A few weeks ago, I received my first electric bill from Duke Energy. Adulthood, you are swift.
Duke’s monthly billing period is from the 16th to the 16th, so I only had ten days of energy use on my first bill. In ten days, I used 104 KWH, which cost me $12.48. I’ve used the information to estimate my monthly bill: 312 KWH and $37.44.
Duke’s website tells me that this is below average for my area, but, as always, I’m hoping to reduce my ecological impact, so I’m working on some ways to reduce my energy use.
It’s summer so there are three major draws on my household energy: AC, appliances, and the computer.
AC: There was an initial period of cooling down the space when we first arrived, which involved running the AC on high at one of the coldest settings. I’m not one for waking up freezing in the middle of the night, so as the average evening temperature has decreased, so has my AC use. I’ve also substituted the fans and an open window on a few occasions, but it hasn’t been cool enough during the day to make this a consistent option. Unfortunately because of the humidity level, I do have to run it daily in order to prevent mold growth.
Appliances: I have three major appliances: a refrigerator, a stove, and a microwave. As mentioned in previous posts, I try to use the stove and oven minimally in the hot weather. I also try to limit my microwave use to a couple times a week (some leftovers are actually really good cold — don’t look at me like that). I’ve also increased the temperature in my fridge and freezer; I keep it a little above the factory-suggested level. If you’re worried about my food, don’t be. My vegetables last an incredible amount of time and things were freezing in the fridge when the temperature in there was lower.
It’s often suggested that it’s best to unplug devices not in use because they continue to draw energy. I think the microwave is the only viable option for this, especially because the plugs for the stove and refrigerator are not easily accessible.
The computer: I don’t have a TV so this is my major vice. The printer is off and unplugged when it’s not in use, so no major impact there. There is an extraordinary amount of debate about whether it is more energy efficient to put your computer into sleep mode or to turn it off completely when you’re not using it. The counter argument is that booting your computer up requires a significant amount of energy (and places more stress on your system), so if you’re constantly turning it off and on, more energy is used. I have not found a legitimate, informed source about this debate so if you want to weigh in one way or another, please do.
I compromise. If I know I’m going to be away for a significant amount of time, I turned the computer off. For short absences, like attending class, I put it into sleep mode. Macs are helpful this way because they let you choose the conditions of the sleep. For more info, see System Preferences and then Energy Saver.
Of course, I also drive very little. And I use CFLs.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that we all use some energy, but I try to make up for it whenever I can. Duke Energy has two initiatives I’ve decided to support. The first is carbon offsetting available for individual purchase. I calculated my carbon footprint and purchased two offsets for my monthly bill. I also joined NC GreenPower which puts money towards renewable energy initiatives in the state. Mind you, money is tight and this cuts into my beer fund, but at $12/mo, I think it’s at least worth trying.
What do you do to save energy?