Sunday, September 10, 2006

The energy debate

Summer procrastination is over. I do not watch TV a lot but yesterday I saw an interview with Al Gore about the energy crisis and global warming etc etc. It reminded me why it is that I am doing all this stuff. One step at a time, now, not in 10 years time when it will be harder and harsher to do.
Al Gore wants people to take up the changes necessary and as we change , so will the politicians. Politicians are not going to tell us to change things because we have a comfort zone and actually what we are going to have to do is to give up some of those in order to save lives in the future.Granted, technology will come up with solutions, but we can be creative, use our resources, the brain come up with creative, innovative ways ourself. You do not even have to reinvent the wheel, there are many of us already doing this. The reason for this blog is to show you that an ordinary woman, with 4 kids, can make changes. Some are more popular than others but the solutions we find as a family, the savings and changes we make have an impact on what we then do. Less is really more when you get going but you need to switch off the consumer messages in your head, on the TV, in the papers...and switch on your own creative brain..working out a plan for a life that is worth living to you, a life that has value, a life that will be sustainable in the future.

To make changes, in any business, even a life business, you need to know exactly where you are at. I have said this before on money matters and it also holds true on energy matters. Despite many changes in lightbulbs and usage habits, I thought our energy consumption would go down. Imagine therefore my disbelief when I heard that my electricity payment was being increased. I wanted to investigate why. One of the reasons is that the unit price has gone up but secondly, it appears that our consumption also has increased. How is that possible?

Your electric supplier has all these facts on hand on a computer somewhere. This is what I found out. We have increased our use from an average of 19 units per day to 21. As it turns out, some of the changes we made to save water have increased our energy output. Let me explain that one. A bath, uses a lot of water but in this house, we have a tank of hot water each day regardless of whether we use a bath or not. It is heated by gas so our gas consumption is unaffected. We cannot change the process, it heats up our range cooker which heats up the water as a by product. Changing to showers has reduced the amount of water we use but increased the amount of electricity we use. A 10 min shower uses 3.75 units. There are 5 people in this house although some wash more often than others ( there is no right way in this, no preference, its individual). So making this change has affected our electricity usage. To put that right we can balance individual showers and shared bathwater.

The other items that use a lot of units are as follows :
Dishwasher uses 2.5 units per load
washing machine uses 2 units per wash
dryer uses 2 units per load
computer uses 1 unit every 4 hours, so if you leave it on 24 hours it will use 6 units.

Why do I fret about it. I don’t but I want to install solar panels in the future and enable this house to generate some units from that. There has to be a balance between what it can produce and what we use.

Our washing machine has a 7kg load and we can be more careful in using it when it is full and when the clothes are dirty. We hang them out to dry in the summer. Dishwashing could be done by hand.

Against everything is the convenience of time. Everything in the simple life, requires less money and more time and as you consume less, you have more money to spend on the things or people that really matter to you.

Appliances in our house have a certain lifespan and when they break we can repair them, we can look whether we want to replace them at all, and replace them with energy efficient appliances or with muscle power. It all depends how driven you are on this issue.

My boys looked incredibly at me as if to say ‘ and you spent all afternoon establishing how many units we use per day?’ Yep, I did because finding out and creating your baseline gives you the information to make changes if you want to.

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