I used 2.5% the average American’s electric power last month
For those keeping track, I unplugged my fridge on November 22—not to save power, though it did. Listen to my podcast episode Why Unplug? to learn my motivation, but briefly, it’s to practice resilience and reduce my entitlement and dependence.
I’m reporting after receiving my latest electric bill.
Here’s my power use over the past year. Last winter I unplugged my fridge in late December, so this winter I added an extra month unplugged. You can see my power use lower, to about 0.75 kWh per day.
I’ll put average American electrical power uses below. First, money.
Here’s the part of my bill itemizing my use: $2.30 for the month!
For comparison, I can get a AA battery for around 50 cents. In a way, I powered my whole apartment on less than five AA batteries.
For the record, I dress warm so haven’t used the heat. My building has central heat and air conditioning, so my neighbors heat or cool my floor, ceiling, and walls, which I pay for through my maintenance.
Likewise, the building has lots of lights outdoors and other power uses, so I’m responsible for power uses not in these costs. I wash my laundry in the basement, but only wash. I air dry up on a clothing drying rack. I haven’t taken the elevator in months, maybe in all of 2020. I don’t keep track. I just take the stairs.
I pay fixed charges nearly ten times my power use. I’m paying for an overbuilt power grid satisfying more than anyone needs for their safety, health, security, or happiness.
Comparison: American averages
Here are American averages broken out by region and home type. All told, Americans average
- 11,000 kWh per year, which is
- 30 kWh per day, which is
- 40 times more than me!
- I use 2.5% the average American
I’ll bet they aren’t 40 times happier, safer, healthier, or more secure than me.
I found the chart below splitting power use by purpose.
See the 2.5% vertical line? Each bar passing it uses more power for that use than I use at all. In other words, the average American uses more power
- Drying clothes
- Air conditioning
than I use at all. I left out Water Heating because my building heats water, though I think with natural gas, so I benefit from it. I’m not sure what to make of there being more bars than labels. Maybe for space they didn’t label all uses.
I could probably adjust for heating and washing clothes. On the other hand, I’ve eaten every meal at home, so no restaurants. I haven’t driven. I don’t think I took the subway or buses in the past few months. I’ve ridden my bike or walked most places.
One-fifth of my showers are cold and my average shower length is only a few minutes so I figure I use a lot less power there too.
I think most other adjustments are small, though open to corrections.
(For the record, I don’t take cold or short showers for environmental reasons. Cold showers I wrote several posts about. As for short showers, I used to take longer ones, but gradually found myself taking shorter ones. Partly I think of pollution it forced on others, partly once I’m clean, I’m ready to do my next thing.)
Could I go off grid?
Does anyone out there want to help me try to go off grid, at least during months I unplug my fridge? I’m not sure if my windows get enough light for solar to power my pressure cooker and blender, which probably draw serious current, though only for a few minutes (pressure cooker) or seconds (blender) every few days.
I don’t have experience installing solar, but if anyone wants to help me try, I’m game. I’d love to go off-grid in Manhattan.
Update: My January bill
Here is my next month’s bill, even lower:
My fixed charges:
My electrical charges:
Update: My February Bill
Even lower, $1.70 for electrical charges, though February is a shorter month. Still, it looks a bit up from last year’s, before the pandemic.
I can’t do much about my fixed charges:
My electrical charges were $1.70:
March Bill: $1.70 again
Con Ed reformatted their bills, but my use came out the same. March being longer than February implies I used slightly less per day.
April Bill: $1.40
I thought $1.70 was low, but April dropped it almost 20 percent to $1.40. I’d guess the decrease came from the lengthening days meaning I turn the overhead lights on later. I wonder if warmer weather led me to cook fewer stews and eat more salads, which would mean using the pressure cooker less. I didn’t keep track.
I expect to plug the fridge back in by the end of this billing period since the green leafy vegetables are in season and they don’t last as long as the winter root vegetables, all the more so with warmer temperatures. Still, I’m writing these words May 8, more than halfway through the sixth month. Already I can round up from over 5.5 to 6, but I’m tempted to do what it takes to keep if off until May 22 and make a full six months.
I expect making them last would mean eating some as soon as I bring them back from the CSA and fermenting the others right away. Now that I’ve fermented a bunch, I find it easy and fast—just chop, salt, and stick in a jar.
May Bill: I got sloppy: $1.95
My bill went up. I’m not sure why. In any case, I plugged the fridge back in a day or two after this period ended, so I expect to see it rise, along with my pollution, next month.
June Bill: Plugged fridge back in: $4.03
Plugging the fridge back in more than doubled my charge.
I also switch intermediaries that channel my dues to more renewable sources. It seems I’m paying less per kWh—9.6 cents versus 10.83 cents—but a fixed $6.85 per month. My total electrical use went up more than the dollar numbers show: 42 kWh in June, with the fridge, versus 18 kWh in May or 14 kWh in April.
July: Fridge still plugged in: $4.22
I’ve used the fan and fridge more as the summer heats up.
I didn’t notice my new bill still has the graph for monthly usage. I can’t figure out the orange line, maybe last year’s use?
Last month, I received a check from Con Ed. I guess I overpaid. I use level payment and haven’t changed my payments since lowering my power use, so it makes sense. How many people spontaneously receive checks from the power company?
August: repeat performance
Same this month as last month
September, trimming the fat
Reducing my pollution, acting more in stewardship, after a few wasteful months. As healthy and happy as ever. What do you know, burning less fossil fuels doesn’t have to lower an average American’s standard of living. (Cue privileged people saying what about people who have less?—that is, people whose air, food, and water they’re polluting more than I am.)
October, back on track: $1.44
I unplugged the fridge again and I’m polluting less again. The food is just as delicious.
November, still on track: $1.73
December: $1.63 or 17 kWh
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