Electric woes? Try sailboat showers

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2008

The avalanche that wiped out Juneau's hydro power has unleashed a new avalanche - of ideas for conserving our electric use.

Chopping, trimming, shaving - everybody's got an idea, and I'm hoping letters to the editor and media news will share many of them.

To help prime the pump, here's one:

After electric heat, hot water usage is probably the biggest guzzler of electricity in a home.

We can all shift to washing clothes in cold water as much as possible, and can abbreviate our dish washing flow rate (and hand wash instead of dishwasher). Turning down the temperature of our hot water tanks is also a good savings -- maximum 120 degrees is plenty, or you might be OK lower still; you can test your temperature with a cooking thermometer.

But what came to my mind after the avalanche was my former co-worker Joe's description of "sailboat showers." When he told me about them years back, I cringed, and thought how great it was I was a landlubber.

But now it's an idea that would certainly keep dollars in our pockets.

Here's how it goes: Step in, turn on enough water to wet down; turn off the water. Soap and shampoo with the water off; then turn it on again for a short rinse. Total water time - around 30 seconds.

End result? A couple gallons of hot water used - and almost no impact on the hot water bill.

That said, I don't know how many of us will accomplish full sailboat showers during these next three months. But we can aim closer to them.

If we must bathe in a tub, we can lower the water level. Or shift to showers. If we shower, we can shorten water flow time. Whichever we do, if it's been a daily occurrence, we can consider shifting to every other day or so if possible, with sponge bath options as needed.

And for more hot water cost savings, the Internet is full of ideas. An excellent source is from Efficiency Vermont's brochure "Your Guide to Your Electric Hot Water Heater." You can find it with a search under "high electric bills Vermont" (it will be a PDF at the bottom of the page), or go to it direct at www.efficiencyvermont.com/pages/Residential/SavingEnergy/HighElectricBills/.

Sara Boesser


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