Monday, March 23, 2009

The One Watt Initiative goes global

posted by Joshua Lang

Lacking exact figures, a major survey placed the proportion of standby power used at 5% in the United States, with 7% in France, 10% in Germany and the Netherlands and 12% in Japan. In response to this waste, the International Energy Agency introduced the One Watt Initiative, in order to reduce vampire power to a maximum of one watt internationally.

According to the IEA's estimates, standby power is in fact responsible for 1% of global CO2 emissions.

New generations of power transformers and sensors are being developed to respond to this problematic, but require the appropriate legislation to take a foothold. The Energy Star program iniated in the USA already strives toward this objective, but in the private sector. Executive Order 13221 issued in 2001 by George W. Bush, however, necessitates that every government agency "when it purchases commercially available, off-the-shelf products that use external standby power devices, or that contain an internal standby power function, shall purchase products that use no more than one watt in their standby power consuming mode."

South Korea and Australia, on the other hand, have implemented measures fully enforcing the one watt benchmark for all new electrical devices. Meanwhile, notable progress is being made throughout the European Union, as the so-called Ecodesign regulation was put into place in 2008 to limit maximum allowed power consumption for standby to either 1 or 2 watts in 2010. From 2013 on, the level will be lowered to 0.5 or 1 watt.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Final Summation

Posted By: David Kluvers

The goal I set out for myself at the midterm was to find out how much phantom energy I waste in my personal life. To be perfectly honest I was having a very difficult time figuring out how to answer the midterm question and this was the first idea I had that I was able to flush out into a complete answer. I knew the task I set out for myself was a difficult one, but I also knew that it applied perfectly to our topic in addition to being an important undertaking on its own. It took my quite a while to figure out how to quantify this number, and eventually the best solution I came up with was to buy a Kill-a-Watt and start measuring. In case you don’t know, this is a device you plug other devices into and it gives detailed information about how much energy is flowing. But even this proved to be more difficult than I expected, because it did not come with instructions of any kind. Also I do not know very much about kilowatt hours, amps, and volts. Another complication was that I am not the only person living in my house, so I could not measure every aspect. As such I set out to measure the things only I have control over and that were in my room. This basically came down to two separate surge protectors, one containing my alarm clock, TV, DVD player, and Cable Box. And the other my laptop charger, WiFi, stereo, and air filter. To simplify things I only measured the watts that each was pulling at any given moment. My grand total phantom energy limited to these things was a relatively constant flow of 127 watts. I was surprised to find my air filter draws 30 watts, and that is something that until this I left on always. My stereo, which I have always tried to turn off when I’m not using it, draws 35 watts on standby. And my WiFi router draws 7 watts, not too bad. I also found that I can negate basically all of this by flipping the switch on the surge protectors when I am not using anything. That is not incontinent at all. The only things I left plugged in independent of everything else are the WiFi and the Cable Box (it’s a DVR), as they are things which in order to be useful must be on always. So by not spending a cent and not losing any functionality I all but eliminated my phantom energy draw. And the way to make it ultimately convenient would be to have a surge protector type device that could be turned on and off with a remote control, that way the slight inconvenient of having to turn the power back on would be all but gone as well. I hope people can see from this that it is not impossible or inconvenient to be responsible with the resources you use, plus it makes you feel good about yourself!

Midterm Answer, if you were interested:

A goal I would like to set for myself is to see how much phantom energy I waste and how much I can save through simple everyday changes. I do not yet have a fully formed idea of how I will go about this, but I think it is a very worthy undertaking class or no class. As the topic of the class states, most people waste huge amounts of energy without ever knowing it. I aim to make myself “know it” as well as “live it.” And by that cheesy second quote I mean change my habits and see how much of a difference it makes. I will then make my final blog post (or make an additional post if this fails the requirements of the four necessary) about my findings and feelings about what I had done. I will aim to do this in as reasonable a way as possible.  I once was in an environmental sustainability class and the professor gave us a required assignment to go 24-hours without the use of electricity. And while I understand and agree with the intentions, the assignment was a failure because most everyone I talked to faked the end results. It would be nice to live in a world where everyone stopped wasting everything, walked everywhere, and had no negative impact on the environment. But that simply isn’t reality. We must work within the boundaries of the world we live in it is the only way to truly effect change. Barack Obama did not win by running an outsider Nader style campaign. He played within the system and used it to his advantage. And that is precisely what we should do. And much in the same way people should be realistic and ready for President Obama to disappoint them; I too am prepared to be disappointed by the results of my undertaking. My change in habits may not have the level of impact I hope it will, or at least compared to the effort I feel I put in. But I will only know for sure by attempting it, by attempting some level of change, no matter how small. That is my goal.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Changes in our Household

Posted by Michelle Crawford

For the past few months, my husband and I challenged ourselves to conserve energy. We wanted to see how much we could reduce our overall power bill. I am happy to say that we were able to reduce our most recent power bill by implementing a few things around our household. The major changes we made to our household are as follows.

1. We now keep our thermostat at 61 degrees during the day and night. Luckily for us the weather has been a bit warmer and the transition to this was fairly easy. We use our throw blankets to cover ourselves if it gets too nippy in the evening. We also wear socks and long sleeve shirts.

2. We have replaced most of our bulbs with CFLs. There was initial costs upfront, but the CFL will outlast the bulb for many hours.

