Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's electric!

I really hate that song. ("Electric Slide", in case you didn't recognize it.) But I was reading earlier about how the Japanese have been having to conserve electricity, and are not only meeting but exceeding their goals. This, in a country where the electric use per capita is far less than our own.
First of all, I'm the one in our house who pays the electric bill. (Shane pays for internet.) So I'm the one who tracks our usage and has to fork over the money. I'm thinking, however, that we should switch. Lately Shane's been driving me NUTS by going into the kitchen for thirty seconds, and then leaving the lights on when he leaves. He knows this is a pet peeve of mine. (So much waste!) But since he doesn't pay the bill, he doesn't realize how much this costs us. (It also doesn't help this summer that we have John living in a trailer in our driveway, sucking more power. He pays for it, but it's still made our bill shoot up.) I know Shane and I were raised differently--his mom didn't yell at them for leaving lights on, while mine did. But in the interest of domestic harmony, I'm trying to shape his habits to match mine. (That's how it works, right? Seriously, there's lots of give and take. It's just that in this case, my habits are more beneficial.) So energy conservation has been on my mind a lot lately. How can we save more power and therefore, money? We don't have many appliances that eat up power when they're not on, and the ones we do have on (like the fridge and chest freezer) kinda need to stay on. It does help that, since being employed, Shane's been turning off his computer when he goes to work.
I've also been trying to read near the windows. Now that it's starting to get truly dark for a few hours (in the middle of the night, but still darkish for a few hours around it) there's less ambient light in the house to read/cook/work by. So moving myself closer to the windows is the best option to avoid turning on lights.
We're taking advantage of summer and doing more grilling this week, too. Now, we love grilling. Shane's even started the grill up at -30 a few times. But for some reason this summer we just haven't been taking as much advantage of it as we should. We made it a point to buy the stuff for kabobs and so those are our dinners for the next few days. Salmon, later this week, will also be grilled. (Grilling uses propane, so we're just switching from one type of power to another. But since our oven/stove are from the 60s when the house was built, they're not exactly the most efficient.)
It's not just our household trying to save electricity, though. The University has its own power plant, but that needed to be shut down for several months for repairs. (I think it's back up now.) Having to use the municipal power plant costs millions of dollars more than they would otherwise spend so they ask everyone to conserve as much electricity as possible. (This happened last summer, too.) We've figured out which lights in the library aren't essential and never turn them on anymore. I've even gotten my boss to turn off the light in her office when she leaves. Victory!
This issue has also been on my mind because of a number of factors. For one, now that the budget stuff has passed through the government, we still don't know about the status of Shane's job and probably won't for a few weeks. If he doesn't have a job, unemployment is just a few short weeks away. (And he's too "proud and independent" to actually get unemployment checks.) Not only that, but our landlord said that with oil prices being what they are (our house is heated with oil) he might have to raise the rent. I like our landlord, he's a good guy, and I know he wouldn't do that unless he absolutely had to. I can also understand where he's coming from. But Shane and I had a hard time making ends meet the last time he was unemployed. If rent is raised and Shane's unemployed for another 6 months, there go our savings. (And thank goodness we are savers!)
I also often end up feeling this grand push at the end of summer to save as much as possible of everything. Food, power, time, energy. The days are getting shorter and it's obvious that summer's winding down. I need to do as much as possible while I can to prepare. I think that the environment in Alaska fosters this attitude. Summer provides so much, but winter is sooo looong. I feel a little bit like a squirrel, stocking away nuts for winter.

Update: I'm not the only one who's got this on their brain. Check out this article by Representative Mike Honda (from California) about introducing a bill to get better standards for electronics.

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