Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Challenge #8: Every Watt Counts

Reduce electricity use,standby electricity, to reduce carbon footprint I've been wondering if it is more energy-efficient to turn my computer off or to let it got to sleep. I already have it set to turn the monitor off after 10 min of inactivity, with no screen saver, and the computer set to go to sleep after 20 min. Since I didn't know, I did some reading on the 'net to see if I could find some answers about simple habits I could do around the house to save some electricity.

First off, I didn't realize how many seemingly innocuous things are sucking electricity. I saw estimates around the web that standby power squanders 5% of the total electricity used by residential customers. Not only do these sneaky transformers and appliances cause the senseless burning of coal, it costs me money!

Here is a short list of some energy wasters:
  • Cell phone chargers (anything that has one of those big boxes on a plug) draw a bit of electricity even when the phone is not being charged or the attached electronic is turned off. I am going to keep these unplugged!
  • The TV always draws electricity as it is waiting for the remote's signal ALL DAY and NIGHT! It's been suggested to plug the TV into a power strip so that it can be flicked off when no one is not watching the tube. On an aside, I know that my DVR sucks electricity all the time (I often hear the fan running). The problem with unplugging it is that it records shows throughout the day, which is kind of the point of having a DVR. Hm, ethical dilemma here, because I really love not watching commercials. Well, I guess I am saving electricity when I spend just 40 minutes to watch an "hour-long" program sans commercials (that's what I am going to tell myself).
  • Clocks on appliances use electricity. Yes, it's kind of obvious, but worth the reminder. I looked in my kitchen and counted four clocks (and I still never know what time it is). I've unplugged the coffee maker, as I'm not really drinking much coffee anymore, and I can always plug it in when I want to brew up a cup. I guess I could unplug the microwave, as we don't even use it on a daily basis. The stove is impossible to unplug. The fourth clock is a decorative one that is run by a battery- and is hopelessly always on the wrong time. I guess I'll climb up there and remove the battery.
Wow. I am doing pretty bad so far. All of these electricity leaks can really add up. We've spent a lot of time and effort to increase the weatherization of our old, creaky house, but we've let these small, bad habits undermine our efforts.

  • I am also going to get back to hanging my laundry to dry. I've got two lines down in the basement, and I used to be pretty good at hanging clothes on them, but I have gotten lazy. Line drying my clothes not only saves electricity from the dryer, but also cuts down on the heat input into the house, and thus should reduce my cooling requirements. I hung up some laundry yesterday; it was rather relaxing. I can hang the laundry just to hang the laundry (a la Thich Nhat Hanh)
  • These last few weeks I've been trying to not turn lights on every time I walk into a room. Sometimes I really think it is more of a habit than a necessity. If the sun is shining outside, must I turn the light on when I run into the bathroom? It's not like I actually need to see what I am doing (I do know where the toilet is, after all). Yesterday, my husband came home, and I was chopping the veggies for dinner without the kitchen light on. He knew I was up to some new habit-shift, and jokingly asked me if we would now be cooking in the dark. In my defense, it was pretty sunny when I got into the kitchen, and he had walked in from the bright outdoors. And yes, I still have all my fingers.
  • The computer is a big thing for me. I work here for a bit, go off and do something, then come back. Since I let it go to standby, I think it is not really drawing that much electricity. I am going to set a limit for myself: if I plan to be away from the computer for more than 1.5 hours, I will turn off the computer. Last night, I also switched off the power strip. This is something that I remember doing back in the day when a computer was still a new thing in the home. I think we did it in case it stormed, so that the computer would be protected. Now, I plan to get back into the green habit of switching my power strip off every night to reduce the leaky electricity going to my computer peripherals.
  • To update you on my refrigerator-opening challenge, we wrote down that we open our fridge an average of 11 times a day. This is calculated from the 10 days that we remembered to jot down our ins-and-outs and this is while we were trying to consciously open the fridge less! I am astounded by how much we open this cold box and let hot air in. Although I will admit, I have decreased the number of times I just open the fridge just to see if there is anything to maybe it's helped with my diet.
I found two sites that contain good information regarding wasted electricity in the home. I like the now banished term "leaking" electricity. Maybe if it was still called leaking electricity, it would have more impact on consumers, and that's how I am going to think about it.

Electricity Use by Computers

Standby Power

1-Watt Plan

Conserve Electricity Conscientious electricity use will REDUCE my household's carbon footprint.

Be Green
All around for anyone that can reduce their "standby" energy use!



Jeff Moser said...

I definitely need to pay more attention to all the little things that are plugged in around the house. Many are on a power strip too! No excuses.

A Green Up challenge for you: Lose cable TV and the DVR! We took the plunge 3 years ago. We still watch an occasional movie, but don't miss regular TV a bit. Now that we do other things, it's hard to imagine having time to actually watch TV. It's amazing how clear your head gets without the constant "message" being beamed from the TV.

Still need to get my clothesline setup at the new house. Right now we use the shower curtain rods for some items! Nothing like sun dried towels though. Mmmmm...

Fratzels said...

Great post. I don't think most people realize that even though they turn off an appliance that it's still burning electricity. Great reminder!

Anita K said...

Jeff- Unfortunately, I am not the only that lives in this house! Right now, I am trying to do small things that no one will feel as a painful sacrifice (we'll work up...little does he know). But that is the nice thing about the DVR- no commercials, so no bombardment of "buy me."

I have cut my TV watching down to one show while we eat dinner. That's a big change since three years ago, and you're right, I love it!

Patricia said...

I agree with Jeff, we don't miss cable at all. We bought a plasma screen to watch movies (when Star Wars and Lord of the Rings came out on DVD), but nowadays we hardly turn it on. We don't keep it on stand by as we watch it less than once a week.

My 2 year-old likes watching opera and musicals, but not more than 20 minutes once in a blue moon. We were trying not to get him addicted to TV, but all we really had to do was read and play instead. He knows about the TV shows because of the books and toys, but he hasn't actually watched any of the cartoons. He actually turned the TV off on his grandparents when they were visiting! (That has got to be worth extra bonus points!)

Jeff Moser said...

Anita, yeah it's tough to make family decisions. Our neighbors thought I had gone mad when we canceled cable, and secretly told my wife that she could sneak over to their house and watch it!

We sold our truck, travel trailer, dirt bikes, gas powered mower...they thought we had joined a cult!

Anita K said...

In some ways it is a cult, in that it goes against the mainstream mantra of "consume, consume, consume"!

And yes, no TV earns big-time Green Bonus Points! Good thing I don't have a cash-in feature here, I'd be broke! Think of those GBP as {{warm fuzzies}}.

thefencepost said...

Wow, I really didn't think about the amount of electricity we waste on a daily basis, I started looking around and thinking of all the things in my house that stay plugged in!

Thanks for the post!

Maddie, Co-Owner said...

Love the blog. I will definately link it from the Local Harvest blog. I learned a lot....