Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


July 8, 2008

Co-op America: Tips to Saves 33% on Energy Use

Category: Cool Sites,Household,Tips – Tom Harrison – 9:05 pm

Co-op AmericaI read (and write) a lot of lists on how to save energy. I like this one from Co-op America because it quantifies the potential savings of each item, and also breaks the list into several levels of effort and cost.

The first level shows how to save energy with little effort and a good payoff.

I learned a couple new ones — did you know that you can fill up the empty spaces in your fridge with water, since water will retain the cold and not get blown away every time you open the door?

We have been washing with cold water for the last year. Our clothes are clean, we can do fewer loads because less sorting is needed, and there’s less color fading. No brainer.

In the last couple of weeks, we finally cleaned out the last of the unused frozen (for years) items in a deep freezer we had in our basement. We had an un-plugging ceremony to mark the event :-)

I’ll write about our newest gadget soon, a real-time electricity use display (way cool). Until then, I’ll just say we now know how much the dryer really uses. My daughter brings home some wet towels and bathing suits from camp every day and we pop them in the dryer. After seeing the meter spike, I generally leap downstairs after a few minutes and pull out warm but not completely dry towels that will be dry by the morning.

The second level are tips for big energy savings, requiring a little more time or money. Which is funny because I don’t think they require that much more time or money.

A huge one we did was simply to caulk around the windows in our old house. And replacing your thermostat with one that adjusts by the hour is one of the simplest changes you can make to affect your heating or cooling energy use. The actual thermostat is not that expensive (around $35), and the payback at today’s energy rates could be 7 to 10 days!

I suspect many people look at a job that involves screwdrivers and wires and think: oh my! But these are low-voltage wires, very thin and easy to work with, they have batteries for power, and installation should generally be easier than putting in a smoke detector. “Programming” them involves setting a few times of day and temperatures (e.g. less heating/cooling when no one’s home or at night), with a different setting for the weekend if you like. Set it once and forget it!

The third level of home improvements that save a lot of energy are pretty cool.

One we have done, without realizing the benefit, was to add landscaping — trees in particular, that shade the house. Who would have thought: shade trees — how … retro!

And yes, for the husbands amongst us who are looking for a way to convince our dear wives that we really do need a new TV, there’s even one for us guys. LCD is more efficient than old CRT tubes and than plasma (do NOT buy a plasma TV!!). But before you go off and replace your old “big” tube TV with a 52″ wide screen high-definition digital LCD model, remember that LCD is somewhat more efficient than CRT square-inch for square inch. A 52″ LCD is something like 6 times more area than a 27″ tube (just a guess), and even if LCD is twice as efficient, a huge TV is a huge waste.

Ok, I actually know what I am talking about here: I work for DigitalAdvisor.com, and we recommend TVs. We have seen that stores and manufacturers are pushing everything they can at consumers, most of it complete baloney. In our house we have a 26″ LCD TV in our living room and a 32″ LCD in our basement for family movies. The 32″ model is plenty big. Would 37″ be better? Probably not, but now you can get 40″, 47″, 52″ and more. This size is way too big, looks ridiculous (if you ask me), requires more effort to get a good picture, is much more expensive, and uses massive amounts of energy. Don’t fall prey to male instincts: buy smaller and have enough money left over to get a kick-butt surround sound system.`

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