Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Improving kWm by kWm

I think and write quite a bit about climate change and the environment, and in our household we take environmental awareness quite seriously. We burn less natural gas, use less gasoline, use less water, and generate less garbage than most households in this country. So, when we found in an energy audit a few months back that our electrical usage was actually above average, we were quite embarrassed.

You see, we had already done most of the things you do to cut down your energy usage. All of our light bulbs are compact fluorescent. Our appliances have by and large been replaced with more efficient models as the time has come to retire the old ones. We don't use air conditioning. And we removed the jacuzzi tub in our yard. What was going on? Was someone breaking into our house in the middle of the night and plugging in high wattage floodlights?

Fortunately, the energy auditor gave us a couple of tips, so we had something to try. We've now gotten three bills since the audit, and I'm happy to report that our monthly usage, compared to last year, has gone down 13% (for the first, partial month), 14%, and 25% for the most recent month. Our electricity usage for the past month was likely the lowest it's been since we moved in several years ago. That's an incredible savings, and I feel like we did almost nothing to earn it.

What did we do? First we turned off a couple items of electronics that weren't being used, and put most of the rest on power strips. Want to watch TV? Just remember to flip on the power strip before you sit down, and flip it off again when you're done. Going to use the treadmill? There are two power strips you have to flip, one for the exercise equipment, and one for the entertainment equipment. And who wants to work out inside this time of year anyway?

Power strips are about $5 - $10 each. We actually had some lying around, so this cost us nothing. And once you get used to it, the amount of extra effort is almost nothing. This equipment now draws power a few hours per week maximum, rather than 24 hours every day. It adds up.

We also configured our computers to go into hibernate mode rather than running all the time. That's a bit of a bother, as it now takes a little longer to start up when you sit down.

One other thing. Our home computer has an Energy Star LCD flat panel display, but my work computer in my home office had a rather old CRT monitor. I asked my employer for a new monitor. An energy-efficient monitor can be purchased for about $150. The one my employee provided probably cost $200 or $250 new, but they happened to have one that wasn't being used, so there was no expense involved.

So, our savings came with no cost to us and very little inconvenience. If we had bought the power strips and a new monitor, we could have spent less than $200. Our June electric bill was more than $12 cheaper than our June bill last year. At that rate, the investment would have paid for itself in a little over a year.

We discovered that it's true that the little things add up. Kilowatt minutes can easily become kilowatt hours. Most electronic devices continues to draw power even when they are turned off, so the secret is finding those items that you don't use all the time and cutting power when you aren't using them. And make it easy to do so, so you really will do it.

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