Watt Did You Say? Going Green and Gaining Green.

In what has become almost an obsession with me I’ve been running around changing all the light bulbs in my house to reduce the electric bill. Currently we use 2800 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each month and I really want to get that number down to save cost, but also because I’ve been glued to the television show “Living with Ed” with Ed Begley, Jr. (@edbegleyjr)

Click here if you can’t see the video above.

I don’t know what it is about Begley, but he just inspires you to get greener. The first I remember about Begley and his environmental crusade was probably 25 years ago when I saw an interview of him talking about how one of those diesel belching busses produces less pollution that all those people driving themselves.

I’m the first to admit that I am not the greenest guy on the planet and I doubt that I’ll be as off the grid as Begley peddling his battery charging bike for 20 minutes to make toast, but I’m certainly more aware about the benefits of environmental awareness on the wallet. Being green can save you green and if you are in debt, you can indirectly use the environment to help you to get out of debt.

Let’s look at just the power I save on the chandelier hanging over our kitchen table. It had eight 25 watt bulbs and one 40 watt bulb in it. When it was on it was consuming 240 watts when it was on. But at Sam’s Club I found some interesting LED bulbs. Each bulb only uses 1.5 watts of power so just in one fixture I was able to reduce our electric consumption from 240 watts to 13.5 watts. Wow!

The savings moves on as well. In my home office I have seven flood lights. The lights are on all the time. Hey, I like light. With the old 65 watt floods in there I was using about 113 kWh per month just on those lights. By swapping those out for compact florescent flood lights that only pull 14 watts I’ll now use 24 kWh per month. A reduction of 79% is nothing to sneeze at.

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Sure, replacing the bulbs cost me some cash, even with the discount prices from Sam’s Club, but the LED lights have a life span of 30,000 hours and the cost per year to operate one bulb is about $0.16.

I’ve also been looking into solar panels but it did not take long to figure out that the solar panel industry needs a few more years under its belt to drive prices down with new technology before it is reasonable for me. And in the meantime I can focus on the easy energy consumption reduction things I can find, like the lights.

A 100% photovoltaic solar panel system to produce our own energy would cost about $175,000. Even with great tax credit available to offset 30% of the cost, thee is no way that a solar panel system seems like a reality for me or the majority of other people.

But one technology that seems to be ready for installation and also offers some installation savings with tax credits is solar hot water. Now that is an option that I am seriously looking into. Right now I’ve got two contractors that are giving me wildly different prices so I’ll just have to go and learn all I can about passive and active solar hot water systems so I can figure out which contractor is steering me the right way.

The way I look at it, the sun is striking my roof every day, just trying to give me free energy, and I’m the dolt that doesn’t grab it. If I go with the solar hot water system we can cut back on the amount of gas that we currently use to heat our water. I don’t know about you, but I do enjoy the ability to have a hot shower. The last thing I want is a tepid shower on a cold winter morning. I did that when we lived in the UK and I’m done with that.


Last night Pam and I decided to take the plunge and purchase a raised planter system for our deck. It will provide us, in a U shape, with enough room to plant vegetables that we can enjoy without having to buy them. Studies say that for every $100 invested in growing your own vegetables it results in a savings of $1,000 to you.

Watt Did You Say? Going Green and Gaining Green.

But I know us, we are inherently lazy. So the perfect solution for us was to place the vegetable garden on our deck, just outside the door, where we can easily tend to it and step outside to get some fresh basil or a tomato or two when we want it. If it was out in the backyard, we wouldn’t take advantage of it.

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The other advantage of putting the vegetable garden on the deck is that I seriously doubt the deer are going to walk up a flight of stairs from ground level to raid our cache and the fence doors will keep the pups out as well. And since this will be not on the ground, it should be easier to control weeds and such from infesting our beds. We’ll see.

Going greener isn’t necessarily the thing to do to save you when you are smack up against the financial wall but if you start reducing your need for electricity now and grow your own vegetables, it can save you green by going green.


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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