Examining Energy Usage

With the bull market of 2013 continuing its run I’ve found limited opportunities to invest the large cash position I currently have.  I’ve made one purchase this year and that was VOD.  I’m hoping to see a few more opportunities come about later this month, but until then I will do what I do best; wait.

With not much to discuss on the investment front I’ve been turning my eye to expenses and how to reduce the ones that don’t really increase my quality of life.  I’m ok with spending, but spending consciously is extremely important to me.  What I’ve become aware of in my own life is many expenses end up being a product of habit, a certain way of doing things that are reinforced with time.  In this post I’m going to discuss my habits of energy consumption and methods I am using or plan to use to decrease the costs associated with energy use.  I have two forms of energy I rely on currently:  electricity and gasoline.

Electricity

Electricity runs every appliance in my house from the lights to the stove.  I have a smaller apartment, just under 800 sf. and when I first moved in I continued the habit that had been well-worn in my mind for years, heat the entire space constantly to keep the space at 72-74 degrees.  This same scenario plays out in the summer when the entire living space is cooled to keep it at a desired range.  This can become expensive and when you consider the cumulative cost of  heating and cooling whether you’re financially well off or just getting by the question remains; is it worth it?

My “awakening” occurred when I received my first electric bill in January.  I had an arbitrary figure of the bill being around 50.00.  Sticker shock set in when the first bill was 84.07 which really isn’t much, but remember the cumulative cost I mentioned?  Seemingly small numbers can add up over time and I would prefer the sum of that addition to be in my favor, not against.  The following are figures from the first four months of 2013 involving my electricity usage:

energy

As you can see there is a nice downward trend of total kw used as well as the total bill itself and  I’m expecting this trend to continue.  May should show an even lower kw usage as I will not be using the heat at all.  It is yet to be seen how I will adapt to the transition from spring to summer.  I do not anticipate a huge use of the air conditioner, but even if I do use it occasionally it utilizes less energy than a furnace does to produce heat.  Here is a break down of energy usage in the typical U.S. household:

energySource: http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=us_energy_homes

As you can see the a/c does not make up a great deal of the pie, but heating takes up a significant piece.  If you want to lower your energy costs next winter start thinking of more efficient ways to keep yourself warm.  My experience has been similar to the graph above.  The only real difference between Jan. and April was during January when I ran the furnace continuously to keep the temperature between 72-74 degrees.  In April I didn’t use the a/c or heating.  I don’t consider myself to be the “typical” U.S. energy consumer and believe it will be possible to make it through the summer with very little a/c usage.  My electric company (PPL) offers a five dollar credit if you allow them to restrict your a/c usage from May through September.   Restrict is too strong a word, basically the device allows the utility company to cycle all the participating members a/c units during peak usage.  I’m assuming this allows them to restrict demand during peak, but impacting each individual customer for only a small amount of time.  I will be imposing the limitations myself so why not accept a five dollar credit for doing so!

Auto Fuel

Perhaps it is because I’m much more aware of such things, but I really detest spending money on gas.  In my former days driving long commutes and constantly filling up the gas tank were the norm.  I couldn’t tell you what I spent on fuel back then because I didn’t track such things.  Once you’re aware of what your time is being spent on it becomes much more of a priority to spend only on the things you truly need and want in  life.  Despite the difference in our salaries we are all exchanging our time on this earth for money that can then be used for other exchanges;  food, shelter, clothing, etc.  I really don’t like spending excessive amounts of time on fuel and I‘ve taken steps to reduce it.

Fuel needs are determined by two primary factors, one is the efficiency of the vehicle used along with the reliance on that vehicle to accomplish daily activities like grocery shopping or commuting to work. The next factor is the distance between where you live and work along with the other places visited in the course of daily life.   I’ve reduced my fuel consumption drastically by selling the truck.  This move will save a nice sum of money as well as several hundred gallons of fuel each year.  To give you an idea the truck had a 25 gallon tank .  If I filled it up once a week that would be 1,300 gallons of fuel each year.  The motorcycle has 4.7 gallon tank and assuming the same once a week fill up I would be using 244.4 gallons of fuel each year.

To address the distance between work and home I will be looking at a closer residence to work when my current lease is up at the end of the year.  This would reduce my commute from 20 miles round trip to 7.  With that short a distance I would likely walk or get a road bike for my daily commute not just for the money saved, but because I’m morphing into the kind of man who would rather walk/bike on their commute than constantly relying on some motorized form of transportation. This an evolution in my personal growth that I should discuss in the future; perhaps.

How reliant upon energy are you?  Do you use the same forms of energy I’ve listed here or do you use others as well?  Do you ever feel a need to reduced/eliminate your reliance on energy consumption for pecuniary or other reasons?  I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

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2 thoughts on “Examining Energy Usage

  1. I ride 8 miles each way to/from work on my bicycle and I love it. It’s just far enough to get the heart pumping, but not so far that the commute takes too long. Honestly the best part of my workday most days is the bicycle ride before and after.

    • Executioner— Many days before I go into work I will hit the gym first. I have some of my better days when I follow that routine, both at work and home. I can see how riding would give you the same feeling.

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