The Low Energy Fridge

Awhile back on the Riot for Austerity on-line, support site, I saw a link to a refrigerator that claimed it only used 0.1Kwh/day. I was really intrigued by this and anxious to give it a try. Although it has not lived up to its extremely low energy use, it is quite a bit lower than the average fridge. Lower than average is what I seem to be about these days so we have stuck with it. Until Thursday.

Thursday was the day Tropical Storm Fay was scheduled to blow through the area. Schools were canceled and I was fed up with my 6.8 cubic foot fridge. So was my husband. Not only is it small, but it is a cube, so you have to layer everything in there and things can hang out at the bottom for weeks unnoticed.

Last year we had your regular fridge, 18 cubic feet, freezer on the top, no frills. I realize this in itself was less than average, since most people I know have larger fridges that tend to be side by side. These use a lot more energy. Our 1999, no frills 18 cu ft energy star fridge was using 1.6 Kwh/day. That is 585 per year. So what we did was buy a 6.8 cuft chest freezer for $200 and a temperature controller for $60. The temp controller allows you to over ride the freezer control so it maintains a temp of 38-42F. You plug the temp controller in the wall socket and the freezer into the controller. The controller turns the freezer on when the temp gets to 42F and then off when it reaches 38F. We have a killawatt meter to measure energy use. It told us that the new fridge was averaging 0.3-0.4kwh/day. Usage fluctuates more here in Florida, with higher energy use in the summer.

One of the main draw backs to doing this is that you no longer have a freezer. Well if you are like us, then you already had a 12 cuft chest freezer to store all your garden produce. So we really did not need that small freezer attached to a stand up fridge. If you are a small family, your needs could be met with two small chest freezers and one controller. Buying everything new might cost less than $400.  Not bad to get more freezer space than a small fridge with freezer would provide.

Our family of four was having trouble using such a small fridge. 6.8 cuft isn’t that small, but doesn’t lend itself to great ease of use. It made it so my kids had to depend on us to get most things out for them, unless it happened to be right on top. The milk never was.

So FINALLY, this past Thursday, I was charged up by the storm, and decided to make a major change. Did we run out and buy a huge fridge to make up for how we had deprived ourselves? No, because we really had not, we just switched the fridge with the freezer. So now we have a 6.8cuft freezer and a 12 cuft fridge. WOW, it was SO easy. Aside from moving everything out, cleaning the inside and switching all the contents, the only thing I had to do was move the temperature controller. I think we will even save energy and money.  You see, keeping a freezer cold, uses more energy than keeping a fridge cold. Since we are keeping less space and stuff frozen. I have not hooked the killawatt up to the “new” appliances yet, but can let you know in the future what the energy use is.  Now maybe you are asking yourself-well where is all the garden produce going now? Well in the past year I have learned to preserve food by canning, lacto-fermenting and drying. I have a hot water bath as well as a pressure canner. So I shouldn’t need as much space. So far I am happy with the new arrangement, until I go digging for something at the bottom of the freezer. Atleast it isn’t a daily occurrence like it has been. Now on to some photographs.

6.8cuft chest freezer in refridgerator space

6.8cuft chest freezer in refridgerator space

We chose the 6.8cuft freezer because it would fit into the space where our refrigerator was. This picture was taken after the swith so the controller is not shown. Now our freezer is in the kitchen and the fridge is in the laundry room. So far, no big deal.
Temperature controller

Temperature controller

Sorry it is blurry. It is a Johnson Controls temperature controller. It was purchased at a brewing supply store for $60. You can get them online if you don’t have a supply store in your area. Notice at the bottom of the picture there is a small wire sticking down next to a large one. The large one is the power cord and the small one is the wire that leads to the temperature sensor that goes into the unit. See next picture.
Temperature sensor inside "fridge"

Temperature sensor inside

 At the end of the wire is a thick piece of metal that measures the temperature inside the unit.

Inside of 12 cuft freezer-now fridge

Inside of 12 cuft freezer-now fridge

This is our 12cuft chest freezer. I have like items organized together. Veggies in the center basket, cheese, sour cream and tofu in the basket on the right. Eggs and miscellaneous on the left. Then there is a lot of room under the baskets.

On the left of the photo you can see the black power cord and the silver temperature controller wire. The wire lays across the top lip of the box and continues in under the left basket. 

I think we will be happy with this new arrangement. Would you be?

