Part of the State of the Homestead series
Energy. We just about hit our carbon goal of 10.45 tonnes last year (actual: 10.53t).
- Heating was our biggest success, I think. We used about 400 gallons of propane last winter, compared to nearly 700 gallons the year before and 850 gallons in 2008.We used the fireplace as our primary heat for the living room, whenever we were going to be home for more than 3 hours. The thermostat on the furnace was set at 55 most of the time, and we found that it’s a pretty comfortable temp for us to sleep in. Spring and fall, when it was 60 overnight, I was kicking off covers, tossing and turning, and sweating half to death. When we did use the furnace to make the whole house warm, we found that 62 or 63 was pretty comfortable. I attribute that to insulating the walls last summer, getting the window plastic up early, and acclimating to a cooler house.
- We can get our electricity usage under 300kwh/month in the summer. This requires that we turn off the radon fan, which uses almost 100kwh/month. I figure, all the windows are open in the summer, so the radon isn’t accumulating. We do turn it back on any time the windows will be closed for more than a couple days. The other big energy user is the furnace and a/c fan. Last year, the weather was such that we didn’t turn on the a/c at all. Hopefully, we can do that again this year. This is still well above the recommended 3kwh/day, but with the stove, dryer, and water heater all electric, I’m not sure how to cut more.
- Gasoline. This is a hard one to cut down on. We drove quite a bit less this year, not necessarily by choosing to not do things that required driving, but because those activities didn’t present themselves. (For example, Scott no longer needs to drive to Missouri three times a year for his retreat series.) Driving any less than we do now would mean cutting trips to see family.
- Air travel. Still flying a lot; it’s hard not to, what with the family spread all over the country. Trains are not at all practical for the places we need to go, and when I do the math, they don’t actually save all that much, anyway. I don’t know that there is a good answer for this one. This coming year has a wedding, a new baby, local friends moving across country, and our 10th wedding anniversary, too. *sigh*
- Alternative energy: We are to a point where we can get through multi-hour power failures with little fuss. We have several options for light, heat, and cooking facilities. We can heat water on the fireplace and keep it warm overnight to have enough warm water for a quick wash, if we want. We’d still like a way to charge phones and possibly run a fan, so we’re exploring options for solar battery charging. I think we lost power for over an hour four or five times last year; it’s nice to feel like we can continue an evening as usual without worrying about water, light, etc.
We’re at the point where I don’t know what we can cut any more. The low-hanging fruit is gone. Cutting more energy moves us into the “drastic lifestyle adjustment” area, which is tough. We live 11 miles from work, and though we’ve talked about moving closer to town, the fact is, we really like this house and this land. We also don’t feel like going through the process of selling a house, packing, and moving. We already drive to work together, combine trips, and all that. I don’t know how much more we can cut down on our driving without becoming hermits. Geothermal is an iffy proposition in Michigan, from what I can tell, and very, very expensive. Air travel I mentioned. Our food is already pretty darn local. Solar hot water? Maybe. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!