How To

A guide to saving energy

Given our dwindling energy resources, it makes good sense to conserve what we have left. If the phrase “dwindling energy resources” is news to you, welcome back to reality. Where have you been, and was it nice there?

With these concerns in my mind, I’ve put together a list of energy-saving tips that will help both the environment and your pocketbook. I’m fairly sure that you may have seen some of these tips before, but what I’ll try to do is to come up with a comprehensive list grouped by categories in alphabetical order, that I will update as I stumble upon more material.

Bathroom

  • Don’t take very hot showers. Some of us like that sort of thing (including me,) but not doing it saves a whole lot of energy, and according to my wife, is also better for the skin. Apparently very hot water dries the skin and makes it less resilient. Hot water is also bad for your hair. It dries it out too, and it has a tendency to break afterwards.
  • Don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth.
  • Squeeze the toothpaste tube only from the bottom – just kidding! I squeeze it from the middle just to spite the people that write those directions on the tube.
  • You’ve all heard this saying, right? “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down…” Well, I think it’s downright disgusting not to flush after urinating, so flush those toilets, for goodness’ sake! But you could invest in a toilet that uses less water per flush.

Cars

  • Be sensible and realize that oil reserves are not unlimited. Just because we don’t have to stand in line to buy gasoline here in the States doesn’t mean you have the right to drive a Hummer or some other gas guzzling SUV or large sedan. Think about this: now, in 2004, the price of gasoline in Europe is 2-3 times what we’ve got here. How long do you think this difference will last? I tell you, not long. Invest in a gas-sipping automobile, preferably a hybrid, before your monster’s resale value drops to nothing.
  • Plan your trips carefully. Going to the drugstore to floss shouldn’t qualify as a car trip. If you’re going to use your car, go to multiple stores during the same trip.
  • Quit trying to impress the person next to you in traffic lights. So your car is probably faster than theirs. So what! It doesn’t mean you should speed off every time just so your ego can get a nice pat on the back. Be reasonable and conserve your acceleration for those times when you really need it.

Computers

  • We have all heard that it pays to leave your computer on all the time, because it’s built with energy-saving devices, and it can be programmed to power individual devices such as hard drives off, etc. Let’s do a bit of math here. Most computers nowadays come with a 320W power source and some with ~400W power sources. If you leave it on all the time, chances are it will only be used actively for about 4-5 hours out of a day, more for some people, less for others. For the rest of that time, it will consume electricity at the rate of 3 (that’s three) 100-watt light bulbs and some change. Would you leave three 100-watt light bulbs on all the time? I didn’t think so. If you’re not sure about the impact your computer has on your electricity bill, just turn off everything else in the house and go look at your electricity meter (note: at 2004 rates, if left on all the time, a computer will cost about $12-15 per month in electricity). That meter’s rotating kind of fast, doesn’t it? Now do you begin to get the point? Therefore set your computer to go into Standby mode after a half hour of idle time. If your network card is equipped with Wake On LAN capability, then get your computer to go into Hibernate mode – most Windows computers using the latest OS can do this without a problem. On an Apple this is Sleep mode – Apple doesn’t have a Standby mode. If neither Standby nor Hibernate will work for you, just TURN IT OFF. Don’t worry about those who say that over time, it will damage the computer. It’ll probably still last upwards of 5 years, which is well beyond the projected lifetime of most PCs.
  • Set your computer to turn the monitor off after 5-10 idle minutes. CRT screens use quite a bit of electricity by themselves. Just look at the labels on their backs to see how much yours consumes. You can also just turn off the monitor. The power switch can take it, don’t worry. It’ll work for years, and years, and years… Well, you get the idea.
  • Set the computer to turn off the hard drives after 30 minutes – 1 hour of idle time. They can start back up without a problem in about 5-10 seconds.
  • Purchase a flat screen monitor if you can afford it. They consume a lot less electricity than CRT screens (about 2-3 times less), and they’re better on your eyes. They also emit less radiation, not to mention they take up a whole lot less space.
  • Instead of adding extra hard drives to the inside of the computer, add them to the outside by purchasing a USB or Firewire hard drive enclosure. That way, when you’re not using them, you can simply unplug them and not have to worry about the extra electricity each uses as it spins around whenever the computer is on. Use them to store files you don’t need to access often.
  • Purchase extra RAM. More RAM means less access time seeking the hard drives, thus, over time, less energy usage.

House

  • Replace all your incandescent bulbs with the new fluorescent spiral bulbs. They consume 3-4 times less energy and give off better light.
  • If you’re building a new house, or just replacing your drywall in your old house, then invest in good insulation. There are plenty of websites on the Internet that can teach you how to properly layer a wall from the outside to the inside in order to get the maximum energy savings – the process is easy and fairly cheap to implement. Just do a search on Google for this stuff. You’ll be happy you did when your heating/cooling bills arrive.
  • If you’ve got a house, put a solar panel (or more if you’d like) on the roof. Store the electricity generated in a battery or generator. You can then use it to power the devices in your house, including air conditioning devices. I’ve heard of people that get paid by their energy company every month because they generate more energy from the solar panels that they are using. A little extra cash can’t hurt, right? Again, there are detailed descriptions for this stuff on the Internet.
  • Install double glass pane windows. There are those windows that have two layers of glass and are filled with an inert gas in the middle. They are very energy efficient.
  • Install draft guards on the main door(s) to your house/apartment. This will not only keep in the nice cool air in the summer (or warm air in the winter) but it will also keep out bugs, and we all want that, right?
  • At night, only turn on the lights in those rooms that you’re using. If you’re afraid you’ll stumble over things, invest in night-lights. You can find fluorescent green night-lights that consume very little energy and last for years and years. Or you could purchase those combination night-light/deodorizers.

Kitchen

  • Don’t use the dishwasher if you can help it.
  • If you do end up having to use it, only wash full loads and put it on the cycle that takes the least time to clean the dishes. What I’ve found is that you can wash a full load in the Light cycle and get results that are just the same or better than washing it in the Normal cycle. I don’t know why, but that’s been my personal experience.
  • Don’t leave the water running in the sink while you’re doing the dishes.
  • Don’t open the faucets all the way if you don’t need a full jet of water.

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  1. Pingback: Green IT Week: June 1-7, 2010 « Raoul Pop

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