It’s been nearly 5 years since we self installed 12 solar panels  on top of the garage.  A worthwhile investment on our part, thanks to the City of Pasadena.  The City generously rebated 2/3rd of the cost of the system.  Hey locals!  The City’s solar rebate program is still available with even better incentives.

On the City’s website it is estimated that an average Pasadenian uses about 25 kwh a day. Before we installed an Energy Star refrigerator and washing machine, our household was using about 12 kwh a day. Now with what energy star appliances we have and the powering down methods we have implemented, we have successfully cut our daily energy usage in 1/2 to ~6 kwh (on “low energy days” our household clocks in at about 3 kwh).  

Our urban homestead’s solar system produces on average 7.5 kwh a day (on a clear sunny day can goes as high as 10 or 12 kwh).    Even with such a “homegrown energy” system in our backyard, we are still “grid tied.”  Why?  Well, it was the only way to have qualified for the City solar rebate program.   But we “beat the sytem” in a sense . How?   Simply, by reducing our energy.  The City solar program, if I remember correctly, covers a certain percentage of your energy use and this is determined by your energy bill/statements.     When the city had a look at our back statements it saw that we were a 12 kwh household and rebated us a 2 kw system.  But since then we’ve taken measure to cut our energy use!  And not only that, we’ve also taken steps to “go green.”   We opted for their Green Power program, so if we and when we do pull power from the city, it’s wind power.

Many other cities are following Pasadena’s lead.  So, if you aren’t able to get invest in a solar system, it may be that your electricity provider may have a green power program available.  For a couple of extra cents you can “go green.”


Roughly $11,500.  PWP rebated us 2/3rds of the cost ( $5 per watt, which equals $8,125). By installing the system our selves we saved an estimated $4,000 on labor costs. So, basically, our 12 panel system ended up costing us about $4,000


Going through the house, here’s what we have “plugged in.”

Kitchen – 1 (energy efficient fridge)
Laundry – 1 (energy efficient and front loading washer)
Utility Bathroom – 0
Bathroom – 0
Dining Room – 0
Living Room – tv/dvd/vcr (energy star rated on power strip that’s turned off when not in use)
Bedroom 1 – 0
Bedroom 2 – 2 small lights (with CFL light bulbs)
Bedroom 3 – 0
Office/Study – computers, fax-copy machine (energy star rated on power strip)


Our household intends to kill even more watts, by conserving more and using less.  Limiting our consumption is one more step towards be responsible energy savers.

What steps are your family taking on a daily basis to reducing energy use?

How low can you go?

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  1. Jan says:

    We have not went solar yet! But I am trying to convince my hubby that it is the right thing to do.

    But on the other hand we have been more “aware” of what is on and when. You leave the room turn the light off sort of thing. Last months bill, on totally electric home, we used 57 KW averaging 180 dollars!! I seen the bill and got really upset. This month we used 28 KW and our bill is 94 dollars!!! I am happy but I know we have a long way to go but we are trying!! We are also getting a energy efficient front loading washer and we installed a clothesline last week!! So next months bill should be lower!!

  2. myste says:

    our kwh usage was between 12-14 per day during the winter months, by april we had gotten it down to 6 and by may it was about 3.

    we do a lot to bring down our usage, one of our fun ideas is energy-free fridays. when i get home from work my husband and i make a raw dinner then we watch the sunset from our front porch and go for a walk, when we come back we light some candles and play scrabble. the only energy we use on fridays is the fridge which is always plugged in.

    its a fun and creative way to re-imagine how we spend out free time and what we are consuming and its easy to do and blends effortlessly into our weekly routine!

  3. luvnschooln says:

    Anais – may I ask what you use for lighting after dark? While we try to reduce our energy, a lot of this is new to us.

  4. Joy says:

    Another question Anais,

    Is it quite difficult and/or technical to install solar panels and all of the associated equipment yourself? If you know nothing about them, will reading installation books give you enough knowledge to install them? Do you (or anyone else) have any suggestions on good installation books?



  5. jen says:

    Just came across your site, it is so wonderful. This is my first year growing vegetables (I’m in O.C.), I can’t wait to go back through your archives!

  6. PhoenixJen says:

    No solar yet but definitely reducing, reducing, reducing! Last year saw an energy savings of about 37%, this year for the first 4 months I’m down another 36% over that (including the lowest bill I’ve ever had since moving to this house 10 yrs ago).

    The summer months will be hard as this is when we Phonecians use most of our electric. However, I’m growing some of my own AC –vines on the house, trees planted in a solar arc (there are some gaps still – but working on it – and most of the trees produce some kind of edible) and something I call “shade sails” that are wire trellises strategically placed to shade “hot spots” – I grow heat lovers up these like armenian cukes.

    One of these years, I’ll go AC free. This year, I’m just hoping to make it to June 1. (we’ve already had a few days of 108 degrees here).


  7. Tara says:

    We’ve been “powering down” until evening time – which means no TV, computer, video games, etc during peak usage hours.

    I’ll soon be reorganizing so that I can have everything on easily accessible power strips. Our frisge is def energy star, but our washing machine isn’t (nor is it front loading). We only run it in the AM, use the shorter cycle and wash in cold water but since it’s still working well, I’d hate to get rid of it just yet. When it finally dies, I will opt for a front loading one. Had one in our last house and LOVED it. So little water used!

    We als invested in a small, efficient swamp cooler which manages to cool our home up to 105 degrees wit the ceiling fans, which saves us from running our dual AC system during the desert heat. I like PhoenixJen’s idea of vines along the house; I’ll have to look into that!

    I can’t wait until Vegas offers better incentives to utilize our summer sun. Our rebate program just started and it’s pretty sad and thus still out of our budget. But hopefully soon! $4k for your system is awesome!

  8. Tara says:

    My husband just checked our power bill and said we only used 10kwh our last bill! Last year we used 18. And this last bill was before we started powering down during the daytime hours (but before the heat hit and we used the AC or swamp cooler so we may even out or rise a bit more in the hot summer months).

    Still I’m proud of only 10kwh!

  9. Anais says:

    Thanks to all for sharing their “power down” energy conservation methods. A great help to hear from others who are on the same path.

    luvnschooln – as for lighting. We do have wall mounted lights that have CFL lightbulbs and we limit their usage at night. In fact, friends (folks) who stop by in the evenings don’t think anyone’s home because our home is so low lit.

    Joy – As with any new project, we were a bit intimidating by the fact of installing the panels ourselves. But after installing the first panel, the rest were a breeze.

    Here’s a helpful website


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