Saturday, February 28, 2009

Conserving and reducing the power bill

Posted by: Johnny Tran

It's no secret, electricity bills have been steadily rising. It's especially noticeable when the Bonneville Power Association no longer provided energy credits for Northwest residents after June 2007. Click for details here:

So what can one do to keep bills at a minimum? Aside from purchasing devices that measure kilowatt usage from electric gadgets (look at the Kill-a-watt entry from January), there are several ways to keep power usage low while reducing your carbon footprint:

Common Reasons

1. Hot and Cold Weather - The weather is cited as the #1 reason by various power companies for higher bills each month.

- During hot months, air conditioning accounts for more than 1/2 the energy bill for most customers. Turning on the a/c to maintain "comfort" in humid conditions substantially increases energy use.

- Bills are often at their peak during cold months since heating is 2 to 3 times more expensive than cooling. People habitually take longer showers in colder weather, increasing the bill from water heating as well.

2. Use of appliances and electronics

A class priority this term is to increase the awareness of "Phantom Power," which is described as consumer electronics and appliances draining power even when not in use. These devices include, but a not limited to:
◦ TVs (Large/plasma TVs have more power and heat, making A/Cs operate even more.)
◦ Stereos
◦ DVDs and DVRs
◦ Cell phone or battery chargers

Cautionary Note: Turning off some devices may require reprogramming once turned back on.

3. Household Size and Activities

Having more bodies uses more power. An increased amount of showers, laundry, cooking and dishes are activities that use hot water can jack up the bill. In most cases, washing through a dishwasher whenever possible minimizes the usage of hot water and soap when compared to hand washing.

4. Length of billing cycle

(From the Florida Power and Light Company:) "A billing cycle is the number of days within each bill. Normally, your meter is read on the same day every month but some months are longer than others and weekends and holidays can sometimes get in the way. Occasionally, an employee can't get to your meter because a gate is locked or a dog is in the backyard, and it’s not safe to enter. As a result, some monthly bills cover as few as 25 days and some as many as 35 days."

5. Don't keep the meter running

Speaking of which, keeping a close eye on your own meter can be very beneficial. Keep all electric bills for at least a year in order to see how much kWh is used on average for each month. On occasion, meter readers don't do a correct reading, which is why having historical information comes in handy.

Also, turn off all power on your circuit breaker and check to make sure the meter is no longer moving.

By keeping these hints in mind, hopefully your reaction will be much more calm than mine once the bill arrives. (=

Friday, February 27, 2009

Cost of Entertainment

Posted by: David Kluvers

I was looking into an NPR story I heard about Vampire Power about a week ago. (Which I will be posting about soon) And in the comments section someone posted a link (http://www.hardcoreware.net/reviews/review-356-3.htm) to something that troubled me. Like many young American males I own a gaming console, in this case a Playstation 3. It not only fills the role of gaming, but I also use it exclusively for movie watching as well. The site in question has run various side-by-side bench tests of the PS3 as well as the XBOX360, and the results are not pretty. They both consume large amounts of energy, but sadly my console consumes far more: 175.7 peak watts vs 126.6.
I recently purchased a Kill-a-Watt and used it on my PS3 and found that mine draws around 190 watts when on but at idle, jumps up to 230 watts while playing a game, and to around 200 watts when playing a movie. This last note is especially painful when we see that the site tested a regular DVD player as drawing 13 watts, ouch! The PS3 also draws 1 watt while "off," you need to flip the switch on the back to cut the power entirely.
As our technology gets better and better is appears that we will be using more and more energy for the purpose of entertainment. But as always you can do a great deal just by simply turning the device off when you are finished with it. But even this is becoming less easy to do as most home theater devices only go into a low power state unless you manually "switch" them off. This highlights the importance of knowing what kind of power your devices draw and how to most effectively limit what they draw when you are not using them. It is unlikely that we will reverse the trend of increased power consumption, but we can increase how smartly we use that power.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Earth Hour with a Twist

Posted by: Nour-Petra Hamieh


I was sitting doing my homework while watching TV (bad habit but I am a Marketing and Advertising major and I need my dose of advertisement for discussion purposes), and I came across an Esurance commercial. Esurance (www.esurance.com) is a company that sells online insurance policies, but that’s not the reason for this blog. This Esurance commercial (unlike the other ones), didn’t involve cartoon characters that try to convince you of the easiness of buying cheap insurance from Esurance, and didn’t have catchy jingles about the beautiful life with Esurance insurance, but was preaching about Earth Hour and the importance of being aware of carbon offsets as well as energy wasting. It was informing people about Earth Hour 2009 and telling them to be a part of it.

