Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Energy Savings For Earth Day

Tomorrow is Earth Day, which apparently means that we'll be treated to lots of full-page ads from various large corporations touting their environmental consciousness. And some of them may even mean it!

If you'd like to make some changes of your own to help this particular planet--a goal you may also describe as "forking over less money to the utilities that you're already subsidizing"--here's a summary of my advice:

* Use your computer's power-saving options to shut off the screen after 10 or 15 minutes of inactivity, and have the entire machine go to sleep after half an hour of no use. (Yes, I know these features don't always work in Windows.)

* Any new computer should draw about the same current when off or when in sleep mode, but the boxes that bring the Internet to your machine--the cable or DSL modem and wireless router--will generally consume a constant level of electricity. Turn them off if you'll be away from home for more than, say, a couple of days.

* If you're on the fence between getting a desktop or a laptop, get the laptop. It should use about 75 percent less electricity than the desktop.

* In my own tests, older electronic items have been the worst offenders. That ancient TV and VCR you've got stashed in the extra bedroom upstairs can easily suck down 6 to 8 watts apiece even when turned off. Unplug them when you're not using them.

* To find the biggest energy hogs, buy or borrow a power meter (some libraries, such as Arlington's, keep some to loan out).

* Unless you use a cathode-ray-tube monitor, you're wasting your time with gimmicks like darkening the background color of your desk or of Web pages: LCD screens draw about the same current regardless of what they're displaying. Try lowering the screen's brightness instead.

* Speaking as somebody with almost a house-ful of the things, I can assure you that compact fluorescent bulbs really do work. Start by popping a few into your ceiling fixtures, and you'll get a fuller appreciation of one of their less-advertised advantages: They last several times longer than incandescent bulbs.

If you have other suggestions for relatively easy things--the kind of changes that people could make this week, if not today--please share them in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 21, 2008; 12:14 PM ET
Categories:  Tips  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: New Tech-Support Resource: Reviewer's Guides?
Next: Apple's iTunes Plus No Longer Adding Up

Comments

In addition to all these power-saving tips, you can reduce your carbon footprint by signing up for a clean energy supplier. In Maryland (and possibly DC, though I'm not sure), you can choose a competing energy supplier, instead of the default service. Among the alternative generation supplies are some green options, including 100% wind power. It costs a little more per kwh, but it takes you off of coal-fueled power.

Posted by: jane | April 21, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Just to clarify -- the electricity still comes to your house the same way. You change your generation supplier, but the distribution is the same, so for customers it's just a change on paper. There's nothing complicated about it.

Posted by: jane | April 21, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Anywhere that electricity has been deregulated has that option. Consumer are allowed to specify where their power comes from, they just may have to pay for them to buy it form another provider.

Another thing you can do is use solar charged outdoor lights. Most patio lighting and garage flood lights are available with solar attachments that charge during the day and come on at night. For anyone who likes to have outdoor lights on for security purposes, this is a great option.

Posted by: akmzrazor | April 21, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Another thing you can do is buy a de-humidifer for your home. We waste alot of energy running the A/C just to get rid of the hummidity. Depending on the size of your house you may find that running the de-humidifier with the thermostat raised 5 degrees will keep you just as comfortable and will take much less energy. An added bonus is that you can then take the drip pan and use it to water your plants.

Posted by: akmzrazor | April 21, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Right, but last I read, only about a dozen states had deregulated. I don't know which ones those are, besides Maryland and Tennessee. Someone once told me that DC was one, but I haven't looked into that myself.

Posted by: jane | April 21, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Virginians can also purchase renewable power (wind or landfill methane), despite the re-regulation that occurred last year. There is an exemption in the law for green power. Dominion still provides the line service and billing, and Pepco provides the power. The cost is ~12 cents/kwh.

Posted by: cb | April 21, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

you know those tiny nightlight bulbs? Some of those are 40 watt bulbs! They use a lot of electricity and they aren't very bright. Also, even though christmas is long off, the lights, like merry midgits or some thing like that, are 1 watt each. So a tree with 3 strands of 100 lights each would use 300 watts! Plus whatever flashing santa thingamajig you have outside. However, they do make strands of lights nowadays that use LEDs. LEDs use less power than incandecent lights do, and are generaly more durible.

