In a quest to save money and consume fewer resources my family has been staying around the house a lot lately. I tried to make it sound fancy by saying we were focusing on a home based life or economy, but the truth was much simpler.
The reality of the situation is that the transition has been fairly straightforward. No more “convenience” trips for weeknight dinners. Instead I meal plan for the entire week—including the provisioning of leftovers for those nights where activities keep us away from home until almost eight o’clock in the evening. No more “shopping” trips that are really just excuses to walk around like a zombie consumer with the vague notion of buying something you deemed necessary. Instead we have spent a lot of time the last month or so going through our closets and getting rid of the stuff that clogs our home. There are probably a dozen or more examples of what this home based life is like in practice.
We are not perfect. Not by a long shot and it was never the intention. We still like to go out to eat, but we have cut it down to once during the weekends and we try to go local. No chains for us, but mostly because the local restaurants are the ones that serve the local beers. It’s a virtuous circle like that.
The one downside, however, has been that our consumption of electricity at home has gone up. It makes sense as more time at home cooking dinner and just living would equal more energy consumption. It was just not something that I had counted on when making my calculations for my solar photovoltaic system.
It is not a large delta—approximately 40 kWh or about $5 per month. Given the cloudy nature of October and November, so far, we have been outstripping the production of the solar photovoltaic system.
On the plus side, we have traded somewhat hidden energy consumption and overt monetary costs for a modest increase in electricity consumption and significant monetary savings. Consider that the $5 a month in electricity costs is offsetting a single meal out of the house per weak or slightly more than four meals out of the house per month. At an average cost of $30, which is conservative given my habit of ordering whatever local tipple is on tap, we are a net positive of $125 for the month without accounting for the energy savings of not driving as much. Should I consider myself more than $1400 in the black? Maybe.
The calculation is a little facetious, but it gets at a more salient point about the hidden energy costs of our decisions. I have no doubt that it takes just as much energy or more to produce a meal at a restaurant when everything is considered—power, plant, and equipment so to speak for those with an accounting bent—that even though we have increased our household electricity consumption somewhat, we are saving both in terms of energy and money. Something to consider as well is the reduced driving costs to and from such convenience meals. A few miles here and a few miles there starts to add up to some real savings when you multiply things out over the course of a year.