July 22, 2015

10 Ways To Power Down

North americans are electricity pigs. If we are going to shrink our ecological footprint we will have to shrink our electricity consumption.

The good news is that because we are so wasteful improvements are easy. The average american home could probably shave 30% off their consumption without even noticing.

Try these for starters.

1. Switch to LED lighting.
2. Turn off lights when not in use. Aids like timers and motion sensors can help.
3. Lower your heating/air conditioning needs. Use sweaters and blankets for heat, a fan for cooling. Automatic thermostats help lower energy draw for you.
4. Eliminate phantom power draw. This is when things are on even when they aren't - manufacturers call it "Standby". Use power bars to turn off electronics.
5. Replace old appliances with more energy efficient alternatives.
6. Move to an energy efficient home, preferably one that is smaller.
7. Open your fridge less often.
8. Dry clothes on a clothes line.
9. Use lids while cooking. Don't overcook food.
10. Turn it off. Turn it all off. Enjoy the silence.

The next stage is transitioning off grid power and on to smaller community based renewable alternatives. When we couple reduced demand with renewable energy sources we begin to approach sustainability.

Power down and raise the fun factor. Consider it a vital challenge. How much electricity can you do without?


  1. gretchen7/23/2015

    i'm especially fond of suggestion #10 :)

    1. Low energy lifestyles are quieter and more peaceful.

  2. Anonymous7/23/2015

    This summer we have been using our solar shower almost exclusively. We put the shower bag, which we fill up at the hose outside the house, in the sun for the afternoon. By evening, we have 5 gallons a warm to hot water (it can get VERY hot) to use for a shower. We hang it in the shower stall, and voila! A hot shower without having to use the hot water heater - and plenty of water for two people! Unfortunately we cannot do this year round, living in NW Oregon, but we love using the sun power now. -- Mary

    1. A nice hot shower is a beautiful thing. It is even better when it is free. Great idea.

  3. HI Gregg,

    I wonder if you've thought about trying to live without a fridge at all? If it was easy to shop the old way - buying what you need at markets day to day - this would be ideal. Perhaps when I'm working less I could walk into town for supplies. Root cellaring is also possible, and having a larder in a cold part of the house.

    I'm in two minds about LED lights as they contain mercury which is highly toxic. I've started using candles in the bedroom and bought an old lantern that runs on kerosene. The smell of kerro is very strong and I'm not sure if it's toxic when you breathe it in? I've also started sweeping sometimes instead of vaccuuming. I think all these little things add up, in the same way as our gradual transition to more and more 'convenient' ways of doing things has caused a lot of damage.

    Have a great day,


    1. Madeleine,

      I would love to have a root cellar and/or cold room to make use of the coolness of the earth. If we ever buy a place of our own these will be on our list of improvements to make.

      The Groundfridge is a modern update on the traditional root cellar -


      LED lights, as far as I know, do not have mercury in them. CFLs do however, and require proper disposal as toxic waste.

      Convenience kills. I enjoy a good sweep around the house. We haven't had a vacuum since we moved one year ago.

      If we lived within walking distance of markets we would definitely try the no fridge challenge. I am interested in trying alternatives like the "pot-in-pot" fridges called zeers. They rely on evaporation to provide cooling without electricity.


    2. Hi again Gregg,

      thanks for that information, I'm excited to check it out. I'm currently reading Just Enough:Lessons in Living Green From Traditional Japan by Azby Brown. It's a fascinating look at life in both urban and rural Japan circa 1800, a period where they had had to overcome food shortages, deforestation issues etc...and they did so successfully. There are plenty of drawings showing how their houses were built to provide ventilation, how they ccoked, saved their grey water etc...I'm finding it so interesting, and wishing I could build a house from scratch incorporating some of their ideas.

      One things they did in the country that I'd like to try is they kept a big earthenware urn of water in the sun. This heated up through the day and they bathed with the water in the evenings. Simple and energy saving. It was also notable that they didn't waste any water even though they lived in the land of plenty. Contrast this to Australia, land of drought, and I'm truly puzzled that greywater diversion hasn't been mandatory since the year dot. Humans can be frustratingly stupid sometimes!!

      Re the pot in pot cooling system: I saw this in the documentary No Impact Man (worth watching if you haven't already seen it) and they didn't find it worked for them during the Summer - maybe there is a trick to it? I'd like to try it anyway.


