April 22, 2007

Earth Day: Conserving Energy at Home

An important fact to note about global warming is how this crisis challenges humanity in ways no other crisis has done before. It challenges us by forcing us to see how we individually and collectively are responsible for changing the very ecosystem of our planet. And it challenges us to do whatever we can to address the problem before it is too late. It's not enough to wait for someone else to start leading. It's not enough to say we won't do anything until someone else (*) steps up to solve the problem. This problem cannot really be solved without looking at how we act globally, locally and personally. It requires that we accept that we are all in this together and we must all do our part.

Because this problem works on all these levels, there are reasons to be optimistic. Because when we add individual actions together, amazing energy cost savings can be found.

Yesterday, I noted how California had used $1 billion to invest in conservation. Through the combined actions of the people, their communities, the factories and the state, California saved 5000 MW of energy which is the almost the same energy produced by 10 large power plants.

Just think about that. Simple actions resulted in enormous savings and those changes still contribute to decreased energy usage in California.

And we have so much more we can do.

Annual Electricity Use Per California Household
Source: California Energy Commission

This chart shows the energy footprint of the average California household. In the United States, we consume approximately 20% of our total energy use in our homes. That means there is a lot we can do individually to make a difference just by looking at what we do in our homes. Note that lighting is a significant portion of that use. California has been promoting energy conservation for a long time, so the energy footprint for other states might look different.

You can find excellent ideas about what you can do to conserve energy in your homes all over the web. (Check out this writeup about the eCube, a cool new gadget that attaches to the thermostat of refrigerators. It has shown savings of up to 35% of the energy used by refrigerators.)

Don't forget to see if you can get a rebate for buying new appliances, upgrading your windows, or installing new furnances.

But one area deserving more attention concerns the hidden energy vampires -- devices that eat away at the energy coming into our homes and our offices. Did you know that 6% to 26% of our household energy is being wasted as standby power? As this piece says, some standby power is necessary, but a lot of our energy is wasted by keeping our TVs and our computers and our printers running while we are not at home. Here's a chart that shows how different devices consume energy while on standby. The left side of the bar shows the lowest standby energy consuming devices available and and the right shows how much some other models consume. Some devices can use almost 25 w of energy every day. Ouch!

What this says is it is easy for us to reduce our energy waste simply by unplugging the energy vampires. And we can buy systems that are rated for low standby power usage. The EPA says that if Americans reduce standby power usage to 1 w per day per device, we would see a savings of more than 1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is the equivalent to taking 150,000 cars off the road.

So please, let's all do our part. Some of it can be done for essentially no pain at all.

* Karl Rove believes the United States should not do anything because the Chinese are not doing their part. That's called abdicating leadership.

Posted by Mary at April 22, 2007 10:15 PM | Environment | Technorati links |

Excellent suggestions all. In the same vein, you may want to check out the Sierra Club's new campaign, the 2% Solution, for reducing carbon emissions over the next 40 years. You can find more information here:


Thanks for the reminder that we must all do our part!

Posted by: NancyP at April 24, 2007 12:28 AM