Increasing Your Power to Save Some | Seventh Generation
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Increasing Your Power to Save Some

Author: the Inkslinger

By some accounts, last weekend's Earth Hour was the largest voluntary action for the environment in history. Nearly 6,500 cities and towns in 150 countries went dark to send a message about the need for change. It was a huge success, but now the lights are back on, and they're illuminating a key question: What's next on the home front?

Because most environmentally aware households have already picked the low hanging sustainable fruit. We've swapped our incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents. We've bought organic and gone for the biobased cleaners. We've lowered the thermostat, recycled our cans, and taken our names off the mailing lists. What's left?

The short answer is plenty. We just have to look a little harder to find the next steps to take after we've taken all the easy ones. Energy conservation, for example, offers lots of "hidden" ways to save that most of us probably haven't considered. Here are some of the simple strategies that have surprised me through the years:

  • Use your TV's master switch to operate it. Today's TVs come instantly on because a master switch left permanently in the "on" position" keeps them partially energized while they wait. Locate that button (see your manual) and use it to kill this stand-by power waste until you're actually ready to watch something.
  • Plug TVs without a master switch and other instant-on electronics into a power strip that you can use to cut off the stand-by electricity they're using when they're not supposed to be using any at all.
  • Lower your TV's brightness. Factory settings typically crank it up so TVs look luminous in showrooms. But at home you probably don't need your screen to be visible from space.
  • Unplug all your chargers and power adapters when they're not charging or adapting. They're using juice even when they're sitting there tricking you into thinking they're not.
  • Use a humidifier in winter. Moist air holds heat better than dry air, the kind found during cold months. Humidifying your home's desiccated winter atmosphere will let you lower your thermostat further without feeling like a human popsicle.
  • Clean your refrigerator coils. They're where the heat from inside gets dissipated into the air. Dust inhibits this process. Removing it makes your compressor work less and can save up to 6% of the power this appliance consumes. How cool is that?
  • Finish cooking with the heat off. It sounds counter-intuitive, but there's enough usually heat in ovens and stovetop pots to keep things cooking for the last 5, 10 or even 15 minutes without using additional energy.
  • Similarly, keep your tea kettle barely full so you only heat what you need for the cups you're pouring right now. (Really the only thing surprising about this suggestion is how long it took me to realize it!)
  • Seal all unused outlets with safety plugs to zap one of your home's leading sources of air leaks.
  • Compute on your lap not at your desk. Laptop computers need only around 1/6 the energy required by power-hungry desktop behemoths.

These are all little things, but they can make a big difference. Give them a try, and you'll tap into a new power to not only conserve energy but save money doing it.


photo: somegeekintn


odile53 picture
I was raised by parents of the Greatest Generation, which means they grew up during the Depression. You didn't leave a room without turning off a light in my house, and I guess the habit stuck. Also, Mom was obsessive about cleaning off light bulbs when she dusted: They give off a lot more light when they don't have to shine through a film of dust and grime!
hszegda picture
Tired of paying so much for electric, I finally installed a clotheline and dry all my cloths outside. Cleaned my refridgerator to clean the floor and found a mountain of dust underneath, so I used a dryer-vent brush to clean the coils. Everything is on power strips and I am diligent about turning off, especially overnight. So far thrilled with the results.
barbannsu picture
I made this brilliant device called a "wonder oven" with some lovely, thrifty older ladies at my church and it is essentially a super insulator. You get your food hot (typically this means bringing it to a boil) then place it in the wonder oven to stay hot and continue cooking WITHOUT THE USE OF FUEL. And you never burn anything! It works a lot like a crockpot, except it's not using any energy. You can use it to make beans, rice, bread, lasagna, just google "wonder oven" and you can find tons of recipes. you can find the sewing pattern here Or you can buy one already made for you here I made mine for $13 ($7 for the bean bag beans, $2 for fabric, and $4 for the bucket) If you want to save energy cooking, this is a great way to do it. You can also buy bulk grains and beans to save money. You can use it to slow cook cheaper cuts of meat so they will be tender. I could go on and on...
pigoff1234 picture
My brothers and I are have always been old school I guess. We don't use it unless we need it. We never turn on the air or heat unless it is over 90 (shady house and ceiling fans) or under 45. We don't use the dryer unless it is raining for days at a time and then we dry somethings on a line inside the house. We do it to save energy but also money. I am the only income as they are both disabled and after medicare they don't have much left after bills. We recycle and compost almost everything and we are proud of that. I think I will purchase some more power strips and see if they lower our electric bill.
shorti6877 picture
We had already switched what we could in our apartment to florecent and now we are slowly switching those to new LED blubs. I have to say they are pretty good. I think even better.
joand112w picture
i actually was fortunate and got low power bulbs for free due to a rebate program...havent had to buy any since
karla41164 picture
We have been using low power light bulbs, They my cost a little more but they save alot!!! We also use a wood stove to heat our home,