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Electronics make up a significant portion of your household energy costs. Computers, printers, and WiFi routers alone account for around 25% of your electricity bill. While electronics are becoming more efficient, their increased use offsets the gains.
At the same time energy prices are rising. There are a number of energy saving tips you can do to control your energy bill and none of them cost you any money. Once you understand how electricity gets wasted and where you can step in, you can cut your bill and save money.
Turn It Off When You Don’t Use It
Devices consume electricity for as long as they are turned on. Hence, turning them off will save energy. So far so obvious. But here’s the catch: many devices continue to suck energy even when you think they are turned off! Up to 75% of electronics’ total electricity use is due to so-called phantom or vampire loads.
Almost all home electronics and kitchen appliances are guilty of using electricity when turned off. Some of the biggest offenders are chargers that continuously draw power, even while not in use. A good sign that your charger is wasting your money is if it is warm, although it is not charging anything. Even worse are devices that go into Standby, rather than turning off. There is a simple trick to completely turn off these devices and cut out phantom loads: unplug them.
Most households have over a dozen electronic devices. Unplugging all of them separately can be a bit tedious. However, if you have a power strip, you can group devices that you want to turn off collectively, for example your PC, monitor, and printer. Then simply switch off or unplug the entire strip after you have shut down the computer and kiss vampire loads goodbye. You can do the same with your TV setup and kitchen appliances and plug electronics you need to be always on, such as the fridge or your WiFi router, into a separate power outlet. Switching off power strips will cost you a few seconds each day and, depending on your current bill, can save you hundreds of Dollars a year. To me that’s worth it.
Customize Windows Power Options
Every Windows computer comes with power options. You can customize the power plan to change the time after which the display is dimmed, turned off, or when the computer goes to sleep. You can even control the default display brightness. There is great potential for saving energy in these settings. Remember that a computer running in low-power mode not only uses less energy, it also runs cooler and will thus last longer. For more details, refer to the following article: Windows 7 Power Options And Sleep Modes Explained
And when you know you will be out of the house for a while, shut down your computer or at least hibernate it.
Note that screen savers do not reduce your monitor’s energy use! Moreover, it is generally not true that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. This may theoretically be true for single components like the hard drive, but in reality other factors like heat and actual use cause a lot more damage than turning devices on and off. Besides, you will probably want to buy a new device before your old one breaks naturally. This brings us to…
What You Need to Know When Buying Electronics
Buying new and energy efficient devices can save a lot of energy and significantly cut your electricity bill. However, replacing a perfectly functional device just because it uses a little more electricity is neither a good economic nor a good ecologic decision. First, the bulk of the ecological cost of an electronic device arises during its production and recycling, i.e. all the material and energy resources needed to produce, transport, and physically or chemically break it up into usable components during the recycling process. Second, you have to spend a big amount money before you start saving small amounts or energy and money. So please think twice before you go ahead and buy something new.
When you do buy a new electronic device, look for energy labels, like the ENERGY STAR for office equipment or the EU Energy Label for household appliances. ENERGY STAR labelled products for example use around half the electricity of standard equipment. Moreover, these devices must offer a low-power mode in which they use 15 Watts or less. Get informed about equivalent labels in your area. A little more money paid for an energy saving device can save you many times the investment in the long run.
When you buy a new computer, consider buying a laptop. Laptop battery life is a significant factor for consumers and thus manufacturers have optimized the energy use of hardware components. Consequently, laptops are much more energy efficient than desktop PCs and use considerably less electricity.
Likewise, ink-jet printers consume up to 90% less energy than laser printers and TFTs require only 25% of the energy an old CRT monitor needs.
Whatever computer you buy, don’t buy a stronger hardware than you really need. High resolution screens draw high amounts of energy, as do strong processors and graphics cards.
Finally, watch out for 80 PLUS certified power supplies and manufacturers.
Find Out How Much You Can Save
But you don’t have to rely on a label alone, you can also compare yourself. Check the wattage of devices on their data sheets and compare several models. For example you could compare your current TV with various models you are interested in. The website energy.gov has a list of typical wattage of household appliances and explains how you can calculate the yearly energy use and cost yourself.
You can save a significant amount of money every year by turning off devices that are not in use and preventing phantom loads. Additional energy can be saved by adjusting your computer’s power options and turning it off wisely. Finally, when buying new devices, a bit of research and upfront investments in energy efficient devices can save a lot of electricity and money in the long run.
Do you know how much electricity your household uses and what your potential for saving is?
Share and discuss your own energy saving tips and numbers in the comments and maybe I will reveal my numbers, too.