Monday, February 02, 2009

Saving Energy Can Be Tough

With energy costs rising, global warming issues finally getting some attention and a realization that we must conserve our world’s resources, there has been a renewed effort to conserve our electricity consumption. Much has already been written about installing more efficient lighting and turning it off when not needed. Seeking out the most efficient appliances such as hot water heaters, refrigerators and dishwashers has become common place for many conservation conscious consumers. Over and above the obvious culprits of energy waste are hidden offenders of these new 21st century mores.

Called “vampire devices” these ubiquitous electronic devices individually consume only very small amounts of electricity. Because of their shear numbers and because they are usually turned on 24/7, they account for significant energy use. Just as their name sake might indicate, curtailing this drain on our energy resources might require more than a wooden stake through the heart.

Look around your house. They are everywhere. The digital clocks on the microwave, on the stove, on the VHS machine, on the cable box, etc., etc., are good examples. Since in most homes, none of these clocks agree, do we need them all? Many of us use cordless phones that, when they are in the cradle, are consuming small amounts of electricity. Even when the phone is not in the cradle, the cradle itself is using a few watts of power.
Almost all modern home entertainment devices from TVs to DVD players, from game consoles to simple radios are always “ON” even when they are turned “OFF.” Don’t believe me? Just touch the little transformer plugged into the wall that powers one of your small devices when the device is turned off. It is warm. Warm means “ON.”

Of course the problem is that in most cases you can’t turn these devices off. Sure, you can unplug the microwave when not in use. Some of the more muscular among us might pull the stove away from the wall and unplug it when not in use. Of course these solutions are ridiculous. Even the home entertainment devices are not easily disconnected. Many TV’s must have power to maintain the internal memory. After a power failure, how long does it take for you to reset all the channels and settings?

For sure there are some things you can do. For example, there is no reason to leave the cell phone charger plugged in when not in use. Unfortunately, what you can reasonably do is very little. The designers and manufactures need to do things differently. Some designs could use memory chips that don’t require constant power. The placement of a convenient on/off switch to make using the clock on the microwave or stove optional is another simple thing.

In the meantime, we all need to keep an eye out for the little savings. The little savings can add up to big saving quickly. Perhaps this is more of a wooden toothpick than a wooden stake. It is a beginning.

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