July 5, 2009

Conserving power

Weather was lousy last night and because I didn't make backup plans, I stayed home to catch up on my reading. While cleaning yesterday, I found a couple magazines I forgot I had, and flipped through them.

One article in National Geographic caught my eye. It discussed energy, CO2 usage, our carbon footprint, and so on. An average two-person household's emissions is roughly about 38,000 pounds per year. America produces a fifth of world's CO2 emissions - about six billion metric tons a year. And it'll grow to 7 billion in 15 years if we don't go on a diet. Scary.

Read the article here


Last month, my utility bill gave me a sticker shock. The previous month, it was only $25 and for whatever reason, it excluded the gas utility - just had water, sewer and electricity. So of course, that missing gas utility ($20) was included in the next bill. Doesn't sound like much, but water and electricity also went up. Total? $87. Excluding gas, that was roughly 60% increase. When I imagined what my winter bills would be like, I was not happy.

The bill, coupled with the mag article, prompted me to go through the apartment looking for ways to help minimize the bill.

  • Water heater - this is one of the biggest energy users in a home (emits avg 2,171-5,500 pounds of CO2/year - depends on what kind of water heater you have). I often hear encouragement to turn down the temperature, but one problem that I suspect I'm not alone in is my water heater doesn't have gauge indicating how how hot the water is in degrees. It just has "hot," "vacation," and "cold" options. Because it's summer and I rarely need hot water, other than for an occasional use of the dishwasher, I turned my dial to vacation mode. I haven't noticed a difference in the water temp during showers because I prefer lukewarm to cold water showers.
  • Refrigerator - this is one of the other bigger energy sucks in a household - although the newer models are not as bad as 30 years ago (about 1,500 pounds/yr). If you have an old fridge, as I do, and are in a position to replace it, look for an energy-star one. They are much more energy-efficient and will save you oodles in your bills. If, like me, you can't replace it just yet, look inside your refrigerator and see if it has an "energy-saver" switch. Mine does, and in summers, it forms condensation along the seals; I just wipe it down regularly.
  • Power plugs - they do not take up as much energy as the large appliances, but when you have as many as I do, it adds up quickly. They, even when the appliance is off or not in use, continue to draw power. I took a quick count last night and found that I could unplug at least half of what's plugged into my power strip. Camera battery charger, cellphone charger, printer and a couple others. I can't link to the exact picture but if you go here and browse through the photo gallery, there's one that shows you a heat picture of the power strip when appliances are not in use.
  • Computers -I'm guilty of leaving my computer on 24/7 because it "takes so long to boot up!" But it's not that long compared with computers 15, 10 or even three years ago. And contrary to the popular belief, shutting down and starting a computer does not affect its lifespan, nor does it damage anything. It does not use more power to start up/shut down especially when you consider that you use far more to leave it in idle and sleep mode.
  • Air conditioning - fortunately, I'm in a part of a country where it's not really necessary. I have yet to turn the AC on so far this summer, even on 90+ days. I did read up on ACs and was interested to find out that central air are worse in terms of energy use and cooling ability than window units. Most people don't use their entire house on a daily basis and central air cools all rooms. Waste of energy. For those of you with central AC, consider installing ceiling fans (see below). Keep your blinds drawn on the south and west-facing sides, leave the blinds up on east and north sides and open your windows to let the breeze in. That will help circulate the air.
  • Fans - if you got fans, especially ceiling...use 'em, even with AC on. They help recirculate the air and on hot days, are a godsend. My apartment doesn't get much of a crossbreeze, so I make use of the ceiling fan and the floor fan. Even on the hottest day, it rarely goes above 80 degrees in here (unless I forget to turn them on before noon). That would be uncomfortable if I had to wear work clothes, but in shorts and tees, no big deal.
I am eagerly awaiting my next bill to see how much of a difference my efforts has made. As eager as someone can be for a bill.

1 Comments (Click here to comment):

DaveyDog,  July 6, 2009 at 12:31 PM  

aye aye on the turning down the water heat thing. Most dishwashers heat up the water with their electrical elements (or have an option for you to turn this on) so that shouldn't be a problem.

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