Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The thieves in my house (and yours)

Everyday little thieves are stealing from my wallet. They do it right under my nose. Not only that they are also responsible for much environmental destruction. I am their enabler. I invite them into my home and I give them free reign to steal and destroy. But I can't imagine life without them. In fact I feel fortunate to have them at all. No, I'm not speaking of my children though looking back through this paragraph they probably fit this description as well.

The culprits are those things that are constantly plugged-in, like this laptop I'm using right now, my cell phone charger, our family PC, the TV, and even my Sleep Number bed. I've been paying more attention to this since my Xcel bill has been soaring even with our unusually warm weather. But plugging and unplugging all of these devices is driving my family crazy. So I'm happy to see that someone is thinking up solutions.

I recently read Nora Dunn's post on Wise Bread about Green Switch. The Green Switch device is installed in one of your regular outlets. It sends a wireless signal to other outlets in your home to turn off when the Green Switch is activated.

If you visit the Green Switch website there is a questionnaire that you can fill out to estimate your costs and savings. Since this also involves contact from a sales rep, I haven't made that move yet. (I'm always a hesitating chicken.) But I am keeping this in my radar. I plan to go through the analysis and will update you when I do. Meanwhile, I'm on the lookout to see what similar devices are out there. I know I could just install a bunch of surge protectors, but I'd never remember to go around turning them off and on.

Don't think your unused, but plugged in, electronics make that big of a difference? Consider this chart. And kudos to Nora Dunn for providing these startling facts:

  • 8-10% of your home’s electricity consumption is due to appliances left in standby mode.
  • A mobile phone charger uses 2 watts while charging a phone, 2 watts even when the phone is fully charged, and STILL 1.5 watts when the charger is plugged in without the phone.
  • Home entertainment systems (TV, DVD, audio systems) are the worst culprits, sucking over 28 watts even when all the components are turned off or are in standby mode.
  • Your stereo will use 23 watts while playing music, and 20 watts while left on but not playing music.
  • On a grander scale, the Energy Saving Trust claims that appliances on standby produce 50 million tones of CO2 annually.
  • Energy Saving Trust (a UK based organization) also claims that if one mobile charger per household is left plugged in, enough energy is generated (wasted, really) to provide power to 66,000 households for one year. Yikes.
So in the meantime I'm still driving my family crazy by:
  • Unplugging the coffee pot, toaster, TVs and more
  • Policing a techo-curfew

Our techno-curfew involves turning off all lights, TVs, computers, cell phones at 10:00 on weekdays and 11:00 on weekends. This might cut down our bill and carbon emissions a little, but it should also help us be more well rested and less stressed. At least that's my hope.

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