We once hired some men to help us with our floor. One of the guys said he was in dire financial straits and turned off the hot water heater so his family could save electricity costs. I’ve been wondering how much that would really save and if it’d be worth it. So I tried going without hot water for the month of July.
Now that it’s August and we’ve received our electric bill for July, I’ve been reflecting on what I learned and how much we saved. I learned:
1. I don’t need very much bath water to get clean. The “cold” water (being summer, it was only mildly cold, 65-70 degrees F) made it clear how much I was using because a cold, shallow bath was easier to handle than a cold, deep bath!
2. Our dishwasher is hooked up to cold water, who knew? The dishwasher itself heated up each load, so our dishes still got sparkling clean.
3. The two pans I wash by hand are non-stick. They clean up with very little effort in cold water.
4. I was automatically reaching for the hot water faucet when brushing my teeth. Why? Um, maybe because my right hand was busy holding my toothbrush and the hot water handle is closest to my left hand?? I don’t know, but I learned quickly to reach for the cold water faucet.
5. I missed my weekend afternoon hot bath when I usually lose myself in a good book. (Reading in the bathtub?! Books and water don’t mix, and it sounds sacrilegious, I know, but . . . no, I don’t have an excuse. I just enjoy a good read in the tub!)
6. I don’t acclimate as quickly as I used to. In days past I’d actually prepare for an open water race (meaning a cold ocean or lake swim) by taking only cold showers and baths for several weeks beforehand. I used to not even notice that it was cold, no goosebumps, nothing. But now, I start to shiver if I stay in too long. It’s not ice water, but it feels like ice water!
7. Cold water enthusiasts say it’s healthy to immerse yourself in cold water. I found mostly anecdotal evidence about health benefits. “It boosts your ability to think because it wakes you up.” Yes, I was thinking hard . . . about the water being cold and what I could do to get out of there faster! “It boosts your circulation.” Sure, unless you’re prone to Raynaud’s syndrome like I am. Then it turns your hands and feet ghastly shades of grey and blue. The most scientific study I found about cold water health benefits (here’s the abstract: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0891584994900302) only used 10 subjects, and the conclusion included a postulation that adaptation to thermal stress also hardens a body against diseases. Hmmm, I’m taking the whole health thing with a grain of salt until more thorough studies come out.
8. The month-long experiment didn’t affect our house cleaning routine at all. We always do chores like washing clothes and mopping the floor using cold water.
9. My skin isn’t what I’d call dry and itchy, but the skin on my legs did look smoother with cold baths. Perhaps I normally suck too many oils out of my skin with hot baths.
How much money did we save?
Nine bucks. Now for a little math and physics (if this sort of thing puts you to sleep, just scroll on down): It takes .00244445 kWh to raise 1 gallon of water 1 degree F. Our electricity co-op charges 11.05 cents per kWh. For 15 gallons of hot water in my typical 30 gallon bath (yes, I measured), and for a temperature increase in our tap water by 45 degrees to the hot water tank temperature, that’s
.00244445 kWh/gal x 15 gal x 45 deg x $0.1105 x 31 days in July = roughly $5.65
http://Waterwatch.org has a fun chart showing how much water folks typically use when doing everyday activities like brushing our teeth. With their numbers, I estimated the rest of the hot water I cut out including brushing my teeth (2 gallon total per day), washing my hands (4 gallons per day), and washing non-stick pans (2.5 gallons per day). Using the same sort of math, that’s
.00244445 kWh/gal x 8.5 gal x 45 deg x $0.1105 x 31 days in July = roughly $3.20
The bathing plus the rest of the hot water savings makes a total of $5.65 + $3.20 = $8.85.
Does the $8.85 figure jibe with the electric bill we received? I compared this July’s bill with last July’s bill. Dear Husband and I haven’t changed our thermostat or cooking habits, and the daily temperatures of those two months are extremely close (the exact same average daily temperature in fact), so the hot water usage really was the biggest change. Our bill this July was $140 which is a little more than 9 dollars less than last July. So yep, the $8.85 figure jibes!
I’m not interested in depriving myself of standard modern conveniences, but I won’t go back to exactly what I was doing before, either. Going forward:
1. I will indulge in weekend reads in a hot bath, but now I’ll be extra thankful for them!
2. I will take shallower baths. I don’t need a full 30 gallons’ worth of mixed hot and cold water.
3. My daily warm showers or baths will be a little cooler so I don’t dry out my skin.
4. I will always reach for the cold water faucet when brushing my teeth or washing our non-stick pans.
5. Enduring daily cold baths or showers isn’t worth 9 dollars in savings in my opinion, but if we get into dire financial straits, I know I can do it.
Make this day even better. Consider:
- Consider joining DH and I as we participate in the SNAP Challenge for a week in September in which we will buy groceries on a budget corresponding to the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit. The benefit goes up and down and varies by state, but it’s about $31.14 per person per week right now according to the USDA. (Curious readers can dig through the USDA’s SNAP charts here: https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap.) I am aware that doing the Challenge sometimes comes off as patronizing or not a true representation of what families on assistance have to deal with. Worse yet, the Challenge has occasionally been used as a political tool. I’ll strive to be respectful of those whose families depend on SNAP benefits.