3. We have turned off our outside landscape lights. I don't know why we had them turned on to begin with since we never see them based on how our windows are facing.

4. We do not keep our outside lights on. Can you believe we were the only ones in the neighborhood who did keep them on during the night?

5. We keep our master bedroom door shut during the day. Our master bedroom has wood flooring and it seems to take a bit more to heat.

Following those simple steps has saved us around $15 in one month. That may seem like not much of a savings, but that will allow us to keep $180 in our pockets each year.

We have now attempted to get others involved and made aware of the ecomerge and phantom energy sites. We have sent out links to the Portland State's Phantom Energy site to our friends and coworkers and this has seemed to generate some interest. We have found that you need to understand the people you are sharing your phantom energy thoughts with. I have seen a few types of people – the ones that care about conserving energy for the environment, people that want to save money, and then the people that don't care about either of those two things. Those are a bit harder to get motivated. We tailored our message to those types of people and it worked great! A majority of the people that want to conserve energy already are helping with the cause. The people that wanted to save money were really interested in seeing how much their household could save.

Now that my husband and I have empowered ourselves to learn about phantom energy, this has changed our lives. We are very conscious about our energy consumption and how this impacts the environment and our pocket book.

Getting down to the brass tacks of mercury.

Posted by Jonathan Elliott

One very common source of wasted energy is the light bulb. Yes, I know, you’ve heard a million times “CFL’s save a lot of energy”. And I’m not here to list for you the reasons you should switch, rather, I’m here to dispel one of the reasons you shouldn’t… mercury.

There has been some confusion on this issue. Some people will have you believe that the mercury levels contained inside of a CFL are highly dangerous, or that the environmental impact of using them outweighs the benefits.

Well, according to EnergyStar and EPA Canada, both of those arguments are incorrect. The amount of mercury inside of a standard CFL is 4mg. This, compared to the 500mg contained in an old thermometer, or even the 13mg that is emitted by a power plant to produce power for the lifetime of a regular bulb. Yes, that's right, it produces more mercury to power a regular light bulb than is contained inside of a CFL. Even your LCD television screen cumulatively accounts for almost 4 times as much mercury, and contains almost as much inside of it as a CFL.

However, you're not likely to be breaking your LCD screen now, are you? It's alright. If you do break a CFL bulb, there are a few very simple steps to follow, which boil down to airing out the room, disposing of all materials used to clean up the mess (and yes, this means the vacuum bag too), and checking with your local or state disposal policy regarding fluorescent bulbs. If they don't allow it, Home Depot will dispose of your bulbs for you.

Even better, more and more companies are coming out with low-mercury CFL's, dimmable CFL's, and plastic safety covers to prevent your bulbs from breaking in the first place.

Awareness is the key, but don't let it keep you from doing something that will actually help the environment, and help your wallet as well.

What's your water footprint?

Posted by: Johnny Tran

Awareness is beginning to develop as more individuals realize that our clean water use is outpacing our supply. Water footprints (how much water each one of us uses) is becoming more commonplace in our efforts to live a greener life. Calculating water footprints can be difficult since everything that is produced or eaten uses water in some form.

GOOD Magazine helps show just how big of a footprint we make from breakfast to dinner, and how a few simple changes can save over 2,000 gallons a month:

Just to put some perspective on that transparency, ponder this for a moment:

  • The average trash barrel is able to hold 32 gallons

  • A mid-sized car can theoretically hold over 800 gallons if filled with water

  • The difference in the amount of water it takes to produce a pound of chicken and a pound of beef is enough to fill almost two whole cars.

Polar Bears Stand To Suffer From Warming

Posted by Jabr Almarri

In the long discussion of the environment, energy conservation, and the effects of our actions, much of the conversation is directed towards quality of air, water, ozone, and many other non-living things. However, it is often forgotten that some of the largest effects of a struggling environment are had on the living. The New York Times reports that global warming, brought on by the very problems addressed by our Phantom Energy campaign, are the chief threat to polar bears in the Arctic.

While the bears adapt well and may be able to survive the warming trends, they still stand to lose much of their "sea ice" community by the end of this century. When people act in regards to the environment, they tend to do so without thinking of the effects their actions will have on the larger picture. And for the most part, they are right in thinking that each individual impact is small. But as we have learned, these individual impacts grow and accumulate to form one larger push in a positive or negative direction.

As we become increasingly aware of the living organisms that depend on our energy prudence, the hope is that our actions will reflect this knowledge.

Is ecoterrorism the answer?

Posted by Jabr Almarri

One of the newest ways to speak out about the state of the environment is not recycling, reducing phantom energy, or any of the methods we have discussed in this class. The newest way, in fact, is terrorism.

The New York Times reports that some “environmental terrorist organizations,” such as the Earth Liberation Front, commit terrorist attacks on targets that they feel to be not environmentally sound. One such attack was an arson on a group of Seattle homes that were built on a wetland, thus damaging the wetland. Even more egregious, said the E.L.F. was that these homes were built and proclaimed to be “green” or environmentally sound.

This type of response to non-environmentally friendly policy is becoming more and more popular, but does that mean its right? The groups are engaging in non-violent acts, but property and possessions are being harmed. I believe that this is not an appropriate way to handle the situation, personally. In this case, the ELF are just as guilty as those who are damaging the wetlands.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The method to the madness of wall warts.

