Something funny happened on the way to living large

Are you not exactly thrilled with your August electric bill or February gas bill each year? Certainly poor insulation, drafty windows and doors are to blame, but there’s a bigger culprit. The size of your home is most likely the biggest factor for those high energy bills.
A recent Financial Times article says that the average size of a new single family home in the United States grew from 1,780 square feet in 1978 to 2,479 square feet in 2007. This increase occurred while family sizes decreased over the years. Indeed there’s nothing wrong with living in a spacious dream house. If that’s what one enjoys, then that’s the individuals’ or families’ choices. It’s a free nation and those choices ought to be respected.
How did we get here? Over the past 30 years, many folks got into bigger, more affordable homes for many reasons, most of which, will not be debated in this space. But, something funny happened on the way to living large. During tough energy times - whether through market forces or deregulation - consumers discovered that, yes, they have to pay electric, gas and water bills to keep their larger homes running.
When most consumers are looking at their dream home, probably the last thing they’re concerned with is how high their future energy bills will rise. I’m sure most of us are guilty as charged on this count, but we live and learn.
So, let’s say that you succumbed to the culture of those boom years and are now somewhat sorry for getting into a house too large. We all know what the next word here is: downsize! For some, that word is a nightmare because one must shed a lot of possessions. If you needed to downsize this second, do you know where to start? That thought could be stomach-churning. For others, downsizing, could be a sense of relief. Someone once said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Or how about, “Less is more!” Indeed that is all easier said than done, but in reality, downsizing is doable.
Most of us in urban and suburban areas could downsize from say, a three-bedroom to a two-bedroom ranch house. Or even go from a four-bedroom home to even a townhouse. How about going to a tiny house? A tiny house measures just 1,000 square feet. I just read a fascinating article on this subject on journalist Bill Moyers’ page. There are excellent observations in this feature by John Light and Neha Tara Mehta. Aside from a bevy of eco-benefits, living in a micro house is affordable, even in high cost cities including Washington. There are some great ideas within the article such as providing opportunity for the homeless to get into these micro houses. By the way, Mr. Moyers is retiring and this time, he means it so he will be missed. If you get a chance, head over to Bill Moyers’ Facebook page and join his discussion.
The idea of living in a micro house probably sounds a tad “out there” to most of us who live in the city or suburbia. If you were given the opportunity, would you move into a tiny house? As far as your overall power consumption, obviously, you would have to make an effort to reduce your water bill by conserving, but you would definitely save on natural gas and electric use.
Whether you’re thinking about downsizing to a home, townhouse, condominium, apartment or tiny house, remember that you will save big bucks on energy bills, leaving you with a few more bucks for food and pay-TV.


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