Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Frugal Electrical News

Today my electrician friend dropped by.  I asked him if he could create a more accessible shut off contraption for my washer and dryer.  As you probably know, they are usually plugged in behind the appliances in a place that is very hard to reach.  He looked at me funny and asked what the problem was. I told him I wanted to keep them unplugged when not in use to save on the loss of phantom electricity.  Well, you should have seen his face.  He is admittedly not frugal and thought my idea was crazy.  He told me those appliances do not use more than .5 watts to keep the digital buttons going and it was not worth the hassle to create an alternative shut off switch.  I explained that I was attempting to stop all unnecessary use of electricity to reduce my carbon footprint.  He told me most items plugged in do not pull much when not in use and not to worry about it.  Obviously he is not the one to ask for wattage cutting suggestions and does not know appliances left on standby mode can draw an average of 5-10 percent of household energy use!

So again I let my fingers do the research and began surfing the internet.  4-Ways-to-Reduce-a-Gadgets-Power-Drain gave some excellent statistics like Electronics account for 15% of the average household's annual energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Considering that the average family is expected to shell out $2,350 for electricity and natural gas this year, that's about $352.50 that goes toward powering everything from a television to a cellphone charger. Of that amount, standby power — energy consumed by devices when they're plugged in but not in use — represents as much as 75%, or roughly $264.Even though today's gadgets are designed to use less energy than they once did, we own far more of them than in the past, points out Maria Vargas, a spokeswoman for the government-backed program, Energy Star. (In 2001, electronics accounted for just 7% of the average consumers' $2,000 annual energy bill, or $140.) We also keep our gadgets active for longer periods of time — consumers who switch to cheaper Internet-based phone service, for example, must keep their computers at full power all the time in order to receive calls.

Saving electricity not only saves money but saves the planet as well.  Michael Bluejay's Website is excellent and should be read by everyone.  He says, " Saving electricity doesn't just save money, it also saves the planet. This is news to a lot of people. After all, when you plug something into the wall, it seems clean enough -- you don't see or smell any pollution, like you do with your car. But the pollution is there -- it just happens at the power plant. Most electricity is generated by burning coal and running nuclear power plants. Every time you turn on the lights, you create a little pollution. (See the sidebar.) In fact, the average home pollutes more than the average car! (See my Carbon Footprint Calculator for the numbers.) So saving electricity doesn't just put money in your pocket, it helps keep the air and water clean, too."  Mr. Bluejay or Mr. Electricity as he likes to be called goes on to explain simply what electricity is, what a watt is, how to measure how much you are using and best of all he dispels electrical myths.  His site offers ways to calculate your carbon footprint, calculate how much electricity you use and how much it costs.  Please go directly to his site and read for yourself  

The average U.S. household used 920 kWh a month in 2006. (Dept. of Energy).  My Nov-Dec bill states I used 441 KWH and last year same period of time I used 659 KWH which means I cut my usage 218 KWH and I use far less than a normal household (of course only two people and a dog lived at my home and Mister T knows to turn off the lights when he leaves a room!).  I am lucky to live in Washington because our basic rate is the fourth lowest in the nation at 6.31.

Michael Bluejay is my new Electric Super Hero!

So all this said, I still would like to keep doing my fair share.  I have already exchanged all my light bulbs to the new CFL  (compact fluorescent light) bulbs.  One local lighting store was offering a special promotion and I snapped it up.  A box of 48 bulbs was offered at $12.  I bought 2 boxes and figure I have a lifetime's worth of bulbs.  Sorry this was two years ago and the offer does not still exist.

I am running my major appliances at night after 7 pm to get a lower rate.  I am leaving the computer on sleep rather than leaving it running during the day.  Turn off your computer Leaving the screen saver on will not save any energy. Screen savers can use more energy than when you are using the computer yourself, and can reduce the life of your monitor. Instead, enable the display blanking feature to automatically turn off the monitor when your computer is idle. You can save $50-$100 per year by enabling your computer to 'sleep' automatically when you are not using. Another way to reduce power while using computers is to reduce screen brightness. This will also increase the battery time for your laptop. Also replacing your CRT Monitor with an LCD monitor leads to 66% reduction in the energy consumed by CRT monitors.

Only use the washing machine when you have collected a full load. If you must wash a partial load, use the economy or half load setting. Also, modern washers work just as effectively at 40 degrees as they do at 60, but the difference in temperature will make a difference in terms of energy used. If you are in the market for a new washer, buy a front loader. These washers are used extensively in Europe and save considerable amounts of water and energy compared to top-loading washers. Tumble dryers use up a huge amount of energy. If possible, hang your clothes on a line instead. This is better for your clothes as well. Washing economically doesn't just apply to your clothes. Taking a shower instead of a bath uses around 50 percent less energy.

