Part 3/10: Saving the Planet by Using Less Energy

This is Part 3 of a 10 part series of blogs in support of the 10:10 campaign  initiated by Director, Franny Armstrong’s team to complement the documentary on global warming, “The Age of Stupid” . It is to enable each one of us to take action to reduce our carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.  Download the 10 point family checklist from the campaign here. Though the campaign is targetted at the UK, the concept applies everywhere.


To put things in perspective, Heating and cooling take up most of a household’s electricity usage, according to this pie chart by Energy Star, USA.

energy pie chart

Please refer to  earlier blogposts, “Saving the Planet by Heating Less” and “Saving the Planet by Cooling Less“  for specific ideas on these topics.

There a number of other ways to reduce electricity consumption and we’re probably aware of most of them. The key issue is whether we’re consistently doing them, in a way that translates into lower electricity usage, and consequently lower carbon emissions.  

1.   Switch off and unplug electronic devices like TVs, DVD players, music systems and other electrical and electronic appliances when they are not in use.  Also unplug cell phone chargers and battery chargers once the charging is done. 

75% of an appliance’s energy use can be wasted simply powering its digital display on standby mode. Appliances on standby power are energy “vampires” and can consume up to 10% of the household’s power usage.


2.      Buy equipment which use very little energy on automatic sleep or standby mode in case we do have to leave them occasionally on standby. Check with the retailer the specifications of the equipment when buying a new appliance.


3.     Get a wattage reader device or a smart meter which shows how much energy each appliance at home is using up, whether the appliance is plugged in and operating or in standby mode. To learn more about smart meters,  refer to this site http://www.energy-retail.org.uk/smartmeters.html



4. Consider buying or upgrading your appliances to the more energy efficient “Energy Star” rated appliances.   In Singapore, the relevant rating is given by the Energy Label.  Energy efficiency is a passive way to save electricity as we automatically make energy savings from Day One, and save money over the medium to long run. As the saying goes, “Energy saved is energy produced.”


5. Replace conventional light bulbs with energy saving light bulbs such as Compact Flourescent Lamps (CFL) as CFL bulbs use about 1/4th of the energy of a conventional light bulb and can last for 10,000 hours. A CFL bulb pays for itself after about 400 hours. They do contain a small quantity of mercury and should be disposed of carefully.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs are more expensive, but they have the advantage of not containing mercury. LED bulbs use 80-90% less energy than conventional bulbs and can last for about 100,000 hours. Here is an analysis of the different types of lighting.


6.  Use light dimmers on indoor lights, as dimming saves up to half the electricity used and also extends the life of the bulb. Use of halogen lamps can create the same effect of softening lights – creating an ambience, as well as saving energy in the process.


7.  Use natural light as much as possible and keep curtains open during the day. Position reading areas and work desks near the windows and bookshelves and cupboards in areas of the room where less light is needed.


8. Put your computer on sleep mode. Screen savers are not enough, as they consume as much energy as when the machine is on. These days computers are designed to handle 20,000 on-off cycles before the hard drives wear out, so switching off is a good idea when computers are not in use for extended periods of time.


9. Printers/Copiers are energy guzzlers and use a lot of energy when idle. Try to finish your printing /copying jobs at one go. Turn off the printer if you won’t be using it for more than 15 minutes.


10. Heating the water in the washing machine takes up the bulk of the electricity – up to 90%. It is not necessary to heat the water. Wash with a cold water setting or if necessary with a warm water setting instead of hot, to wash your clothes. The rinse cycle can always be in cold water.  Wash with a full load as far as possible, as this is more energy efficient than washing two small loads.


11. If you could choose between a top loading machine and a front loading machine, choose the former, even though they may be slightly more expensive. Top loading machines are more efficient because their larger capacity translates into fewer loads. Top loading machines have faster spin cycles and use of less water to heat, translating into less energy used to dry the load.


12. Bake less, Cook more.   Baking is actually a lot more energy intensive than cooking over the fire. In an electric oven, a lot of the heat is wasted in heating the steel and the air, before the food is cooked. Only about 5-10% of the total heat produced by the oven, is actually absorbed by the food. Try to cook meals that can use the fire directly.


13. Replace with an energy-efficient refrigerator if possible one with Greenfreeze technology. See http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/green-solutions/greenfreeze  According to Greenpeace, ‘GreenFreeze is Greenpeace’s campaign to transform the refrigeration and cooling industries by eliminating the use of F-gases, the chemicals used to cool refrigerators, homes, cars, and food in stores and vending machines. F-gases were directly responsible for 17% of man-made climate change in 2005. F-gases are a group of industrial greenhouse gases that include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The “F” in F-gas is for Fluorine, the element common to them all. ”


14. Keeping refrigerators too cold uses unnecessary electricity. If every fridge owner turned up the refrigerator up 1 degree F, it could prevent millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. So reset the temperature of your refrigerator from 37 to 40 degrees F and adjust according to whether it’s the cold or hot season. This temperature range is normally sufficient to preserve foods.


15. Clean the condenser coils at the bottom or back of the refrigerator, once every few months. The coil removes heat from the inside and can’t function well if it is dusty and dirty. A clean coil means more energy efficiency.


16. Depending on where you live, buy green electricity – electricity that is produced from sources that do not emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like coal-fired power plants or natural gas. Such sources can be solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, ground source, wave power, tidal power, biomass or landfill gas. In the UK, refer to http://www.greenelectricity.org/ or for the rest of the world http://www.greenelectricity.org/international.html


17. Get an energy audit done by your utility company or an independent consultant. You’d  know which areas of your home account for maximum energy usage, and where the leakage areas are. Get an idea of what a typical energy audit entails in this video. It’s more relevant for temperate countries, so you’ll have to apply what is in context for warmer climes.


Reducing electricity usage is not too difficult a task if we take action on some or all of the above on a consistent basis. You get to save money and save the planet in the process.


These are some of the ideas from the new free ebook that will be made available on this website, “A Quicklist of 1001 Steps to Save the Planet”


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Posted by on Sep 29 2009. Filed under Carbon Footprint, Climate Change, Energy/Renewables. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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