Wikipedia’s definition of Earth Hour is “an annual international event created by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund), held on the last Saturday of March, that asks households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. It was pioneered by WWF Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007,[1] and achieved worldwide participation in 2008.Earth Hour will next take place on Saturday, March 28 2009 at 8:30 pm, local time.”

I personally thought that this idea is really good, and it has a lot of meaning behind it. The best way to say it is the way it was stated on the World Wide for Nature “A global event created to symbolize that each one of us, working together, can make a positive impact on climate change”. Although our mission isn’t necessarily about climate change in particular, this idea of working together to make a positive impact is what this blog is about.
Together, one by one and in quantities, cities, countries and the world eventually, we can make a positive impact on recyclable energy and can change people’s behaviors and ideas on it. This idea can also be twisted and used as a starting point for further energy conserving events and eventually behaviors.

Just remember, by working together, we can make a positive impact (on anything).

Check out the Earth Hour video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CRs-7lRlPo

Friday, February 20, 2009

Saving Electricity

Posted by: Liliam Huckleberry

When it comes to paying my electric and gas bill, I always wonder why I have to pay so much money. After all in my house there are only two people that leave in it, my husband and me. My last month bill was, 125 dollars of which 92 dollars was in electricity alone, the rest went to pay for gas. I know that the month of January is a typical cold month, but to have used that much electricity just seems a lot, for only two people.

To me gas and electricity cost, is an expense that I can have complete control over. For example, I know that if I unplug my electric appliances I can save electricity. If I turn the thermostat off for a couple of hours, I can save gas and electricity. It is the same concept as to opting to bike to work or school in order to save gas money. I always wonder however, as to why is so much easier to change from driving a car, to riding a bike, then it is to changing from using too much electricity, to using less.

Then it came to me. The answer is “we don’t know how to make this change” The changes I should make are not as clear, as it is when switching from driving a car to riding a bike. Is either the bike or the car, you can’t use both. Also by doing so, the rewards are seen immediately. Either you drive a car and spend money on gas, or you ride your bike and save that money, as simple as that. However, when it comes to changing from using too much electricity to using less, the results may not seem that great or you will see no results it all, even when making the necessary changes.

These were some of the questions I had, which I think many of you also do. Since I don’t even know what a kilowatt is, or how much a kilowatt cost? And why is it that my electric bill changes month to month? So I went looking for some answers, and this is what I found.

Your electric company measures your electricity in watts. However, your electric meter reads your electricity usage in kilowatts per hour (KWh). So, here is the first confusion, we have to convert watts into kilowatts-per hour. Simply divide 100watts/1000killowats=.1kWh. Now that we know how to get kilowatts, let’s show an example. Say you have one light bulb that uses 300 watts per hour, and you use that light bulb for 240 hours a month, which is about (8 hours a day).
Therefore, 100 watts/1000=.1killowatts per hour. The total kWh is 240 x .1KWh = 24 kWh per month. To calculate the dollar figure, multiply 24 x 7.4 cents per kilowatt hour ($1.78). So, if you have 5 light bulbs in your house, multiply ($1.78 x 6) = $10.68 cents this is about ~11.00 per month, just on light bulbs. Want another example on how to calculate your electricity? Visit http://www.duke-energy.com/ohio/savings/electric-usage-faq.asp

There are many factors that affect your electric bill charges, weather, fire place usage, going on a vacation also can increase you electric bill. For example weather changes, like temperature, wind, sun, and clouds all these different fluctuations directly reflect your monthly charges. You may think that by burning a fire in your fire place will save you money, but the opposite is most likely to happen, because an open fireplace flue allows your home’s heat to escape.

