Although it appears that all I do is cycling (which is mostly the case 😉 ), I also work as a solar design engineer at Standard Renewable Energy. When I’m not thinking of high alpine, singletrack, the newest coolest bike parts, or my next race, I’m thinking about how to be, and help others be more energy conscious. A guy at work, Kevin Stewart, wrote a document on this, so I decided to take some of his words and paraphrase.
Now, there is a thing called phantom loads. Most of you have probably heard of it, but when you have something plugged into the wall, say a cell phone charger, it is still drawing power…regardless of whether you are charging a phone or not. All your cool electronic gadgets can add up if you leave them plugged in and your usage on that nasty utility bill will climb. In 1999, there was a study in New Zealand by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority regarding phantom loads. Here are some of their findings that may make your jaw drop:
- 40% of microwave ovens used more electricity to power the clock and keypad over the course of a year than actually heating food
- A computer left running with the screen turned on could draw as much current as your fridge
- As much as 10% of the kWhs on a given person’s bill can be simply from phantom loads
Studies conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimate that standby power consumption in the US accounts for 5% of all residential power consumption. That means Americans spend more than $3.5 billion annually on wasted power. It also means that our standby power is responsible for 27 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Here are some things you can do to fight these energy sucking vampires! (Thanks to Kevin’s document)
- Unplug your devices. It’s as simple as that. Pull TV/computer/stereo/etc power cords out of the outlet. If they’re not in use or if they’re totally unnecessary (are you really going to ever use that VCR player again?), unplug.
- Use the “other” off switch. Many devices also have an ‘off’ switch in the back. For example, most computers come with one ‘soft’ power switch on the front, which takes it from standby to on. Separately, there is usually a real ‘on/off’ switch located in the back on the power supply (near where the power cord goes in).
- Plug your devices and chargers into a power strip. And when you’re not using those devices, turn off your power strip. Simple!
- Remove chargers from the wall when you’re not charging. Your cell phone charger, iPod charger, laptop charger, etc. keeps drawing electricity even if your phone/Ipod/laptop/etc isn’t charging. So if your phone says “Charge complete” (or worse, isn’t even attached to your charger), pull out the charger.
- If you’re in the market for new electronics, buy Energy Star qualified. Energy Star takes standby power into account and their qualified devices draw less than the average when in their “off” mode. Some of their best electronic items include cordless phones and audio equipment.
- For your various computer accessories, try a smart strip. These work really well when it’s not feasible to be constantly unplugging your devices. Check out the Isole Plug Load Control. This power strip saves energy by monitoring occupancy. The Smart Strip Power Strip monitors power differences between computers and peripherals. This way, when you shut down your computer, the Smart Strip automatically shuts off the accessories. The Mini Power Minder also works by communicating between your computer and your accessory.
- To learn about the power consumption of your electronics, look into a Kill-A-Watt. This device will tell you about the efficiency of your electronics, whether turned on or “off.” It can actually be kind of fun (and definitely enlightening) to run around your house and see how much juice each piece of equipment takes, in both and and standby mode. You’ll likely be surprised. (If you want something a little more hardcore, try Watts Up?).
- If you’re up for a whole house project, check out Green-Switch, a wireless home energy control system that let’s you cut off power to your various electronics quite easily. For other whole house devices and monitoring, here’s an interview that might be right up your alley.
- Change out all light bulbs with Compact Fluorescents. They have come a long way in the last couple years and you can now use them for dimming, spotlighting, etc. In fact, SRE sells lightbulbs. Let me know if you want to get some from us b/c we have a ton!
That’s all from my green soap box. Now where is my bike? 🙂