Here, I will talk about three reasons why you may be using more electricity than you think and how to reduce this usage in order to live more sustainably and save yourself some money.
#1: Leaving devices and appliances plugged in even when they are not being used
It may surprise you that many consumer electronics such as computers and printers continue to draw power even when they are switched off. This excess electricity is called vampire load or standby power and adds up to $200 yearly in energy costs for an average home. While the environmental and economic tolls of a single household’s vampire load may seem insignificant, the combined vampire loads of many, many homes is certainly cause for concern. It is estimated that in the United States alone, vampire load costs Americans roughly $3 billion a year and makes up about 5% of all energy consumption, about the amount of electricity consumed by the entire country of Italy in a year. Luckily, I have a few solutions to help you mitigate this vampire power problem.
Solutions: The easiest solution is to simply unplug devices like your phone and laptop when they are fully charged and not being used. For other appliances like printers, TVs, and radios that you might not want to constantly unplug and plug back in, advanced power strips are a great option. Advanced power strips look just like normal power strips except that they have special features to reduce the amount of energy used by the appliances plugged into them. There are five main types of advanced power strips. Timer power strips automatically shut power off to outlets based on a pre-set time schedule, activity monitor power strips only turn on outlets if activity is detected nearby, remote switch power strips can be activated and deactivated using a remote switch, master-controlled power strips automatically shut off controlled outlets when a plugged in primary device (like a laptop) is powered off, and masterless power strips turn off power to outlets completely when all controlled devices are turned off.
#2: Old, outdated appliances
Older appliances, especially larger ones like refrigerators and dryers, usually have much higher vampire loads; this is largely because there were no regulations and limits on vampire loads until the creation of the One Watt Initiative in 2010. Additionally, newer appliance models are usually just more energy efficient in order to attract buyers who want to save money. For example, new washing machines with the energy star label use roughly 25% less energy and 70- 75% less water than those made 20 years ago. Think of how much water, energy, and money someone would save in a year simply by upgrading to this newer washing machine!
Solutions: Upgrading your appliances may seem financially daunting, but luckily most companies will allow you to break up the cost and pay off an appliance over several months. Additionally, the cost of upgrading to a more energy efficient appliance is likely to pay off in just a few short years from the savings on your electric bills. Interested in buying a new appliance? Click here to see Energy Star’s 2020 list of most energy efficient and environmentally friendly appliances.
#3: Bad Insulation
Fluctuating room temperatures, cold floors, walls, and ceilings, chilly drafts, frozen pipes, mice and bug infestations, attic water leaks, and ice dams on your room (when heat from your poorly insulated home rises and escapes through your roof causing the bottom layer of snow on it to melt off and then freeze again into large chunks of ice and icicles as it drips of your roof and down towards your gutters) are all signs of a poorly insulated home. On average, in a poorly insulated home, about 85% of heat is lost through walls, the attic and roof, and windows. All this escaping air can have a massive impact on your energy bills as it requires you to run your AC in the summer and your heating in the winter far more than should be necessary to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
Solutions: Determining how and where in your home most of your heat is being lost is the first step in solving your insulation problem. Because hot air rises while cooler air sinks, a poorly insulated attic/roof is often a major culprit for poor insulation. Therefore, re-insulating your attic/roof with eco friendly materials such as blown-in cellulose insulation, cotton, polyisocyanurate, or homasote may be the key in solving your insulation problem. Re-insulating walls and replacing old windows and doors can also greatly reduce the amount of air escaping your home. While solving your insulation problem may sound like a daunting and pricey project, it is sure to pay off with the reduction in your electric bills and increased comfort in your home.
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