For outdoor lighting, you may use spot lights. Many outdoor spotlights are 80+ watts. There are fluorescent spot lights avalible that are about as bright but only use 20 watts. Another way to cut power useage is to use motion sensor spot lights. They can be set to come on when they detect motion, unless it's bright outside, and stay on for a certian length of time, and can also be operated by a switch.

For technology, as Rob said above, laptops use less power than desktops. CRT TVs and moniters are energy hogs. Even newer HD rear projection TVs are energy wasters. LCD TVs and moniters save a lot of energy, and a lot of space.

P.S. Hey Rob, what were the results of the Vista SP1 Testing? Should I upgrade, or wait? I have Windows Vista Home Premium.

Posted by: Chris | April 21, 2008 8:27 PM | Report abuse

you know those tiny nightlight bulbs? Some of those are 40 watt bulbs! They use a lot of electricity and they aren't very bright. Also, even though christmas is long off, the lights, like merry midgits or some thing like that, are 1 watt each. So a tree with 3 strands of 100 lights each would use 300 watts! Plus whatever flashing santa thingamajig you have outside. However, they do make strands of lights nowadays that use LEDs. LEDs use less power than incandecent lights do, and are generaly more durible.

For outdoor lighting, you may use spot lights. Many outdoor spotlights are 80+ watts. There are fluorescent spot lights avalible that are about as bright but only use 20 watts. Another way to cut power useage is to use motion sensor spot lights. They can be set to come on when they detect motion, unless it's bright outside, and stay on for a certian length of time, and can also be operated by a switch.

For technology, as Rob said above, laptops use less power than desktops. CRT TVs and moniters are energy hogs. Even newer HD rear projection TVs are energy wasters. LCD TVs and moniters save a lot of energy, and a lot of space.

P.S. Hey Rob, what were the results of the Vista SP1 Testing? Should I upgrade, or wait? I have Windows Vista Home Premium.

Posted by: Chris | April 21, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

you know those tiny nightlight bulbs? Some of those are 40 watt bulbs! They use a lot of electricity and they aren't very bright. Also, even though christmas is long off, the lights, like merry midgits or some thing like that, are 1 watt each. So a tree with 3 strands of 100 lights each would use 300 watts! Plus whatever flashing santa thingamajig you have outside. However, they do make strands of lights nowadays that use LEDs. LEDs use less power than incandecent lights do, and are generaly more durible.

For outdoor lighting, you may use spot lights. Many outdoor spotlights are 80+ watts. There are fluorescent spot lights avalible that are about as bright but only use 20 watts. Another way to cut power useage is to use motion sensor spot lights. They can be set to come on when they detect motion, unless it's bright outside, and stay on for a certian length of time, and can also be operated by a switch.

For technology, as Rob said above, laptops use less power than desktops. CRT TVs and moniters are energy hogs. Even newer HD rear projection TVs are energy wasters. LCD TVs and moniters save a lot of energy, and a lot of space.

P.S. Hey Rob, what were the results of the Vista SP1 Testing? Should I upgrade, or wait? I have Windows Vista Home Premium.

Posted by: Chris | April 21, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Opps! computer glitch. Sorry!

Posted by: Chris | April 21, 2008 8:33 PM | Report abuse

also it's good to think about using reusable -- rather than disposable -- items whenever possible. for example, cloth (rather than paper) napkins, towels, cleaning rags, etc. also, using reusable containers instead of disposable bags to carry your lunch or whatever (although apparently we're all going to die from cancer from those containers... but, we might die from global warming first, so, pick your poison I guess, haha). and on that note, brining a lunch to work instead of eating out is more economically and energy efficient.

also, being frugal with your water usage is extremely important -- and I actually have a question about that. does anyone know anything about those shower heads that limit how much water comes out? we just moved into a new apartment, and I'm bad at taking quick showers, but I wanted to look into one of those shower heads. I just don't know much about it or what to look for. any advice?