Blog post by Mary Kelley

So how is energy wasted from chargers that are left plugged in? It apparently depends on the charger. Chargers with iron cores attribute theirs to "eddie current" losses. Most chargers are transformers and in this case the magnetic field in the transformer causes magnetic domains in the iron core to flip back and forth creating heat. The rate at which the current is chopped is about 60/50 times a second. Switch mode power supplies apparently don't have this issue as much and therefore don't heat up. They usually have ferrite cores that result in less power loss thanks to a smaller core and they chop the incoming AC current at a much higher frequencies.

Typical iron core chargers waste about 4 watts when plugged in and are usually on the heavy side, when charging they use 6 watts so the waste is substantial. Typical losses from a switch mode power suppilies is about .2 watts so it's definately the way to go. If you aren't an electrical engineer (most of us aren't) then there's two ways you can tell if your charger is a power hog or not, if it's heavy and heats up chances are you got a hog, if it's light and cool to the touch in spite of being left on then it's likley conservative.

Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Posted By: Renee Castillo

Are you still trying to avoid switching to more energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs? Well, I visited Energy Star’s website and found a few facts about the bulbs that may convince you to do the simple switch.

· If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gasses equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.

· Energy Star qualified bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

· Fluorescent light bulbs save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime.

· Fluorescent light bulbs produce about 75 percent less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.

Although fluorescent light bulbs are great for energy saving, they do have a downside. Fluorescent light bulbs usually contain 8 to 14 milligrams of mercury in the form of vapor, liquid or sold form ( The compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) must be disposed in a responsible manner due to mercury’s harmfulness. You can find information about your local household hazardous waste collection facility, to see if they will accept CFL bulbs, by following the link below.

Most sites will not charge any fees but those who do are usually minimal. It is important you find out how often your local hazardous waste collection program accepts hazardous items because some only offer a once or twice a year drop-off.

More efficient low-mercury light bulbs are available and only contain 3.5 to 4 milligrams of mercury. Some manufactures of the low-mercury bulbs have conveniently identified the bulbs with a metal end cap that is painted green and the bulbs are sometimes referred to as “green-tip” bulbs. Others have been identified with a green etching on the lamps, while others are not identified at all.

Now that you have decided to switch from your more expensive and energy sucking traditional light bulbs visit Energy Stars' website for more information to determining which CFLs are best for your home.

Posted By: Renee Castillo

Savings with a Screen Saver?

Just because it has “saver” in the title doesn’t mean it’s saving you anything. Actually, it could even cost you more than using the computers sleep mode. Using a screen saver could also disable the sleep-mode altogether. By using the energy calculator, I calculated there is a $2.45 difference per hour between an in-use computer and a computer that is in idle/sleep mode. I also found that sometimes it’s a little confusing configuring your computer to implement it’s sleep mode correctly. However, the “Climate Savers – Smart Computing” website has some additional energy saving tips, as well as, how-to lists to configure various computer systems to correctly perform the sleep mode. I have to tell you that this is the biggest change that I have made in my efforts to eliminate my own personal energy waste. I used to be addicted to my family pictures screen saver, but I now realize that I can just have my family picture hanging on my wall instead of wasting energy.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Posted by Ellen Milich

Almost everyone is familiar with the Energy Star logo and know that it means something is more efficient when using energy, but until I began research I had no idea exactly what the criteria was. It turns out that there are stringent benchmarks that a product must reach before it carries the Energy Star label. Refrigerators and freezers (which consume the most household energy right after air conditioners, not that most of us have those in the Northwest anyway!) must consume between 15 and 40% less energy than other comparable models made after 2001. Think what the savings would be if you still have one of those seventies colored ones!! "Trading in your old beauty for a new Energy Star model would make such a dent in your utility bill that the new one could pay for itself in one or two years" (1).

Washing Machines are another big energy hog, and given that they have a relatively short life span (twelve-ish years) compared to other appliance relatives, this is a smart upgrade when the time comes. "Compared with the washer you bought in 1995, a 2007 Energy Star conventional top-loader uses about 40 percent less energy and about 25 percent less water. The 2007 Energy Star wash-plate top-loader uses about 60 percent less energy and about 30 percent less water. The 2007 Energy Star front-loader uses about 75 percent less energy and about 60 percent less water" (1). That's a lot of bang for your buck; water AND gas (or electric) savings.

So what's the bottom line in savings? According to the EPA the average home spends around $2,000.00 yearly on energy costs. Switching to Energy Star appliances can save up to $75.00 annually. Not to shabby.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Future for Phantom Energy

Posted By: David Kluvers

    On the February 16, 2009 edition of NPR’s All Things Considered Phantom Energy was discussed briefly. They referred to it as Vampire Power, something that was seemingly considered amusing by the host. Over the course of the 4-minute interview they primarily discuss the repercussions of digital picture frames. These are the small flat screens that are surrounded by a picture frame. A memory card is loaded with digital picture files and put into the frame, which then cycles through them and displays them on the screen. What was discussed is how much higher the lifetime footprint of one of these displays is compared to actually printing a picture, which has a onetime cost. A digital picture frame will commonly be plugged in and left turned on for the life of the device twenty-four hours a day. It is this kind of reckless power consumption that needs to be rethought and improved. This type of device is not going to go away so we need to find better ways to operate them. A great example of this was mentioned in the interview is the Alliance for Universal Power Supply, which was also found to be a very funny title by the host. This Alliance aims to establish standards of how devices will interact with their power supply and to promote the applicable industries to accept these standards. It seems to be similar to the Energy Star idea; if a device complies it receives a certification. Another company mention is Green Plug which has developed power plug technology that can provide power to a variety of devices while eliminating wasted energy. If Green Plug type technology were integrated into homes and the power grid we could potentially eliminate, or at least dramatically reduce, Phantom Energy. As these two companies show, there are people working towards the goals behind the Phantom Energy blog and this class.


