Is It Worth the Energy?

I’m entirely convinced there’s a freckle-faced bureaucrat with two fingers up a nostril trying to navigate the stray hairs while sitting at his mahogany desk somewhere in the non-Blogosphere wondering how he can hoodwink us all into thinking we’re bettering the environment and our wallets at the same time, while accomplishing little in the way of energy reduction. (Run-on sentence much? I don’t care, it still bothers me.)

Aye, it was me. And I’m bitter.

They get television personalities like HGTV’s Carter Oosterhouse to break in-between segments bursting with smarm and a head full of curls, willing us to unplug things around our home to help save us another 40% on our energy bills. Anyone that knows me also knows I’ve never been one to leave a stray light on or use electricity with flamboyant, reckless abandonment. My Mum would always get at us for walking away leaving lights on in our pathway of destruction and I soon learned to flick it off or hear the wrath of it with the words ‘Blackpool Illuminations’ thrown in there somewhere for good measure.

Like any good mother, I have passed on the heaving neurosis to my oldest, who undoubtedly will pass it to his sibling and save me the bother. (I’m all about saving any kind of energy, really.) So like any self-respecting lecky-thrift, I went to task unplugging items I don’t use on a regular basis, and waited. And waited. It was pre- air conditioner weather and post- heavy furnace usage weather – a prime time, or so I thought. Imagine my horror when we hadn’t SAVED money, but actually USED a whole extra dollar! I felt violated!

Undeterred, I went about with new faith before our impending trip to Scotland literally oozing with glee that my efforts then would not go unnoticed when the financial docket slipped into our box. We were gone from 10 March — 03 April. Exactly three weeks. I unplugged EVERYTHING except the DVR, the fridge and the stand-alone freezer in our garage. We also turned the thermostat of our (natural gas) furnace down to 50ºF. And as a courtesy, you may like to know our cooker/stove is gas also. Now, it should be noted that our expenses for an average billing cycle is around $135-ish. Imagine my utter disgust when we received our new bill the end of April and it was a whopping $100 for the previous cycle. So basically, a week’s worth of usage.

We paid it, and I thought about it from time to time, but in the back of my mind, if the truth be told, I quietly hoped there had been a calculation error, despite knowing full well the metres are read remotely from the comfort and safety of their wee swanky vans. Months past and my curiosity couldn’t take it anymore. I picked up the phone and dialled.

“I just have a random question and I should have phoned you 4 months ago about this…”

She chortled. “OK, how can I help you?”

“My family and I were out of the country from hence to thence and I unplugged everything we absolutely didn’t need to have plugged in … our furnace is gas. Yes, the stove is gas too.”

“For that time period, it does show a dip in the kilowatt usage–”

“Yes, but not as much as I would have thought, I don’t understand it. We weren’t home at all…”

“Even if you unplug things, there is still electricity running through your home.”

“OK, that makes sense (but I was quietly cursing Carter Oosterhouse’s name). We’re leaving for a trip again next month, what can we do to minimise the cost? Do you have any suggestions?”

“The only thing you can do to bring down your energy costs while you are gone is to switch off the breakers for the rooms you don’t need power to.”

So, you heard it from me first everybody, flick the main switches, go live with the Amish and save a pretty bundle. I’ll still be flicking lights off right behind people as they leave a room and ticking them off, but maybe from now on I’ll flick them with my fingers instead.


19 responses to “Is It Worth the Energy?

  1. It’s still $35.00 less than it might have been. If it had been MY wife, she would have asked for documentation supporting the readings they say they got. Prove it, she would say.

  2. wow, surprising! i also go around turning everything possible off and unplugging whatever i can, but never really checked to see if my effort was translating into savings on my bill. now i’m feeling skeptical – have we been had?

  3. I think the Amish do have the right idea. I’m gonna check into that. They don’t pay for gasoline either.

  4. LOL about the Blackpool Illuminations comment — I find myself saying that to my own kids nowadays.

    Oh, and a few years back, hubby did that with the breakers only he did it to all of them. We came home after 3 weeks holiday to a stinky horrible fridge full of rotting yuckiness! So, if you’re going to do it, make sure to leave the kitchen one well alone!

  5. The same thing happens at our summer home. We use it in the off-season but only once in a while. The electric bills are still huge. I don’t get it. Maybe we are all doing our small part for the Blackpool illuminations.

  6. Stick solar pannels on wind turbines and we’ll be sorted 🙂

  7. ciaran: That’s funny… I actually have a “solar assisted” windmill going into the systems list for my “Shipping Container Home” that my family is building in South Mississippi. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Use superheated air (ala solar panel) and small jets, to assist a windmill, during slack wind periods, to produce power.
    Whew! I think I just matched the lass’s run-on sentence, but I don’t care, either…
    You can read more about our project, on my blog.
    And lass, stick to it. A penny saved, is one that Uncle Sam will find a way to tax… LOL!
    Loved the post! Kudos!

  8. The Amish have all the fun! Well, except right now when it’s SOOO hot and the AC is sitting on 79 and still running 24/7.

  9. Interesting… I would never have thought of that. Thanks for sharing that little green tidbit.

  10. I would kill for a $100 electric bill. Shoot, I’d kill for a $200 electric bill.

  11. I love HGTV, but they are a bit high and mighty! I loved that your older boy will teach the neurosis to the younger so you can save the energy, haha! I didn’t know that about the circuits; what a useful post this is. 🙂

  12. Wow! I don’t blame you for calling. I would have been curious too. That’s crazy there was such a small difference! Thanks for the tip. Sounds so drastic, but hopefully it works.

  13. Funny story! It’s almost demoralizing, isn’t it? Well, not as demoralizing as a refrigerator full of blech, but all that effort for such a small savings!

    I’ll try the breaker thing next time we go abroad. I’ll have to figure out how they’re wired first…

  14. What a green tip on TV that they beat you about the head with isn’t true? Why don’t they ever give useful advice like drink water, use less, stay home more, carpool, mix your own cleaners, bake your own food, buy local, go play outside, be frugal.

  15. THAT. IS. RI.DIC.ULOUS!!! And this is just part of the reason a meteorologist I know says global warming and all the warnings about it are a crock of crap (based on the theory that weather is cyclical). don’t argue w/me about it. i’m just the messenger. lolol. with two fingers up a nostril? GROSS!! lol. you’d better believe the owners of tv stations are likely some of the biggest energy users. how do you think they stay on the air???

  16. Great post. That does seem ridiculously expensive for one weeks electricity. Thanks for the advice on the breakers.

  17. That is so good to know! I had no idea…it makes sense, but why don’t they post that somewhere or something? Our energy costs here where I live are ridiculous also!

  18. I couldn’t live with the Amish for one simple reason: I like to wear pants.

    It’s odd that unplugging the appliances didn’t do much to reduce your electric bill. It did for me. One thing to check is if your gas/electric company takes an actual reading every month or do they do a combination of a real reading one month and an estimated reading the following month. I found that on the months that my gas company does an estimated reading they estimate and charge us for much more gas than we actually use. Fortunately the gas company allows us to take and phone in gas meter readings on the months that they estimate. It’s saved us some money.

  19. Pingback: T13: Randomiser «

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