Posted by: Alison | April 22, 2008 4:05 AM | Report abuse

I plug all of my "energy vampire" electronics (anything with a remote or a box in the power line--cell phone, ipod, laptop, etc.) into a surge protector. You can shut them all off by flipping one switch when you leave for work or go to sleep.

Posted by: Jason | April 22, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Save money and time:
Don't fertilize your lawn.
Don't water your lawn.
Grass has managed to survive for millions of years without us throwing fertilizer on it. You use less gas, don't annoy your neighbors, have more time and cleaner air.

Check the air in your car tires.
turn your thermostat 1 degree higher and turn it off if you are gone all day.
Eat one meal a week with no meat.
Recycle

All free things to help you and others

We can't buy our way to a cleaner society (but CFLs help)

Posted by: Bob | April 22, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Your refrigerator is one of the biggest energy users (not including heating and cooling, of course.) It will use less energy if you keep it FULL. Adjust the shelves so that there's not a large, empty space at the top. Place gallon milk jugs full of tap water in the back to fill empty space. You can temporarily remove them when you need the extra space. An added benefit to this strategy is that you can stress less when your kid stands in front of an open fridge door for long periods of time!!

Posted by: Virginia Mom | April 22, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

After the refrigerator, the next appliance to consider is your hot water heater. Turn it down and wrap it in a fiberglass blanket (purchased from a home improvement store.) This 5 minute operation will save you money and energy for the life of the hot water heater. And when it's time for a new tank, consider a tankless hot water heater OR buy a smaller hot water heater. Many larger homes come with HUGE tanks that allow 3 people to shower simultaneously while also running the dishwasher and doing laundry. But how often does that really happen?! Besides, you are washing your clothes in cold water, right?!

Posted by: Virginia Mom | April 22, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Okay, one more appliance and then I'll leave you alone. Join the "Right to Dry" movement and hang your clothes on the line rather than using a dryer. Many HOA's don't care for this, so be discrete. I have a line under my deck. In the winter, you can hang it inside a utility room, which not only saves energy but also adds a nice boost to your humidity level. Most people consider using a clothesline rather extreme, but I find the process sort of rhythmic and calming, almost like yoga!

Posted by: Virginia Mom | April 22, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Automatic timers! Putting a programmable thermostat on my heating/AC made a huge difference in my energy use. I also have a timer on the "security" lamp in the living room. Now I'm thinking a timer for the vampire device power strip would be good- I won't have to remember to turn it off and on. My other favorite is my set of solar "rocks". I have them outside as spotlights, and kept in a sunny window they are great as nightlights and emergency flashlights (and they have an on/off switch).

Posted by: randomk | April 22, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I need to post under a different name, lest you all think I'm a complete nut! But if you're serious about saving energy, particularly on AC, then I recommend installing window film on your southern and western facing windows. It blocks between 50 and 70 percent of the solar radiation from coming into your house. It's easy to self-install and pays for itself many times over. One of the brands sold at local home improvement stores is GILA if you're interested in more info.

Posted by: Virginia Mom | April 22, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

In honor of Earth Day, Symantec is giving consumers free access to its Green PC Service - a unique program offering expert advice from a trained Norton technician who can remotely optimize your computer's power management settings to save electricity - from April 14th through the end of the month. By visiting www.norton.com/gogreen, consumers can start enjoying the savings and rest assured they've contributed to the environment after just ten minutes of consultation.

Posted by: George | April 22, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Instead of a clothesline, I like those wooden drying racks. They take up little space but can hold a lot of clothes, and you can move easily them around to wherever is most convenient (and collapse them when not in use).

Posted by: jane | April 22, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I spend all day on my computer, but on the off chance that I leave for like a day or even for >2 hours I turn off my whole computer, printer, monitors, modems, the works. Hardware fails, and the longer something is runnign the more likely you are to encounter a failure.

Posted by: Mike | May 5, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company