When my monthly bill from my electricity provider came in the mail I started wondering about my household’s electricity usage in comparison to national averages. I do not really know why I started thinking about this topic now, but it sparked some investigative desire in my brain.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2010 the average residential utility customer used 11,496 kWh for the entire year or 958 kWh per month. Tennessee had the highest rate at 16,716 kWh per month and Maine had the lowest at 6,252 kWh per month.
So, at the low end—Maine in this example—the average household electricity usage per month is 521 kWh per month. How does my household compare?
According to my monthly electric bill the rolling 12 month average for my home is 434 kWh. Huh? How is it possible that I have a lower monthly electricity usage than the lowest state average? I always thought that we were trying to be judicious about electricity usage—turning off lights when possible, etc.—but this almost feels comical.
This number may seem artificially low for a household of over 3,000 square feet and four people, albeit with two children under the age of 5. Consider this for a moment; both the range and clothes dryer are electric. Therefore, I have not deferred some of the energy cost of these appliances to natural gas and depressed my average monthly electricity usage. We have a large refrigerator and a chest freezer in the basement for the long term frozen food storage. There are two LCD televisions with DIRECTV receivers—a notorious user of standby power—in the house as well.
Furthermore, I live in Iowa which sees some very extreme temperatures. In the winter, electricity usage rises because the furnace blower is being used to keep warm air circulating through the home. Granted, I keep the home at an average of 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. In the summer, the temperatures easily reach into the 90s and the humidity can be brutal so air conditioning gets used a lot more than other areas.
We have taken care of the easy things—replacing incandescent bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs, drying only full loads of clothes, running the dishwasher only when it is full, etc.—so now I am going to have to look harder for energy savings. Going forward, I am looking to reduce the average monthly usage figure to something below 400 kWh per month. Therefore, I need to find an annual savings of approximately 408 kWh—34 kWh for 12 months—to reach my new goal.
The first step in this process is going after the vampire loads throughout the house.