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Friday, November 16, 2012

I Can't Be Taught

I don't know if other utilities in other States do this, but here in Western Pennsylvania, Duquesne Light, as part of some program to greenify the state, or conserve electricity, or something, sends out these monthly statements that graph your power usage and compare you to your neighbors.  

Last month I got one and it I looked at my usage and then underneath it said "95".  And I was like, "SWEET!!" because we bought triple pane glass windows and they're all energy efficient, and I replaced my heat and AC last year with more energy efficient version, and I've been slowly replacing the dumb old light bulbs with the fancy curly bulbs and so clearly this was all paying off, because look how efficient we were last month!


Only then I read the little narrative that went with it, and it said, "Out of 100 homes, you are using more power than 95 of them."  So, to restate, there are only 5 houses out of 100 peers that used more than we did.


So the first thing I did was shut off all the heat and lights and power and huddled on the floor in the cold and dark and rocked back and forth because windows/ac/heat....THOUSANDS of dollars later only to still be in the 95th percentile for worst energy usage.


The second thing I did was say, "Bah!  It's marketing.  Here's the number they want me to call to learn about their new energy program.  Right....cha-ching!"  And I threw out the letter and turned the power back on.


A couple weeks later I was at work and some coworkers were talking about this same stupid scam statement and I asked what their "score" was.  


I think the one guy said he was 8.  Um.  Hmm.  So...he had the 8th best energy usage??  DAMMIT!!


A few days ago I walked through the house and was unsurprised to find that almost every light was on.  I don't know why EVERY light in the house wasn't on, that was the only surprising part, but it was too many lights.  I decided I needed to make a conscious effort to turn lights off when I leave a room.  


I held an impromptu family meeting (we were watching The Voice) and said, "Okay, starting from here on out, when you leave a room, turn out your lights!  Emma, if you leave the lights on in your room upstairs, we're going to send you back up to turn them off.  And if you bust us, we have to turn them off too!"  Emma hates having to go back upstairs, because it interferes with her "laying upside down on the couch playing with her itouch" plans, so I knew this would be very motivating.


Two days ago, with a sigh, I walked down the stairs to address Emma.


"Emma, I used to hate when my mother did this to me, but..."

"Oh no!  What did I do?"
"You left the light on in your room.  I need you to go upstairs and turn it off." 

I could have turned it off.  I obviously had been upstairs in order to observe it's un-turn-offedness...but I wanted her to "learn".


All of this was accompanied by a flashback to a memory I had of my mother standing in the kitchen of our house on North Avenue, Columbus, Montana, and saying to me, "Jim, you didn't turn the light off in your room."  My room was just down the hall.  I was eating breakfast at the counter.


"Can't you turn it off for me?"

"How are you ever going to learn if I do it for you?"
"I just forgot.  It's not like I don't know HOW to do it.  You're standing right there!"
"Jim."
"Fine, but this isn't teaching me how to turn off lights."

*sigh, ponderously climb to my feet, walk down the hall slowly and heavily, dramatically flick the switch off with a flourish, turn around, return to the kitchen sit down heavily, sigh, and shake head.*

"Thank you."

I remember thinking how stupid the whole exercise was.  


To Emma's credit, she was much more respectful.  When she came back down, I thanked her, "Remember, Emma, if you catch US leaving lights on, let us know and we have to go back up and turn them off too!"  I think that softened the blow of having to move.


Last night Emma sat down on the couch and said to me, "You guys left the light on in your bathroom."


"Did we?  Hmm, I'll have to go turn that out."  I walked up the stairs to find that the bathroom lights were indeed on.  I shut them off and came back downstairs.  "Thanks, Em."


See mom, I told you.






41 comments:

  1. I narrated this entire thing in my head in a grumpy dad voice. Next you'll be like, "darn kids win their dbd players and their new fangled walkie talkies!" And then you'll shake your fist and need your license taken away...

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    1. I've already used the whole, "we didn't HAVE computers when I was your age" and several others. I've become such an elderly.

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  2. ..."back in my day we didn't have power! We stayed warm from the body heat of the pigs in the barn! I named that pig Bartholomew and then I had to eat. I had to eat my pig friend that kept me warm on cold nights. Let that be a lesson to you!"

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  3. My husband asked me when we first moved in together: "Does your family leave light on all over the house, or turn them out as they leave a room?" Obviously we left them on all the time. I didn't mention that they sometimes left the tv on too when we went out to dinner.

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    1. well, you don't want people to think the house is unguarded!

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  4. My daughter is 17 months old and has just figured out how to turn off lights. She's very aggressive in her energy saving policies.

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    1. If you do it right, you can incorporate that into her allowance job duties.

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  5. We are a lights off house. I grew up that way. I even turn them off when they are already off. If that makes sense. :-) Seeing the difference it made in my bill motivated me even more. I loved this post. I could almost picture Emma going to turn the light off.

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    1. She was cool with it. Especially since she got to bust me the next day.

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  6. My husband is our light police in our house, except he does it more passive aggressively in his grumpy old man voice: "I guess I am the only one who turns off the lights in this house." Sometimes I turn them back on just for fun.
    I might get more exercise, though, doing it your way. Up and down the stairs...

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    1. oh yeah, i LOVE passive aggressive guy!

