Albrecht Holschuh and Deborah Meader
In return for spending about $4,700 for energy efficiency over eight years, their house so far has saved $3,600 in electricity cost, and every year now saves about $750 more, even without further effort. They have a unique way of funding their energy efficiency improvements and have inspired others to do the same!
This is their story:
We had been conserving some energy in small steps. Don’t waste hot water. Turn off unused lights. Close the fridge. Yet—and this is important—we did not sacrifice comfort and still don’t. Indoor temperature remains as it was.
In 2009, convinced that fuel taxes were too low for the good of our state and the world, we started taxing ourselves. For every gallon of gasoline purchased, one dollar was placed in a special savings account called “mytax.” The mere recording of how much flowed into the gas tank quickly demonstrated the significance of miles and consumption. We began paying attention to how—and how often—we drove. That must have saved fuel, but it was only the beginning of a learning experience that may be worth sharing.
Understandably, nobody ever followed the example. Who wants to pay a whole dollar more for gas? Who has that much to spare? Aren’t taxes too high already? But taxes, thoughtfully used, can do good. They can even save you money.
We live in an all-electric house. There are neither fuel deliveries nor furnace maintenance, but electricity charges are high; a geothermal system keeps them in check. Money in the mytax account is to be used to reduce energy consumption—and thus, energy expense. In 2008, the house used 44.9 kwh per day; by 2016, use had fallen to 24.4 kwh per day.
How did it happen? The big old freezer was replaced by a more efficient one paid for by mytax. Then a new and better dishwasher arrived. Likewise, the geothermal heating and cooling unit was exchanged. When the electric range gave way to an induction range, mytax covered only part of the cost, because the induction system brought considerable convenience along with energy savings.
CFL and LED light bulbs came on the market. Because hot water had to run an inconveniently long distance from the main water heater to the kitchen, wait time and heating cost were reduced by an on-demand heater under the sink. Now we are searching for nice ceiling lamps that will not damage LED bulbs. (The heat inside closed fixtures harms the bulbs.)
The mytax account now holds $3,300. What should we do next? The house is reasonably well insulated. Mytax could cover the additional cost of a hybrid vehicle, reducing its own inflow of funds. Placing solar panels on the roof would not be practical because large trees shade the house, keeping sunlight away in the warm season.
To find out how much money has been saved, one can compare the electricity consumption of 2008 to that of the years since then. Using an approximate price of $0.10 per kwh, one arrives at the $3,600 mentioned above. And as long as we drive, there will be more to invest, leading to further savings. Once the options are exhausted, the money could flow beyond this private residence.
Energy savings make money. Let’s imagine what Indiana could do with a $0.40 gasoline tax. Excellent roads, rural transportation, Internet access for all, efficient travel to Indianapolis and Chicago—but also less expensive health care and better education. Over the years we would all save money. The initial shock would be gone. And Hoosiers would be driving less wasteful vehicles, saving even more.