This past December I took a small trip for a week, I thought I would save energy since I wasn’t going to be home. I turned everything of and took off. Two weeks after, I got my electric bill and the bill didn’t change one bit. One of the explanations I found to justify this was that my water heater, refrigerator, and freezer was still on. Also I did more loads of laundry then I usually do before I left, and that must have been the reason why I did not save electricity. Want tips on lowering your electric bill? Visit http://www.chiff.com/a/cut-heat-bills.htm for more information.

I hope that knowing how to calculate your electricity and properly dealing with the fluctuations that the weather brings, can help you save some money on your next electric bill.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Running for our Supper!

By Amy Padilla

So many of us hit the gym a couple days a week and think nothing of it. We are constantly exploring different ways to create energy such as solar and wind. However, Oregon State University in the growing city of Corvallis, Oregon has found a way to harness some of that energy we are generating as we sweat our lunch off on an elliptical exercise machine. They have taken 22 of their elliptical exercise machines and fitted them with the ability to take that energy and send it back into their university power grid. Although 22 doesn't sound like a high number it is the largest installation of this test throughout the world. These 22 machines are estimated to generate enough kilowatt hours to power a small energy efficient home. Imagine what we could accomplish if this was to become commonplace in gyms across the world.

The company that created the tool to capture this energy is called ReRev.com out of Florida. They are currently working with other organizations to do the same thing such as The University of Florida and Gainesville Health and Fitness. With any luck at all this will be something that we can see pop up at other gyms throughout the world. ReRev.com is currently looking at gyms in Las Vegas and Miami and says it's ready to push this product out to all that want to use it.

On a personal basis I feel great that something I am doing on a regular basis could also be doing something good for our environment and our energy issues. Maybe we should start asking gyms before joining if they are looking at the ReRev.com ReCardio system for any of their machines. The buzz word is 'sustainability' and this is an excellent way to capture a very wasted resource. Now if we could just figure out what to do with all the sweat.

Check out http://rerev.com/for more company information or to read more about them in the news and the return on investment for their product check out this Popular Science article. Click Here to read.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Energy Star

Posted by Renee Castillo

Wasted energy is a topic I am very familiar with but conserving energy is one I am not as informed about. Over the past few weeks I have noticed my everyday tasks that are victims of phantom energy and I had never even thought about or paid attention to. I have a bad habit of leaving my computer on overnight, falling asleep with the TV on, leaving lights on in an empty room and less obvious habits such as not unplugging the coffee maker, cell phone charger and other such items.
I thought it would be a good idea to check out Energy Star’s website and see if there was any energy saving techniques I could pick up. I browsed the products page and clicked on battery charges. I learned that energy efficient battery charges are able to save 1 billion kilowatt hours of energy per year, which amounts to more than $100 million, each year, in America alone. The energy efficient battery chargers also prevent more than 1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the equivalent of emissions produced from 150,000 cars. Americans have approximately 230 million products at their disposal that use battery charging systems and 11% of the national electric bill is from those systems. It is surprising how much energy is wasted from such a tiny unit and when we have a simple solution available to us. I guess the main reason is that we are uneducated about our everyday wasteful habits. I recommend you check out Energy Star’s website: http://www.energystar.gov/ and learn how you can save money and energy. It is difficult to be completely committed to energy conservation but if everyone makes small efforts towards reducing their own waste, it will add up to a big savings.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Finally Get It

Posted by Michelle Crawford

Do you ever watch TV and see the same commercial 20 times before you really pay attention to the message it is trying to convey? Well, I always watch CNN when I get home from work to get caught up on the day's events and always see a commercial about a young girl that has a cell phone in her pocket. The phone starts ringing and she nervously shifts her weight from leg to leg and acts like she doesn't hear the phone. Suddenly, she gets the phone and throws it against the wall behind her. She then acts like she never had the phone in her pocket. At the end of the commercial, a voice comes on and says “lose your excuse.” I never really paid much attention to the commercial until I became aware of
phantom energy. Ah - now I get it - that is what the commercial is about!

