My Home Energy Project: Step 1 – Measure the energy you currently use.


The past year has been an exciting journey for me – after buying my first place (A older {1985} brick, 850 sqft condo, in a walkable part of Ottawa) I went to work renovating it to both my aesthetic tastes as well as sustainable passions. I finally feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do – create a home that has its own story, which has been so uniquely woven into mine.

I was surprised when my Grandfather, after being over for a family dinner, sent me an IKEA gift card in the mail as well as an offer to explore the store together this Saturday. It was such a sweet and kind gesture, and I was thrilled at the thought of getting some time just me and him.  I immediately knew what I would get, I had heard co-workers mention that IKEA now stalked LED lighting, and I had been drooling over the idea of doing a complete lighting swap for quite some time – but hadn’t had the budget. Now I finally could.

I plan to take on a new project: tackle my energy use. I’ll take it slowly, manageably. I want to focus on one small step at a time.  I’ve heard it said that you can’t manage what you don’t measure – so here we go…

STEP ONE: Measure what energy you currently use

Last year seemed like the most reasonable benchmark for this exercise. My energy use for 2012 is as follows: 6327.74 kWh (Shocker!). I’ll embarrassingly share my monthly usage, and cringe while I admit this is the first time I have looked at this in great detail:


I have compared this to 2013 year-to-date, and have had energy use higher than last year for 5 of the 8 past months. YIKES!! My energy use for 2013 is as follows:


Taking an average of the overlapping months, I have come up with the following energy use baseline:

January – 1,100 KWh
February – 870 KWh
March – 590 KWh
April – 430 KWh
May – 300 KWh
June – 300 KWh
July – 390 KWh
August – 300 KWh
September – 240 KWh
October – 340 KWh
November – 500 KWh
December – 1080 KWh

Overall, my place comes in just over half the average household energy consumption (which is ~12,000 KWh, depending on location). There are a few things that are working in my favor already:

  • Size  – less space to heat/cool
  • Connection – four faces of my unit are linked to other conditioned spaces (rather than exposed to exterior conditions)
  • Updated windows – lucky me, the condo recently replaced my balcony windows with double glazing.
  • No AC – The eye-sore window unit was removed immediately when I moved in!

Baseline measured – check.

Dare: Take a look at your energy usage, determine monthly baseline, and confess your usage data in the comments below.

Step 2 – Heating (HVAC)… 

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11 thoughts on “My Home Energy Project: Step 1 – Measure the energy you currently use.

  1. Howdy! This post could not be written any better!
    Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this.
    I will send this post to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a great read.

    Thank you for sharing!


  2. Here is my usage for 12-month period (reflects me working from home):

    Jan 1276
    Feb 1073
    Mar. 895
    Apr 478
    May 296
    Jun 437
    Jul 288
    Aug 437
    Sep 346
    Oct 525
    Nov 1140
    Dec 986

    ~1,100 sq. ft. heated/cooled (2 story: 3-car garage with living area above);
    garage partially finished (insulated);
    built 2006; Atlanta
    Energy Star refrigerator (16 cubic ft. – 360 kWh/year)
    No stove/oven
    Energy Star toaster oven; rice cooker; crock pot for cooking
    Energy Star high-efficiency (HE) front-loading washer and dryer with/eco settings*
    Heat pump HVAC (only ~12 SEER) – set at 68 F winter; 80 F summer
    Water heater (in garage) on lower-heat level, with heater blanket
    Ceiling fans in all rooms
    LED Motion sensor night lights in each room for navigation
    Halogen or CFL bulbs in fixtures
    (Never leave any lights on, except when cooking in kitchen.)
    Motion sensor outdoor lights
    Added >= 4″ fiberglass insulation in attic area
    Double pane windows
    Darkest window film, reflective material, awnings on windows during summer
    No regular phantom power sources, e.g.: electric clock, dvd player, stereos, coffee pot, etc. except:
    1. weather radio
    2. home security system (?)
    Rarely have a tv/dvd on
    Energy Star laptop (fairly constant use for >=12 hours per day)

    * Do 1-2 loads of laundry per month.

    NOTES: Winter is especially high because I run an oil-filled convection space heater in RV and (this year) another in unheated garage area for animals. And, in house, a door upstairs is often ajar for animal access, for periods of time — sometimes resulting in heating & cooling escape temporarily. (I leave heat/air turned off when I’m not home, for this reason.) A big issue that I need to work to resolve. And, getting a more efficient A/C unit when possible.

    I haven’t yet switched to LED lamps because they are so expensive and I rarely have lights on. Primarily only in the kitchen when cooking or bathroom when in use.


  3. Now that you’ve measured your whole apartment consumption, are you going to get a kill-a-watt and measure how much each appliance is using? Or do you know?


    1. Great idea, Dov! I actually borrowed a Kill-a-watt from my local library. Will post soon about my findings. Have you tried looking at your energy loads with a Kill-a-watt before?


  4. Sylvia, thank you very much for your reply & interest! As for your Q’s: (1) The colours on the charts represent different cost categories (peak, mid-peak, high-peak) (2) The monthly amounts are provided by my Hydro company on my bills, but also online. (3) The electricity was used for all my energy needs, including all the things you mentioned – other than cooling (I just use fans). I haven’t isolated these energy amounts (yet), but I hope to work on breaking it down by type. (4) As I’m in a condo, the electricity is the only energy measure I’m in control of (although there would be a HVAC system for common areas), so I haven’t done any other measurements at this time.

    Is the 1300 kWh for the whole year – that’s extremely low? Well done if it is! What is the 12 kWh for heating season? Thanks again for the great reply – I’m really glad it peaked your interest! Would love to hear more about your work in Germany, and where your energy project takes you.


    1. Hi Laura,

      Thank you for answering my questions.

      It actually is 12,000 kWh (twelve thousand) for heating purposes- in Germany we use period and comma the other way round, I guess.
      To calculate that amount of heating- energy used is a bit difficult for me.
      That is because we use a mixture of firewood and there is no meter for the actual amount used.
      It is a very basic oven that burns wood.

      The 1300 kWh is the electricity consumption of a full year.

      I have another question: What type of windows or façade-system do you have at your building?
      Do you know what thermal insulation quality it has?

      About the project we work on, check out:

      You´ll find some renderings of the blocks there.
      Let me know if you have any other questions.


  5. Hi Laura,
    to introduce myself: I´m an architect living in the south-west of Germany, close to Stuttgart.

    I work in an architecture firm. Currently we are doing construction documentation for multi apartment blocks.

    I came across your blog as you sent a follower request to my brand-new twitter account (SylviaS_8).

    Your home energy project is very interesting.
    I have a few questions concerning your measurements of electricity consumption:

    What do the colours represent shown in the charts?
    How did you get the monthly amounts?
    What was the electricity used for?
    Like: Lighting, domestic hot water, heating, cooling, appliances etc.

    I only can provide yearly electricity consumption data: 1300 kWh for lighting, appliances and domestic hot water.( That is for one person)
    The heating is totally powered with firewood.

    I calculated about 12.000 kWh per heating season.
    That is for a 900 sqft space built in the 1970ies.

    Did you get any other energy use measurements?
    I would be very curious about that!

    I hope the data is useful for you.



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