Three Easy Ways to Save Electricity at Home

Published: 25th October 2010
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Too many people think they can't save electricity without making dramatic changes to their homes or choosing to live in the dark. Nothing could be farther from the truth. With just three simple changes, any home can begin to save electricity immediately.

1. Use low energy light bulbs.

Currently CFLs or compact fluorescent bulbs are the best choice for efficient lighting. They consume 75% less electricity than their incandescent counterparts while burning ten times longer. Expect to save roughly $30 in electrical costs over the life of each CFL. These bulbs have the added advantage of generating about two-thirds less heat, so they assist in home climate control as well as provide illumination. At approximately $1.57 per bulb, CFLs are a good value in every sense of the word.

In coming months, consider changing some of your task or down lighting to the newly emerging LED (light emitting diode) products. LEDs are a form of solid state lighting with an operational life of up to 5 years. They generate almost no heat (3.4 btu compared to an incandescent bulb's 85) and use between 2 and 10 watts of electricity per hour. Current products range in price from $40 to $100, but expect to see that drop as better, more useful LED bulbs appear on the market.

2. Get over the 15 Minute Rule Myth.

This is the myth that says it's cheaper to leave a light burning if you're going to come back to a room within 15 minutes because the power surge from turning the light on repeatedly runs up the energy cost and shortens the life of the bulb. It's simply not true. In season four of the popular television series "Mythbusters," the team concluded that the so-called power "surge" uses electricity equal to a fraction of a second and that there is no life-shortening wear and tear on the bulb. The bottom line? It's always cheaper to turn the light off.

Additionally, use daylighting as much as is practical. Pull back the drapes and open the shutters. Keep windows and skylights clean and use the illumination from those sources during the day rather than turning on a lamp. In most instances, turning on a light is more an automatic reflex than a necessity. Consider minor changes in arrangement to maximize daylighting potential. For instance, can you move the desk in your home office to take better advantage of the light from the window?

3. Kill off the vampires.

All the little gadget cables and chargers that juice up our cell phones and laptops continue to suck electricity if they're left plugged in once the device is removed. The same is true of audio and video equipment that stay on "stand by." Turn off all the lights in your living or family room and see how many little red and green eyes are glowing in the dark. Every one of those devices is using "idle current" even when they're turned off.

Consider using products like the line of Smart Strip surge protectors from Bits Ltd. The power strips utilize intelligent circuitry to sense the level of power needed by the gadgets that are plugged in and running. When a device is turned off, the strip shuts off the idle current as well. The company estimates that its products save the average consumer 73% while still offering the desired surge protection. Depending on their size, Smart Strips cost from $32 to $45 each.

Good habits tend to breed other good habits. Start with these simple changes. Once you begin to see a difference in your electrical bills, you'll be hunting for new ways to save electricity and money in your home!

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