Part of our ‘city sufficiency’ journey is about looking at what we use from elsewhere. One of the first things we considered was how we could minimise energy usage in a way that didn’t require us to be cold, dirty or relying on candlelight.
In some ways we’ve done really well. One of the biggest revelations of the year to me is how good LED bulbs are – especially compared to compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. They use even less energy than CFL, hit their full brightness instantly, and last a lot longer. Buying LED bulbs when they were on sale limited the upfront cost ($10 a bulb is not ideal, even when they save much more than that over their lifespan), and now have LEDs throughout the house – except for where we have a dimmer or need a particular type of bulb.
We also switched from electric hot water to gas. From a quality of life standpoint, this change has been one of the best things we’ve done – plus we’re no longer keeping a tank of very hot water in the cupboard, but heating what we need, when we need it. Our electricity bill dropped 40% in the first month with gas, and it’s something we’d never change back.
Being in a mid-sized family home we also have a full outdoor clothesline. This sees a lot of use, and it’s fantastic being able to get our clothes dry (or even mostly dry) to reduce the amount we need our dryer. A clothes dryer is both hard on clothes and incredibly energy-hungry, so there’s common sense in minimising the amount we use it. We’ve had very mixed success of picking good drying days through winter, but with better weather not far off, I’m looking forward to reliably drying outside again.
Of course, there’s always more we can do. The washing line in our garage could be used to dry clothes even when it’s raining – if only we could get to it past the piles of gardening equipment and other gear. Also, our appliances (some of which were bought cheaply online, while others came with the house) aren’t especially energy efficient, and we don’t always remember to turn things like TVs off when we’re finished with them.
So what are our next steps?
- Adding timers for appliances etc to make sure they’re off when we don’t need them
- Switching our last bulbs to LED (even if that means getting an electrician to help)
- Choosing more energy efficient appliances as we replace them
Longer term, we also think our house is well positioned for passive solar power generation, and we get direct sun almost all day. Installing solar panels would be a big investment (I understand we’d be looking at around $10,000 to $12,000), so it’s some way off. Regardless, this is something we’re keen to explore.