Run large appliances during off-peak hours and at night
A few years ago, I started researching ways to lower our energy costs and be more responsible during summer heat waves, when utilities call for a reduction in energy usage to avoid blackouts. Peak usage times for electricity are usually during regular office hours and early evening, between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. Running large appliances like the dishwasher or clothes washing machine after 6:00 pm on weekdays or during off-peak usage times like the weekend was one of the most convenient ways I found to limit my energy usage during the day. Making these simple changes resulted in cutting my electricity bill in HALF, even in the summer! Here's how:
We run the dishwasher at night
We stopped using paper plates because of all the waste involved. When we went paleo a couple years ago, it was startling how much less trash we generated as a family because we weren't eating packaged foods as often. This change highlighted our paper plate usage because the majority of our trash was paper plates at that point. We weren't using the dishwasher much because we used so few dishes that the dishwasher would start to smell bad before it was full enough to justify running it. When we remodeled our kitchen last year, I splurged on an energy-efficient dishwasher with a built-in garbage disposal to make dish washing even easier. We eat on real dishes every day and drink from real glasses. We pack our lunches in Tupperware and other reusable containers that we can wash each night to reuse again. It's a smart change from my plastic-cup-using grandma's house growing up! Come to think of it, my grandma also used ALOT of paper plates…
Here are my tips for creating a system that helps you run the dishwasher at night:
- Use real dishes and glasses so you can fill the dishwasher daily or every other day.
- Start with an empty dishwasher in the morning.
- Teach the kids and family members to get into the habit of rinsing dishes and putting them in the dishwasher straight away, versus piling them in the sink or on the counter.
- Hand wash knives and pots and pans as they are used.
- If the dishwasher is not full, run other items in it, such as pot scrubbers, sponges, and decorative glassware (that is safe for washing) to finish filling it. A family of 4 should fill the dishwasher every day.
- If your dishwasher has a timer, after dinner, set it to start at 11pm. If your dishwasher does not have a timer, set it to run when you go to bed.
- In the morning, have the kids unload the dishwasher for their morning chores. It literally takes 5 minutes.
- The dishwasher is now empty and ready to fill throughout the day!
We wash clothes every night and on weekends
My grandma never had a hamper. I have struggled with the laundry for years until this year, I banned individual hampers and adopted my own version of grandma's laundry system. My grandma didn't have a hamper because she washed clothes every day. I don't know about you but I hate laundry day. I don't like folding piles of clothes and giving up hours of my time to laundry. Here's what we do instead:
- We keep one hamper in the laundry room. We use the hamper and the clothes washer to hold the dirty clothes.
- The clothes are divided into two sets: whites (that get bleached) and dark clothes (everything else). We wash bedding on the weekend so that isn't in the mix of this process.
- We fill the washing machine with dirty clothes throughout the day, much like we do with the dishwasher. I have a front loading washer so we leave the door ajar to avoid the clothes getting extra stinky inside the washer.
- We alternate whites and darks between the hamper and the clothes washer. Today we fill the washer with darks and the hamper with whites. Tomorrow, we switch and fill the washer with whites and the hamper with darks. Sometimes it might take us a few days to get a full load of whites so we might run two days of dark clothes and then one day of whites.
- At night, after everyone has changed into their pajamas, we set the timer on the washing machine to run in the middle of the night. If the load isn't full, we continue filling the washer the next day until we have a full load.
- In the morning when we wake up, usually around 6:00 am, we put the clothes into the dryer. My husband leaves for work and me or the kids hang and fold the one load of clothes.
- We then fill the clothes washer with the clothes from the hamper. The rest of the day, we'll add those types of clothes to the washer and the other clothes to the hamper. The cycle starts again!
Laundry takes about 5-10 minutes a day with this method and I have saved a TON on my energy bills, cutting my electricity bill in HALF in the summers. A solar water heater can totally work with this system as well!
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