Ideas to Cut Your Carbon Footprint… and Your Electricity Bill.

The discussion about climate change is heating up (no pun intended) and many of us are wondering how this will affect our lives…and what can be done to slow carbon production.

I believe in tackling any problem by taking small steps, so a few days back I decided to look at the situation in our home, specifically electricity consumption. Where do we spend electricity and where can we reduce our usage?

I had already purchased a cheap measuring device that I can insert between any unit and the wall socket. Within seconds, it shows the Watt usage of the unit; very helpful to quickly check how much electricity is used by, for instance, the TV.

Some background: in our home, we use about 2600KWh per year(this is listed on the electricity bill), which translates to about 790€; so we are already quite energy efficient. One of the main reasons is that we only buy devices that are highly energy efficient. But I still found some room to improve.

First I checked laptops, television, PCs, and our Roomba vacuuming robots. All of these are connected to the power with a cable, and in the middle of that cable is a heavy black box: the adaptor or condensator (let’s ignore its function for the moment). When these devices are in standby mode, or even switched off, each of these adaptors still consumes anywhere between 15 (TV) and 40W (laptop). When these devices are in actual use, add 20W. This means that per hour they consume 40Wh, or 0.04kWh. This translates to about 50 to 130 KWh per year per device, which is 2-5% of our total energy consumption. Just for standby. With two laptops, one TV and two Roombas in our home, we could save about 10-15% of per year. Conclusion: if you go to lunch, or at the end of the working day, disconnect the plug of these devices from the socket.

Our refrigerator is always (24/7) running, and as a result, consumes a record 750 kWh per year – a shocking 28% of our total electricity consumption. Throw out the old model, and get a new, certified energy-saver. I did so a few years back, and the new refrigerator amortized itself within a few years. Don’t sell your old model, as somebody else may continue using it for 20 years, happily pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Instead, make sure the components are recycled.

Our internet router, Wi-Fi, and telephone use about 50 KWh (2% of total usage). This is not too dramatic, but unplugging these devices, e.g. if you are gone for a few days, helps reduce power usage. An added benefit: criminals cannot hack a WiFi that is turned off.

In and around our home we have about 30 lightbulbs. All of these are energy-saving LEDs. A quick calculation showed that this consumes about 175 kWh per year (7%). Consistently turning off the lights when leaving a room helps reduce this further.

Washing machine: we have just bought a new energy-saving unit, which uses about 1 kWh per cycle. With 200 laundry cycles, this amounts to 200 kWh per year (8% of total usage). The machine automatically uses less energy and water when the amount of laundry is reduced, but still, a full load is most efficient.

If I add all of this together, I arrive at 60-70% of our electricity consumption, so there must be some additional devices that are using the remaining power. My workshop is one, as is the pump for our pond, and the electricity needed to run our gas boiler. Especially those devices that are always on idle or standby are energy sinks.

Still, through some simple steps, we will now save an additional 10-15% electricity. This may not sound like much, but just imagine that everybody in your country would follow these easy steps… the result would be dramatic.

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