Personal Water and Energy Consumption Audit in Chicago

This report provides a brief calculation and analysis of my personal water and energy consumption based on my current living conditions. Currently, I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago. I do not have central air conditioning, but I do have an air conditioner that I use during the summer months. I believe that my electricity and water use is about average for a person in my living situation. For electricity, I have used average figures from the Chicagoland area, because my building provides electricity and does not break down usage by tenant. Following the calculation of my water and energy consumption, I provide a detailed analysis of this consumption and my personal energy efficiency and identify ways that I could reduce my usage and make it more efficient.

Water and Energy Consumption

Energy Usage Calculation

Energy bills were not available for my apartment, as the landlord pays for our electricity consumption. To calculate my usage, therefore, I used an energy calculator provided by Consumers Power to determine the estimated electricity use (kWh/month) for my apartment. I also seasonally adjusted this usage, assuming that I used my window air conditioner for five months of the year (May to October) and electric heating the rest of the time. I also adjusted my refrigerator and dishwasher based on their actual usage. As they are all Energy Star rated and relatively new, they have lower power consumption than assumed. However I could not find power usage for other appliances. Table 1 shows my specific appliance usage (per month) and total usage (per year) in kWh, which adds up to 33,640 kWh/year.

CategoryItemMonthly Use (kWh/mo.)Number of MonthsAnnual Use (kWh/yr.)
Kitchen and AppliancesRefrigerator3212386
Coffee maker1912228
Washer (5 loads/week)1512180
Dryer (5 loads/week)6212744
25" TV2712324
OtherLighting (3 rooms)3012360
Window air conditioner1345670
Ceiling fan85121,020
Water heater (one person)110121,320
Electric heating (550 square feet)91276,384
682 (Summer)
Total Energy Usage1,451 (Winter)13,628

Table 1: Summary of energy usage audit using calculator estimates from Consumers Power

Water Usage Calculation

My main water usage includes use of shower, bath, dishwasher, washing machine, grooming, and drinking and cooking. I measured the water usage of each of these activities and researched the dishwasher and washer models I use to determine their water usage. To monitor water usage, I tracked how much water I used for three days and averaged it. I do not have a lawn or garden and do not commonly use a carwash, so these were excluded. The table below shows my usage on a weekly and annual basis, which totals up to 30,888 gallons per year.

Water UseFlow Rate (gal/min), Load Rate (gal/load) or Use Rate (Gal/day)Minutes/Loads per weekTotal Usage/Year
Grooming (teeth brushing, face washing, etc.)0.5351,820
Drinking and Cooking214728
Total Water Usage59430,888

Table 2: Summary of water usage using actual measurements

Energy and Water Usage Analysis

Before adjusting my water usage, I took into account a number of issues from the course readings that reflected on how I use water and what my own assumptions might be. One issue is what I consider to be an appropriate indoor environment. As one author notes, the increasing temperature variances associated with climate change cold provoke an excess demand for energy in attempting to maintain old ideas about the indoor climate. This caused me to question whether I truly needed my air conditioner and ceiling fan both, or whether I could use them alternately.

Another issue that was worth thinking about was the cultural influence on practices. Moe (27) points out that cultural and political forces are important influences on the design of sustainable buildings and introduction of sustainable practices, and so that needs to be taken into account in identifying energy efficiency practices that will be effective. For example, it would not be culturally comfortable for me to stop showering, even if it would be highly efficient in terms of water savings. However, the cultural factors that I would need to deal with run much deeper than this. In particular, it is known that values about environmental sustainability and actions to protect that sustainability are closely connected. Although some of these values are cultural, many are actually individual and occur across various cultural groups (Crompton). This means that in order to make consistent changes, I would need to make sure that either the changes were coherent with my existing values or that I could see a change in my values associated with them. Without this change, I would not be able to make behavioral changes that would be consistent over time and result in true environmental savings. A final question was about Factor 4 or Factor 10 savings. As a renter in an environmental regulatory regime that does not require landlords to take into account energy efficiency, I cannot directly contribute to any Factor 10 savings, which would require an increase in the supply side . However, I can make Factor 4 savings, which are oriented to consumer resource usage rather than realignment of structure and regulation. This is where most of the adjustments I have made came from.

To adjust my water and energy usage, I chose a selection of tips from energy and water saving sites and determined which I could actually do. For water, I chose some of the selection of tips available from the site “Water – use it wisely!" By reducing my showers to five minutes and only taking one bath a week, I can reduce my usage to 22,334 gal/year. By turning off the tap while washing my hands or brushing teeth, I can reduce this further to 21,424 gallons, and only doing three loads of laundry per week would reduce it to 17,264 gallons. By replacing my showerhead with a modern low-flow tap (water flow under 2 gal/minute) I could reduce my usage to 14,534 gal/year. Similar savings can be seen in implementing tips from Consolidated Edison, who suggest changes like replacing incandescent bulbs with energy-saving fluorescents and only running the washer and dryer when full. By making these changes, along with turning off my air conditioner ceiling fan 50% of the time that I currently run them, I could bring my usage down to 12,173 kWh/year (a savings of about 11%). This is not as extreme as the savings seen from water use changes, but since I am more limited in how I can change my electricity usage it is still a significant change.


This analysis has shown that I do have room to adjust my water and energy efficiency. I have limited control over the structure or design of my dwelling, which is rented. Regardless, there are still some opportunities that I can easily identify for improvement of energy usage. For example, I can change some house systems, such as light bulbs and appliances, to use more energy-efficient products. I can also reduce water usage by changing my shower head to a low-flow head, washing fewer loads of laundry, reducing the number of baths I take, and turning off the tap when doing something else. These changes do not require any structural changes to my building, but will allow me to meet my needs without using excessive water or energy.

Works Cited

100 tips to conserve water. Chicago Water Resource Office.

Chappells, H and E Shove. "Debating the future of comfort: Environmental sustainability, energy consumption and the indoor environment." Building Research and Information.

ConEd. Energy-saving tips.

Moe, K. "Compelling Yet Unreliable Theories of Sustainability." Journal of Architectural Education in Chicago and Other Cities.