Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kilowatt Killing

Always looking for a new way to save energy… but often feel like I have ‘picked all the low hanging fruit’. Enter the Kill-a-Watt meter, which I was able to check out for free from my local library. It’s a small device that you plug your appliances into that gives you a read out of how many watts of power they draw… on or off. That’s the key here, there are so many appliances that are energy “vampires”, sucking power even when they’re turned off. I’ve got a few power strips for my television and cable and my desk, so that I can hit the kill switch when I’m done for the day, but for items plugged directly into the wall socket, I wanted to find out exactly what was up.

Reading Lamp with a 60 watt incandescent bulb: 57 watts,
With a compact fluorescent bulb (comparable luminance to 40 watt bulb): 9 watts
With a LED bulb (comparable luminance to 40 watt bulb): 6 watts
Verdict: it’s easy to see that the CFL and the LED bulbs are HUGE power savers. This was my first foray into the LED bulb and they are expensive (I got a deal for a $12 bulb, but the 60 watt equivalent would have been $40), but the power savings is considerable. The enclosed CFL I originally bought was too noisy but will switch some lamps to the coil versions. I now know that 40 watt equivalent is just not bright enough for my needs. Lesson learned.

Christmas Lights: regular incandescent 38 watts, LED version 3 watts.
Verdict: another considerable savings. I plug these in for a good 6-8 hours a day (I like the way the light it makes my house look!) The LED version aren’t cheap compared to the old fashioned kind (for a strand of 100: $25 versus $3!!) but again the energy savings will add up.

Refrigerator: as it sits idle: 0 watts, when running 400 watts.
Verdict: Can’t do much about that, living in a colder climate, it kicks off less frequently. But my next fridge will definitely be a more compact version and a higher Energy Star rating.

Computer on: 30 watts
and Printer: on but idle or off: 3 watts, printing: 15 watts
Verdict: No brainer here, unplug them both when not using!

Television: off 6 watts, on 150 watts.
Verdict: Another easy way to save, just unplug that TV when it’s not in use!

Dehumidifier: a necessity living in a damp climate with a finished basement…off: 1 watt, running: 390 watts.
Verdict: I’m most likely just going to keep this one plugged in all the time, since the unit has a humidity sensor telling it when it needs to run.

Electric Space Heater: Here’s the doozy: off: 0 watts, Running on low power: 860 watts, on high power: 1500+!
Verdict: easy to see here that electric isn’t the most efficient way to heat. I’m only using this one sporadically for little quick blasts of heating.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What are you fighting for?

Today's a quick reminder...If you're looking for a few reasons why the Occupy Wall Street protesters continue to fight, (and why they may seem to have too many agendas) take a look at this list:

The US vs the 14 European Union countries, the US is in the top third for: GDP, average home size, health care spending, defense spending, lowest taxes, car ownership.

But we’re the WORST (as in dead last) in all of the following categories: child poverty, poverty rate, infant mortality, obesity, murder rate, incarceration rate, traffic fatalities per capita, ecological footprint, water usage per capita, CO2 emissions, voting rate, paid family leave/sick leave, vacation days per year.

(From page 205 of David Wann's fantastic The New Normal: An Agenda for Responsible Living, 2010...and I'm not just saying that because he was one of the people who helped me out of the ravine when I was hit by the tree. :) )

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Doc Review: Carbon Nation (2010)

I internalize my anguish over global warming more so than the average American…who am I kidding, if the average American was in anguish about global warming, we would have a lot more regulations in place… It’s hard to stay positive when there are just so many ecological failures lately. Frankly, some days all you want to do is curl up with a White Russian and watch episodes of “Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. So, It took me a full 3 weeks to finally watch the documentary Carbon Nation. I couldn’t psych myself up for yet another documentary that rehashes the same old doomsday prophesies and statistics that make you want to throw yourself off the non-solar-panel covered roof.

Fortunately, Carbon Nation paints a much more positive look at how we can combat the climate crisis. Yes, we’re still in dire straits, but even if you don’t believe in climate change, it presents solutions that just make good economical sense. (“So if you don’t give a damn about the environment, do it because you’re a greedy bastard and you just want cheap power.”—THE BIOCHEMICAL ENGINEER)

So if you’re still thinking there’s no hope and why bother, this documentary offers positive stories from dozens of positive voices who truly believe we can fix this problem. (My favorite of all the “characters” interviewed has to be Michael Dunham, the ex-rock n roll concert promoter who after a near death experience began a company that recycles old and inefficient refrigerators (JACO Environmental)…ironically, his father helped create the technology that helps keeps modern refrigerators cold! It also presents my 2 new favorite eco-enterprises: creating biodiesel from algae and using mycorrhizal fungi for carbon sequestration.