Reducing Energy Consumption at Home: One Couple's Success Story

To save money on utilities, this couple dramatically reduced their home energy use by going back to some old-fashioned homesteading practices.

| September/October 1983

My wife and I began our protest against the high cost of energy in a very small way: We turned off the pilot lights on the gas range. And we saw results—meager but satisfying—when our next utility bill arrived. That small savings convinced us that we could cut back on our power usage without sacrificing comfort, so we decided to level our guns at our disturbingly high consumption of electricity.

Reducing Energy Consumption: Plumbing

Our first scheme for reducing energy consumption involved running a waterline from the well to an old-fashioned pitcher pump that we installed on the countertop beside the sink (and the novelty of pumping our water by hand hasn't worn off yet!). Once again, we noticed a satisfactory decrease in the amount of energy used by our household. The electric water pump, which had previously run almost constantly, was now usually quiet, for the most part starting up only when the toilet was flushed. So, with a background of success to spur us on, we decided to rethink our relationship with the old commode!

And we soon realized that the flush toilet actually provided a double-barreled opportunity for savings, because each use not only triggered the pump's electric motor, but also sent five gallons of precious water down the tube. Fortunately, we already had a fine outhouse (foolishly abandoned), and it was simple to remove the shovels, rakes, and other paraphernalia stored there and put the little building to better use. The pump still ran occasionally, but our electric bill took yet another dip. However, in spite of this victory, the thin metal disk on the electric meter resembled a whirling dervish at times, so we agreed that further economies were in order.

Reconsidering Electric Appliances

We turned to our recreational electricity gobbler, the television, with some misgivings. Like many families, we tended to turn on the "box" each evening and stare bleary-eyed at a succession of programs—"entertainment" which was too often obscene, mediocre, or both! We began our efforts by being more selective in our viewing, and—being firm and honest with ourselves—found that very few of the offerings were worth the power to pipe them in.

This realization brought about the resurrection of two old and beautiful customs that we had long neglected: reading and conversing. Our family life grew richer, our horizons were broadened by the magic of books, and we found that we had much to talk about besides the high cost of living. And, while we were enjoying such marvelous discoveries, our electric bill plunged still further.

About this time, we also resolved to remove the electric water heater and replace it with a more economical gas model. We didn't realize just how successful this maneuver was until the next monthly bill arrived, which included a form letter pointing out the severe penalties for tampering with the power company's meters and equipment! We accepted this as a tribute to our tenacity and overall diligence, and that night celebrated our feat with a romantic meal, by candlelight.

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