10 Ways to Make an Small Home Greener

Posted by: Johnny Tran

The following tips can be found on the Greener Trends website and are geared toward small living units, but many of these tips can apply to larger houses as well:

1. Replace all light bulbs in the home with CFL (florescent) or LEDs. This will reduce the energy used by lighting by about 90%.

2. Replace home appliances with Energy Star rated devices. This often results in 20-40% less energy usage, and can provide a substantial savings in your power bill over time.

3. Programmable thermostats have been mentioned in this blog a few times previously, but for good reason. The home could be kept at the perfect temperature while not wasting precious energy when you're not at home. This is also a great tool as heating and air conditioning are easily the most expensive users of power in the home.

4. Try using green air filters for air conditioning in the summer. They will increase air quality while making the device more efficient at the same time. is one of many providers of these filters.

5. A HEPA air filter unit can improve air quality indoors and make air conditioners and heaters run more efficiently as well.

6. If painting walls, be sure to try and use low-VOC (volatile organic compounds). This will ensure that air quality in the house will not be as affected by potentially hazardous fumes from traditional paint.

7. Dual flush toilets use 25% less water on average than a regular toilet. 3.5 gallons of water is used on average during each flush.

8. Use recycled materials when doing a makeover for countertops and cabinets in the kitchen. There are many Portland based companies that can make countertops out of recycled glass and concrete, such as

9. You can reduce how much of your trash goes out to a landfill by investing in a home composting system. The machine eliminates any odor and most composts are ready to be used outdoors within 2 weeks.

10. Use a smart power strip. Having a power strip that can sense when a computer is on or off can save power by turning off all other devices at the same time a computer is off.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What Powers America?

Posted by Kendra Collins

What powers America? Since we are trying to figure out ways to reduce our electric energy usage. I thought I might try to inform you all of where that electricity comes from. Well about 48.9% comes from coal a fossil fuel. I think we have all seen the articles trying to deter people from using fossil fuels for power. Mainly, pointing our that fossil fuels are a non-renewable energy source. If we want to power the world cleaner, I believe we need to look at other renewable resources besides fossil fuels. Things such as solar, wind, water, and biomass power. As of 2006 only 9.5% of the United States energy sources came from renewable sources such as water, solar, wind, ect.
Also, since electricity is the highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. it is essential to not only reduce our dependence on the fossil fuels that provide our electricity, but also lower our individual dependence on electricity. I was actually really surprised to find that electricity was the highest producer of emissions, I thought for sure transportation would be number one in production of harmful emissions. Although some of the renewable resources may be expensive ways to collect power, such as solar, we will most likely save ourselves from a huge future expense. It always seems harder to fix a problem after it has already been done, especially true when dealing with the crisis of global warming our emissions have caused. A good motto to live by would be why put off what can be done today until tomorrow, especially when the expenses of putting off something could cost significantly more. If you really want to do your part in saving the earth everyone should be looking at ways they can reduce their consumption of electricity. Now I see why, stopping even the littlest bits of power from being wasted is important to our environment.

What's it to me?

Blog post by Mary Kelley

On an individual basis the wasted standby power of house hold electronic devices is usually very small, but in today's age almost everything we use plugs in and that adds up! Wasted energy is not just exclusive to the obvious items like cell phone chargers, and computers, any appliance you can plug in could be a contributer to the "Phantom Load". Phantom energy is apparently on the rise as well likely due to the increase in electronics. According to a study by Alan Meier at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkley CA. phantom energy accounted for about 5% of all households energy use in 1998, when he ran the study again in 2000 the rate had risen to an estimated 10% of household energy use. In other words if you took measures to reduce your consumption you could save up to a months worth of energy costs, and that's something I am sure we can all see value in given the economy etc. On a national level that turns into $3 billion in annual energy costs. This isn't exclusive to America either, the UK averages about 8% and France was in at 7% in 2000. In addition to the impact it has on our wallets it is also leaving a pretty big carbon foot print on the planet, if 1 million households halved their phantom power load, we'd eliminate 150,000 tons of CO2 per year. Yikes!

Here's a short list of some of the common household sucks:

Anything with a clock or digital display
Coffee makers
Rice Cooker
Dust Busters
Baby Monitors
Computer Speakers
Video games
Security systems

Chargers of any sorts

Garage Door Opener

Cable Box

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stimulus Package Impact on Energy

By Amy Padilla

As a whole, Americans are excited for a change in our government and are sincerely hoping that the stimulus package that President Obama put into place will truly stop this financial landside our country is currently in. When I first thought of the stimulus package I really only thought of it in the sense of how is it going to help our pocketbooks and those companies that are struggling to make ends meet. However, after looking at a few highlights of the package it is important to acknowledge how it will help our energy use and how it does some things for our sustainability of energy as a country.

The stimulus package gives the alternative and sustainable energy sector loans, tax incentives and grants totaling up to $6 billion. This is a direct focus on an energy sector that needs to have the time spent on creating new options and educating the world on those options.

