5 Steps To Going Low Power

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Low Power, or Not

This post is relevant to you only if you are interested in Going Low Power for whatever reason. Let’s face it: power is very cheap, especially in the Pacific Northwest (about 11 cents per KWhr) and there is not much financial incentive for saving energy. Therefore, if you are trying to get something done, then all the power to you. :)

I never paid much attention to our energy usage up until several months ago. When I noticed that we were using over 1000 KwHr per month, sometimes as high as 1200 KwHr, I wondered where all this energy was going. Please see my earlier posts about my Power Monitoring System.

Just to clarify my position on this topic, here is what I think:

  • If the energy used is serving a purpose, by all means, use it.
  • If the energy used is NOT serving any purpose, it is being wasted, and should be stopped.
  • If the energy is serving a purpose, but the same result can be achieved with less energy and everything else being equal, then why not use less energy?

In regards to the third bullet item above, we have to remember that there is always some cost associated with any change. The cost can be an inconvenience, or financial. In real life, everything else is never equal.

Basics

There are 365 * 24 = 8760 hours in a year. If we save 100 watts per hour, the total energy saved per year would be 876 KwHrs. Keep that in mind.

If it takes a lot of effort to save 100 Watts per hour and if you are as lazy as me, then maybe it is just not worth it. However, if we have to just flip a switch in the beginning of the year (or spend just 10 minutes) to save that much energy by the end of the year, it would be well worth the time it takes to flip a switch.

Everything else being equal, why not spend 50 Watt-hours instead of 500 Watt-hours. The fact is that everything else is never equal. There is always cost and benefit to making changes. When making changes we have to ask this question: is it worth it?

There is one more thing to remember: I found out that the electric meter is very accurate and it will register every action we take no matter how unimportant it seems. Actions we take add up and and the results become very noticeable.

Here is a list of things that I did to reduce our energy usage from highs of 1200KWhr per month to about 600KWhr per month without much change to our lives.

1. Awareness

I put this at the top of the list because it is probably the most important factor. We need to pay attention to when the energy is being used and how much energy is being used.

Consider lighting: pick the three highest wattage light fixtures. If they are turned on, but are not serving any purpose, turn them off. In our case our chandelier is 500 Watts, the master bathroom halogen lights are 400 Watts, and the smaller bathroom lights are 200 watts. Turning these off when not in use makes a lot of sense. The savings from low-wattage lights such as a 23-watt CCFL is inconsequential in comparison. So I don’t worry about turning those off each time I leave the room.

2. Switched Power Strips

Unless they have an old style mechanical power switch, a lot of devices that are plugged in consume power even when turned off. If they have an ‘Energy Star’ rating, then they consume less, but they will still consume energy at the rate of 10 to 30 Watts per hour.

Power Strips

Power Strips

Switched power strips as shown in the picture above cuts power to 6 devices with the flip of a switch. For example I connected one of these to my two LCD monitors, the desk lamp, and the sound amplifier (about 100 Watts total). If I will be away for more than an hour, I cut the power off. Make sure the switch is very easy to access without contorting your body. :)

3. Unplugging

It is very easy to forget a charger plugged in, after the phone or whatever is charged. Get in the habit of unplugging the charger, or put it on a switched power strip.

For example my printer was always plugged in, but I hardly ever used it, maybe once or twice a month, if that. Now I keep it unplugged until I need it.

4. Hibernating the Computer

When you hibernate the computer, it is as good as shut down, but all your work and the desktop is saved to the hard drive. In the past I kept my computer always on because I had a lot of windows and apps open and I did not want to restart every application/website/etc. Now I hibernate it.

How do you hibernate your computer? For Linux when you click on Shutdown, the Hibernate option will be listed and you can just click on that option. Windows XP gives you a Standby option to put the computer to sleep. Pressing the Shift key will change it to the Hibernate option, and then you can click it. For Windows 7, you need to go into the Advanced Settings to set up the Hibernate mode.

5. LED lamps

I have been using the same Christmas Lights for a number of years because there was nothing wrong with them. This year I will be getting rid of them and replacing them with LED lights.

LED lights for home lighting not only draw less power, but they also last longer. It is hard to find them in retail stores, and if you find them, they are expensive. However, you can find a variety of them on ebay at a reasonable price.

Other Tips

The dishwasher has a Heated Dry mode which takes a lot of power. Sometimes kids will turn this switch on when they play in the kitchen. If you are not in a hurry, you can turn it off and run the dishwasher at night. They will usually be dry by the morning on their own. (Just to give you an idea, the heater in the dishwasher is rated at 3000 to 4000 Watts).

In the summer time you could use an outdoors clothes rack to dry the clothes. Admittedly, this is a lot of work. But, if you are up to it, you could save a lot of power this way. Clothes Dryers are rated at at least 5000 Watts.

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