 

 

 

 

 

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An Entire Year of Rioting for Austerity

I have had so much fun being a part of The Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project. The project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. Sharon Astyk and her friend Miranda were discussing George Monbiot’s book “Heat”, where he discusses the need for industrialized nations to reduce their emissions by 94%. They wondered what a life would be like lived that way, since Chinese peasants seem to be the standard for low impact living. So they challenged each other to reduce there consumption and emissions by 90%, which makes accounting easier than 94%. They did this on their blogs and what do you know, other people decided to give it a try as well. So they ended up being amazed that over 1000 people were interested in joining them. Before March 2007, I had never read a blog. I’m not sure I even knew what one was. I started by reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavin. His blog linked to Sharon’s and The Riot, and that is what got me where I am today.

So today I am revealing what a year of rioting figures look like in our household. When doing the numbers, we figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. Figures can be represented as a reduction of average use or as a percent of average. I’ll list both so as not to confuse anyone. There are seven categories for this project.

Gasoline:  The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000 gallons a year. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. We used 230.72 gallons over a year. That is 19.2 gal/month and is 11.5% of average or an 88.5% reduction . And as reported previously, this does not include airline trips taken in November or any other time. So to be completely honest about the whole deal I am figuring up what these flights actually cost in terms of fuel use. I did a bit of research and found that according to one source a long haul flight gets 30mpg/person. Another site helped me figure out how many miles from home to Honolulu. 9,650 miles divided by 30mpg gives me 321gallons per person and with four of us equates to burning 1,287 gallons of gas for our vacation. A vacation I might add was planned and paid for 8 months before the riot began. Then in October my husband took my son to visit his Aunt and Grandmother. That adds another 198 gallons. Then in February our daughter flew to Indianapolis with my mother to go to a wedding and that adds another 73.4 gallons. So the grand total is really 1789.12 gallons. And that my friend brings us way down, or way up to 90% of average use or a 10% reduction.

Electric: The average household uses 900 kwh/month or close to 11,000/year. We used 4983kwh over a year. That is 415.25kwh/month so our usage is 46% of average or a 54% reduction. Many people doing the riot have the option of buying green energy. Wind and hydro give you an additional 75% reduction and solar gives you 50%. We pay for 750kwh of green energy each month, only ours is 5% wind and solar combined and the other 95% is landfill gas. I was never able to figure out what further reduction we should get. If in fact I could get a 50% reduction that would bring our electric use down to 23% of average or a 77% reduction. If it was more of a 25% reduction then it would look more like 35% of average or 65% reduction. 

Therms:  The average household uses 83.3 therms of natural gas per month or 1000 therms over the season,  much of it is used for heating. We have used no gas heat this past year, but did heat water and cook with gas. We used 112 therms over the year or 9.3/month. That equates to 11.2% of average or an 88.8% reduction. Having purchased a solar water heater, our future outlook is 4-6 therms per month or about 60 therms per year. This would be 6% of average or a 94% reduction.

Garbage:  The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month or a staggering 6,480 pounds per year. We created 157.5 pounds of trash and 402 pounds of recyclables during the past 11 months that I have been weighing ALL our garbage. Recyclables count 80% of trash so the 402 pounds becomes 321.6 pounds. Adding the two together gives us a garbage total of 479.1 pounds for the time period or 43.5 pounds per month. That gives us 8% of average or a 92% reduction.

Water: The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kgallons a month. Over the past 12 months we have used 26 kgallons of water. According to the Riot rules, water for irrigation of food is not counted. We had a drought during our growing season and are estimating we used 6kgal to water the garden. That leaves us with 20kgal to account for. That would mean we used about 1.7 kgal/month which is 14% of average or an 86% reduction.

Consumer Goods. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month. We easily spent the average amount of money since we purchased quite a few high ticket sustainability items such as a solar water heater, two low flow toilets, a pressure canner, a water filter, a new freezer oh yes and new windows. Having recently moved into a new/older house we have many things to upgrade and certainly not just for cosmetic reasons. A new roof is in our future as well as some new flooring. Not calculated.

Food: Food is a difficult thing to measure. Do you measure by weight, serving or by dollars spent. I never did any of these things because I could not keep track to that degree. So I can only say that our family went from eating a diet of mostly processed foods to one of few processed foods. We mostly buy fruits and veggies that are local and in season or pick directly from our garden. I have been buying much of our food from bulk bins and cooking dried beans and grains from scratch. The ideal that we have been shooting for according to Riot guidelines is to eat at least 70% of your diet from local and organic sources. Then 25% of your diet can come from bulk, dry goods like beans and grains, also loose tea or fair trade coffee. Then wet goods like conventionally grown meat, fruits and veggies, oils and milk should only make up about 5% of your diet. This last category is what makes up the larger portion of the average American diet. We started out at least at average and have ended up making it to 35% local/organic, 50% bulk, and 15% wet, conventional. This is the category we need the most work in. Getting enough local food is hard in a society that doesn’t value it. 

