Group 6 2 minutes Read

gallons and kilowatts

Lauren Zerbey

During the last couple of years we have taken several measures to reduce our monthly water and energy usage, and today we went through our old bills and tallied the average gallons per day and kWh’s per day to see just how much of an impact those measures have had.

Ok, I also geeked out on some bar charts.

In terms of water use, the best thing we did was replace the old toilet that came with the house. Even though we weren’t slated to redo our bathroom for a while, in 2007 we swapped the old water hog for a low flow, dual flush Toto toilet. This cut our water usage by over 50 gallons per day! Interestingly enough, the rest of the chart remains pretty stable, even with the addition of our low flow shower head and bathroom sink aerator in the fall of 2008. (The spikes in the summer time account for garden and tree watering and the dip in August/September 2008 was likely due to the fact that we were in the middle of the bathroom remodel which inherently deterred water use.) We added a dishwasher when we moved in, but chose an Energy Star Bosch model that prioritizes water conservation (and many studies show that efficient dishwashers use less overall water than hand washing).

The energy chart is a bit more telling. Because we heated the home the first couple of winters with electric space heaters (the house came with an ancient oil-based furnace that we didn’t dare turn on), there was a huge draw for those months. The sad thing is that we only used the space heaters when we were home on weeknights and weekends…the numbers would have been quite a bit higher if we had left them on during the day. [Also, we don’t have A/C, so our energy use drops dramatically during the summer months (plus there’s more sunlight so less artificial light is needed). ] In September 2008, we finally got a new high efficiency gas furnace and gas tankless hot water heater and our average kWh’s per day plummeted! Granted, we now have natural gas to add to the mix, but it is a less expensive energy source (even in the Pacific Northwest where much of our electricity comes from hydro) and with a new furnace and programmable thermostat we can closely control the temperature so we’re comfortable but not wasteful. We’re also no longer keeping a big tank of water heated which cuts down our load even further.  On a smaller scale, before we moved in we replaced the fridge (from an unidentifiable era) with a super efficient Danish model from Summit. We’ve also installed a timer on our front porch light and CFL bulbs in most of the other rooms, but have yet to find a good, dimmable CFL. Anyone have any favorites?

While we’re happy that we’ve been able to make these reductions, there’s still room for improvement. For both water and energy use, the biggest remaining offender is our washer and dryer.

It appears that the washing machine is from 1999…no idea on the dryer. While we would love to trade these in for a high efficiency front loading washer and natural gas dryer, we have a kitchen to plan for. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they make it for a few more years or until we’re able to finish out the basement.

Our long term ideas are to add PV panels to our south-facing roof to reduce our electricity load. To eventually wean ourselves off natural gas, we could install an air-source heat pump and convert the gas furnace to back up heat. In the meantime, we’ll continue to improve our envelope by adding more insulation to the walls and attic!