Monday, June 26, 2006

Simplify, Redux

1200kwh/month is an amazing amount of electricity. That's 1.2Million watt hours. How can I be burning that much ... 40,000watt-hours a day.

For the record and because I need to establish it my own mind, a watt-hour is the amount of energy consumed by using one watt for an hour. It's an awkward abstract concept but I found that if I considered a 100W light bulb it became easier. If I leave 100W light on for an hour, that's 100 watt-hours. If I leave a 100W light on for 10 hours, that's 1,000 watt-hours ... or 1kwh. In one day our house burns the energy required to burn 40 100W lights for 10 hours .. 40kwh.

Also for the record, I don't have any 100W bulbs.

So, I want to cut down 10% of my electricity use. Not because it's expensive. Not because I pay a lot. Just because I don't want to waste it ... if that makes any sense.

We have a fridge. Pretty modern, not the HIGHEST effeciency going, but all the seals are in place and it's less than 15 years old.

Electric range. I don't cook that much. Unfortunately.

We have a washer/dryer and do about 5 loads of laundry a week for a family of 4. That's one load per person plus one for linens. We always run them full, use cold water. It's constant and necessary, so it's not going to matter much.

We have central air. We keep it on 80 and spend a lot of time in the cool basement.

So far, not much chance of manipulating these.

But it's funny what you see when you start looking.

I have a light in the rangehood. It's a 60W bulb. It's on at least 10 hrs a day every day. Without it, anything on the range is in the dark because of the way the kitchen is arranged. That's 600wh a day. I replaced it with a 15W flourescent that provides the same light as a 60W bulb. If I left it on the same amount, that would be 150wh per day .. a savings of 450wh. But now that I'm aware of it, I find myself shutting it off. Call it about 500wh/day on that one bulb.

The big lighting offender is in the main hall bathroom. It has one of those four-bulb fixtures that uses the globe-shaped bulbs - each is a 40W bulb. It's the first light the kids turn on in the morning and the last one they turn off at night. We shut it off during the weekdays but it's on at least 4 hours every evening. That's 4x40W or 160W. For four hours that's 640wh/day. I replaced the bulbs with 15W flourescents ... using 3 15W instead of 4. I just unscrewed one of the bulbs a bit and left it there so there's no open socket. The bent-tube bulbs look a little odd, but the light is perfect and four hours a day is 180wh instead of 640.

One last thing, we've always kept the furnace fan on to circulate the air from the basement thru the house. I don't know what the fan is rated at but if it's as little as 20W, that's 20W times 24 hrs - 480wh/day. I'm not sure how much we're saving.

The last big electricity hogs are the computers.

Some of you know that I have a fairly extensive network in my house and the four of us have at least one computer (I use three). It's difficult to say what all these badboys use for juice. The powersupplies are rated from 200W up to 400W depending on the machines and I usually keep them -- and their monitors -- running 24/7. If they pulled full rated power, the normal computer load in the house would be 1200W plus another 500W in monitors. I am pretty sure they're not pulling full loads because if they were, just the computers would require more power than my electric bill says I'm burning (40.8kwh/day).

So I'm shutting down some of my boxes. I'm gone from the house for about 10 hrs a day, sometimes longer. I've started shutting down computers and monitors during the day. that's not QUITE half the day. And it's not time when the computers are under load. But it's something. I'd shut them off at night, too, but that's a much shorter time -- only 5 to 6 hrs -- and they do their scheduled maintenance and downloads at night so they kinda have to keep running. I'm wondering if I really NEED three computers or whether I could shut down one -- perhaps the one with the largest power consumption -- and only bring it up say, when I need to use it.

At the end of next month, I'll know if it's doing any good.

In the meantime, I'm doing something. It's a little thing, but it's a start.

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