I enjoy calculating our numbers, heck I even enjoyed weighing all the trash. It was just so satisfying to see the difference you could make. Why don’t you try some of the easier things. To make things even easier, there is a calculator on the Riot site that will figure things up for you. You don’t have to join the Riot, just become aware of how much of our planet’s finite resources you are using.   

The best advice I can give anyone in how to make a difference to our planet is USE LESS. Use less of EVERYTHING.             

June Riot Update

Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. For those who started when the project began, the year has come to maturity. I had not planned on keeping data for another month, but since I did, I figured I would post it. I am pretty sure this will be my last update.

We are a  family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories as follows. 

Gasoline: We purchased 20.1 gallons in June. The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. Our use of 20.1 gal was 12% of average.  

Electric: We used 456 Kwh from  June 12 to July 14 . The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 50.6% of average. We have started using the air conditioner full time and even though it is not set as high as last year, we are using less energy because we bought new windows last October. Our usage one year ago however was 884 Kwh for the same month.

Therms: We used 6 therms of natural gas from  June 12 to July 14. Our usage is 7% of average. We are only using natural gas to cook with currently. The average household uses 83.3 therms per month or 1000 therms over the season, much of it is used for heating. 

Garbage: We created 4 1/2 pounds of trash and 8 1/2 pounds of recyclables in June. We are at 2% of average.  The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks. 

Water: We used 1 kilogallons from June 12 to July 14. It went down from 6!  I have not had to water our garden since it started raining June 1st.  The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four or 12 Kgal a month. Our 1 Kgal is 8% of average. Glad to be back to normal.

Consumer Goods-I dropped the ball on tracking this. I think I spent quite a bit less in this area, mostly because we did not need any more toilets. We did spend some money on chicken wire to build our chicken coop. I know we bought a  few more things, but no where near $833 the average family spends per month. 

Food: I think we did really well this month for food choices. I think our purchases ended up with local at 35%, bulk category at 50% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is down to 15%. I have been to the farmers market almost every Saturday and am eating out of the garden as well.

Now that I have a years worth of information, I am going to do a year end summary, to show how our family fared over the course of a year. I said that last month, but have better numbers for this June than last, so will use this years. It isn’t cheating since we didn’t start the Riot till July anyway.

May riot update

I seem to have messed up my original post. I’ll try to fix it when I have time.

April Riot Update

I have had so much fun being a part of The Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project. The project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. There are a growing number of people all over the world, still joining this movement to help halt climate change. What are you willing to do to help save the world as we know it?

I finally have all my numbers for the month of April. As I stated last month, as part of The Riot For Austerity we usually figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories. For two weeks we had my husbands mother staying with us so I will adjust the figures that are per person. 

Gasoline: We purchased 13.11 gallons in April. The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. Our use of 13.11 gallons was 7.9% of average.  Our 11 month cumulative total is 223.02 gallons or 12.2 % of average. And as reported previously, this does not include airline trips taken in November. If I add in two weeks of gas allotment for an extra adult, we come down to an even 7% of average, woo hoo!

Electric: We used 315 Kwh from  April 11 to May13 . The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 35% of average. Our lowest usage was in January and the numbers have been slowly climbing. We jumped from 25% last month to 35% this time. The warmer weather makes the fridge and freezer work harder. And one week before the meter was read we had our water heater switched from gas to electric to have a solar water heater installed. Electric is per household, but we did have an extra member for two weeks.

Therms: We used 9 therms of natural gas from  April 11 to May 13. Our usage is 11% of average. More hot water was used with an extra adult.  The average household uses 83.3 therms per month or 1000 therms over the season, since much of it is used for heating. We have used no gas heat this past year, but do heat water and cook with gas..

Garbage: We created 14.75 pounds of trash and 20.75 pounds of recyclables in April. Recyclables count 80% of trash so we are at 5.8% of average. If I figure in two weeks of an extra person it brings us down to 5.2%. The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks.

Water: We used 4 kilogallons from April 11 to May 13. It went up from 2. We have been watering our garden since about April 11th. We went five weeks with no rain! The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kg a month. Our 4 Kg is 33% of average. The creators of The Riot say that water used to water your vegetable garden or crops does not count the same as household water use. We cannot separate the two. But I can guess that we used 2 Kg for household and 2Kg for watering. That would take us down to 16% of average. And if I add in the allotment for another adult for 2 weeks we come down to 14.9%.

