Saving energy is easy. You can do as much or as little as you feel comfortable with, depending on your family and finances. Saving energy also doe’s not have to cost you a lot of money. Start slowly and simply. One of the most common complaints we hear from people that are trying to save energy is that they have children and it is impossible to get their kids to do anything to save energy around the house. In that case, we always suggest that they sit down with their kids and talk to them about what they are trying to do and why it is important. Most kids have been taught all about conserving the environment through recycling at school, but they may not have been taught that it is just as important to save our resources as well. Hopefully, a bit of time spent talking with them about this, will help them to understand. Try not to push them too hard. Again, start slowly and simply. Make it into a game to see how low you can go with your kilowatt consumption. Above all, praise them when you notice that they have done something to conserve with out you having to remind them. Positive reinforcement is definitely the way to go! After a while these things will become second nature to your kids and you as well.
Now that you have your family convinced to reduce your household needs, it’s time to get started.
First of all, a little explanation about “Phantom Loads” in your house. A phantom load is an electrical load that wastes electricity and gives you nothing in return. A lot of electrical devices have phantom loads. Things such as stereos and televisions, vcr’s, dvd players, microwave ovens and many, many more. Anything that remains in a “standby mode” when not in use has a phantom load. Even things that are not obvious such as chargers for batteries for cordless drills and such have phantom loads. Just because it doesn’t have a light on it when it’s not turned on, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a phantom load! Some phantom loads are quite small but others can be as much as half the amount the device uses when it is turned on.
Phantom loads may not seem to add up to much, but if you add up all of the things around your house that have theses loads, it can be a substantial amount of energy being wasted!
Getting rid of phantom loads is easy. Simply unplug these things when you are not using them. If the device is plugged in in a place that is too hard to reach to unplug, then plug it into a power bar and put the power bar in a location that is easier to get at and then simply turn off the power bar when you are finished.
If you are in doubt about whether or not something has a phantom load, assume that it does and unplug it. Obviously, there are essential appliances that you can’t unplug like your refrigerator and freezer, but almost everything else can be unplugged when it’s not in use. You will be surprised at how many kilowatts can be saved by getting rid of those pesky phantom loads!
Another thing that we found that you have to be very cautious of are things that say that they are “low voltage”. These can be things such as outdoor decorative lighting. These low voltage items use a wall cub transformer that plugs into an outlet and changes the voltage from 120 to a lower voltage such as 12 volt. These wall transformers use a lot of power to reduce the voltage. In the case of our own outside lights, we found that the transformer used as much power as our refrigerator and that was during the day when the lights were not even turned on! These transformers use power all of the time that they are plugged in whether the unit that they operate is in use or not! If you have these types of transformers in your home, and they are not running anything that is essential, unplug them and only plug them in when you want to use whatever they are running.
Not every transformer uses huge amounts of power. We have a transformer on our telephone that uses very little power, but if in doubt, unplug it.
Check around your home for things that are plugged in that you may have forgotten about that are seldom used. A friend of ours told us that she had a television in her sun porch that had not been turned on for at least two years, but it was still plugged in and drawing that pesky phantom load every hour of every day! Check that extra freezer in your basement to see how full it really is and how old the stuff is that is in it. Maybe you don’t really need that extra freezer or possibly you could get away with a smaller freezer. A lot of people have an ancient beer fridge in their basement or garage that has nothing in it or very little. Again get rid of it or get a newer, smaller fridge that better suits your requirements for beer!
If you have outside lighting at night, turn it off in the morning. Having outside lights on during the day is a huge waste of power! If you can’t remember to turn them off in the morning, put them on a day/night sensor. Stay away from timers if possible. They use power waiting to turn the lights on!
Speaking of lighting, everyone knows, or should know, of the virtues of compact fluorescent light bulbs. They are great! They can save huge amounts of energy around your home!
Compact fluorescent bulbs have changed a lot since they first started to appear in the back corners of the shelves in your hardware store a few years ago. First of all, the price has come way down. The first compact fluorescent bulbs that we put in our home cost us about $20.00 each! Now they are around $3.00 or $4.00 dollars each or even less if they are on sale. The technology has improved as well. They don’t have that long delay when you turn them on any more and the light that they give off is virtually the same as the light from a regular incandescent bulb. There are also many more types of compact fluorescent bulbs available now. There is every thing from bug lights to floodlights to really small ones for your smallest fixtures!
If you can, you should change every light in your home to a compact fluorescent bulb. If you don’t want to do it all at once, then change a few each month till you have them all changed. Even if you have regular fluorescent lights in your home, (the long tubes) you should consider changing the fixtures if you can.
While we are on the subject of lighting, you can save yourself a lot of electricity at Christmas time by switching all of your holiday lighting to LED lighting. These lights use almost no power to run and they are about the same price as regular Christmas lights! Since we changed to LED Christmas lights, we have twice as many lights on our tree and outside as we used to have and they cost us almost nothing to run!
A lot of people are now using the LED Christmas lights year round for their outside lighting since they use so little electricity.
Large appliances such as refrigerators and freezers, washers and dryers, dishwashers etc. use the most energy in our homes. If your appliances are more than ten years old, you might want to consider changing them to a new model. The appliances being produced today are very efficient compared to ones that were produced even five years ago and they are getting better each year!
As your appliances age, they use more and more electricity to operate. In the case of fridges and freezers, they cycle on more often than they did when they were newer and when they cycle on, they stay on longer as well. Older fridges and freezers can use two or even three times more electricity than new ones. If you decide to buy a new appliance, try to stay away from unnecessary gadgets. The more toys you have on your appliances, the more energy they will use.
There is a very informative guide book put out through Natural Resources Canada that tells you all about the Energuide system of rating the energy use of appliances. It has listings of every make and model of every appliance and how much energy they will use, on average over the course of a year. It explains how to read the Energuide labels on appliances and what the Energy Star rating means. This is a very helpful guide if you are planning to buy any new appliances. To order this free guide book, click on Energuide.
We found a really neat little gadget called a “Kill-A-Watt” meter that you can use to measure the amount of electricity that is consumed by the electrical devices in your home. This meter plugs into any outlet and you simply plug whatever you want to test into it and turn it on. It measures the amount of electricity that the device , let’s say a stereo, uses when it is running and if you turn the stereo off, it will tell you how much it uses for a phantom load when it is turned off. You can also plug in larger appliances such as refrigerators into the meter and let it run for a 24 hour period and it will tell you how much power it uses over the course of the day. You can then figure out by multiplying that figure how much your refrigerator uses over the course of a year. This can give you an indication, if you use the meter to test your appliances occasionally, that the appliance may be starting to wear out if you notice that they are using more power than they were last time you checked them.
We have these “Kill-A-Watt” meters available for sale. (see the home page for pricing and ordering information) We decided to make them available for people because they had heard about them, but were unable to find them anywhere for sale. They are such a useful little device and can save you so much on your electric bill, that we thought that they should be more readily available to people.