The second key piece I found in the stimulus package was the focus on energy conservation in both buildings and in homes. There is a $1500 tax credit that homeowners can qualify for by making energy efficiency changes such as installing energy efficient water heaters, furnaces, boilers, air source heat pumps and central air conditioners in 2009 and 2010. There is a trickledown effect with programs like the tax incentive because initially it looks like the homeowner is the one that wins by receiving $1500. However, the new appliances must usually be installed by a contractor which gets them back to work and reduces the homeowner’s monthly electricity and gas bills. At the same time it reduces the hit on the environment with fewer emissions and uses less of our natural resources that are already under an incredibly high demand.

Another part of the stimulus package that benefits energy conservation is the language that calls for state and local governments to focus on weatherization programs. Once again this is a program that can benefit the homeowner by saving on their monthly bills by weatherizing the home. As well, it gives those that do this type of work a job and reduces energy consumption overall. There was also $500 million set aside to help workers train for “green jobs”, money set aside to study batteries for electric cards and money for “clean coal” work.

The stimulus package appears to target all levels of energy conservation. Beginning with saving at the home levels to public buildings. It looks at how to conserve energy and how to generate clean energy and renewable energy. I believe our energy sector and environment were the big winners when this stimulus was signed. To read a summary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment document click HERE!

Energy Vampire: Facts vs Fiction

Posted by Liliam Huckleberry

Energy Vampire: Facts Vs Fiction

As I was searching on-line for information on phantom energy or energy vampires, I came across a very interesting article. This article was written and posted by Lori Bongiorno on the Google website on Feb. 27 of 2009 so, a very recent article. The article is called Energy Vampires: Facts vs. Fiction. The site is the article is in the form of a questionnaire which asks questions regarding energy vampires. This article has a comment section where readers of the article can post their opinions.

Unfortunately energy vampire is still a fairly unknown subject, at least for me I recently learned about energy vampires. I thought to have posted an article about Energy Vampires which would un doughtily not only get local attention but international attention as well, was a brilliant idea. As we all know the Google search engine is used by millions of people worldwide which gives energy vampires the publicity it deserves. Like I mentioned before Lori wrote a questionnaire where viewers could comment on whether the information posted was helpful or not.

Here are some of the questions with answers found on this article, which I am sure will be helpful for those who want to get informed on energy vampires.

Which electronic devices waste the most energy when they are turned off but still plugged in?

“Set-top cable boxes and digital video recorders are some of the biggest energy hogs” it is difficult to fix this problem because if these electronics are turned off, television shows cannot be recorded and the biggest drawback is that to set-top cable boxes and digital videos usually takes a very long time to reboot

Why do electronic devices use energy when they are switched off?

“Electronics consume standby power for one of two reasons, says Chris Kielich of the Department of Energy. They either have an adapter that will continue to draw electricity, or they have devices (such as clocks and touchpads) that draw power. Anything with a remote control will also draw standby power, she says, since the device needs to be able to detect the remote when it's pushed”

Does everything suck energy when it's plugged in and turned off?

No. If your coffeemaker or toaster doesn't have a clock, then it's probably not using standby power, says Kielich. Chances are your hair dryer and lamps (although they may have a power adapter for the dimmer) are not drawing standby power either, she says. Devices with a switch that physically breaks the circuit don't consume standby power.

Will switching things on and off shorten their life?

Probably not, says Kielich. You'd have to turn devices on and off thousands of times to shorten their lives. The real downside, she says, to unplugging electronics is that clocks and remotes will not work, and you do have to reset everything.

Can you ruin batteries by unplugging battery chargers and causing batteries to completely discharge?

It could be a possibility, says Kielich. Her advice: Don't let batteries get completely drained. But you don't need to have things like hand-held power vacuums and drills plugged into the charger when it's 100% charged, or even 50% charged.

Power Strip FAQs

Plugging electronics into a power strip and turning it off when you're not using it is a widely prescribed solution for curbing vampire power. Power strips draw energy when they are turned on, but not when they are switched off. Any decent power strip should have surge protection, according to Kielich. Flicking your power strip on and off will not create a power surge capable of damaging electronic devices. In fact, it will protect devices from other surges. Several readers were worried about the possibility of fires caused by plugging too many things in at once. If you plug in the allowed number of devices, then power strips are safe, says Kielich. Just don't plug your power strip into another power strip, or you run the risk of creating an overload.

As of today, this article has been on-line for 14 days and has already gotten 1055 votes and 576 comments have been posted. Most of the comments have been a testimonial as to how making small changes in your home like unplugging a lamp a coffee maker or a TV, has really made a difference in their monthly bill. A lot of comments were also how surprise people were to learn that some of their electronic devices they never thought would waste energy actually were. Do you want to know what is wasting energy in your home? Please visit

China, the ticking carbon bomb

posted by Joshua Lang

In the People's Republic of China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide, environmental standards for the energy industry are unsettling. Two thirds of the nation's electricity is produced in coal-fired power stations. In 2004, carbon emissions from coal consumption in China accounted for an estimated 14% of the world's total CO2 emissions at the time.

Additionally, Chinese products are produced in large quantities, not necessarily high quality. This fatal combination could bring about the worst consequences of phantom power.

