One thing I find useful when thinking about being frugal on energy use (and maybe I’ve written about this before) is attempting to visual the energy involved. Trying to make the invisible more real, more concrete.
So for instance…
– That’s one side-benefit of heating with wood or wood pellets. You can SEE the stack of wood. You can FEEL the stack of wood (when you carry in the bag of pellets, split the logs, etc.) We partially heated our last house with 3 tons of pellets each year (1 pallet = 50 x 40-lb bags = 1 ton). Partially heated. Carrying 3 tons around makes a person think.
– When I think about driving somewhere, I do a quick mental check… OK, so that’s 50miles roundtrip, so that’s ~2 gallons of gas in our 26-27MPG average car. Need help visualizing a gallon of gas? Think a gallon of milk.
– I can do the same with comparing the relative merits of turning something off (negawatts) vs the offset of the PVs in 2 ways: 1) considering the 24KWh per day output of our entire PV electric solar array. “How many days is that?” Or alternatively 2) “How many panels worth is that in yearly output?” (Each panel outputs 300 KWh a year)
– This reminds me of the visualizing energy that one can do when trying to lose weight by exercising. OK, so if I run for 40 minutes, that’s X calories, and if I eat that bowl of ice cream that Y calories, etc. Except for your car or house.
That electricity grid, oil tank, propane tank, etc. is pretty darn convenient, but by it’s nature of being hidden and automatic, keeps me from thinking too deeply about my energy use. Wood and solar have a nice way of getting that a bit more into the open.
A flow meter on the water line going into the hot water heater, and devices for monitoring electricity use, like the TED5000, Kill-A-Watt, eMonitor, etc. can help with this too.
Google Powermeter is an interesting project too. If one could compare one’s own energy use to your neighbor easily, that would be informative.