After tallying our water, electricity and gas usage, we determined one thing: We use too much. My wife and I were both actually quite shocked at how much we use when we look at this at an aggregate level. But when I did some research on what others with a house/family of our size in Colorado spend, we were not as far over as I thought. Or we are all using too much! Either way, we have some room for improvement in this category.
We walked the girls through things in the house that use gas, electricity and water. Gas was the one thing they had a harder time making the connection with. When I mentioned natural gas to Sophie, our 5-year-old, she said, you are supposed to run. My wife and I challenged them with a couple of ways to lower our bill like turning things off when not in use and not running the water when brushing their teeth. There was a hook, of course: Whatever we can lower our bill by, they can use at the toy store.
Digging through this data would have been a real task if it were not for the great online tools provided by Xcel Energy. Their reporting tools allow you to visualize the split between gas and electricity over the course of a two-year period. The data showed that we used more energy in 2010 then we did in 2009. So I dug deeper to try and understand why.
My hypothesis has a few of factors. The first is that the average temperature was much colder in 2010 than in 2009 so we used more heat. The second, our son was an infant at the time and sleeps in a room that is the coldest in our house so we compensated by turning the heat up. The third is that our home office, which is a detached unit from our house, was running the heat when it was not needed.
Our water provider, which is a public utility, does not have nearly the same level of functionality. So I had to dig through bank statements to get an idea of our usage. This was not quite as surprising. The bill goes up in the summer when we water our yard, but not by too much, because our yard is quite small.
Some things we will implement right away:
1. Place fans over the air ducts in our son’s room to help pull more hot air through.
2. Set our thermostat on a schedule for both our house and home office
3. Wash clothes in non-peak times
4. Setting up energy monitoring technology to schedule usage (will write more about this one)
What other things would you suggest we do?