Namely Chinese cell phones, for example,—especially the cheap models rampantly popular in rural areas—often lack such features as internet, MP3-playing capability and, most crucially, smart chargers.

By 2005, an estimated 361 million Chinese or 27.6% of the country’s population had been in possession of a cellular phone. Compare this to Germany, where there are more cellular phones in use than there are residents of the Republic.

China is a rapidly developing country, with a percentage rate of economic growth that hasn’t dropped below the double digits for nearly a decade. If even 60% of the Chinese population were to own and operate a cellular phone without a smart charger, it could spell devastating consequences for global CO2 levels.

Let’s assume 792 million Chinese each have a conventional phone charger needlessly plugged in each for a fifth of the time during the week. With an inconspicuously low standby power drain of one watt, this would equal 1,387,584,000 kilowatt-hours a year.

In China, for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by coal power, approximately 0.002 metric tons of CO2 are emitted. If we multiply this by the number of kilowatt-hours required to supply our hypothetical 60% of Chinese using cellular phones with conventional chargers, we come up with 2,775,168 metric tons of CO2 needlessly emitted each year.

And this is only one relatively minor aspect of the immense dangers of energy abuse in developing countries.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Debunking Phantom Energy?

Posted By: David Kluvers

I came across an article that was in opposition to the idea of phantom or vampire energy and I thought it would be interesting to share it here. The writer, who it would appear is simply some random blogger (but hey we don’t have too much to say against that do we) claims that while the waste is real, it is such an inconsequential amount that we shouldn’t pay attention to it. He makes an interesting point, that him taking actions such as “a) insulating the hell out of my house, b) buying little cars, and c) taking the el (that’s the train” have more of an impact. While this is without doubt technically true he misses an important point that he himself makes. He describes the small amounts of energy being discussed here and begins to put together how much it adds up to across the country calling it an “impressive number,” but then he digresses into another idea. This should be one of his central ideas, that while the waste individually is small, collectively it is a problem. I find it ironic that he would claim insulation, car size, and public transportation are different. One large car, poorly insulated house, or person not riding public transportation individually is not a problem. If there was one Hummer in the country people would be upset. It is the accumulation of everything that is the problem. Ideas need to change about phantom energy as they have for these other things he mentioned, and hopefully they will. In the past the prevalent ideas about cars and house efficiency were identical to what he expressed about phantom energy, hopefully we will get there too.

Article referenced:

Recycling May Not Be Enough

Posted by Jabr Almarri

An unfortunate bit of news out of The Oregonian:

Most categories of recycled plastic, paper, newspaper and cardboard have also seen steep price declines as domestic and overseas demand plunged.

The price for bales of mixed paper has fallen by 90 percent since September, according to Official Board Markets, the paper industry’s pricing bible. Prices for plastic bags and other plastic “film” have dropped by two-thirds in less than a month.

What this means for us is that all the hard work that goes into recycling (sorting, looking at the labels, using different bins) may all be naught if the recycling industry (yes, industry) cannot survive this economic climate. This is a good example of people doing the right thing but still being negatively impacting by external circumstances.

This is especially troubling since wholesale efforts to increase recycling across the United States seem to be working. It owuld be a shame if the recycling campaigns worked...only to have no effect because no one wanted to use the recycled goods.

My suggestion is to keep recycling until we come out of this recession. The groundwork has clearly been laid for a culture of recycling and conservation; we just need to continue to influence others to do the same.

Conservation Techniques & You

Posted by Jabr Almarri.

A not-so-recent article in the New York Times focused on conservation techniques in Japan. However, like most environmentally friendly advice, the importance of the article does not expire. The author of the article, Martin Fackler, describes a Japan in which people are not felt by the energy crunch which has so often crippled the United States. In one case, he even mentions a man who has had his electricity bill go down. Such a statistic in our country would have people baffled.

There is something behind this lack of an energy problem; in short, conservation. This quotation about sums it up:

“It’s not just technology, it’s a whole mind-set,” said Hitoshi Ikuma, a specialist in energy issues at the Japan Research Institute. “Energy conservation is almost an obsession here among government, companies, regular citizens, everyone.”

Can you imagine anyone saying that in the United States? That conservation is their obsession? Instead, we are obsessed with cars, television, food, and any other product that creates waste, not aims to delete it.

It is nearly impossible to pin point one fail safe correction that would result in our energy crunch being solved. However, it may not take such a singular solution. If the country, at its lowest individual level, was committed to conserving rather than wasting, it is doubtful that we'd be in this mess at all.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How Efficient Is Your TV?

It is a well known fact that Americans love to watch television and it is not uncommon for an American home to have two or more TV sets. With new, power thirsty, high-definition (HD) TVs becoming more popular, it is important that we consider how much energy is being consumed by vampire energy. According to, “the average American pays around $24 a year to power his or her TV” but “power-hungry” HDTVs could cost as much as $230 a year. The difference in cost is mainly due to the larger screen size because most models do not completely shut off when the operator pushes the power button but rather go to a standby mode. In order to prevent becoming a victim of vampire energy it is required that the user either unplugs the set or a separate switch is turned off to completely cut the power supply.

The larger screen size HDTV sets, 40 inches or larger, have been found by the Natural Resource Defense Council, “to consume more energy per year than any other device or appliance in the house, including a 22.5 cubic foot refrigerator” ( Not only does screen size affect energy efficiency but screen type plays a role. Plasma Tvs have been labeled the least energy efficient, LCDs are second worst, projection TVs third and traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) is the most energy efficient TVs.

