Thursday, September 1, 2011

Riot for Austerity: Electricity

Riot for Austerity is a movement where people try to achieve levels of resource use that are ten percent of the average American's use. You can read more about it here at a post from Sharon Astyk's blog Casaubon's Book.

I'll occasionally discuss our household riot efforts on this blog. First, I'll document our use of electricity, gas, transportation, garbage, consumer goods, water, etc. as best as I can. I don't know if I can achieve these ultra low levels, but I want to record what I'm doing here and continue to reduce our use.Oddly enough, I am beginning our journey with an exploration of our electricity use after we've had 3 days without power from Hurricane Irene. How we endured (rather well I think) is partly a result of being good planners, but also lucky chance. We had water throughout, and have a gas stove and hot water that worked. Doug actually went to work in Boston where he had power and was able to recharge batteries that we'd use at night for light. After 2 days, I brought food from my freezer to my in-laws to prevent our local grass-fed meat and the vegetables and fruits I had preserved from being ruined. I brought them there in a cooler I had found last spring at the recycling center filled with ice purchased from a nearby business that had power. The proximity of power around us helped us do well. The lovely temperatures made it quite pleasant in the house. If this had happened in winter the food would have survived, but it would have been hard to live in the house.

When our electricity is working, our major use comes from: a rather small fridge; 1 regular and 2 laptop computers; a washer, dryer, and dishwasher; a 35" tv, dvd player and stereo on a surge suppressor that we turn off; and a dehumidifier and fans that run a lot in summer. We have no microwave, no air conditioning, and no cable box (no cable). At our last house (we moved to the Boston area 2 years ago), I had a nice drying line, but I haven't put one up here. That is one thing I'd like to do in the spring. I'll have to find an open spot that isn't under too many sappy trees.

On the positive side, 6 months after we moved here, we had an energy audit and replaced nearly every bulb with CFLs. We also had insulation blown into the leaky old walls of the house and lots of sealing and caulking done. When I discuss gas use, this change is quite evident. But it reduced electric use as well. In the 5 months prior to the energy audit Aug-Dec '09 the monthly average was 478 kwh/month. The Aug-Dec '10 average was reduced by 16 % to 401 kwh/month.

In the past year, our average energy use per month between Sept '10 and Aug '11 was 434 kwh/ month. We have 4 people living in our house, 2 adults, 1 teen and 1 tween. Estimates of the average kwh of electricity use vary. There are some that measure per household and some per capita. I found one study here that gave 936 kwh/month as a US household average. With that calculation we're currently using 46% of the US average. I'm not sure what number I should use so, I'll ask on the Riot Facebook group, see what they say, and report back.


Kaat at MamaStories said...

Yeay for this Riot!

I think you do really well on electricity. We are (usually) three - two adults (working from home a lot, on big computers) and one first-grader - and we use about that much: ca. 410 KWh a month.

Once you hit that spot, I find, it's hard to bring the usage down even more.

Before we installed our solar, we had all wind (and what we draw from the grid is still wind). That gives you a "Riot discount". So, going by the old Riot numbers and keeping that in mind, it's 13% of the US national average.

Do you have wind? It's easy to switch. It costs extra, but in my eyes it reflects (a little bit more of) the *real* cost of electricity.

I'm looking forward to your other Riot numbers. It takes a while to get the hang of it, the baselines, and with the calculator still down it's tough to ferret it all out. But it makes you conscious, and conscientious.

Anonymous said...

I really like the way you did this. I am ponder how to start tracking my own riot numbers. I wanted to start today too, but am behind the 8-ball as is my M.O. as of late. ;) It's encouraging to see what others are doing.

Haley McAdams said...

Well I'm definitely not a prepared person and not of a researcher either. I tend to gain information by word of mouth. But your blog opened my eyes about how serious it can be when there is a hurricane. Luckily I get my Electrical Continuing Education before the hurricane hits.