I would say that I am a pretty average person. The two exceptions might be my intense love of Star Trek and my strong inability to bowl above a 180. (I fully accept that those two things might be correlated…) This last year I set out on a quest to be decidedly below average in one particular category – home energy use.
How did this topic and goal come to be you ask? Well, it started as all good stories do – I was wandering the Internet one evening in August 2017. I was feeling particularly disappointed in the recent decision of the United States to remove itself from the recently signed Paris Climate Accord and I had a general sense of “I want to do something about climate change, but I have no idea where to even start!” The reading and learning I have done on the topic of climate change says that one of the first steps that needs to happen (and happen soon) is the transition of our electrical grid from carbon heavy, non-renewable sources to carbon-free(-ish) renewable energy. As a home owner, the quickest option to help that happen would be to install solar panels on our home. As a practical homeowner who lives pretty solidly in the middle class, the price tag of the typical solar panel installation was out of the range of possibility for us at this time. But I did learn a lot from looking at all of the different options. I learned about how our homes use electricity, when they use it, and how our electricity choices impact our bill and our electricity provider.
I feel like this is a good time in this piece to say – I am NOT an electrical grid expert or electrical engineer and that everything I write about is from the citizen scientist/observer role. If anyone reading this is an expert and professional in these fields, please feel free to question or correct any inaccuracies or misunderstandings. Thank you!
OK – back to being below average. In wandering the internet that fateful night, I did stumble upon some statistics about home energy use from a website called EnergyLocal.com. (I cannot verify the accuracy of the information found there, so please do not quote me on these numbers. www.energylocal.com) On their website, I observed that there are metrics for the average home energy consumption by state. North Dakota ranks 12th in residential electricity consumption. The national average for electricity usage per home is 903 kwh/month. The North Dakota average is 1,091 kwh/month. That got me thinking. “What is it about North Dakota and North Dakotans that makes us use more electricity in comparison to other states and populations? Aren’t we supposed to be way more spendthrift in comparison to other states?” I didn’t have the answer to that, but I did end that evening with a goal in mind. I checked out our latest electricity bills online and saw that our home was already operating beneath that 1,091 kwh/month threshold. But that was without awareness. I wanted to see if our home could function normally using an average of 500 kwh per month. Was it doable? Would it cramp our lifestyle? What would a concerted effort to reduce home energy consumption look like?
Find out all of these things and more in the next part of this three part series!