One energy saving TV is the Philips 42PFL5603D which is also called the Eco TV. According to, “when you activate the Eco TV’s power saver mode, the television uses a trio of sensors to optimize the intensity of the LCD’s backlight. The brighter the room, the harder the backlight needs to work. The Eco TV can detect the relative darkness and brightness of the room and adjust how much light it uses to illuminate the picture.” A sensor adjusts for the brightness of a scene and if it is a night scene, the backlight knows to dim and save energy (

But if you do not want to purchase a new television set, you can still save energy by following some helpful tips I found on

1.When you’re not using the TV, power it down completely by unplugging it or turning off the power strip the TV is plugged into, instead of only using the power button on the TV.

2.Check if you’re TV has a power saver mode and use it if it does.

3.Disable any Quick Start option that leaves the TV in standby mode as a default.

4.Manually dim the intensity of the backlight via the contrast and brightness

5.Watch TV in a dark room to improve picture clarity and requiring less backlight.

Posted By: Renee Castillo

Monday, March 9, 2009

Where 1/4 of your Energy is Lost

Posted by Ellen Milich

Turns out one of the places where energy is lost most in homes is through the water heater. Because conventional water heaters, both electric and gas constantly store a reservoir of hot water to be used when needed, a huge amount of energy is lost. In fact a water heater can account for up to 25% of your total energy bill (1). When we think of phantom energy this probably doesn't come to mind - mostly because it's out of sight, but when we realize how much energy we lose through it it's obvious how important this factor is in each home.

As technology advances there are alternatives to the conventional water heater. One of the most popular is the tankless heater. These can be either electric or gas as well, although the gas is much more efficient. Because tankless or "demand” heaters don’t constantly keep a tank of water hot the energy (as well as monetary) savings is obvious. “A conventional gas water heater costs about $380, uses $179 in fuel a year and should last about 13 years. That's a total (life-cycle cost) of $2,707. A standard electric water heater costs more than twice as much to run and has a life-cycle cost of $5,680” ( Granted, a conventional water heater CAN be turned off when not in use, just so long as the homeowner accounts for the reheating time upon turning it back on.

Just one more bonus is the space-saving factor. A traditional water heater is quite large as most of us know; the size between a standard versus a demand heater can be seen below.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

No Draw to the CPU?

I really love being right, how about you? This is why I watch shows like “MythBusters” and have in my favorites list. I found great ways to use the information that we’ve been gathering in this class to make some changes and reduce the amount of energy we use in our household. There’s just this one little thing that’s been bugging me.

I read a blog posted earlier about using the smart-strip. I brought up the subject with my husband of getting power strips for all of the devices in our computer area (eg. printer, monitors, computer) and then flip the switch when we aren’t using these devices so that there will not be any unwanted power draw. My husband agreed with using the strip for the monitors and printer but disagreed with using it for the CPU itself. He claims that the computer actually needs a constant draw in order to recharge a battery that keeps the clock current.

In the articles that I’ve read on the subject some say use the strips with computers, but others specifically leave out using the strip with computers and only say to use it with computer monitors and printers. So, if there are any IT people out there that can settle this argument (hopefully with me being right) please leave a comment.

Posted by Catherine Martell-Straight

Take the Challenge!

I just read an article on the Captain Current vs. Phantom Energy website created by the students in the Capstone Project at Portland State University. “Oh, the Lovely Savings I Make” recounts the use of a product called The Kill-A-Watt EZ. The most shocking revelation in this article is the difference in electrical usage between florescent and regular light bulbs!

I challenge you to do some of your own investigative work. A good way to start is to look around your house and take an inventory of all of your electronic devices from light bulbs to phone chargers. Then once you have a good list going, get one of these monitoring devices and hook them up to see how much electricity you are actually using. If you choose to take this challenge report back in the comments section, so we can get an idea of the energy consumption from others around the world. Your own investigation may even spark your own personal change.

Posted by Catherine Martell-Straight

Put a Stake In It

By Brianne McCleary

Rebecca Clarren wrote an interesting post on Vampire Energy for in January of 2008. The full article can be found here but I will summarize the main points below.

- Half of our appliances, including microwave ovens, computers, TVs, electronic equipment and associated chargers that suck down power even when they're turned off, in sleep or standby mode.
- A typical house hosts around 50 such insomniacs, and though individual devices use minuscule amounts of electricity, in the aggregate they're an astonishing and pricey burden.
- This "vampire energy loss" represents between 5 and 8 percent of a single family home's total electricity use per year, according to the Department of Energy. On average, that's the equivalent of one month's electricity bill.
- Taken across the United States, this adds up to at least 68 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually; that's the equivalent output of 37 typical electricity-generating power plants, costing consumers more than $7 billion.
- This wasted energy sends more than 97 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; on a global scale, standby energy accounts for 1 percent of the world's carbon emissions, according to Alan Meier of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, based in California.

"When a consumer thinks the device is off, it should be using as little power as possible," says Meier. "But in their haste to get products onto the market, manufacturers don't make those modest design improvements, and we, the consumers, pay the price in unnecessarily high standby power use."

New gadgets that can help

- Smart Strip. By monitoring power consumption, the strip detects when computers or stereos are off and powers down, eliminating energy usage in all peripheral devices such as printers.

