In local, state, and national elections, always do your research and then vote for political candidates who have sensible energy platforms.
In fall, plant deciduous shade trees (trees that lose their leaves in the fall) on the south, east, and west sides of your home. This lets sunlight reach and warm your home in the winter but shades your home in the summer. (Be sure to keep all large trees at least ten feet away from the foundations of your home.)
If you can, try to provide some shade for your air conditioning compressor — the cooler your compressor is, the more efficiently it will run, saving you money.
One of the key tools for any energy watcher is the Kill A Watt electricity monitoring tool from P3 International. After all, how can you tell how much energy you are saving if you don't first know how much energy you are using?
It is absolutely easy to use. First, you plug it into the wall, then you plug your gadget into the Kill A Watt. Press the Watt button — that's the one in the middle — and the number of watts the gadget uses is shown on the LCD screen. It can a bit difficult to read because outlets are usually down near the floor and the LCD screen isn't backlit, but if you plug it into an extension cord then you can bring it to where it's easier to see.
Here's the Kill A Watt with my coffee maker plugged into it, but turned off. (The one watt being consumed is for the digital timer/clock.)
And here's the Kill A Watt with my coffee maker plugged into it, but turned on. I must confess that I had no idea how much electricity a coffee maker uses.
The Kill A Watt does have some limits, of course — you cannot measure power usage for anything that is hard-wired into the mains, but if it can be plugged in, you can measure how much electricity it uses. It is also slightly inaccurate, as near as I can tell — some appliances that are rated as, plugged in, and clearly drawing one or two or even three watts register as zero, so I generally round up to the nearest five or ten watts.
So what I've done is plug some representative gadgets around my house into the Kill A Watt to see what I can discover.
Toaster On, 2 Slot 850 Toaster On, 4 Slot 1650 Kettle On 1425 Can Opener On 50 Coffee Maker Off 5 Coffee Maker On 850
52" Sharp Aquos LCD TV, including digital cable Off 75 52" Sharp Aquos LCD TV, including digital cable On 350 52" Sharp Aquos LCD TV, including digital cable TV On, Cable Off 300 Wii Off 5 Wii On 20 DVD Player Off 5 DVD Player On, Not Playing 15 DVD Player On, Playing 20
When the TV is on, it costs us about 3 cents per hour to watch television, using our standard cost of 10 cents per kWh. This is probably the greatest entertainment value the world has ever seen — unless of course you factor in the $50 per month for the digital cable and the $3500 price tag for all of the equipment.
When the kids turn the cable box off but leave the TV on, we are using nearly as much power as if the entire system were left on. The TV screen is black, and really only shows that it is on when all of the other lights in the room are off.
We can handle this, of course, by paying attention. What is far more upsetting is that the TV and cable together use 75 watts per hour when they are turned off. This adds up to 1.8 kWh per day, or 54 kWh per month, or five bucks every month.
Sony Viao PC Off 5 Sony Viao PC On 100-160 Sony 19" LCD Off 0 Sony 19" LCD On, Black Screen 10 Sony 19" LCD On, Normal Screen 35 Netgear Router On 5 Motorola Modem On 5 HP Photosmart Inkjet Off 5 HP Photosmart Inkjet On, Idle 10 HP Photosmart Inkjet On, Printing 15
The amount of electricity my PC uses varies depending on what it is doing. When it is just sitting idle — for given values of "idle" — it uses about 100 watts. Under heavy load and when the disk is spinning, it uses about 160 watts. I was interested to see the difference between a black and an active LCD screen. For my monitor, anyway, the difference between the "Blank" screensaver and the "My Pictures Slideshow" screensaver on Windows XP is 25 watts per hour. I have my PC set up so that my screensaver runs for half an hour before the computer puts itself to sleep, to avoid having waste time restoring from hibernation. This probably happens four times a day on average. Each time the screensaver runs for half an hour, then I can save about 12 watts by using a different screensaver. This works out to a savings of 50 watts per day, or 1.5 kWh per month, or about 15 cents per month.
