Energy Diet

Getting a Reality Check

This is not the best of weeks to be starting the challenge: As I’m writing this blog, I’m getting ready to board a plane to California for one of my best friend’s wedding, that’s many many miles o’ carbon there!

On the other hand I am now even more excited and inspired in participating in this challenge after having read about the lives and ideas of my fellow participants.

I have to say that we were a little bit worried about scoring some points for this effort. Boy, were we naive thinking that we were already doing many ecological friendly things around the house and that it would be difficult to do more, after reading what a fellow blogger said about “you can’t improve what you can’t measure.” Well, that was a REAL eye opener, and the stats do all the talking in that sense. Here they are:

After a quick look at our utility bills (honestly, I’ve never put them all together), I was shocked to see how much water and electricity we use. Especially since our house doesn’t use that much light during the day (we have skylights throughout the house), and we have relatively new appliances.

I think a quick description of our starting out point is in order:

Water (used): We have a onsite water treatment system which takes all our black and grey water, treats it biologically and stores it in a cistern. We also have a rainwater collection system that also ends up in the same cistern. This is all so we can use the treated water to water our garden and orchard. Just for comparison sake our garden is 5,000 sq ft. Our orchard is 3,300 sq ft.

Water (fresh): We get our water from a municipal line. This is stored in a large cistern since water is only available 4 to 5 times a week.

GLP: gas is supplied by a mobile gas truck. We usually only need gas three times a year because we have solar water heaters for bathrooms, pool and radiant heating.

Electricity: We get our electricity from a municipal line. We have skylights all over the house, so really don’t use artificial light during the day.

Short term goals

We have implemented the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule. We also have dual flush toilets to further help in water savings.

We make our own cleaning products (vinegar based) for bathroom and floor cleaning. This helps cut back on chlorine based products and also keeps our water treatment system working in optimal condition.

We are also tweaking the garden watering system to try and cut back on the amount of water dumped on the grass.

Also we have modified the watering schedule to water very early in the morning, which I think helps with less evaporation.

GLP Gas:
We are in the process of cleaning and improving our solar water heaters. this should help cut back our gas bill even more.

We are depending on the sun for heating the pool so this should also help.

We are all making a conscious effort to turn off all equipment and lights when not used. The worst offenders of leaving lights on are the kids and myself. With any luck, this action alone will cut back a small percentage.
We are checking all our appliances to see where our worst offenders are. Then we’ll try to disconnect when not in use or replace.

We’re installing an EnergySaver doodad that is supposed to save us 20% on our energy bill. Will report soon as to its performance.

Last but not least, we will be replacing our halogen bulbs with LEDs (this process will take a while, since the LED bulbs are quite expensive in Mexico).


  1. Tom Sahagian
    January 31, 2011, 11:52 pm

    Hi Michele — I’m one of the coaches. Can you confirm something for me? Assuming “light” means electricity in general, can it be that you are paying $2.93 per kWh? I thought New York had high energy prices!

    The only good part about this is, if that’s the real price, almost anything you do to conserve will pay back in about 5 minutes! I’m exaggerating, but only slightly.

    Also, just so I understand, “gas” is natural gas or gasoline? By billing you only 2 or 3 times a year, the utility makes it difficult for you to receive the feedback you need to make energy-saving decsions. Plus it no doubt plays havoc with your household cash flow.

    “LTS” is liters? $5.55 per liter of natural gas would be, in a word, breathtaking. We need to talk, and soon!

  2. Michele
    February 1, 2011, 10:01 pm

    Haha, Hi Tom, just to clear up some of the questions, yes, by light we mean electricity witch is our biggest head ache right now, the amounts stated are in mexican pesos, so one would have to the conversion witch is about 12.06 pesos per dollar.
    So I’m sorry to say that indeed N.Y. utility costs must be way more expensive than in Mexico. And as to your second question by gas we meant LPG for the home, we’ll have to get back to you on the petrol gas data.

  3. Tom Sahagian
    February 2, 2011, 6:52 am

    Well that’s a relief.

    In looking at your electric bills, you don’t appear to be using all that much more in the summer — or is it that the AC runs year round (!).

    What is the LPG used for?