Ways to beat the energy crunch


    By Daris Howard
    Special to The PREVIEW

    With the price of fuel going up and electricity following suit, we have seen our electric bill take some major jumps. My family is getting tired of having to wear sweaters around the house to conserve energy so we can pay for some of the luxuries of life — such as food. I have taken to reading everything I can find on the subject of alternative energies, and I finally discovered a wonderful way to overcome the energy shortage.

    I’m sure you are thinking that I am considering putting up a windmill, or that you think I am planning on putting a solar array on my house, but it is neither of those. It isn’t like I haven’t considered one or both of them. I do have a neighbor who put in a windmill, and I have watched it with envy and admiration as it spins in the breeze. But with a fifteen-year break-even point, it is outside of my budget.

    Another neighbor runs his house pretty much on solar panels. But when there are clouds for an extended time in the winter, his daughters have to take turns on who gets to curl their hair on any given day. I’m a guy that likes power when I want power, though of course I don’t curl my hair. (I just thought I’d make that last point clear.)

    There are other alternative energies I have read about. There is geothermal, but none exists where I live, and Yellowstone is too far away for a pipeline. The small ditch that runs through my pastures does not provide sufficient water flow for a hydro turbine. And I only have one cow, so methane is not practical, especially since the price of hay has also gone up. Though I must admit, every time I clean her shed, I’m amazed how much fertilizer one cow can produce.

    So what is my great idea, you ask? I was recently in a local store that advertised energy saving bulbs for just over $2 each. I was excited to see that the advertisement on the package claimed each bulb would save $59 dollars per year. That is almost $5 per month.

    When I went home, I immediately started counting the light bulbs in my house, and found over 60. Sixty bulbs times $5 per month is a total of $300 dollars per month savings. In addition, I saw an ad for a fridge that claimed it would save me $20 in electricity per month, and one for a computer that said it would save me $10. I searched for other things and found monthly savings for a stove of $40, a microwave at $10 per month, a heater that would save me over a $100, while a washer and dryer claimed a savings of $90.

    My excitement was almost unbounded. Currently, my monthly electric bill is about $220, and my electrical savings would be almost $570 per month. So that means the electric company would be paying me about $350 each month to use their electricity. Taking the calculations out to a full year, I deduced that with the new light bulbs, and all of the energy saving appliances, the electric company should owe me over $4,000 just to use their power.

    I would have to deduct from that the cost of the bulbs, the fridge, the computer, and all of the other green machines, but it would still leave a nice profit and would pay itself off immediately, unlike the windmill.

    My wife says, due to the cold, my math brain is working overtime and hallucinating. I, of course, know that kind of payment is usually related to government bureaucracy, like when they pay someone to not raise something. I’ve always considered buying a farm so I could not raise whatever the government wanted me to not raise. Especially pigs. I hate pigs. I would be very happy to not raise pigs so the government could pay me for not raising them.

    But in all of this consideration, my wife had to ruin my dream by suggesting I read the fine print on the package. It indicated that the calculation on the light bulb was only if a person left the light on 24 hours per day for the full year.

    I guess I will have to continue searching for something else. I just can’t sleep with the lights on.

    Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com; or visit his website at www.darishoward.com.