When I was younger, I remember my parents assigning us the duty of “Light Patrol.” The purpose of this chore was to go around to each room and turn off the lights, curling irons, and stereos that didn't need to be on. I remember a couple of times where I felt the light shouldn't be on, but my parents felt differently. I would hear a shout to “turn it back on” if I left them in the dark. When I would do light patrol, I would get a small allowance. Luckily for me, I was very busy going room to room since we had a family of seven. We were doing this to lighten the blow of our power bill – never did I think I was also doing this to save energy.

The other night I was sitting watching CNN and the commercial came on again. This time, I paid attention and realized it was a commercial that promotes energy awareness. The commercial ends with listing a website,
www.LoseYourExcuse.gov. The site is published by the U.S. Department of Energy and targets two audiences – children and their parents. It is an interactive website that conveys a lot of information through fun characters, games and other types of interactive tools. It immediately engages the viewer when they land on the site and gives the right amount of information to help your household become energy efficient. It has a printable Energy Action Plan that gives you ten tips to reducing your energy consumption.

I now have a family of my own, with only three of us. My son is two years old and he now able to reach the light switch. Without even asking, he is our “Light Patrol” and never forgets to turn off the light when we leave a room. When he reaches the age of having a cell phone, alarm clock and other such necessities, I hope he will partner with me to form the “Energy Patrol Team.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

How much do you lose?

Posted by Mary Kelley

I was reading up on Phantom Energy and came accross a startling statistic, apparently an estimated 5% of the energy drawn from a cell phone charger is actually used to charge the phone according to the website Buildinggreentv.com. Which got me thinking and out of the corner of my eye as I write this blog I see my cell charger plugged into the wall next to me of course, and the battery charger for my video camera, I may as well have a hole in my pocket! So curious to find out just how much energy is used by my various electronics I sought out a handy calculator that breaks it down for you. I was amazed particularly on the numbers for the DVD players, Video Games and Home Theater Systems, there's very little difference between idle and on! In addition to the calculator there was also some tips on energy use reduction , and what it all gets down to as many before me have stated, is awareness and power strips......This might just be the motivation I needed to go invest in some power strips.

The national battle against phantom power

posted by Joshua Lang

Up until recent years, power supplies for consumer electronics were left largely unregulated in the United States, and manufacturers of such devices thus made little effort to increase their power efficiency. Efficiency levels, commonly as low as 40-50%--wasting as inconspicuously little as 1W per hour--fail to catch the attention of individual consumers, but totaled over the United States, require entire additional power plants.

Let's try a thought experiment. Let's make the modest assumption that at any given moment, one sixth of the American population has one single power supply plugged in somewhere. The average price of electricity in the USA is 11 cents per kilowatt-hour (kilowatt-hour= unit of energy equivalent to the amount of energy expended or transferred by one kilowatt of power within an hour).

1 Watt x 50,000,000 plugged-in devices x .001 Kilowatt x $0.11 per hour x 24 hours x 365 days = $48,180,000 down the drain each year

In response to such waste and the general inefficiency of consumer electronics, the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Energy launched the Energy Star program in 1992, with the goal of reducing energy consumption and ensuing greenhouse gas emissions by power plants. Products that meet Energy Star standards are marked with the Energy Star label and save an average of 20%-30% of expended energy.

Although the Energy Star system represented an important step for environmentalism and purports to have saved enough energy in 2007 to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million cars (or about $16 billion in utility bills), it depends upon a well-wishing, well-informed consumer. The sad fact is that, in our hypothetical situation, the price of wasted energy averages to less than a dollar a year per person, hardly enough to wake the environmentalist in Joe Blow.

The California Energy Commission first addressed this problem by making mandatory Energy Star's previously voluntary criteria within California. The CEC's regulations went into effect in July of 2007. Power supply manufacturers, however, voiced their concern that other states would follow suite and thus create a complicated mess of varying regulations across the United States. By passing the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the US government consequently set a minimum level of efficiency for power supplies that corresponded to the levels that the CEC had set. These new federal regulations supercede all state regulations.