Reckmeyer vs. Rivers: A Family Energy Challenge

Neely Crane-Smith
Center for Energy and Environment

Looking for inspiration to save energy in your home? Two Minnesota families have taken it to the next level with a three-year competition happening amidst new jobs, new babies and new challenges.

It all started in 2007, when Tim Reckmeyer mentioned to coworker John Rivers that his family had been tracking their electricity use. During one of the hottest years on record, the Reckmeyers had a new baby and a new 42˝ plasma TV, and Tim had started working from home 2–3 days a week. By taking steps to conserve energy in their home, the Reckmeyers actually consumed over 7% less electricity despite these factors! When John heard about this a light went off in his head: “Being competitive by nature, we decided to challenge each other and our families to defeat the other by using less electricity and the game was on.”

Both families began with simple low-cost, no-cost actions. The Rivers borrowed an electricity meter from the Reckmeyers to see how many watts of power the electronics and appliances in their home were using. “This made creating a priority list fairly simple,” says John. Both families installed compact fluorescent light bulbs, fought phantom load with power strips and implemented smart computer power management.

John says that “the easiest and likely most important thing from a long-term savings perspective” was to make this contest fun and engaging for their two kids. “It has become a habit for them to do these things that are common sense.” The Reckmeyer’s 7-year-old daughter Madeline has also become involved and “knows that it’s important to not waste electricity. She accomplishes this by turning off the lights when she leaves the room and turning off the power strip when she’s done watching television.”

Along with encouraging good energy habits, both families have retired older appliances for newer, more energy efficient versions. The Rivers retired an old fridge and whole-house HEPA filtration system; the Reckmeyers replaced a dead water heater with an instantaneous unit and their old clothes washer with a used front-loading ENERGY STAR model.

In 2008 the Reckmeyers claimed victory, while Tim admits “in 2009 we ceded the electrical energy conservation trophy to Team Rivers. Congrats to them. However, we have a plan to get it back this year.” Both families are now using less than 10 kilowatt-hours per day, or about 300 kWh per month — less than half the average for a Minnesota family! With the challenge far from over, Tim believes that Team Reckmeyer will consume less than 8 kWh per day, shaving another $262 off their 2010 electricity bill. We can’t wait to see the results!

Read Up

The Low Carbon Diet, by David Gershon, Empowerment Institute, 2006.

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Minnesota Energy Challenge
Minneapolis, MN

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