Consumer Goods. Well during April I was participating in the buy nothing challenge with Crunchy Chicken.  I was not able to truly buy nothing. I bought 24 books from our friends of the library book sale. $16 but counts as $1.60 because they are used. We spent money on a camping trip for spring break, but didn’t buy anything tangible. I did really need to buy my daughter some new tennis shoes for $21.85. Then our big expense/purchase for the month was a new toilet. $347.00.  It counts as half under riot rules since it is infrastructure to reduce usage. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month. We spent adjusted $326.98 or 39% of average.

Food: This category is always hard for me. I just guess what I think we eat and spend money on and then I double check what my husband thinks. I think we did better than last month with local at 30%, bulk category at 45% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is down to 25%. 

In summary our gasoline use decreased by 2 percentage points, Electric went up 10 percentage points, Nat gas use went up a percentage point.  Garbage had been dropping but went up 2 percentage points. Water use increased by 50% again, increasing 16 percentage points, but really staying the same for household use. Consumer goods is higher since we bought a big ticket item and will be next month since we plan to buy another toilet. And the food category is pretty much the same but with a definite move in the right direction….towards local!    

I have to say that my mother in law was a great sport the entire two weeks she stayed with us. She turned the water off while soaping up and shampooing, she sat outside and read books using natural light and enjoying the warmth(she is from Wisconsin). She gave us money for the farmers market and ate quite a bit of local vegetarian food. She even discovered some new foods she liked. It was a great visit all around!

If my mother in law can have a great time doing this, you can too. So why don’t you take some time to look at your utility and gasoline bills, and see where you fall on the percentage chart. To make things even easier, there is a calculator on the Riot site that will figure things up for you. You don’t have to join the Riot, just become aware of how much of our planet’s finite resources you are using.                

March Riot Update

I have had so much fun being a part of The Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project. The project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. There are a growing number of people all over the world, still joining this movement to help halt climate change. What are you willing to do to help save the world as we know it?

I finally have all my numbers for the month of March. As I stated last month, as part of The Riot For Austerity we usually figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories.

Gasoline: We purchased 16.71 gallons in March. The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So our a typical family of four would use 2000. Our use is 10.02% of average.    Our 10 month cumulative total is 209.91 gallons or 12.6 % of average. And as reported last month, this does not include the airline trips taken in November.

Electric: We used 225 Kwh from  March 15 to April 11. The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 25% of average.

Therms: We used 8 therms of natural gas from  March 15 to April 11. The average household uses 83.3 per month or 1000 therms over the season, since much of it is used for heating. We are using no gas heat, but do heat water and cook with gas. Our usage is 10% of average.

Garbage: We created 6.25 pounds of trash and 17 pounds of recyclables in March. Recyclables count 80% of trash so we are at 3.7% of average. The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks.

Water: We used 2 kilogallon from March 15 to April 11. It went back up to 2 from 1. We have been at 2 Kg since last Oct. The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kg a month. Our 2 Kg is 16% of average.

Consumer Goods. We spent atleast $146.45 in March which would be 17.6% of average. We purchased a battery for our car and patterns for some planned wardrobe refashioning.  Everything was new this time so added to the expense. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month.

Food: This category is always hard for me. I just guess what I think we eat and spend money on and then I double check what my husband thinks. I think it is the same as last month with local at 25%, bulk category at 45% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is still at 30%. April is getting more local and May should be even better.

In summary our gas use increased slightly, Electric went up 2.5 percentage points, Nat gas use went down by 3 therms,steadily dropping since Dec.  Garbage has continued dropping and went from 4% to 3.7%. Water use increased by 50%, but I think it is more the way the meter is read than a true 50% increase in use. Consumer goods is higher because we needed a new battery for our car. And the food category is pretty much the same with a move in the right direction….towards local!    

Why don’t you take some time to look at your utility and gasoline bills, and see where you fall on the percentage chart. To make things even easier, there is a calculator on the Riot site that will figure things up for you. You don’t have to join the Riot, just become aware of how much of our planets finite resources you are using.                

Riot Update February numbers

I just realized that I needed to post my numbers from February. As part of The Riot For Austerity we usually figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories.

Gasoline: We purchased 15.2 gallons in Feb which is 8.4% of average.    Our 9 month cumulative total is 193.2 gallons or 13% of average. And as reported last month, this does not include the airline trips taken in November.

