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First Step to Energy Sanity: Conserve!

by Michael Potts

Berta is one of america's energy treasures. She lives right in the middle of a small town in Connecticut, yet she has taken firm control of her energy destiny. To accomplish this doesn't take effort as much as consciousness, and Berta has plenty of that:
My main issue all my life has been electricity. I was born and raised in Seattle, where my dad was an engineer. He loved rivers. He was always telling us about great construction projects. One I remember particularly was the Grand Coulee Dam. He worked for the State Department of Fish and Game, and we used to drive all over the state looking at his fish ladders. I grew up thinking in terms of how many gallons it took to make a kilowatt, and about those fish ladders, so I've been really shocked to learn that they don't work. Oh, Dad, if you only knew! It just proves that we have to be more holistic in our thinking.

To make a long and interesting story short enough to fit on the Web, Berta bought a house just about her size and set about getting its energy use under control. She started out right, by making an energy audit.

I thought we had single 40-watt bulbs, but we were burning double 60s, things like that. I had a big garden, and was doing a lot of canning, and so I got this ancient beast of a second hand refrigerator, El Monstero, we called it: noisy but I needed the big freezer. Suddenly my electric bill was through the roof. The utilities really have you by the nostrils! 300 Kilowatt-hours a month, how are we using all that electricity?

Berta\'s Kilowatt usage - 15058 Bytes

Berta took a class in energy self-sufficiency from two other energy treasures, Carol Levin and Richard Gottlieb, perennial candidate for the Vermont governorship, and vowed to reform her household energy use. She invested in a super-efficient refrigerator and, for good measure, relamped her house with compact fluorescents wherever it made sense.

What's the good news? As you can see if your browser can read the chart of Berta's Kilowatts, there was a dramatic reduction in electrical use on the order of 75%. I calculate that Berta's two wise but expensive up-front purchases will have paid themselves off in 5 to 7 years, assuming steady electric rates (which is akin to assuming the sun will not rise tomorrow.)

Let me attempt an Amory Lovins-like assertion here: if everyone on the north american continent replaced their monstero refrigerators with energy sane models - even the golden carrot box is pretty good, and you can get it at your local appliance store - we could stop burning coal to make electricity.


There is much more about Berta and other american energy treasures in my revised book, The New Independent Home

For the second step in reforming your energy homelife,
jump directly to Home Energy Audit: drawing a baseline.

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Michael Potts, webster
updated 1 January 2005 : 16:37 Caspar (Pacific) time
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