Reducing electricity consumption

February 3, 2008 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

There’s currently a challenge on Downsizer to try and reduce your energy consumption. On the plus side, this has prompted me to get off my arse, find the meter, read it, record it and keep and eye on what we’re using, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for months.

On the other hand… I have to take the third reading this evening and I haven’t done anything to reduce our electricity consumption apart from get into the habit of checking everything’s on standby every night, which fell by the wayside rather when we moved in, as Scientist Boyfriend scornfully said it didn’t make that much difference. While I broadly accept his point that the biggest household energy draws were cooking and heating and everything else is rather incidental, I now see this more as an incentive to start researching solid fuel Rayburns and Clearview stoves now so that when we eventually buy somewhere (or have a lease with more freedom to do stuff to the house) we can get them sorted immediately, rather than as an excuse to ignore the little red light on the telly staying on overnight.

But other than that….

Well, we don’t have a tumble dryer, a dishwasher, or a microwave; we never use the toastie-maker any more; we have energy-saving lightbulbs in most rooms and are replacing the old ones as they break; we often have candles on in the evening instead of the lights; I know I have the computer on far too much (most of the day unless I’m out), but I need it for work – as a freelance, I often get offered jobs at the last minute and being a recent graduate and not having yet moved into a barter economy, I do need the money, and while I print out translations and do them with the computer off (is firing up the printer and using paper any better? I do print on both sides…), I have to do all the transcriptions on the computer and often have to do translations in ‘real time’ in Google docs, so someone can proof-read it simultaneously, not to mention often needing the net for research*. We try and be economical with the oven, i.e. time bread and cakes to go in at the same time as dinner, but it’s a small oven with only one shelf, so there’s a limit to how much we can do on that front. We have a wind-up radio that we take around the house with us. We always make sure the washing machine is full when we use it and it’s one of the cold-fill-only ones (or not – whichever is more environmentally friendly – I can’t remember the details, but we looked into it, and Scientist Boyfriend said whatever-we-went-for was the better choice). I occasionally use an electric oil-filled radiator to heat my study, but this is having worked out that it’s more efficient to do that than to heat the whole house for an hour during the day (and, yes, I already wear thick jumpers, gloves for typing and sit on and under a blanket before I actually have the heater on). I use the slow-cooker wherever possible.

So, yes, short of actually entering into outright privation (by which I understand going to bed at dusk, and the bf understands curtailing telly-viewing time), or doing things like using the gas hob instead of the electric oven to artificially lower our electricity consumption for the sake of the Downsizer challenge (which would be silly and just deplete one non-renewable resource instead of another, though there is an argument that at least the gas will last for longer…), I don’t know how I can get it down any more!

The only thing I can think of is to get a microwave. I know there was a big fad for ‘microwave cookery’, but I’m too much of a food snob not to view that as an oxymoron, and to me it would just be a tool for melting butter and reheating things. I won’t pretend I haven’t wanted one when I’ve been pulverising barely-softened butter and sugar together for cakes, and it does seem very silly to fire up the oven or the hob just to reheat leftovers when two minutes in the microwave would do – as a household, we’re very keen on cooking lots of food and eating it the next day (or three), so it would be a considerable energy saving.

The primary factor in my reluctance to get one (beyond the snobbery), is purely spatially motivated. We have a small, narrow kitchen, and the only place we could put it is on top of the fridge, which is currently the residence of a box of baking goodies (40 kinds of sugar, a vanilla pod and some desiccated coconut), a surfeit of lime cordial (cos I got confused in Waitrose) and breakfast cereals, all of which I view as essentials and, I suppose, could rehome, but not without inconvenience.

I’m not sure if the energy savings could ‘offset’ the environmental cost of having another appliance.

I’m also very short and wouldn’t be able to reach the microwave safely if it was up there. Surface space is just at too much of a premium, really, but…

… well, it would be efficient. (As would getting a stack of bamboo steamers or something. I live in fear of our electricity or gas being cut off if Berkshire drowns again, and am planning to get a camping stove and a pile of steamers and make elaborate meals on a single gas ring, should it come to that.)

Hmmm. Think I’ll look out on Freecycle, but not have it as a priority.

* If I worked in an office, none of this would ‘count’, either in fact on my electricity meter, or in theory on my carbon footprint according to every calculator I’ve seen.


Entry filed under: energy.

A little light relief Home-brewing – the proof of the pudding

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February 2008
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