Reuse water which comes out of the tap that would drain otherwise. When you turn up the hot water on a tap, put a container under the tap until the water is warm enough. This saves a surprising amount of water. I now have a basin in the sink and capture the excess water from the tap.  I use it on my plants.  I also keep the water I boil for tea in a thermos and have it ready all day.

I installed a ceiling fan over my bed and one in the kitchen/living room instead of using an air conditioner.  When the woodstove is very hot I will turn on the kitchen ceiling fan to push the hot air around.  I do not heat the two unused bedrooms unless I have guests coming.  The doors stay closed and the thermostats are set on off.  The windows are new within 8 years and are double pane.  The refrigerator, stove, washer, dryer and dishwasher were all purchased within 5 years and are energy efficient.

Other than turning everything off and living without electricity (which I have done before and choose not to live quite so frugally) I am doing the best I can do at the moment.  Other suggestions are to Conduct a Home Energy Audit.  I am going to contact my local power company to see if they offer free energy audits.  There are grants available through the Department of Agriculture and local Community Development or qualifying folks.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that cooking alone accounts for 4.5% of total home energy use, and this figure doesn't include the energy costs associated with refrigeration, hot water heating, and dishwashing. Added together, these costs mean that as much as 15% of the energy in the average American home is used in the kitchen. To reduce energy use while cooking don't peak into the oven unless necessary.  Every time you peak and open the door the temperature drops at least 25 degrees and it takes that much longer for the dish to cook.  Pre-heating an electric oven is not necessary and the oven can be turned off 5-10 minutes before timed baking/cooking is finished.  Let the heat already built up finish off the dish.  Just keep the door closed.  Did you know that by cooking with glass or ceramic pots you can reduce the temperature by 25 degrees than the recipe calls for?  Check out more tips at Department of Energy's Cooking Tips.

When the power is off I kick in my emergency preparedness training and cook with the aid of blankets.  I have a butane powered one burner stove on which I boil water in a metal pot.  I add the correct amount of boiling water to grains or rice, take the pot off the stove and cover with a tight fitting lid.  Then the pot is wrapped in towels, blankets or polar fleece and left for an hour or so.  It is not a speedy method but in an emergency it saves unnecessary use of precious fuel.

Just a couple more tips:
Always wear socks, the wearing a Socks keep your body temperature up about 10° warmer than it would be without socks.
If you are comfortable in a tee shirt and shorts inside during the winter your heat is set too high.  Put on layers and lower the thermostat.
Don't turn up the heat use a shawl or lap blanket.  I love polar fleece throws and have them on the back of my living room chairs so everyone can have one.
Drink a warm beverage before going to bed.  I like a cup of herbal or green tea before bed.
Spice up your food. 
Take showers instead of baths.
Prune the bushes and trees around the house and let the sun in.  At night lower the blinds keeping in the heat and keeping the cold out.
Move the furniture away from cold walls and baseboard heaters.Dust is a wonderful insulator and tends to build up on radiators and baseboard heat vents. It keeps the heat from getting into the rooms where you need it... dust or vacuum all radiator surfaces frequently.

Get a Dachshund.  They love to snuggle under the covers in bed with you and are great loving bed warmers.  I wouldn't be without mine and he doesn't talk back.
An electric blanket is much less expensive than heating your bedroom.
Cover pots and pans when heating liquids.

Cooking utensils with flat bottoms and tight fitting covers save heat.
Be sure pots and pans are right size for range burners and elements.
Plan some meals so that entire meal can be prepared in oven at same time.
Thaw frozen meats to almost room temperature before cooking.
Dryer vents use a sheet metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint can clog the flapper causing it to stay open. This is like leaving a window open all year round!

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal! A dryer vent seal will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint, and moisture to escape.
Use a timer to set appliances to operate during the evening/night hours.

Hopefully more information has been provided in this sequel to my first posting on saving electricity. Frugal Electrical Tricks Helped!

Here are some more sites with good tips:


bctruck said...

great tips frugal gal. i have become a power scrooge around my house. it started as a curiosity thing for me. i was wondering how much electricity i could save just by making simple changes. then when i saw a remarkable differance in my bill, i became intently intertested in saving the juice and i read alot to see if there is more i can do. your tips have been great . if i can think of anything you havent included ,ill send it your way.i must be getting older because frugality is fun.(not that your old!) merry christmas. brad

Frugal Canner said...

Thanks Brad and it was your comment on my last article that inspired me to write a second entry with more ideas! Merry Christmas and Frugal New Year!

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