Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Now we're cooking with gas

In Xin's house, we have instituted rather austere restrictions on power and water use. There is no need to be profligate with resource use - efficient routines and habits are the key.

I'm also housesitting my father's house while he and his family are away on travel. He has no qualms about power use. It took me two weeks to notice he had the bathroom towel rail on. And another week (now) to think to run down to his bathroom to turn that one off. The shower here doesn't sprinkle, it saturates, and does so faster than the shower can drain the bottom. He has a wastemaster for scraps (we have a worm farm and a compost heap). His uses gas to heat the whole house (fortunately I don't need to use that).

It is a constant contrast.


James said...

I should get you to do a presentation at my flat. It is a model of electricity wastage.

Crypticity said...

Heh. What crimes against the national resources have occurred in your place of residence?

Xin probably knows her stuff better than I do.

It is harder with more people. As I assume the bills are split, there is less reason for each person to use less or be more responsible since everyone subsidises the overuse of one (and anyone who puts the effort to save has their marginal underuse under-rewarded as everyone pays less because of their singular sacrifice). It is a prisoners' dilemma in a way. That is probably the root of the problem. And it is hard without some really artificial methods to get around that (they'll call you a nazi if you time people's showers!)

Communes have been beset by such problems of responsible resource use and group responsibility to work and do the right thing for everyone. They usually collapse. Although they are at the extreme end of 'co-operative living', some lessons are useful . The only way is at first through solidarity of purpose - communes based on religious convictions or kinship did best. Regrettably flatting people are not welded by such zeal. Most people already know ways of saving energy and resources - it is quite straightforward (don't sit in the shower). But who is going to get out of the shower one minute earlier on a cold winter's day? Who would rather turn put on clothes than the heater? Wearing thermals in the house rather than in the forest/on the slopes. Only those convinced that every drop of water is of the essence - someone with rather strong environmental convictions.

The main chamber of your house is also open plan which sucks for heating as it is all or nothing. It also has high ceilings. The best way to stay warm is obviously clothing.

Hot water (45%) and heating are the largest proportion of your energy bill. Heating in particular is pretty unnecessary for the most part in winter in Auckland unless you're elderly or have poor circulation (I do, but interestingly was only affected (got chilblains) before I moved to Xin's house which had no heating, and no apparent insulation).

Xin and I are right at the extreme most end in our ways to save water and energy. If anything using a resource unwisely that can be substituted with something that doesn't, it is. Some water is thrice used - hotwater bottle water is used to rinse the spouts and that water is then used to rinse dishes (like water into the porridge pot to stop it going hard etc.). Such regimentation takes motivation and will (it is hard to stop someone save water flushing one piss of urine with a litre of freshwater by giving them a bottle and telling them to flush it once they have filled the bottle, they'd laugh at you).

So on and so forth. A presentation would point out the obvious and probably have a temporary but short lived (if any) effect.

James said...

Everyone in the house, but me, is wont to leave the light on in the room when they aren't in it. If I notice that, then I turn it off whenever I walk past.

Sometimes the lights in the main room have been left on all night. I don't get that.

I don't mind liberal use of the heater, because at least people are using the heat. I just get annoyed when electricity is being used for no actual purpose.

I probably rely on the dryer too much, when I could put my clothes on one of those sturdy plastic racks that I could buy from the Warehouse. I've started to do that now.

Crypticity said...

Clothes horses (or plastic racks) can really help out on wet days. Being fortunate with the weather or otherwise timing the clothes washing is best of course.

Lights aren't big consumers of energy but can be over time. I'd personally worry more about the heater as it is costly to run. There may be a purpose but it is a wasteful purpose for the most part (but then again I don't really know how much the heater is used).

It's easy to explain the lack of light-turner-offerers: Bad habits. There is nothing to get. I don't think anyone would do that intentionally (although I might be overestimating the 'anyone').

ideacat said...

The university is probably the worst example of energy wastage: the computers are never switched off. Lights and heaters are on when there are no one around. And it is impossible to calculate how much water is wasted through excessive washing of equipment etc. Not to mention the lack of paper recycling.

I shall try and turn off the lights a bit more often.