Learn-O-Stat

Awhile back, the apartment complex where I live sent out surveys to everyone. I filled mine out to complain about the garbage not being picked up in a timely fashion. I usually go home to have lunch, and lately, the garbage I left by the stairs at 730 AM is still there at noon. Eww.

One question on the survey that piqued my interest was “How can we help you save energy?” I’d like to say I thought about it out of altruism (you know, “save the planet” and all that) but the truth was, I was trying to spend less cash so that there would be more left for Fun Stuff. For what its worth, I do recycle my newspapers, plastic grocery store bags, and soda cans.

I thought to myself: “What uses up the most juice?” Since this is South Texas, the answer was quite simple: The Air Conditioner! Despite leaving it off when I was not home, and using fans to help keep the apartment cool, I was somewhat shocked to find my electric bill jumped to $82 in July. But what could I do about the A/C?

On a hunch, I figured that installing a digital thermostat would save electricity for two reasons: first, it would allow me to exactly determine how high I can raise it and still be comfortable, and second, it would actually work as advertised, since the existing one was probably as old as the building and perhaps didn’t work as well as it used to.

I smiled at my ingenuity, dropped the survey in the mail, and forgot all about it.

Then, one day, I returned home from work to find a new digital thermostat installed on the wall. I was pleasantly surprised, even more so when I discovered that the installer left no instructions on how to actually use the thing. Fortunately, my Google-fu is strong, and I was able to find the instructions out there on the tubes. For the most part, it worked just like the old one, but has all these neat buttons that I’m pretty sure do something. I never did bother to program it, though.

I figured I would be happy if my electric bill dropped five or ten bucks or so. After all, it didn’t cost me anything to have it installed, so any savings would be gravy. I continued to use the A/C as I had before, thinking that any change in habits would break the experiment.

I got about $24 worth of gravy in one month: that $82 electric bill for July (719 KWh) turned into a $58 electric bill (561 KWh) in August. Granted, it is a one-month comparison, and there were 2 fewer days in the August billing period, but I will gladly take the 21% decrease in electrical usage and the cash!

I don’t know if the trend will continue, but for now, I’m pretty happy. Thanks, apartment people!

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