Electric: We used 212 Kwh from Feb 14 to March 14. The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 23.5% of average.

Therms: We used 11 therms of natural gas from Feb 14 to March 14. The average household uses 83.3 per month or 1000 therms over the season, since much of it is used for heating. We are using no gas heat, but do heat water and cook with gas. Our usage is 13% of average.

Garbage: We created 6.75 pounds of trash and 19 pounds of recyclables in Feb. Recyclables count 80% of trash so we are at 4% of average. The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks.

Water: We used 1 kilogallon from Feb 14 to March 14. I was so excited to see it drop. We have been at 2 Kg since last Oct. The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kg a month. Our 1 Kg is 8% of average.

Consumer Goods. We spent atleast $33.84 in Feb which would be 4% of average. That is twp purchases. $20 for bicycle tires and one dinner out when I was sick(excuses, excuses). I will concede that there may be purchases I don’t remember, but even so I am sure we are under 10%. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month.

Food: This category is always hard for me. I just guess what I think we eat and spend money on and then I double check what my husband thinks. Last month was 20% local and I think that has increased to 25%. The bulk category has gone from 50% to 45% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is still at 30%

In summary our gas use dropped in half from Jan to Feb, Electric went up 2.5 percentage points, Nat gas use went down by 2 therms, Garbage has been dropping and went from 7% to 4%. Water use dropped in half. Consumer goods is lower because I just have decided not to buy much. And the food category is pretty much the same with a move in the right direction….towards local!                              

Riot update January Numbers

I posted about the Riot for Austerity several weeks ago. I joined a group of people who are trying to decrease their consumption of resources by 90% of that of the average American. I have decided that I will start posting my numbers for the Riot on my blog once a month. For the full set of rules and guidelines, visit the Riot site by clicking the link. My numbers will lag behind because my meters are head halfway through the month and the other bills come around that time as well. So today I have my numbers ready for January.

Gasoline: 16.75% of average. Our family of four gets a monthly allotment of 16.6 gal per month if we want to be at an exact 90% reduction. We purchased 27.8 gal in January. Our running total since June 1st is 178.14 gal or  13.4% of US avg. This however does not include air travel which it actually should. Since starting the project I have flown one long haul flight and the rest of my family has flown a total of 3 long haul and 4 short haul round trip flights. I will see if I can figure up these numbers for next month.

Electricity: 21% of average. We used 188 kwh from mid Jan to mid Feb. We pay $15 a month extra for “green” energy. If we could get wind or hydro power we would get a 75% reduction. If it were solar it would be a 50% reduction. Our utility’s green energy is 95% landfill gas and 5% solar and wind. So I don’t even know if I get a reduction.

Heating/cooking: 15.6% of average. We use natural gas for water heating and cooking. We have a natural gas central heater and a natural gas fireplace. We used the fireplace once at Christmas and ran the heater once for two hours just for maintenance. Our gas usage was 13 therms for the month. We have a wood stove if it is really cold inside, lower than 60F. We also have a makeshift solar water heater that does work this time of year if it is really sunny and not too cold.

Garbage: 7% of average. For the month of January our family of four made 13.5lbs of trash and 28.5 lbs of recyclables. Recyclables are counted at 80% since they both decrease resource needs and create pollution from collection and processing. We compost all food waste.

Water: 16% of average. Our water is only measured in kilo-gallons. Mostly we are using 2kgal, but occasionally only one. Our old toilets need replacing and I would love to use rainwater for laundry. We will be working on both of those in the coming months.

Consumer goods: Not sure. I just started tracking this category begining Jan 1st. I spent $120.80 on seeds, goodness what was I thinking? I also spent $79.61 on other stuff. If I don’t count the seeds as consumer goods then we are at 9.5% of avg. If the seeds count 50% because they are homestead expenses, then we are at 16.8%. If they count as consumer goods, well then, we are at 24% of average.

Food: I have never really tracked food. I find it really tedious and would rather guesstimate. The rules recommend that your diet be 70% local, 25% bulk and 5% wet, luxury goods. We are not doing so well in this area. It is a big change from a year ago though, when we bought about 70% wet, luxury, frozen, processed food, 25% bulk and 5% local. I think right now we are doing about 20% local, 50% bulk and 30% wet, luxury.

Overall I feel like we are doing pretty well. I am working on increasing local food, but since grains are not grown in Florida we are doing a lot of bulk buying. With all the seeds I bought, hopefully we will be eating mostly from the garden. I just need to have a good kick in the pants to get the planting done.

Any advice, suggestions, comments?