Thinking Inside the Box

December is the coldest month of the year in Tacoma, and we wanted to heat our apartment as efficiently as possible.

Since we are renting, there are many things Mr. Wetzel and I cannot change about our apartment that would shave money off our heating bill, such as installing double pane windows or replacing our inefficient baseboard heaters.  We put some simple ideas into practice this fall; and, when we received our heating bill for the month of December, we saw that the ideas paid off.

Chart of Electricty Usage, Dec 2008 through Dec 2009

The chart above is from our power bill. As you can see, we used 590 fewer kilowatt hours, cutting our bill down 67%.

We’ve gone through the usual rigmarole every year: turning lights off in unattended rooms, installing energy efficient bulbs, turning the heat off at night or when we’re away, and wearing sweaters and slippers.  In addition, we were thinking “inside the box,” being creative about the space that we are in and channeling its strengths to work for us.

The layout of our apartment is very open concept, with the kitchen, eating area, living room and entry all part of one big room.  In the summer, this area is airy and cool.  In the winter, it is a very hard room to heat because it is so large.

When Washington gets rainy and dark outside, Mr. Wetzel and I spend a lot of time indoors, watching TV, playing videogames, surfing the net or reading.  Last December, our television was set up in the open living area, but this year we moved the TV into the smallest room of the apartment, one that we used as an office.  This TV room is at the end of a hall, along with our bedroom.  We purchased a two-panel curtain set ($30 from World Market) and extension rod (a few bucks from Home Depot), and positioned the curtains in the hallway, just outside the entry to the two rooms.  This helped to insulate the heat in the rooms, while allowing our cat to roam freely throughout the apartment.

On warmer days, we wear sweaters and let the heat of the electronics warm the rooms.  Yes: we play videogames and watch TV to stay warm.  It makes me chuckle!  On cooler days, we turn the heat on for a while; once the rooms are warm, we shut it off.  The curtains help to seal in the warm air, and since the space is small, the warmth doesn’t have many places to escape to.  On the coldest days, we leave the heat on, and the rooms stay noticeably warmer than the rest of the apartment.

Without the television in the main living area, we now have the sofa and chairs in our main room set up to face each other.  When we have guests over, the TV no longer gets haphazardly turned on.  Instead, we sit around chatting and getting to know our friends and neighbors more intimately.  That too brings more warmth into our lives…590 kilowatts of “friendship” warmth a month, to be exact.

Mr. Wetzel and I support green power through the City of Tacoma.  Here is more information about Tacoma Public Utilities Evergreen Options .  For homeowners and renters, you can support green energy at the Frog, Salmon, Otter or Orca levels (more info here).

By ekwetzel

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