Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Energy Usage

So I was wondering about household energy usage. Namely, how much does my household use? So I pulled the data. From September 2011 to present, we've been using about 300kwH of electricity per month. Now, these are non-AC months for the most part, so summer usage might be a bit better. This is okay, but not awesome. We used the AC a couple times in May and ended up with 269kwH for the month. I'm not sure how that worked out. Suppose things get a little out of hand and we end up at 6000kwH for the year after the AC usage in the summer, then we match the average household electricity usage of Southern California, which isn't too bad for the Midwest.

Natural gas usage is a bit more. We have gas heat, gas stove, and gas water heating. It seems we use about 20 therms (600kwH!) as a baseline between cooking and hot water per month. In January, we used 76.76 therms (2200kwH!). Overall, we're on pace to use 400 therms total this year (September to September). I think that's fairly decent for a large apartment with three people in $WINDYCITY, as it's apparently the average natural gas usage for a household in Southern California, but that still averages out to 1000kwH per month, which is a lot of energy, even divided between 3 people.

This also does not consider hidden energy consumption: I use energy while on the job but don't account for it, we drive sometimes, we purchase consumer goods, we implicitly rely on the internets' server farms (apparently a Google search uses enough energy to heat a cup of tea), even the bus has a hidden energy cost. So we can't pretend household energy usage tells the whole story. This year, I've had an atypical amount of travel which will not be repeated. I think we'll end up with about 5000 miles driven at an average fuel efficiency of approximately 30 miles per gallon, which comes to about 5600kwH of energy used.

There's definite room for improvement. I presume the vast majority of the 20 therm/month baseline usage is for hot water heating. Let's say it's 200 therms/year, which is half of all natural gas usage. I suppose with a lower flow shower head, shorter showers, and less frequent showers, I personally could knock that down quite a bit without anybody else in the house changing their habits. If it were feasible in this location, solar water heaters allegedly knock about half the energy requirement off, too. But this is a rental, so it doesn't work. I think we kept the place relatively chilly all winter, so I don't think there are easy gains to be had there. Electrically, all of our lights are inefficient. I'm looking forward to the day that LED lights become economical. They're far better than CFLs but are an immature and expensive technology right now. But I'm not willing to spend money to replace all the bulbs, especially since I'm leaving in 2.5 months.

Here's an interesting report on SoCal energy use: Comparisons of Household Energy Use. I found the comparisons between my energy usage and typical Southern California energy usage there.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed my rather boring discussion of my household energy usage. I highly recommend examining this for yourself, since it is very likely that your standard of living will decline in the future. Best to be prepared.