David Herbert of Bremen, Maine, is serious about saving energy. About six years ago he started tracking his electricity use with the help of a kilowatt reader.

Herbert: “You plug it into the wall and you plug your appliance into it and it tells you how much it’s drawing.”

(Photo courtesy of Dave Herbert)

Then he made a game out of beating the meter.

Herbert: “I got rid of my microwave. I was like that uses a lot of juice – that’s out.”

He unplugged his tv and radio, and stopped using his electric hot water heater.

Herbert: “I just sort’ve played around with it, started turning stuff off and the number went down and down.”

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That’s an understatement. His meter-beating best? Less than 500 kilowatt hours per year. That’s about half of what the average American uses per month. Herbert’s April utility bill was less than $15.

He credits some of his success to living alone in a small house. He also resealed his windows, and super-insulated his home. And he uses a wood stove for heat and hot water.

His extreme energy game is not for everyone, but he says even minor changes can get results.

Herbert: “Don’t try to save 80 percent right off the bat. Just save five percent. I think almost anyone could save five percent without even thinking about it.”

Reporting credit: Franklin Crawford/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy.

Sara Peach

Sara Peach is the Senior Editor of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist, and...