Friday, January 2, 2009

Cutting Some Cords in 2009

I'm ready.

I am 150% ready and on the ball with going off the grid. Now. Today.

No, Dewey isn't quite 'there' just yet...but he isn't living here and I can make some changes a bit more easily that way, right??? Nothing overly intense at all, just some lifestyle changes...some rather big lifestyle changes.

Honestly, I guess I'm not at all 'ready' in a truly 'prepared' sense. It isn't as though I'm starting from scratch, I have equipment and I have at least a decent amount of knowledge and skill, so the ability is certainly available. I just have to DO IT now is all.
  • I have an electric stove. Can't cook without electricity unless I use the grill, and truthfully, grilling has never been my forte. I can certainly learn, though, when properly and sufficiently motivated..which I most definitely am right now!
  • Our hot water is electric. I have that huge mega monster grill, though. And I have a fire pit outside. I can manage hot water I'm sure.
  • My lighting is electric. We are using the lamps much more often now, for lighting needs, but from a practical stand-point, they aren't ideal. The light for reading just isn't very good for old eyes like mine...and probably not much better for younger ones, either. And the lamp oil costs and storage's simply not practical for permanent usage. Rise and bed with the chickens is probably a much better solution.
  • My heat, what little we use here really, is electric. electric heat pump, no less :o( I am going to skip the cookstove for now I think and simply get a small woodstove for heat. I don't have a space readily available for both the heat and the cookstove, so in light of what I'm about to tell you here next, a heat stove is a better option. And I can cook on top of it...just won't have an oven for baking.
We received our electric bill Tuesday. Please sit down. Please make it a chair that is sturdy and has good support to the armrests. It's for your own safety, really. Trust me.

For the billing cycle from Nov 18th - Dec 18th, our electric bill was $439.35. A average daily kw usage of, they say, 151.7 More than doubled from the previous cycle, as well as more than doubled from the same cycle a year ago.

Yes...I wrote that correctly. It's FOUR HUNDRED. Can you even imagine what that did to my heart opening the bill? Or what it did to the budget, as I most certainly had not figured in anything remotely close to that amount.

This is winter. In the South. I'm sorry if I offend any true heart Southerners here, but this is hardly what I consider much of a winter. Yes, that billing cycle had some really really cold days in it, and several wind-chills here on the homestead in the teens. And it's been rainy and windy quite a bit the past month and more.

But this isn't what I look at as being classified as 'winter' yet look at that bill. Granted, this is a mobile home. They are not even partially constructed like a brick or stick frame house is. The materials are altogether different, the insulation is different. They are hardly air-tight in construction at all. They are not known for allowing an abundance of natural light in, although with the amount of air flowing in and out, you'd find that rather odd. We simply are not a traditional home style and that certainly adds to the electric bill.

That and the increase that went into effect of 17%. We were expecting 20% or more, so I will concede that 17% is to be considered a blessing.

If I could do it...if I had the fortitude of spirit might be a better phrase...I would flip and lock that main breaker outside today. Cut the cord completely and be off the grid now.

I'm scared to death of summer coming, given this bill. I may be well beyond able to tolerate and thrive in the 'winter' down here, but come summer, you might as well lock me in the looney bin. I can not handle being hot at all. I can not tolerate heat and humidity that sucks the breath from you almost daily. I'm a wimp. Given the current bill, I could guess-timate my summer bills easily being in excess of $600 a month during say July and August especially.

Six hundred dollars a month is well beyond even the remote outskirts of INSANE. I can't budget that in at all. Even if I could, I wouldn't even consider budgeting that in for something like electric! Surely somewhere in my history, generations of pioneering women lived a good and rich life without any of these trappings of today.

I just have to do it. I just have to take that step and keep walking...or in this case, I really ought to be running. We are already 2 weeks into the next billing cycle! My biggest problem is I don't have anything set up for back-up.

Well, I suppose I have the electric cord as a back-up for now. While I have the ability to do otherwise, I need to start getting better acquainted with that grill out on the porch. What all can I really do on a grill folks? I know nothing about them at all, really. But I'd rather foot the bill for propane for the grill than this electric bill.

