Monday, February 23, 2009

Going Green: Turn Off the Lights…

…and Unplug Your Appliances and Electronics!

I can still hear my mom telling nagging me to turn off the lights in the room I had just left. It is a concept I never truly appreciated until I became a homeowner myself and started receiving my own electric bill. Wow, electricity is expensive! So my going green tips for today not only conserve energy, but money too! On average, lighting makes up 11% of our energy bills. So wouldn’t it be nice to cut that down all while helping the planet?

For starters, make the most out of natural lighting. Open blinds and curtains and sit near a window to read. We try to leave the lights off as much as possible during the day, except on gloomy overcast days when it is needed a little more. Sometimes the boys will insist on turning on the dining room lights for lunchtime, but William knows to turn them off as soon as we are done in there. On dark days or at night, only turn on lights that you are using. And don’t overdue it. Do you really need 3 lights on in the living room? Would just one be enough? When you leave a room, even if you may be back in 10 minutes, turn the lights off.

You can also make the switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They cost a little more, but they use 75% less energy then standard incandescent blubs and last longer. We made the decision to NOT switch light bulbs right now since CFLs are made with mercury, but that is just our choice. If you decide to swap out your bulbs, The Daily Green has a good post about how to Stay Safe from Mercury in CFLs.

Now let’s move onto appliances and electronics. No I don’t mean your fridge, silly. I mean small appliances like toaster ovens and coffee makers and electronics likes televisions, radios and computers. These things are called “phantom loads” – which is an appliance or electronic that uses energy even when turned off. 40% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while they are turned off and this will add about $200 to your annual energy bill. Yikes! So turning them off is simply not enough; they need to be unplugged.

We have found that the simplest way to do this for electronics is by using power strips. In our home office, we have a power strip under the computer. Into this strip we have plugged in the monitor, printer, speakers, modem and the PC. When not in use, the power strip is turned off so absolutely no energy is going to them. We have a similar setup in the family room for the TV, DVD player and speakers. When we are not watching TV or listening to music, the strip gets turned of. Although to be totally honest with you, I forget this one a lot. Mainly because I have to reach behind the TV to do it.

In the kitchen, it’s fairly easy to save by unplugging things like toasters, counter-top microwaves, coffee makers, etc. Does your toaster oven need to be plugged in when you’re not cooking something? Nope. Now I use my toaster oven a lot, mainly at breakfast and lunch. But I still unplug it between uses. So on any given morning I can be seen plugging and unplugging the darn thing a good half a dozen times. How about the coffee maker? This can be tricky as some people set their coffee makers to automatically brew in the morning. In that case, obviously you are going to keep it in. But if you don’t use your auto timer or just drink an occasional cup, unplug it. Neither my husband nor I drink coffee, so ours was just serving as clock and a dust collector on our kitchen counter. Until one day I realized I already had 3 other clocks in there and I really needed the counter space. So not only did I unplug it, I put it away.

So take a look around your house and start making mental notes of where you can make changes. Is every light in your home on? Start making an effort to change this habit, even if it means leaving notes next to lamps and switches. Then see where you can add power strips and determine which kitchen appliances you can unplug.

1 comment:

  1. We unplug all unused appliances in the house. I am making the switch to CFLs. TECO gave me some free ones. As soon as I use my last lightbulb, I am going to start buying CFLs to replace my other bulbs. And we have the TV on a powercord and we shut it off each night. Dhs laptop is ALWAYS on though. Drain drain drain on electricity.


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