Friday, May 25, 2007

90% Heating and Cooking Fuels

We average 500 therms of natural gas a year. That's about 50% of the national average of 1000 therms per household. Most of our usage comes in the winter months; for example, we used just 11 therms in June 2006, 12 therms in July 2006, and 13 therms in August 2006, all of which are months that required no use of the furnace and were perfect for line drying. In contrast, we used 92 therms of gas in December 2006 and 140 therms in January 2007. Even keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees during the day I suffered with the cold, so I can't imagine lowering it. We do use a programmable thermostat so we can effectively keep the furnace off at night.

Again, part of our high usage reflects a poorly insulated home and an old, inefficient furnace. Last winter, however, I was very ill and had surgery. Because of this I wasn't able to make window quilts, and our front windows and the windows in the boys room had no window coverings at all. Because of the nature of my surgery Papa was instructed to wash my towels daily and the bedding twice weekly, all in hot water (and all of my underclothing as well). That's extra gas for the hot water and extra gas for the more frequent dryer loads. So we do have a chance of reducing our usage this winter.

So as I mentioned in the last post, I'll make window quilts for this winter. We'll install something better than my makeshift clothesline, allowing me to hang more than one load a day in winter (not a problem in summer, where a load can air dry in less than an hour). The ability to hang more than one load means I can take better advantage of good drying days, even in winter.

I do cook a lot, often for all three daily meals. My stove top is natural gas. So either we have to cook less, or figure that in. It's difficult when you are dealing with celiac disease (two of us), multiple food allergies (three of us), and a restricted diet for interstitial cystitis (just me). We can't just throw together a PB&J sandwich and call it lunch.

We've worked on lowering hot water usage. I bathe 4 times a week, but not in a full bath tub. When I am done (except after my Saturday night bath) my boys bathe in my bath water. It's radical, I know, but it has to be more sanitary than swimming in polluted ocean waters or a community pool. I go first because I am far less dirty than they are! I wash most of our clothes in cold (tap cold on my machine). The dishwasher has its own internal water heater, so we can keep ours set lower. The water heater is old; something else that could probably use replacement with a more efficient model. We looked into installing a tankless water heater in 2003 but didn't have enough air circulation in the space we wanted to put it. We'll rethink that now that we may demolish part of the laundry room to make room for a freezer.

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