  • I'm canning up the rest of the meat. It won't happen overnight, but I will get it all finished and empty those freezers once and for all. We are doing ground meat today.
  • I'm getting back to once a week baking for our needs. It's easy to do -- just requires I think ahead and make some plans. When it's gone, it's gone. We will learn quick enough that it's better to spread out whatever treats we have than to go totally without.
  • Laundry is going to take a hit. We will start focusing on that hand-washing. I will do towels, the blankets and thick items, boys pants in the washing machine still as I don't have a suitable way to wring them out well enough to even hang dry. But they will only be done once a week. This having something to wash almost daily is ridiculous. I need to get back to a real schedule here. And it will be...has to be...carved in solid stone, no more written in pencil.
  • I'm going to look for a small wood heat stove instead of worrying about connecting the cookstove up right now. I'm not set up space-wise to have both operating, and I think the larger need is for some alternative heat right now. I'd rather put $600 into a heat stove than the electric bill.
Cut-back, cut-backs, cut-backs. We are going off the grid before this month passes by much more. Off the grid at least in terms of that electrical usage. I simply don't have a choice. I have most definitely not agreed to having my husband away from home, away from his family, working just to feed the electric company and their families. His being away from us was supposed to be for our better in the long-term. I just can't sit back and find excuses for not taking the steps I've been working toward any longer.

If you have any thoughts or ideas to share on helping us cut the cord, do let me know! I could use all the tips I can get.


Mrs. Trixi said...

I have to say I am truly floored. I am a die hard Southerner. I love these mild winters and I tolerate the extreme summers pretty well but if I got that electric bill, I would be ready to pack up.LOL I would not care if you lived in a tin can that is outrageous. Now, mine has gone up and last month it was $267.00 but $439.35, I would cry. I am with you turn that heat pump off and get a woodstove. If you need help putting it in just give us a shout.
I also wanted to say that I read your post on likeminded fellowship, and I feel your pain. I feel like we have moved to Egypt sometimes. This week has been really bad but Lord willing, we are going home for church Sunday!!!

Michelle said...

I would definitely be taking a look at ways of insulating and holding in heat to the home; plastic covers for windows, weather stripping, draft blockers, water heater covers, etc. You can have the local power company (that you pay so much to) come and do an "energy audit" of your home to look for ways of tightening up the house. You can also find out who does LiHeap/Weatherization work in your area and sign up for a LiHeap payment and/or have your house weatherized by them if you qualify $ wise. I would look to your local Community Action Agency for that. You have good ideas and I think you are on the right track by "powering down". I hope to get there someday myself!

Judy said...

Wow, that is definitely a bill that would give me a seizure. I get grumpy if ours is much over $100 even in the summertime, and I'm in the south as well. Of course one advantage to being born here is that it's easier to acclimate to life without AC.

Here are some things we did in preparation for going completely off-grid. Our off-grid transition includes giving the 1200 square foot house to my daughter and her family and David and I moving into a 216 square foot cabin, which certainly isn't feasible for most. Our off-grid adventure is just beginning and even with preparation should be a learning experience. :)

Anyway, we replaced all light bulbs with compact fluorescents and have concentrated on task lighting; not lighting up the entire room just to read, etc. We've always used propane for cooking so that wasn't an issue. I could burn water on an electric stove. We don't have water plumbed into the house, so we heat it on the cookstove as needed. We heat exclusively with wood and our heating stove is usable for certain cooking functions if needed (slow simmering, Dutch ovens, etc.) Consider using blankets to close off all but the kitchen and living room especially in winter. Congregate the family in these areas except when sleeping. When our refrigerator went out, we purchased an external thermostat and converted an extra chest type freezer into an efficient fridge. It uses about 1/4 the power of a standard fridge with just as much room. The biggest expense of laundry is heating the water. We do all laundry in cold water. A pre-soak helps with really dirty stuff as does adding a bit of lye to the pre-soak.

Here's a link to a guy in Oklahoma City who retrofitted an old house for maximum energy efficiency. He insulated his hot water heater tank and uses it as a batch heat instead of keeping water hot all the time. You might also consider an outdoor solar shower in the summer if you're in the country.

Judy at Tabletop Homestead

Anonymous said...