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  7. I've resigned myself to the fact that our power bill is going to cost a small fortune until my kids leave home. Neither one can seem to sleep in the dark. Just when we had gotten to the point of not needing the hall light for our older child, the younger one came along and insisted his bedroom light MUST be on all night every night. The older one falls asleep with his lamp on and has also decided the dark is no longer OK as well. When they get jobs, I'm collecting a light tax.

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  8. I don't turn off lights. I'm a badass rebel.

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  9. Do you get emails anytime someone comments? I do. I get all excited when my phone pings. But it's usually spam. It's a sad life. Phone spam.

    spam spam spam spam spam.

    Is this trolling?

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    1. I do. The spam ones say "Anonymous" and they're almost always on the Target post. mostly.

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  10. My husband enrolled us in the energy study, so now we have a little monitor that shows our electricity use and the handy neighorhood comparison at every given moment. He even checks the website showing our stats from work. We also pay something like 100 x more during their designated "peak times" than during the rest of the day. My new favorite thing to do is to wait until 2 minutes after peak time and turn everything on, then wait for him to call...

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  11. But power consumption from lights is so negligible!

    I get graphs on my bill, but no fun neighborhood competition. I do, however, observe my neighbor's power usage (there are 3 other apts in the house I live in) and my meter is usually the highest :(

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    1. depends on how many lights you have...

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  12. It's all about educating yourself and your family about electric consumption. The programs from the utility companies do help. The risk of having so much strain on the system that it ll cause an outage is real and will become a day to day issue as time progresses. We are tech junkies using a patchwork grid. It is beneficial for us and for utilities to help consumers reduce usage due to high demand. They send a vendor to do an air leak check and seal among other things. A kilowatt is extremely useful. Also, making good energy saving choices.

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    1. yeah. But...but I've spent THOUSANDS on new windows and more energy efficient heating and cooling. Even if I didn't appreciably change ANY of my habits...I should be seeing a savings based on the efficiency of the new hardware.

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    2. Not really. Not all new appliances use a low enough amount to reduce your bill. Think about, say, an energy efficient space heater. Yes it'll save some money but consumers don't think of how much it'll actually consume. Everything plugged in consumes, even if it's off. Cell phone chargers, tv's, lamps, you name it. An Xbox 360 can consume upwards,of $40 for the average gamer who works full time. Trust me I date one. Anyways, I made a list of all the electric consuming devices that I own and built a map of where my money goes. I was in awe. So, I educated myself and reduced my bi at least 25%

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    3. I read that as you are dating an xbox 360.

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  13. I grew up in a house "with" lights AND sound (TV, radios). My husband is a light fanatic. He taught the boys at a very early age to turn off the lights. You can tell if we are out cause there are lights actually ON in the house. We tag team with the lights going to bed...heaven forbid any extra lights are on. I'm afraid to mention motion-sensor lights INSIDE cuz he'll probably be on it in a flash. Haahaa!

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    1. I'm starting to think the tanning beds were a bad idea.

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  14. I want a chart. WHY DOESN'T NATIONAL GRID HAVE A CHART. I'm OBSESSED with charts. Well, that's more of a graph, BUT STILL.

    My dad is so weird about lights-off that he does it WHILE WE ARE STILL IN THE ROOM. Once I was taking a shower and the lights went off. I was all, "Dad! I think the power went out!" and he said, "You don't need lights to take a shower. You know where your bits are." YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR BITS ARE. He'd reached into the bathroom AND TURNED OFF THE LIGHTS WHILE I WAS IN THE SHOWER. I could have died of falling in the dark, but at least I'd know where my bits were.

    My power bill is teeny-tiny-small. That's what happens when you live alone in an apartment the size of a storage unit and only have three outlets.

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    1. They'd have a chart, but the power's out and nobody can do the chart for them.

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  15. Tom and I both tend to remember to turn of the light best when the other person is still in the room. That way it's green and funny (to one of us).

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  16. I'll bet Emma turned your bathroom light on just so she could make you go upstairs and turn it off. Payback. Heh heh.

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  17. I like that you were a smartass even back when you were a kid. That knowledge is going in my All About Jim file.

    We have lots of lights on all the time too. I'm going to start making my kids go to their rooms to turn off lights and when they complain, I'll be all, "Tell it to Jim and Duquesne Light, kids, tell it to them."

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    1. Yeah, this isn't a phase. Or if it is, it's a very long one.

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  18. Pretty sure you could see our house from space some nights. So, we started this in our house as well. It's a big hit.

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    1. but could you HEAR your house from space? No. No, i think not.

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  19. I thought I was the only one who got the horrible comparative scores! We couldn't figure it out - we turned off lights aggressively, we had no dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer, we didn't use heaters, it was a tiny apartment...nothing we did could get us past 88. I'm so glad I'm not alone...

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  20. Our bill doesn't show comparisons between neighbors, thank goodness. Like I need one more reason to feel like an utter failure at some random thing in my life, right?

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  21. We are the worst. We'll go out, and when we come home our whole house is lit up like a Christmas tree. With no one inside. I am actually shocked, SHOCKED, when I arrive home to find the lights off. I immediately assume we lost power, and start muttering not so nice things under my breath. I don't remember if my mom ever told me to turn out the lights. If she did, I clearly didn't retain any of it. Like most other things.

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