Wednesday, March 10, 2010

operate at maximum efficiency

Understanding alt energy options can be pretty overwhelming unless you are an electrical engineer. Even then there are many factors that must be taken into account, such as location, type of building, size of system, cost, etc. A good place to start is to examine your own current usage and consider if there are ways to use less.

Most of us can cut our electrical, gas, and other energy usage immediately with minimal changes in habits or lifestyles. For the average household this means tracking down all the appliances and power strips that remain on unnecessarily. You may not realize that all those power strips, wall warts (oversized plugs), and anything with small lights that stay lit use that much energy, but cumulatively they can use $80-$100 per year.

The next step is to find the biggest energy drains in the house. This is typically anything that uses heating elements, i.e. electric stoves, electric hot water heaters, toasters, and especially clothes dryers. Other big draws are things that stay on constantly, like refrigerators and heaters. This is where finding solutions becomes trickier and requires a bit more creativity.

Here are a few ideas:
1) Electric hot water heaters can be turned to a lower temperature and/or put on a timer.
2) Electric kettles, preferably insulated, are more efficient than heating water on an electric stove.
3) A freezer can be converted into a fridge that uses one tenth the energy of most fridges.
4) During cold months, only heat the areas in use.
5) Hang clothes up to dry...inside the house or out.

A Kill-A-Watt meter allows you to plug any appliance in and monitor both the usage and the cost over any amount of time. These start at about $20 - an investment that pays off most when used and passed on to a friend.

A few reasons you might want to try these things:
1) To save money.
2) To reduce your carbon footprint. (on average,  51% of US electricity comes from coal)
3) To obtain useful knowledge that can be applied directly to solar/wind/turbine, other alt power systems.

The less energy required, the smaller, cheaper and more manageable an off grid system will be.

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