Out of energy
Our ‘wonderful’ local electric utility company has a new plan to save us money. They pick one four-hour period per month and make that a ‘power off’ time. To join the program and get savings (the estimate doesn’t sound like much), you agree to turn off every electrical appliance that you can for that four hours, one day each month – they pick the day.
Presumably, they also pick a peak time slot during which the homeowner typically uses a lot of energy. OK, I thought, this is a thing, I can do this, I’m in (stringing together all the hipster terms I likely know). I signed us up.
So, we had our day and time slot this week. I was actually looking forward to it in a sort of back to basics, survivalist way. I put on two timers so I wouldn’t forget (non-electric, ha!). The minutes ticked down and the time arrived. Off I ran around the house switching things off.
Like the air conditioner (omg), fans, TVs, radios that entertain the pets (they each have their own in their areas of the house), my office work computer, and two fountains out doors. Then I sat and watched the minutes sloooooowly pass on a battery operated clock in my office. As I found out once before when the grid went down (back in the Enron days), the house descended into an eery silence. All I could hear was the dripping of the fountain outside, which, luckily had residual water so the birds won’t be parched while I exercise my rights of dominion.
I decided to avoid my e-mail altogether (which I could always check via my laptop, tablet, or phone, of course) just to see what it would be like, as in what would happen if I stopped being so plugged-in. Excruciating desire to see what I might be missing set in immediately.
Seeing how ridiculous this was, I decided to take out some trash and check the mailbox. Even though it was 98F outside and climbing, I decided to stop and sweep the driveway, almost perishing in the process. Inside again: 15 minutes had passed. Impossible!
OK, get a grip. I thought, here was an ideal time to clean the floors. Wait, no vacuuming, right. Instead I emptied and refolded clothes in a couple of drawers. That seemed silly as they were already pretty neatly ordered and the piles I made looked shabbier than the ones I found there. Twenty minutes gone.
Meditate! I never take time to just watch my thoughts. I stepped outside in the back and sat in our sky chair. Within minutes I was distracted, noticing all the leaves that had fallen on the side patio that I couldn’t bear to sweep up in the heat. But, I just could not ignore them and relax in that chair! Thirty minutes.
Ready to start saving? Tomorrow is a Save Power Day, which means if you use less energy than you normally do between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., you can earn credits on your electricity bill – up to $100 a year.
Inside again, scrub the sinks – all of them and put new Lysol tabs in the commode tanks. Done and done. Forty minutes.
Write a couple of snail mail cards to the Aunts and Uncle. Put those out in the mailbox and check for the mail again. One hour! One hour?? How was I to get through another three.
By now, being away from my email account and other online projects was literally driving me crazy. Without thinking I turned on a light! Then I heard the AC switch on, how was that possible? I have never learned how to use our thermostat as my SO does all that kind of thing. I had not turned the AC off, but I had turned the heat on! Torrid air was pouring from the registers and now the bird, who is from Africa, for heaven sake, was sitting with her beak open and her wings away from her body, seemingly on the verge of heat stroke.
Not only that, but somehow outside the sprinklers had been manually tripped and were now off their timer, spraying precious H2O over everything for an hour before I discovered it (which was only because everything was so quiet, I could hear the pipes running from the other side of the property). In a panic I ran out to the control box in the garage and, with nothing but my flashlight, seriously messed up the timer. In my attempt to turn that off, I inadvertently turned off the water to one side of the house. It took me a good twenty minutes but I never succeeded in restoring either the timer or the water, so I had to go out to the sprinkler valves and turn each one manually.
Well, I was a mess but at least that meant two hours were gone. Now I was half way through this ordeal. I made myself a snack and wondered if opening and closing the refrigerator door would show up at SCE headquarters as breaching my agreement. While that idea was meandering through my mind, I noticed a squirrel taking a bath in my delicate bird fountain and practically toppling it over. When the fountain is on, the squirrels avoid it but he made quick work of the water pooled inside before I could get out and chase him off.
I took out my Kindle to listen to a rare audiobook I downloaded about the Holocaust. But it was so hot in my chair that I looked around for a cooler place to sit and read, and decided to try the tile floor in our foyer (heat rises, right?). But that is where I have my grandmother’s old clock and all I could hear the whole time was the pendulum, swinging back and forth and somehow creating cacaphony with the narrator. In fact the story is so serious, that the clock seemed to be measuring out the impending doom like a Poe thriller. Also, I couldn’t help but notice debris that the dog tracked in and was itching to get out that vacuum cleaner. I finally gave up on reading and started whisk-brooming the tiles and even the rug. One more hour gone.
The last hour almost did me in. I sorted all my empty hangers in the Christmas room closet, so they were grouped by color and size. Then I shredded receipts that we had been saving in manila envelopes for the past ten years. Next, I went through the coupons basket to get rid of all those old Bed, Bath and Beyond and Soup Plantation offers that had long expired (I found one from 2010 in there!). Refreshed the animals water bowls. Drank a huge glass of water myself, and some cold coffee. Pulled out the racks in the dishwasher and scrubbed the walls and bottom. Washed all our combs and brushes. Cleaned all the wooden shutter slats (lord, those things get so grimy, why is that?); separated pennies, and silver change into individual stacking jars; went through old NYT magazines and threw most of them in a bag to take out to the recycling; went out to check the mail again; put new fruit and jam in the butterfly tray; took a visual inventory of the holiday ribbon box and made notes; stuffed new tissue into all the outdoor shoes in the garage cabinet; reorganized the plastic bags under the kitchen sink; put all the cleanser cans together in the laundry cabinet; eyed some mending that I have been avoiding for four years – nah, too hot for that; nested my velcro rollers; and changed the sheets in the guest room.
Four hours! Euphoria. I spent the next fifteen minutes switching everything back on. Still couldn’t get the water on in the front of the house, but, whatever. Checked my e-mail (the world apparently went on just fine without me), forgot all about the mailbox, got the fountains going for my poor outdoor birds, turned on the TV, put the music back on for my babies inside.
I am now wondering how I can endure this every month? Will I get penalized for the spike at the end of the four hour period? What will my water bill be like – anything I saved on electricity I probably made up for in water use with all the cleaning and the sprinkler malfunction and the cost, if any, of having the timer fixed.
I am seriously toying with opting out of the energy miser program. I don’t think our budget could survive another session like this one.
Images courtesy of your Southern California Edison.