Hi! I know what you mean with the dislike of a large heating bill. We had the same problem with propane heat. We went with a corn stove. Its electric it plugs in just like a light. We heat our ranch style home of 1500 qf. The back bedroom is the coolest at 63 degrees, perfect sleeping weather. The rest of the house is about 73. Our wattage is 28 a day. The corn cost us 700.00 for 2 tons. It comes in bags and we just dump it in. Yes corn burns great!!! The start up cost for the stove is about 2000.00 dollars. We paid for it with the savings in one year from propane to corn stove. It vents through your wall like a dryer does, its cool to the touch except the glass on the door. If you can't get off grid yet heres a great alternative to get you husband home. We live in Northern Kentucky and are having a cold winter. If you questions email me at Have a Blessed Day. Amber

Ann'Re @ Home said...

Gulp...we went through something similar. Check with your electric company and see if they have a budget plan where they give you one averaged amount to pay each month. This evens out the really high bills with the really low bills and you pay the same amount each month which is easier to budget. As much as I hate them, the fluorescent bulbs have helped cut our bills some. That's all I can think of for the moment, but I'm all for getting off the grid myself...good think we live in an area with a large Amish population so all that stuff is readily available. :) Hugs...Ann'Re

Kristi said...

I am new to this blog so I don't know if there is some significant backstory to the grill but if you have cast-iron cookware, you should be able to cook with that on the grill. You already mentioned cutting down to weekly baking so that should cut down on some of the drainage from your electric cooking arrangements.

Another good way to conserve energy is like someone else suggested, literally block off all but the essential living areas during the day by hanging blankets. If that is not practical, just covering the windows and doors with a blanket should help. I notice a big difference in the temperature of the room just by opening my blinds. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we don't have A/C for summers, and we use mostly wall-mounted space heaters that consume plenty of electricity so I am used to trying to conserve energy in the winter.

Also, one thing that you might not have considered is that things that are plugged in but not in use, such as a cell phone charger or TV (that's off) use plenty of energy. Walk around your house pulling plugs and buy a strip plug that you can switch off when you go to bed at night for the other essential stuff. Nasty florescent lights help too...

Anonymous said...

It is very discouraging to see such a bill. Oh My.... And you do have to live and raise your family.
Do you have access to wood? At a fairly cheap price? A wood stove would probably be a good investment. I am in Northern California and hard wood is expensive, $300 plus for a cord. I use about 1 cord a year. A mobile home is drafty, but with wood you could stay warm and cook on it. Definately go with the lights that are energy efficient, you can light your whole house for the same cost as one standard bulb. Hang your cloths to dry. Using cold water to wash should not cause too much damage to your electric usage. I think closing off parts of your home is a good idea... Is your power so much more expensive then what we have here?
I believe we pay 11 cents per kwh.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. Some tips I have found helpful are:
1-insulated curtains. Since I have made most of the curtains in my house all this required was taking them apart and adding batting to them. With my size curtains I found that crib size batting worked well. I keep the curtains closed on the side of the house that doesn't have the sun shining in.
2.when you do install your woodstove run your heating systems fan to circulate the heat. We only use our woodstove from about 2AM to 10-11AM depending on how fast it warms up outside so its not like my system has to run all the time. Also, since mine is a gaspack (combination electric/gas) I may be only saving on gas.
3.Have your system inspected to make sure it is operating efficiently. Our system went out the other day and we found out that all of the heat exchangers had holes in them. Not only was this preventing it from working well it also ran the danger of backing up carbon monoxide into the house. If your system is totally electric the gas wouldn't be a problem, but it may not be running well.
Good Luck. We are also struggling to reduce how well our electric company employees live. Currently we are trying to build our own solar panel.

Joyful Housewife said...

Do you have electric heat? Or some other expensive form of heat?

I had to live for three winters without heat or hot water ~ in the north of Scotland in a drafty stone farmhouse with gale-force winds. We had a coal fire but you know how that goes! One room is roasting hot, the rest icy cold.

I learned something very important: modern clothing is only suited for central heating. So I went "old fashioned" and saved my sanity!

- Wool sweaters!!!!! I hit up the sales at places like LL Bean so I can get good-quality wool sweaters for sometimes half off.

- Wool long johns/ union suits

- Layers!! Long skirts/long dresses with warm flannel under skirts, knee-high socks, warm bloomers of some sort, even if they are simply jogging pants.

- Cover the head! Hats that can be worn indoors like those Colonial mob caps are great. They are even more fantastic if made out of flannel!

These things helped me to stay warm without heat. I wonder if they could help you stay warm with your heat turned down?


Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.

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