The Home Unplugged

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The Home Unplugged

Sometimes “no” really does mean “maybe.” And sometimes “off” means “waiting.” When electrical devices in my home are not being used, they get unplugged. I do this because I know a turned-off television that is still plugged in secretly draws voltage. The ability to use a remote control is by itself evidence that the tv is still awake, drawing power, listening for that click.

Unplugging things, turning lights off immediately, keeping the fridge at the proper temperature are all techniques I use to avoid wasting electricity. When I decide to light up a room like a Christmas tree, I am happy to use 300-watt bulbs. What I’m talking about is the energy we consume but don’t even notice.

A little experiment

Want to see how much power each of your electrical devices is using? Try this experiment. If you have kids, enlist their aid and educate them about electrical use, too.

Turn on your TV, stereo, computer, lights and other electricity consuming items in your home. Then, while all are still turned on, go find your electricity meter. You know what it looks like: It’s enclosed in a glass bell. It contains a spinning aluminum disk. While you’re performing this experiment, it’s likely that the disk will be spinning like a top.

Next, go turn off everything you normally turn off if you were, say, going to work. This represents the “off” state of all your appliances. To your surprise, you will see that the electricity meter has indeed slowed but not stopped.

Your quest is to stop that meter from spinning.

As you continue to unplug other energy consumers, your spinning electrical meter should begin to slow down. Just for fun, turn off the fridge and see what that does to it. (Remember to turn it back on!) Go around the house, feeling for anything that is above room temperature. Unplug the microwave, the toaster, stereos, humidifiers, etc.

At least you will become aware of what various appliances consume, and can choose which are more important to your comfort level, where your desire for consuming less electricity meets your annoyance at having to turn things on and plug stuff in.

General guidelines

• refrigerator—The older this appliance, the greater juice hog it represents. Feel the outside of your fridge. If it feels colder than a room-temperature stove, that’s money you’re feeling. If your fridge is more than 10 years old and you can afford it, buy a new Energy Star-rated unit. Otherwise, make sure the coils are kept clean, and that the thermostat is properly set and functioning.

• television—Is your boob tube warm in back when you wake up in the morning? That’s because it’s exercising its instant-on function. Unplug that money toilet, or plug it into a computer-type powerstrip which you shut off instead of the tv.

• wall-chargers—Warm even when it isn’t charging anything, right? Unplug it—or, again, use a powerstrip. That has the dual benefit of preventing volts from leaking out and protecting your family from a short-circuit fire.

• computer—If you’re not using it, turn it off and unplug the monitor. Again, use a powerstrip. If you use your computer every day, unplugging it and rebooting is actually a bad idea. But you can still power off or unplug the monitor, which does not involve the rigamarole and risk of a computer boot-up.

Sometimes “no” really does mean “maybe.” And sometimes “off” means “waiting.” When electrical devices in my home are not being used, they get unplugged. I do this because I know a turned-off television that is still plugged in secretly draws voltage. The ability to use a remote control is by itself evidence that the tv is still awake, drawing power, listening for that click.

Unplugging things, turning lights off immediately, keeping the fridge at the proper temperature are all techniques I use to avoid wasting electricity. When I decide to light up a room like a Christmas tree, I am happy to use 300-watt bulbs. What I’m talking about is the energy we consume but don’t even notice.

A little experiment

Want to see how much power each of your electrical devices is using? Try this experiment. If you have kids, enlist their aid and educate them about electrical use, too.

Turn on your TV, stereo, computer, lights and other electricity consuming items in your home. Then, while all are still turned on, go find your electricity meter. You know what it looks like: It’s enclosed in a glass bell. It contains a spinning aluminum disk. While you’re performing this experiment, it’s likely that the disk will be spinning like a top.

Next, go turn off everything you normally turn off if you were, say, going to work. This represents the “off” state of all your appliances. To your surprise, you will see that the electricity meter has indeed slowed but not stopped.

Your quest is to stop that meter from spinning.

As you continue to unplug other energy consumers, your spinning electrical meter should begin to slow down. Just for fun, turn off the fridge and see what that does to it. (Remember to turn it back on!) Go around the house, feeling for anything that is above room temperature. Unplug the microwave, the toaster, stereos, humidifiers, etc.

At least you will become aware of what various appliances consume, and can choose which are more important to your comfort level, where your desire for consuming less electricity meets your annoyance at having to turn things on and plug stuff in.

General guidelines

• refrigerator—The older this appliance, the greater juice hog it represents. Feel the outside of your fridge. If it feels colder than a room-temperature stove, that’s money you’re feeling. If your fridge is more than 10 years old and you can afford it, buy a new Energy Star-rated unit. Otherwise, make sure the coils are kept clean, and that the thermostat is properly set and functioning.

• television—Is your boob tube warm in back when you wake up in the morning? That’s because it’s exercising its instant-on function. Unplug that money toilet, or plug it into a computer-type powerstrip which you shut off instead of the tv.

• wall-chargers—Warm even when it isn’t charging anything, right? Unplug it—or, again, use a powerstrip. That has the dual benefit of preventing volts from leaking out and protecting your family from a short-circuit fire.

• computer—If you’re not using it, turn it off and unplug the monitor. Again, use a powerstrip. If you use your computer every day, unplugging it and rebooting is actually a bad idea. But you can still power off or unplug the monitor, which does not involve the rigamarole and risk of a computer boot-up.

 
 
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