Energy Diet

…but our efforts around the house have become less vague and more pinpointed.
When we started this challenge, we thought that our efforts to reduce energy were enough. After having done the tallies of our actual electricity use, the numbers weren’t reflecting that effort, so we dove right in to find out why.

We started with our electric bill, which was sky high, and got somebody to come to the house to check which appliances were the worst offenders. It turned out that we only had to get rid of two appliances that were consuming too much energy. One of our main suspicions in this sense had always been the fridge, because it’s a big model and it doesn’t have an energy-efficient certificate (we got it as a wedding gift 10 years ago), but nope, the problem wasn’t there either.

So we went into more technical stuff, like the source of the energy. It turns out that electricity in Mexico is very irregular. We get huge peaks of energy, so we installed a three-face energy saver that basically optimizes and stabilizes voltage by storing energy for a maximum of 10 seconds.

We have bought LED illumination for the house that will be installed next week. It wasn’t cheap, mind you, but we are expecting or hoping it will be a good investment by cutting our energy bill in half.

We just got the power strips that Chad Lipton the Energy Coach recommended, and we will be using them on our entertainment system and home office.

We also recently tweaked our solar water heater so we can meet our daily demands without using our gas water heater.

In the cooking department, on hot sunny days, which we get quite a few of, we use our solar slow cooker for cooking lentils, beans and stews. We found it in the girls’ school in an Earth Day event and it works very well. You just put in the ingredients, place it on a sunny spot and leave it for four to five hours, and it’s done! It’s part of a wonderful project used in rural areas in Mexico so people can use it without consuming the forests. You can check out their web site at:

As for our gasoline consumption, I’m proud to say that that has been the biggest clincher for us, it has turned out to be a way of life more than anything else.

We had shared in a previous post that we started out by extending our carpooling arrangements with the girls’ class schedule, but now more of our grownup friends are catching on, and now we share a ride to our book club sessions, visits to the hospital, supermarket trips and other events!

The neighborhood bicycle path is taking shape now, and even though the project was already under construction, the new “committee” has been able to put our two cents in as far as optimizing some elements in the design.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I do see more and more people on their bikes, walking, enjoying the outdoors more, and I think that’s one of those good things that are highly contagious.


  1. clipton
    March 23, 2011, 9:50 am

    Michele—I understand the difficulty is seeing immediate savings. Since there are many factors that influence your energy bills, it is hard to connect a specific behavior change to savings. You want to look for trends. My first suggestion is to map out your monthly energy consumption over 12 months (24 months is even better). Chart kWh, # days in each bill and average outside temperature. This will give a good benchmark to compare changes over time. It is unlikely to notice a real change in one month. Best comparisons use the same month across different years.

    Focus on the big things first. I don’t know what the climate is like in Queretaro (btw, if you run into Luke Leiden—an American teaching English at a school in Queretaro—pass my regards). You may not need to heat and have little need to cool. If that’s the case, you’re refrigerator and lights will have a large impact on your bills. For comparison, in the US lighting represents roughly 11% of average single family home energy consumption. In Queretaro, it probably makes up a larger percentage. LED lights are indeed expensive, but hopefully they will result in a meaningful payback period. Energy technology with refrigerators has increased immensely in the last 30 years and fairly significantly in the last 10 years as well. You may be a good candidate for a new fridge. One website to help shine some light on that decision is: (this is made for the US, however it should still help in Mexico.

    Finally, I’m not so sure about the three-face energy saver (maybe three-phase energy saver?).

    I suspect this refers to a power factor correction device. If that’s the case, these devices are a scam for the household level (at least in the US). These units improve apparent power, but utilities charge for real power. If you want the long answer, see:

    Other than that, if you do have air-conditioning, that could be a significant part of your energy bill. Keeping that in mind can help avoid waste, such as leaving windows open with the AC on.

  2. boudour
    Abu Dhabi,UAE
    March 26, 2011, 2:07 am

    I believe that this is a celebration for all of us on our hard work; We Al Nowais family would love to share this hour with all of u.