The Great Experiment (Don't Try This at Home)

>> Thursday, September 9, 2010

A few weeks ago, Darling Husband and I embarked on an experiment.  Don't ask what we were thinking.  I'm not sure we really know.  It was a combination of saving money, greening the environment, getting out more and staying in less, and probably some other karmic good stuff.  I don't completely understand it myself.

We limited water use and power use all over the place.  In truth, we wanted to see what the real dollars and sense cost to the home is of all our ordinary activities. 

Before you get too wound up about this, and before you begin worrying about what happened to my blog, let me explain a little bit about how this house works.

Hot water to the upstairs tub happens within 15 seconds.  Hot water to the kitchen sink can take as much as five minutes.  The bathroom that is mere steps from the kitchen can have scalding water instantaneously.  This sink can also pull hot water from the heater as many as four days after the power has gone out for a random hurricane.  I know this for a fact.  This house is messed up, and that is just the water stuff.  Don't even get me started on the air circulation.

In other words, this house is a bit of a maintenance nightmare.  How many cents am I wasting trying to get hot water from the kitchen when I could just walk to the bathroom?  How many cents am I saving by somehow having the hot water express-shipped to my upstairs shower?  And who knows what is going on inside that washing machine when I hit "warm"?  It's an energy star appliance, but is it on the "hot" or the "cold" side of the water line?

I know that adjusting our thermostat by two degrees can have a tremendous impact on our monthly power bill, especially in the summertime, so what else might?  Probably nothing, but why not give it a try, at least for the sake of Mother Earth?

So, like blind fools, we tried this "experiment".  We turned off all the lights in the house until at least 5 PM.  We limited each adult to no more than one shower a day, and we opted to wash children only if they seemed to need it rather than every night.  Then, I forced us to only do five loads of laundry a week.  (That took major arm twisting for sure.)

What did we learn in this experiment?  I learned many, many things.

1.  Don't try this experiment at home.

2.  Toddler is addicted to lights.  Every 15 minutes he asked, "Can you turn on the big light?"

3.  If we said, "No" to turning on the lights, he would simply get the stool out and do it himself.

4.  The laundry seems no different if I wash it and rinse it in cold.

5.  The dryer doesn't dry nearly as well on "medium." 

6.  After three days of no internal electric lights during the day, the house began to look shockingly like a cave.

7.  Cave-like homes lead to really bad moods.  Candles only help a little bit, and not if you are under five.

8.  There is no sense to this cave-like issue, because we have big wide windows and a lot of natural light, but somehow it isn't enough.

9.  Once we began to pray for sunset so we could turn on the lights, we gave up.  It can't be that much money anyway.  Mother Nature may be annoyed, but much more of this and we would have qualified as our own disaster zone.

10.  We will be keeping the laundry limit at five loads a week, though.  I like that change.

11.  As it turns out, children in this house really do need to be bathed daily.

12.  Limiting adults to only one shower a day on work weekends when garage and/or yard work is involved is a mistake.

I never really thought my recessed lighting in the kitchen and family room made all that much difference, but apparently I was grossly mistaken and they are actually the finest investment I ever made.  Apparently, these lights heighten moods like happiness and a sense of well-being.  They also seem to keep other moods, like grumpiness and random flashes of Toddler-anger, at a minimum. 

And all along I thought that was the television.  Huh.  Maybe I just have magic lights.  Maybe I just have a weird family.


Dazee Dreamer September 9, 2010 at 10:15 AM  

you can get a little instantanious water heater for your kitchen sink. That way you don't have to wait 5 minutes for the water.

kadiera September 9, 2010 at 11:42 AM  

We need a new water heater, and are leaning towards the instant kind. Our bathroom is as far from the hot water heater as it can get and still be in the house, which means it takes half the shower time to get a hot shower...

I'd say get the CFL lights - full spectrum ones can be found fairly cheap online. Here in the great gloomy north, I've found them to be a huge improvement, both in terms of light quality, and in terms of mood...and our electric bill went down with them (and given all our power hungry medical equipment, you know it has to be good if we can see the bill drop!)

We've got a clothes line, but it's impossible to get a dry sunny day here to actually dry things, so the dryer on high is a much better choice :)

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