It never ceases to amaze me how much power, natural gas, and water we use. The utility bills roll in, and we pay them, thinking "that seems like more than this time last year," thinking that the latest cold snap is to blame. But is it?
We visited some relatives in Germany last March, and I was able to use their washing machine and dryer. TINY! Not knowing the situation, I didn't give myself enough time to wash and dry everything I wanted to. The washing machine, very high efficiency, took an hour and a half to wash, and the dryer was almost as bad. They had lines to hang everything from the ceiling of the laundry room. Electricity is so expensive, you rarely used the dryer.
Every where we went, televisions had special power buttons to eliminate phantom loads. At one hotel, all the lighting was LED. Refrigerators are tiny. Huge freezers non-existant. Freight travels by rail or barge. A much greater percentage of cars are diesel. Fuel was 1.10 Euro a liter for diesel, 1.30 Euro for regular. We took public transport all over Munich, leaving our car and stau (the wonderful German word for traffic jam) behind.
At another relative's home, there was a chart plotting the household electricity use. They were trying to minimize power use in their small home. A light bulb (cfl, of course) came on in my head, and as soon as I was home, I plotted out our household natural gas, electricity, and water use.
So how did we do in 2007? Pretty well, all told. Our electricity use went down 11%. We've been slowly replacing incandescent with CFL bulbs as they burn out. I also started using a clothesline when it's been warm enough. Somehow in the last month we reduced our use by 5kWh a day over the year previous. Not sure how that happened.
Our water use went down 4% as well. We had a very rainy summer which helped with watering the garden (we don't water the lawn). Thing 1 is taking more showers now that he's getting closer to teenagerhood, although he's only turning on the water to rinse off.
The one area we didn't do so well was natural gas. Our usage went up 7% over last year. The reason, I belive, is two-fold. We now cook with gas (we didn't before). Also, it really has been a cold fall. I'm going to get the furnace tuned up, and hopefully that'll help.
But how are we doing compared to the average American?
Electricity: we use 9% less
Natural Gas: we use 5% less
Water: we use 38% less
Obviously we still have some work to do....