Curbing Your Consumption:
How Low Can You Go?
By John Ford
It is a new year, and time to make some resolutions. Hopefully ones we
can all keep so that the lights will remain on during the coldest
nights and the hottest days to come.
So if we do absolutely everything we can to lower our consumption:
from buying the most efficient appliances, converting to CF bulbs, and
changing our habits: How low can we reasonably expect our consumption
If we pick a family of four, here are some numbers for the best-case
scenario without resorting to the exotic.
Parasitic loads, the ones that use power even when off, we have
eliminated by using a switched power bar. The doorbell and thermostat
remain powered at about 5 watts each for 94 kWh per year. For lighting
we allow 4 compact fluorescent lights at 15 watts on for 6 hours per
day for 131 kWh per year. If we cook with about 3,000 watts for 45
minutes a day, that is 821 kWh per year. The new fridge uses 525 kWh
per year. Laundry we do a load a day, but use a clothesline in the
summer. The washer consumes 100 kWh per year (hot water not included)
and the dryer uses 1100 kWh. We use the TV and computer for 4 hours a
day for a total of 146 and 300 kWh per year. We do our dishes by
hand. Our outside lights are on motion detectors and use 45 kWh per
The total consumption of our home is now 3262 kWh per year, or a daily
average of 8.8 kWh.
Hot water (if you have an electric tank) can add 15 kWh per day or
more, almost double our other consumption. The dishwasher can add 1.7
kWh per day plus hot water. Air conditioning can add enough to eclipse
all the other uses. My furnace is on for about 500 hours per season,
for an averaged daily value of about 3 kWh per day for 6 months. If
you leave a porch light on from dusk to dawn and use a CF, add 66 kWh
per year (0.18/day).
So allowing for a few luxuries our total is just over 12 kWh per day.
The average home in Ontario uses almost 33 kWh per day. We still have
a long way to go.
Ask the Miser
If you would like to see answers here to your questions about energy
consumption, email them to
John Ford is a technology consultant, owner of a small energy
conservation business, and the Green Party candidate.