Friday, June 19, 2009

Reducing Electric Grid Dependency When Renting

Most of the people we know live in apartments. Whether that is a function of the location where we live, the economy and sluggish housing market, or some other factor, I do not know. One of the first arguments our friends and aquaintances make when we talk about our plans to move up North and establish an off-grid homestead is, "I'd love to go off of the grid, but I can't do that where we live. We live in an apartment, and the landlord wouldn't allow us to rewire it."

We, too, rent an apartment. We, too, have no say in how the building is wired. We do not have a say in what major appliances are installed. But, we do have a say in how much electricity we use. You do have a say in whether you use a lot of electricity or not. Here are ten ways to reduce your dependence on grid-based electricity:

  1. Turn the tv off. There is precious little of real value on it anyway, and you don't really need it on for background noise.
  2. Unplug items when not in use. Leaving appliances and tools plugged in creates a "ghost" charge (a charge for power you never knew you were using). When we started unplugging appliances when not in use, we saved about $15 off each month on the electric bill.
  3. Change all the light bulbs in the home to flourecents. Doing this took about $5 off our monthly bill. We replaced all the bulbs at once. However, you could just replace old bulbs with flourecents when the old bulbs burned out.
  4. Build a solar oven. If you have an electric oven, and a balcony, you can shut the down on the oven and bake, roast, and cook in your oven on the balcony. Free plans are easily searchable on line.
  5. Investigate older technologies. Many appliances have non-electric versions that preceeded them.
  6. Candles... while any flame poses an increased risk of a house fire, with a little extra care, candles can be a great source of light. We placed several candle sconces on the walls, away from draperies and ceilings. We even found some metal tea light sconces with mirrored backings that reflect a lot of light into the room. It really creates a beautiful, calm atmosphere. After going all winter lighting the apartment with candles in the evening, we wouldn't go back to electric lights.
  7. This one's for the ladies... revamp your hairstyle. Rather than waste electricity on hairdryers, flat irons, curling irons, etc., why not find a style that looks neat and is flattering, but that doesn't require all the fuss? Not only will you save energy, but you'll save a lot of time as well.
  8. As much as possible, get up with the sun and go to bed with the sun. Obviously, those of us who work outside the home may not have this option. The idea is that if you are getting your business done during daylight hours, you will not need much artificial lighting.
  9. During the summer months, use fans rather than air conditioners. They use much less power and are less expensive to purchase.
  10. Dry you clothes on a line or a rack. If you have a balcony, you can set up your line or drying rack there. If not, you could set up a rack in the bathroom.

Live better, a little every day.

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