Monday, May 27, 2013

It's Electric!

I'm conducting a little experiment this month that involves our electricity bill and this handy contraption:

Predictably, our electric bill skyrockets every summer.  Summers in our corner of Southern California don't usually get started until June or July, but when the East Coast starts seeing those wonderful fall temperatures in September, our summer is only getting serious.  I recall many 90+ degree days in September last year...and I may have blocked out some in October as well.  

Last year our electric bill (which also includes water and sewer, mind you) saw dollar amounts in the 400-range.  I was astounded!  Granted, our gas bill is minor at $20-30 most months, whereas I set aside $200-300 per month for heating oil in New Jersey (purchased mainly in October through April) on top of the flat-fee electric bill that never quite seemed to cover how much electricity we actually used, leaving us with a $200-300 bill at the end of the year and an even higher monthly rate the following year.  But, I digress.  Or do I?

Electricity is expensive!  And we seem to consume enormous amounts of it.  

In April our electricity bill was $208.  In May, which has contained several 90+ days already, it jumped to $285.  We had consumed 28% more electricity and 26% more water than last year.  Insane.

Following the mindset of being tired of just giving my hard-earned money away and not really understanding where it goes, I decided to try an experiment -a two-part experiment.

It begins with turning up the thermostat.  I've always been one to love sleeping in the cold, bundled up under big fluffy blankets.  And looking back and forth between our thermostat set constantly at 68 and our $285 electric bill, I now feel stupid.  

After Wee Homesteader was born, I have not been able to get to a comfortable temperature at night no matter how low the thermostat is.  So rather than giving up my paycheck, I'm giving up the game.  I took the duvet out of the duvet cover and we're now sleeping under just the cover and a bed sheet.  (I can't sleep sheetless - I just can't.)  

Suddenly, I was freezing at night!  With some big reluctance on Mr. Homesteader's part, I have eeked the thermostat up to 72, one degree at a time (and plan to eek it up a couple more).  I often wake up shivering during the night and find he has eeked it back down to 70 or 71.  I have, however, given up the goose on turning the air conditioner completely off during the day after we came home to a 90 degree house and had to put the kids to bed just an hour later at temps of 85 degrees - even with all the windows open to a 70-degree outside temp (and the neighbor's ill-timed barbecue.)  We still don't know how that happened, but it's now set to 85 while we're at work, though it's rarely hot enough (yet) to even need to kick on.

But that's not all.  

We do a ridiculous amount of laundry -upwards of 6-8 loads every weekend...more if we're washing sheets and towels, too.  Yep, we pretty much do laundry all day, all weekend.  The dryer runs almost non-stop from Saturday morning to Sunday after bedtime.  We have a gas dryer, but I'm not entirely convinced that saves us much electricity.  

So I pulled a drying rack* out of the garage (I have quite a few of them I use to dry freshly dyed yarn and fiber - more on that later, though) and set it up out on the back lawn.  I dried sheets, the duvet cover, and many loads of laundry that first weekend.  I wasn't uber-convinced that the electricity savings would outweigh the inconvenience of taking the wet laundry outside and attempting to hang it up without dropping the clean clothes in the dirt (I'm a bit of a clutz, you see) - especially after Mr. Homesteader worried about his allergies that first night under the duvet cover.  But when I moved the drying rack indoors to overcome the allergy worries, I hit gold!  I don't know how much, if any, our electricity savings will be, but I am highly enjoying hanging laundry out to dry in our bedroom - who would've thought?!?!

At least every other night, sometimes more often, I put a small load of laundry in the washer when I take Wee Homesteader into the bedroom to put her down for the night.  It washes while Mr. Homesteader gives Little Homesteader a bath and puts him to bed, and then I take the clean clothes out and hang them to dry while Wee sleeps.  

You know what I found out?  It's SO peaceful.  

No heavy, wet clothes banging around in the dryer, causing the "will that wake Wee/Little up?" worries.  

Not to mention a few minutes to reflect on my day and unwind a little before crawling into bed.  

Or that, because of the limited drying space, I'm now doing little bits of laundry all week, leaving only things like sheets and towels for the weekend.  And, hey, it might even save us some money on kids' clothes in the future if I'm washing fewer clothes more often.  We always seemed to be running out of clean clothes, especially pajamas, under the old system - now they're a-plenty!

Extra work hanging them to dry?  Not really!  Any extra time spent with the wet laundry is completely offset by how little time it takes to fold them up when they're dry.  And by eliminating the frustration of having piles of clean laundry sitting on the floor that we just didn't have time to fold before the weekend was over.  If I don't have time to put clothes away, they sit nice and pretty on the drying rack instead of wrinkled on the floor, mocking me in all their unfolded-ness.

An I weird?  Undoubtedly.  But I am Mrs. Homesteader, after all.  I love this stuff!  And hopefully June'a electricity bill will reflect the changes.  If not...I think I'll still hang our clothes to dry.  

*Confession: I didn't know how to actually use a drying rack for its intended purpose and had to figure it out.  Would you believe there are NO YouTube instructional videos (at least that I could find).  It's the first time YouTube has ever let me down.  I found that hanging our shirts and pants on hangers on the shower curtain rod in the kids/guest bathroom and ended up using the drying rack mostly for kids clothes and undergarments.  

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