An Illuminating Experience

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We’ve issued challenges to our “green” families and asked them to share their experiences. Challenge #4: In the Dark? Vote online for the family that made the best effort!

You may remember from our second post (see Slow as Molasses in January) that we installed the electricity monitor, provided in our Green Families kit, the last Sunday of January. The monitor has a portable readout that shows how many kilowatts are being used at any time of the day or night. It can also display current costs and monthly estimates. We placed it in the kitchen window where we can easily keep an eye on it. The instant readout makes us very aware of what is on or off.

Our family tends to be pretty conservative, turning off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use, and we noticed the readout is usually around 300 watts (0.3 Kw); however, it really makes a jump when we turn on appliances that heat up, like the clothes dryer, hair dryer, and toaster. I find myself giving up toast if I’m not going to cook two slices and keeping the hair dryer on warm rather than hot. Silly perhaps, but these little things are adding up. To date, the monitor estimates our monthly usage at 314 kilowatts instead of the 398 used last January or the 347 used during February 2009. After the sun goes down and we have the computer, lights, dishwasher, and TV system running, the total usage is still less than when running just the clothes dryer!

Being able to see our current electricity consumption has opened our eyes to how much we rely on this invisible power for entertainment, light, and heat. Unfortunately, much of our electric power comes from burning fossil fuels that add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. SDG&E (San Diego Gas & Electric Company) says they will have 20 percent of their power coming from renewable resources by 2010 to comply with state mandates. I wonder what percentage could be generated if we worked together to install solar electric panels on all the roofs in San Diego County…

Patti Turkle
Read Patti’s previous post, Love-Our-Planet Dinner.