It’s no secret to anyone that’s listened to a radio ad in the last 26 years that Tom Bodett thinks you’re scared of the dark. Considering the location of many of the original Motel 6’s still out there, it’s understandable. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time inside one over the years, and gladly avoid them these days. Sure, many of the newer properties are probably just as nice as any other economy class motel, but one person can only take so many nights of Clorox-moist-towellette’ing every surface that may have been within stray-load-shot of a wide-eyed trucker under the masterful manipulation of a lot lizard looking to make a few bucks. My germaphobia and I digress…
I was driving this week when, for the first time in a long time, I happened to hear ‘ole Tom on the radio once again dropping his folksy, iconic catch phrase. And it occurred to me, “That fucking light has been on most of my life.” I mean, at some point somebody’s grandfather has had to have yelled at them. Most of us couldn’t leave the bathroom light on for 30 seconds without getting a friendly, stern reminder about “wasting energy,” or “money not growing on trees,” or some other overplayed idiom of parental dialogue. And here Tom Bodett is, for most of my life, just willy-nilly flipping switches like a mad man, and bragging about it. It’s no wonder we all suffered through countless lectures about household finance preprended with an introductory, “how many times do I have to tell you kids…”, when on every radio station there was ‘ole Tom, in his Mayberry way, giving us a grandfatherly-toned example of the opposite.
Just how long have Tom and the rule-breaking hellions of Motel 6 been telling our parents to “suck it?” As I stated it the beginning, 26 years. And how many switches have these hell-bound reck-looses flicked and forgotten? By Motel 6’s numbers in 1980, at least 300 (they sit at 1100 today)! Oh, I can hear the cartoon ear-steam of every parent in America trying to wrap their head around such a number. But not to worry, Moms and Dads, I’ll do the math. If the moth collector Tom and the Gang left burning for all these years is a standard flood/outdoor 150 watt bulb, than at JUST the minimum 300 locations in 1986 to present – with no accounting for growth – that’s 10,417,680 Kilowatts (leap years accounted for). Which is, 10,417.68 Megawatts, and thereby 10.41768 Gigawatts! Or, if you prefer movie-based analogies to less fancy numbers, it’s almost enough to fire up the flux capacitor and take your mom to the Under The Sea Dance eight and half times! (8.60965289 times, if you’re counting) Damn it, Tom! We could’ve been time traveling!
To continue along the logic of those childhood lectures concerning money and trees, let’s take it away from the vague rhetorical questions of, ”do you know how much blah, blah, blah,” and see what Tom-Tom and his cohorts have spent on their parental defiance. First we take the an average of household kWh costs, to do this I’ll grab some data from 1986 to 1997 (converted to 1997 dollars) that puts the lowest (’97) at 9.4 cents and the highest (’86) at 11.2 cents, giving us a workable mean around 10.3 cents in constant 1997 dollars.
But let’s go deeper, Tom.
If we take the data available from 2001 to 2011 on average US electricity costs cent/kWh:
|year||cent/kWh - unadjusted||cents in 1997 dollars|
We get an ’86 to ’97 average of 10.3 and a 2001 to 2011 average of 7.33, giving us an estimate-able (not even remotely a real word) mean for 1986 to 2011 of 8.85 in constant 1997 US dollars. If, using our same chart from the good folks at Oregon State University, we convert that to 2012 constant dollars we get: 12.38 cents per kilowatt hour, or $0.1238 if you prefer dollar signs.
Now that’s per kilowatt hours… and Tom and his wild band of misfit light switch flickers have racked up… oh… only 10,417,680 kilowatts of those, 150 watts an hour at at time. Which is to say, 1 kilowatt an hour = $0.1238, and 0.15 kilowatts is $0.01857 an hour… for 26 years… in at least 300 locations…
which is: $1,289,708.78 purchased over time, or the direct purchase cost of those kilowatt hours: $193,456.318.
Either way I can assure you, Tom, our Mom’s are pissed.
Turn off the damn light.
Other stats/numbers/etc. used cited: