Our last electric bill was for $270.19. Of that amount, $116.57 was for charges that have been recently added to the monthly bills with no explanation either on the bill or on the company web site:
- $20 for the member service charge
- $42.91 for delivery charge
- $21.46 for stranded cost charge
- $4.71 for system benefit charge
- $1.17 for consumption taxes
- $26.32 for regional access charge
And finally, $153.62 was for the actual electricity we used that month. Or at least, that is what the bill said. We knew we had actually used a whole lot less because we had been experimenting with ways to lower our energy usage, and we have been reading our meter every day ourselves. When we asked about the incorrect energy usage figures on the bill, the woman in their customer service department reluctantly admitted that the meter reader had not bothered to read our meter that month, and that the electric company had “estimated” the amount of power they thought we would use.
Our electric company is an energy co-op and it is the only electric option we have available to us. Including the monthly service charge and all of those other charges that are part of every bill, we pay roughly 19¢ per kilowatt hour. That is nearly double the national average.
Since we were just hit with another rate increase with the start of the new year, we thought it would be interesting to see how much we could reduce our energy consumption by putting our wood cook stove to full use.
- Since January 1st, the wood cook stove has been the only heat source for one entire floor of our house. It has kept those rooms cozy warm.
- The stove has also heated much of the hot water we have used. Two large galvanized canners and the attached reservoir can provide enough hot water for one luxurious bath or one load of laundry… with hot water always available for dishes, hand washing, etc… but it goes without saying that carrying around containers of boiling water doesn’t compare with the convenience of hot water straight from the tap.
- We have also used the wood stove for ALL the baking and cooking. So far this year I have not even turned on the electric range. Since we eat all our meals at home, the wood stove and I are cooking and baking most of the day!
- The stove has also provided heat for drying clothes which I have been hanging on a couple of lines strung across the kitchen. After the clothes are dry, I fluff them in the dryer for a few minutes using the air-only cycle. This method makes the clothes just as soft as clothes dried entirely in the dryer and uses very little electrical energy… but I’m not a fan of hanging wet laundry inside the house.
So how did we do? Quite well, actually. We managed to cut our energy usage in half, just by using the stove for heat, hot water, cooking, baking, drying laundry, etc., etc., etc. Unfortunately, although the experiment was interesting, it is not practical for the long-term and warmer weather when the wood stove would produce too much heat in the house.
We have been steadily reducing our energy consumption for several years now, and we have already cut energy usage in other ways as much as we can, I think, without drastically changing the way we want to live. We have energy efficient appliances and turn lights, televisions, etc., off if they’re not in use. We have to run several computers because of our work, but they are all Energy Star compliant and go into low-power sleep mode if they’re not actually being used. We have three freezers, but we keep them full. We test our captive-air water tank regularly to keep the air pressure at the right level so our well pump isn’t starting any more often than it needs to. We use ceiling fans instead of air conditioning… I don’t think there are many more changes we are willing to make.
It’s always a trade-off between convenience and conserving energy. As with every other aspect of simple living, there is a threshold… a point beyond which we’re not willing to go. Despite the extra work and inconvenience, it was almost fun finding out how much energy we could save just by fully utilizing the stove, and we will probably do many of the same things another winter, but it also helped that we knew there would be an end to the experiment.