Examining container home energy use

Now that I’ve been living in it for a few months, I wanted to examine my container home energy use. It’s an exercise that not only helps me visualize my energy costs, but it illustrates for interested parties the real-world rewards of container living.

For the record: I’m not a miser when it comes to energy use. When I leave the house for work in the morning, I’ve left the AC running several days this summer (by accident), and I almost always keep the thermostat set between 73 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, I have a pet peeve about lights on in unoccupied rooms, and so I am generally anal about that, but for the big energy drains (fridge, central heat/air), I keep myself happy.

Container home energy use data

The data in the following table come from OG&E’s weekly energy summaries, which I get delivered to my inbox (just about) every week. My email inbox indicates my first one was from late March, but I didn’t begin living in the container full-time until May. Still, energy use from before Spring reflects heater and wall-socket use while construction was ongoing. Energy use from May forward reflects actual, daily living activity.

OG&E’s weekly summary emails contain three categories relevant to this study: average use, efficient use, and my use.

Green boxes indicate weeks where I was more efficient than OG&E’s qualifications; red boxes indicate weeks where I was less efficient than that rubric. Some weeks are missing because they don’t appear in my inbox or I just can’t find them šŸ˜›

DATE
(7 DAYS TO)
AVERAGE EFFICIENT ME DIFF. EFFICIENT DIFF. AVERAGE
03/26/16 $24.00 $10.00 $16.00 -$6.00 $8.00
04/02/16 $32.00 $10.00 $12.00 -$2.00 $20.00
04/09/16 $41.00 $9.00 $8.00 $1.00 $33.00
04/23/16 $24.00 $9.00 $7.00 $2.00 $17.00
05/07/16 $44.00 $9.00 $4.00 $5.00 $40.00
05/14/16 $51.00 $11.00 $6.00 $5.00 $45.00
05/21/16 $46.00 $10.00 $8.00 $2.00 $38.00
05/28/16 $57.00 $13.00 $6.00 $7.00 $51.00
06/04/16 $53.00 $13.00 $6.00 $7.00 $47.00
06/11/16 $63.00 $16.00 $9.00 $7.00 $54.00
06/18/16 $74.00 $19.00 $11.00 $8.00 $63.00
06/25/16 $83.00 $21.00 $10.00 $11.00 $73.00
07/02/16 $77.00 $20.00 $10.00 $10.00 $67.00
07/09/16 $76.00 $22.00 $12.00 $10.00 $64.00
07/16/16 $79.00 $21.00 $11.00 $10.00 $68.00
07/23/16 $89.00 $24.00 $13.00 $11.00 $76.00
07/30/16 $80.00 $21.00 $11.00 $10.00 $69.00
TOTAL $993.00 $258.00 $160.00 $98.00 $833.00
OVERALL AVERAGES $58.41 $15.18 $9.41 $5.76 $49.00

Summary

During the 17 weeks of available data, I have spent a total of $160 on electricity as charged by kilowatts per hour, which is almost $100 less than an “efficient” user during the same period and well over $800 less than the average user. (Granted, average users live in larger houses that contain more people, so it stands to reason that, even in a traditional home with only adequate efficiency measures, I would likely surpass most average users as a single occupant.)

My overall average for the period comes in at just under $10 per week. Meanwhile, “efficient” users average $15.18 weekly for the available dates and average users spend almost $60 per week.

As you can (hopefully) see, there were only two weeks back in Spring where I was less efficient than OG&E’s measure for that category. Otherwise, I have beaten their “efficiency” standard by an average of $5.76 each week and crushed the average user by about $50.

Conclusion

While the construction of the container home repeatedly exceed my budget estimations to the point of being more expensive than traditional contruction on a per-square-foot basis, the useful life of the container home seems to be paying dividends in the form of consistently reduced electrical costs, even compared to OG&E’s definition of an “efficient” user.

Further, OG&E has a habit of raising their rates per kilowatt hour during times of peak use, which is between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays during the summer, because summer in Oklahoma means consecutive weeks of temperatures approaching and over 100 degrees. So users who pull a full air-conditioning load during those times will face exorbitant rates compared to other times. Similarly, OG&E’s rates consistently go up over time, but living with an energy draw so far below the average threshold presents one way to mitigate those charges. I have a long way to go in terms of use and/or future rate changes to even come near an average user, so I don’t have to worry about even those daily rate changes.

Last, I can’t tell you how many people tell me I should get solar or go off the grid, and believe me, that would be great if I had the capital to fund such an addition, but I think the current data illustrate that I don’t even need solar to realize incredible energy efficiencies. The combination of a small living space with thorough insulation and a full-sized central heat/air unit removes the need to employ drastic technological additions. Plus, it’s just so much easier to be on the grid at the moment … and I get the added enjoyment of sticking a metaphorical middle finger up at the utility provider that would seek to charge an extra fee EVEN IF I DID HAVE SOLAR.

So, come visit. I’ll set the AC to whatever you like.