    3. I am just rereading this now. I have since learned that zeers do not work in very humid environments because there is far less evaporation when the air is already saturated with moisture. They work best, then, in dry conditions where evaporation is the greatest.

  4. There's also cooking in bulk. Since I'm using the oven or crock pot already anyway, why not double or triple what I'm making? I freeze the extra and pull it out for quick meals, which saves even more electricity. I can cook up a huge pot of rice or bake some chicken or tofu and divide it up into smaller portions. Then I can just pull them out, toss them with some lettuce and a bunch of veggies and I have a complete meal. No electricity used!

    There's also what I call "sleeping with the sun". When the sun starts going down, it's time to start getting ready for bed. This works in the summertime anyway. In the winter months, with DST, the sun is down at 5 pm. But at least for half the year, I'm not keeping lights on for several hours every night!

    1. Cooking in bulk and freezing forms our "fast food". Saves energy and convenient for those times you don't feel like cooking much.

      Sleeping with the sun feels natural in the summer. The sun is the best light source around. We have a solar lantern that we use after dark.

  5. Great graphic. Sadly here in Canada we use much more electricity than is necessary. Part of our corporate dominated culture. I have actively managed the household power consumption to reduce electricity, employing many of the items on your list. We still used about 4,500 KW. About a 30% reduction.
    I like the idea of the solar water heater and cooker, something to try.

    1. 30% reduction is great! Congratulations.

  6. Happy to share that my power consumption has reduced just about 50% as compared to the same month last year. I'm pleased with this, but there is more I can do.

    Refrigerators! Wish I could figure out how to not want one so much. Being able to walk to a market and purchase fresh food would help. My community is no where near that. As I see it, my lifestyle would have to change radically to not need a refrigerator. I would need to eat different foods and be able to produce most of it myself. I'm willing to go in the direction of that kind of change. A start might be using a mini refrigerator.

    My grandmother was born in 1903. She lived to 102 years old. Died in 2005. We had a big family party for her 100th birthday. I asked her a lot of questions as did many other family members. One of the questions I asked her was how did you keep food cool without refrigerators? She replied, "We tied it to a limb and let it hang down in the creek and we had root cellars." I assume the food was in some sort of wrapping or container to allow it to be in the creek, but have no idea what that might have been.

    When I visited her as a youngster, she always had a plentiful garden which she labored in many hours. And we canned food, lots of food, good food. It was stored in her root cellar. We baked bread too. I have fond memories of all my experiences with her. At the time of her 100th birthday, she was on NO MEDICATION and did not use a walker or a cane! She still had a garden she tended to all by herself too. I find that remarkable. Part of me longs to go back to how she lived.

    Great ideas here in your article and comments. I like the idea of going to bed as the sun goes down and/or using alternative low light at night. What kind of solar lantern do you and Linda use? I looked them up, seems there are many to choose from.

    I also looked up ground fridges and pot-in-pot (zeers). Thanks for those links. I didn't know about either of them.

    I sometimes use my camping candle lantern. One candle burns for 9 hours. Cost of lantern is about $20 USD. I used the last one I had for about 15 years. Enjoying my second one now! I also use a salt light. It has a small bulb and is a pleasant soft light. Very low heat output.

    One thing to remember about light bulbs is they heat the air. If you live in a hot climate like I do, it means the air conditioner runs more often if you have lights on. An experiment with using three lamps in a small bedroom showed me just how much heat burning light bulbs put out!

    1. What if you switch to a mini fridge so you still have it but not such a big one? Or you could use alternative cooking methods to help make up for the fridge. There are tutorials for solar ovens all over YouTube. There's also the WonderBag (or a homemade version where you line a carboard box (one with a lid) with a thick wool blanket.

  7. If one lived close to shopping a mini fridge would be good. I think we have talked here before about using an old fashioned ice box to reduce power use and get rid of the sound of a fridge coming on all the time.

    Your grandma sounds like an amazing women. Going forward we are all going to have to be more like her, and probably use a lot of the same methods.

    Our solar lamp is made for camping and has LED lights. It can run on batteries, but we have not had to use them yet since we charge the lantern in the sun during the day. It was quite expensive at about $90.00 dollars, but conventional bedside lamps can be expensive, too, and don't run on solar power. I figured it was worth it to have free light for many years. Plus when using the lantern it feels like camping.

    Way to go on the whopping 50% power reduction. That is impressive. I thought of your power reduction project while writing this post. Glad to hear what a success it has been!


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