Like most people, we keep the router and modem on all of the time because they are shared among all of the computers in the house. You never know when someone is going to want to get on-line, so having the Internet available 24/7 seems like a pretty good idea. With my Kill A Watt, I now know what that's costing me: 10 watts per hour, or 240 watts per day, or about 7 kWh per month, or about 70 cents per month.
I think it's good to know how much energy I'm using, don't you?
If it weren't for electricity we'd all be watching television by candlelight. - George Gobal
Buy yourself the most useful tool in the arsenal of an Energy Watcher, the Kill A Watt from P3 International. This amazing device lets you measure how much electricity an appliance actually uses. You plug it into the wall, plug your appliance into the Kill A Watt, and read exactly how much electricity that appliance uses.
If you don't know how much power you are using, how can you effectively reduce your power use and, therefore, your utility bills?
I posted a link to instructions to help you calculate your own gas mileage a few days ago. It occurs to me, however, that you and I are using computers right now, and that computers are really good at calculating things, so I built a handy tool to help you calculate your actual MPG.
How It Works
- Every time you fill up your gas tank, fill it all the way up. (This is actually good for your car and the environment.)
- Write down the mileage from your odometer on your gas receipt.
- When you have two consecutive gas receipts with odometer readings, plug the values from the receipts into the tool below.
- Click the Calculate MPG button.
Your Mileage May VaryPlease keep in mind that your mileage may vary over time. There are many things that affect your MPG, including:
- Who is driving. Teenagers tend to get very poor MPG.
- City vs. highway driving. Highway driving is much more efficient than city driving.
- Tire pressure. Keeping your tires fully inflated can add 3% to your MPG.
- Air filters. A clean air filter can add 5% to your MPG.
- Air conditioning. Running the air conditioner can subtract 10% from your MPG.
- Passengers. Each passenger you carry can subtract 5% from your MPG. Please keep in mind, however, that each passenger you carry, who would otherwise drive his or her own car, is one less car on the road, which will both reduce carbon emissions and increase America's energy independence.
A suburban mother's role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after. - Peter De Vries
Frankly, I was hoping for more — or less, really. This month's bill was $50 better than last month, but it was much cooler and we also shut the A/C off in the last week of the September.
CoolingSeptember was cooler than August and also cooler than September last year, so the only thing that can explain the fact that we used 600 kilowatt hours more electricity last month than we did in September a year ago has to be my wife's portable air conditioner. The attic fans didn't come on nearly as much last month, either. It has cooled off a lot in the last week, so I think it's safe to say that both A/Cs are off now and will stay off until Memorial Day next year.
Natural GasOur natural gas usage climbed slightly, from 9 to 10 therms, possibly due to the fact that as the weather cooled off we started taking hotter showers. I am slighly concerned that the hot water heater blanket I installed has had no measurable effects yet.
WaterOur water usage fell to a fairly normal 5 CCF, what one would expect for a family of four — this family of four, at least. I did replace the flap on one of the upstairs toilets, but I'm pretty sure I caught the leak before we lost too much water.
Lighting & ComputersSchool started two months ago, and I can tell you that we are definitely running the computers more than ever. The two youngest girls are both in high school now, and the youngest is getting quite a shock with homework.
September 2008 Data
|Electricity, in kWh||Cost / Unit||Gas, in Therms||Cost / Unit||Water, in CCF||Cost / Unit|
In fall, use a rake instead of an an electric- or gasoline-powered leaf blower. It's good exercise and also good for the environment!
Note: Energy Watcher is not responsible for sweating, light-headedness, heart palpitations, or having a great big piles of leaves to jump into.
It's officially fall, so it's time once again to change your furnace filters! While you're at it, consider getting your furnace a tune-up. With the cost of natural gas higher than ever, it only makes sense to make sure that your furnace is operating at peak efficiency. You can always call the HVAC guys to come in and do it for you, or you can follow these instructions.
By the way, I think you should use the good filters if you can possibly afford it. They last longer, filter better, and actually save you money in the long run.
Things do not change; we change.- Henry David Thoreau