Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Energy vampires--what's at stake

I couldn't help the pun in the title. I'll whip myself mercilessly with a recycled hemp penance rope later.

But for now, a few words about energy. If you live in Cincinnati, you're getting your gas and electric bills from Duke Energy. You may have noticed that your bills have gone up since Duke took over, and you may have heard that Duke wants to raise rates. The good news: using less energy and saving lots of money is super easy. Plus, since Duke creates energy using coal, gas, hydroelectric, and nuclear, lowering your energy use helps the environment out in major ways. Plus, you can pay a little extra to Duke, and they fund alternative energy sources. (You still end up saving money.)

So here are the easy steps:

Slay the Energy Vampires

Even when most electronic devices are off, they're still using passive or active energy. Good Magazine's illustration points this out very clearly. When you're asleep, these things cost you money even if you aren't using them. Even if they're off.

So what to do? Surge protectors. We've got our TV, DVD player, and sound system plugged into the same surge protector, and it's off around 20 hours a day. (We don't watch much TV.) Same with our cable internet and network server and all our computers. We make sure everything's switched off before we go to bed, right after making sure the doors are locked. Becomes an easy habit.

Switch to CFLs or LEDs

Pick the three lights you use most and replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs. (The former has some mercury, and the latter tend to be more expensive. In the long run, though, they both use an incredibly small amount of power.) The savings are instant. Plus, if you have a series of lights set up to a single switch, replace all those bulbs.

Example: in our kitchen, there are two recessed track lighting features. When bulbs started going out, we had two CFLs and two incandescent bulbs on one track, two CFLs and two incandescents on the other. But we use one track much, much more often than the other, so I switched the CFLs in the little-used row for the incandescents in the other. So four CFLs on a single switch. We saw our electric bill go down.

Don't Dry with Machines

Hang all your clothes out to dry, and set your washing machine to let your dishes drip dry. Drying takes a little longer, but again, the money and emissions savings have been incredible in our house.

Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water

Whether your water is heated by gas or electricity, it's costing you. Thanks to detergents that work well with cold water, we really don't need to wash anything in warm or hot water.

Get Energy Star Appliances

Our furnace and A/C were dying, so we got new ones. Energy Star. (Cue image of Molly Shannon.) You'll see the results below.

Here's a screenshot of our gas and electric use for the past twelve months.

You can see in April and May where our gas usage went way down: that's around when we stopped washing clothes in warm and hot water. The electric spike in June had to do with heat, but we actually used our new Energy Star A/C more in July and used less electricity (and we didn't change any of our other electric use).

We can do more, and I'll update in later posts what we're doing. Maybe with video. (Which, of course, means I'll need to clean the house.)

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