The Regular Recurrence Factor

National Power Grid Simulation Capability

Image by Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr

“Ain’t it awful?”, my life’s companion and domestic engineer asked.  She was referring to our electric bill which was about $95.  Why, she asked rhetorically, should it be so unreasonably high?

Well, it has been inching up over the last couple of years, but on reflection I had to point out that we have many things that use electricity.  Two TV’s, the entertainment sound system, the DVD player, the big fan motor on the central heating and air, lights, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, garage door openers, computer, printer, air conditioning (not a factor this time), two micro-wave ovens, regular oven, stove top, X-box 360 (et tu, geezer?  Yes!) ceiling fans, portable phone system, crawl-space sump pump (was going quite a bit last month).  And perhaps most of all, the water heater.  “Really, Dear, it’s only $3.17 a day for all that.” (Did I actually say that?)

Kitchen sink drain

Image via Wikipedia

For some reason I can’t find a diplomatic way to explain to her that running HOT water to wash scraps down the garbage disposal (oops, there’s yet another user of juice) is wasteful of energy.  I haven’t tried to calculate it but I know the thermal properties of water make heating  it expensive.

One site I found estimated the heating cost of a 10-minute shower at $1.12.  I would have guessed more.  But here’s the thing.  Suppose someone in your household took a shower a day, a not unreasonable projection I would say.  That would be $1.12 times 30 equals $33.60 a month for showers alone!  So there’s the real revelation:  it’s not the incremental cost that matters, it’s the regular recurrence factor (RRF).  RRF’s are common and they can make a huge difference.

A large pile of half-pint Poland Spring bottles

Image via Wikipedia

Suppose you buy one bottled water a day from a vending machine at work at $1 a bottle?  $1 times 52 weeks times 5 days a week is $260 of RRF a year in AFTER-TAX dollars. In pre-tax dollars, if you are in the 25% marginal tax bracket, that would be $260/.75 = $346.67 you would have to earn to support a habit that pollutes a land fill with PCB’s. Compare to tap water (which is probably what’s in the bottle) at $0.

Highschool teachers are invited to make this a part of their curriculum.  Kids need to know this stuff too – things aren’t going to get better by themselves.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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2 Responses to The Regular Recurrence Factor

  1. RRF is an amazing and amazingly simple way of understanding spending behavior, Jim. I’ve always had a habit of thinking that way, which can be quite annoying to the people I share a house with.



  2. Jim Wheeler says:

    Right, Duane. I totally get that annoyance thing, but the elation from going totally debt-free wiped it all out. 😀


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