When I was growing up my father used to constantly tell us "turn off the light, shut the door, you must have been born in a barn". I never really understood what that meant - but I imagined that in his time it must have been popular to see many barns in full wattage with their doors open.


One time my mother went through this stage where she unplugged everything in the house. "You plugged it in when you use it," she said. She took that pet project one step too far when my dad nearly killed himself moving furniture looking for the plug for the television.


Fast forward to today, I'm a grown woman with children who finds that I constantly struggle over sounding like a broken record by saying, "be green - keep the door shut, turn off the lights, don't overcharge your iPod." (Note: I still don't talk about farm animals and their illumination needs)


Did you know that consumers spend $241 billion dollars on energy for home use each year? That's about 1 in 5 of the nation's energy dollars. A typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills. (Source: U.S. Department of Energy, 2009 Buildings Energy Data Book.)


Right in your own home, you have the power to reduce energy demand and add money back into your pocket by saving on your utility bills!


Let's get real though, there has to be a happy medium - I can't be a screaming parent and lady that unplugs everything in my house. Instead, I'm opting for becoming a responsible parent that teaches my children that reducing our families' footprint is great for our Earth and good for our budget. So, I set out to see where we stood and come up with a plan.


You can take a quick survey - a do it yourself home energy audit - a good one can be found at Home Energy Saver. This site was developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy and is free for consumers.

I learned a lot about my home and our family's energy usage. Below are the few things I gleaned from my survey that I passed on to our kids. I hope that educating our family in a way that's easy to understand and simple to put into action will be the key to making it all work.


  • Change or clean your furnace filter once a month.
  • Take showers, not baths. A five-minute shower will use about 7.5 gallons of hot water, while filling a bathtub can use up to 20 gallons.
  • Don't overload the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Vacuum the refrigerator coils about twice a year to keep the compressor running efficiently.
  • Check the seal on your refrigerator door by closing it on a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets.
  • A load of dishes cleaned in a dishwasher uses 37 percent less water than washing dishes by hand.
  • Use lids on pots and pans to reduce cooking times.
  • Use smaller kitchen appliances whenever possible. Microwaves, toaster ovens and slow-cookers can use 75 percent less energy than a large electric oven.
  • Use your oven's self-cleaning feature immediately after cooking, while the oven is still hot.
  • Dry one load of clothes immediately after another. This will minimize heat loss, reducing warm-up and drying times.
  • Clean the lint screen on the dryer every time you use the machine.
  • Unplug any electrical device that's not being used frequently. Many appliances, especially computers, televisions and VCRs draw power even when turned off.
  • You can operate a couple of fans with a fraction of the electricity needed for air conditioning, and their cooling effect may make it possible to cut back on AC use.
  • Designate a "responsible party" in your home to be responsible for and to promote good energy practices for the organization and/or facility.



1 Comment
New Member
Re: the title. Yes! Also, everyone else born at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. My mom related that she was told that she should be proud to be giving birth there in the 70s because it was where someone famous stabled his horses. Possibly during one of the Civil War occupations. Anyhow. Good article. :D