Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Turning off the hot-water heater

Last Friday, my family and I went to a wonderful pot-luck party at the home Emily and Elias, friends-of-a-friend of mine.  The conversation turned to conservation (which somehow it often does once my mouth starts moving), and Elias mentioned that his family has turned off their hot water heater for the summer.

Of course my ears pricked up immediately.  I had lots of questions.  These were the first three:
  1. Do you take cold showers?  E and E said, er, yes.  They have 6.25 children now (Emily is just starting to poof out with kid number 7), and for the kids' baths they compromise by heating some water on the stove to mix with the cold tap water.  
  2. Do you have a dishwasher?  I don't know whether our dishwasher heats the water itself or needs the water coming in to be hot, so this part has me doing a bit more research.  Emily says she wishes she had a dishwasher, but she does dishes by hand; again, she heats water on the stove.
  3. What about laundry?  I asked this question with an anxious eye toward my husband, who is the self-appointed Laundry Tsar in our home.  To my surprise, my guy was the first to answer:  "I wash almost all the clothes in cold water anyway."  (I heaved a huge sigh of relief).  E and E agreed.  They have a neat set-up for hot washes, though.  They have a black garden hose, and the sun gets the hose so hot that they can run it down to their washer.  They have a front-loader; they just stick the hose into the soap dispenser to fill the machine.
They were motivated by attempting to save money (last year they spent about $2000 on heating oil) as well as by the desire to get away from using foreign oil.  It's hard to know how much less money they're spending -- obviously, they don't heat the house during the summer, so the hot-water part of their old bill is less than $500 for the three months of June, July, and August.  The use of the stove and the person-time required to heat water are costs of different kinds.  I know they're thinking more and more about solar water heating.

I am not one to let an intriguing idea go to waste.  My own green garden hoses don't quite reach the edges of the garden, and since I've been toying with the idea of getting longer hoses anyway, on Saturday I went and bought a 50-foot length of black hose.  [Aside.  This is one of the first times I have been in a store for several weeks.  Actually buying a new object is a Miser Mom way of saying something big is happening here.]
My husband thinks I look great in black hose!

Sunday morning I got back from a hot and humid run, stripped down to my running shorts and jog bra, and gave myself an outdoor shower with my new black hose.  It was warm and wonderful!  I can't imagine ever going back to indoor showers during the summer again.

I've modified this a little bit now.  I have a "shower basket" by the back door with conditioner, comb, soap, a razor, and a little nylon mini-skirt.  (I wear the skirt so I can get clean without scandalizing the neighbors).  The yellow spray head on the end of the hose works great, and it has an on-off lever so I can run the hose only when I need the water.  For some reason, I feel much cleaner and fresher after showering outdoors.  I also like that I'm not steaming up the house -- I'm not heating up the house at the same time that we're trying hard to keep it cool.  And to make this even more perfect, the waste water goes right to my tree and its water-seeking roots, not into the sewer.

My boys have started taking outdoor showers, too.  They think it's hilarious.  Jubilation all around.

1 comment:

  1. About your three questions:

    1. Do you take cold showers?

    I always take my showers with cold water. I only use hot water whenever it's really cold.

    2. Do you have a dishwasher?

    No. I wash the dishes with my hands, since I always love washing those clean and thoroughly.

    3. What about laundry?

    My brother and I are the same as your husband. We wash the majority of our clothes with cold water.