. As a plus, I could use a dutch oven on top of the wood stove during the day to cook a one pot meal each evening.
- I am drooling over solar panels. Kits at Amazon are really getting cheaper and easier to install. I'd love to be able to support running a fan and my TV/DVD, all my lights, my computer and maybe my small fridge off of only sunshine. Here in Arizona I have all the sunshine I could need - it would be more of a matter of affording enough marine (deep cycle) batteries to store the solar energy.
- I'd have to figure out how to handle large appliances - either by using them more wisely and less, finding more efficient models, finding enough solar power to handle the power draw, or getting one of those quiet and efficient Honda generators for times of high energy use. Again, this is something to explore over time.

Personally, I find all this experimenting and researching to be very fun, and a productive use of my time. I understand these are some radical ideas. If I can encourage others to experiment along these lines, we might uncover lots of unusual tricks to whittle down our monthly electric draw. Please share your insights in the Frugal Living Forum.

Amazon has some excellent electronics worth researching for your home:
Portable Tankless Water Heater and Outdoor Shower

60-Watt Solar Charging Kit
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Content copyright © 2014 by Jill Florio. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Jill Florio. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Jill Florio for details.

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