- Isolé power strip, which uses a motion sensor to turn off six of its eight outlets if it hasn't detected anyone in the room for up to 30 minutes.

- Kill a Watt power meter, a nifty gadget with a wall outlet that measures the watts, volts, amps and kilowatt-hours of a given device when off or on.

- Energy Detective. Measures whole-house electricity consumption. It costs around $190 and provides cost estimates of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Like a scale, it doesn't help you lose weight or cut back on power. But by providing immediate feedback of how much money you are spending each day on energy, and how much you are likely to spend next month, it's a solid motivator to unplug appliances and turn off lights. Consumers who used such monitors cut back their energy use by around 5 percent, according to a July 2007 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

A dual responsibility

A major solution to vampire energy, say experts like Meier, will arrive when manufacturers design more efficient appliances. Even so, by using power strips and maintaining vigilance about unplugging the TV and devices that get little use, we can help save energy and put a stake through these energy vampires.

John La Grou's SafePlugs

By Brianne McCleary

John La Grou envisions a future where all electrical outlets are "smart" -- so they can prevent fires, save lives and help conserve energy. But he is not just sitting around 'envisioning', he has built a fully functioning version of this outlet and needs everyone to help spread the word.

La Grou is co-founder of Safeplug, a system of power outlets with microprocessors and plugs with memory chips that can be slid onto existing plugs to retrofit them. At a recent talk at the Palm Springs TED conference (Technology, Entertainment & Design), LaGrou pointed out that Thomas Edison invented the circuit beaker in 1879, and some 83 percent of home fires start below the circuit breaker safety limit. Safeplug addresses this by detecting overloads at the outlet level. The system also prevents shocks and saves "vampire" or "phantom" power by only providing power to used outlets.

The interview with John La Grou after TED can be read here.

A simple video explaining how the SafePlugs work can be found here, at and at

It took years for GFCI (ground fault interrupt) switches (the ones with Test and Reset buttons) to catch on but now they are common practice. You almost never see outlets in bathrooms or kitchens without them. The same is true for smoke alarms.

John La Grou hopes to save lives and energy. Let's help him spread the word so his SafePlugs catch on and become the new stanard quicker.

The Low Carb(on) Diet

By Brianne McCleary

Recently, Peter Miller and his wife PJ went on a diet. A carbon diet. They wanted to see exactly how far they could reduce their CO2 emissions and measure the overall impact of doing so. They also extrapolated the numbers to see what the overall impact would be if everyone in America also tightened their belts.

The full ten page article from National Geographic can be found here, but I'll highlight the main points below.

The Quest
Peter and his wife convinced their neighbors to join in their quest. Each household tracked their total CO2 output. Some key statistics:

- The average U.S. household produces about 150 pounds of CO2 a day by doing commonplace things like turning on air-conditioning or driving cars.
- That's more than twice the European average and almost five times the global average, mostly because Americans drive more and have bigger houses.

After checking with Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth, Peter and P.J. decided to shoot for 80% less CO2 emissions than the American average which equated to reducing use to a total of about 30 pounds of CO2 per day.

Measuring The Impact

PJ was in charge of reading the electric meter and checking the odometer on the Mazda Miata. Peter wrote down the mileage from the Honda CR-V and read the natural gas meter. Everything was diligently tracked on a list on the kitchen cabinet. Immediately, the Millers learned some important stats:

- A gallon of gasoline adds a whopping 19.6 pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere
- A kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity in the U.S. produces 1.5 pounds of CO2
- Every 100 cubic feet of natural gas emits 12 pounds of CO2

The Millers used website calculators to get an idea of their current carbon footprint. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website figured our annual CO2 emissions at 54,273 pounds, 30 percent higher than the average American family with two people. They had further to go than they thought.

A Greener Lawn
Peter's first mission was to do some yardwork with less CO2 than usual after he learned the average gasoline-powered push mower puts out as much pollution per hour as eleven cars — and a riding mower as much as 34 cars.

After a failed search for an old-fashioned reel push mower, Peter realized that just the errands that he and P.J. had run that day and common acts such as cooking dinner and drying clothes had them over 100 pounds of CO2 for the day, three times their target.

Vampire Energy
Contemplating how to save energy, Peter had a "vampire energy revelation". He sat up in bed, squinted into the darkness, and counted ten little lights: cell phone charger, desktop calculator, laptop computer, printer, clock radio, cable TV box, camera battery recharger, carbon monoxide detector, cordless phone base, smoke detector. Peter learned from a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that "vampire" power sucked up by electronics in standby mode can add up to 8 percent of a house's electric bill.

After returning from a trip to Oregon to attend his niece's wedding, Peter did some more research and turned up the following stats and facts:

- The United States produces a fifth of the world's CO2 emissions, about six billion metric tons a year.
- That staggering amount could reach seven billion by 2030, as our population and economy continue to grow.

It's the buildings, not the cars

Most of the CO2 comes from energy consumed by buildings, vehicles, and industries. Buildings, not cars, produce the most CO2 in the United States. Private residences, shopping malls, warehouses, and offices account for 38 percent of the nation's emissions, mainly because of electricity use. It doesn't help that the average new house in the United States is 45 percent bigger than it was 30 years ago. Companies that own their buildings, like Wal-Mart can realize significant savings from investing in energy efficiency, but commercial building owners have had little incentive to pay more for improvements like high-efficiency windows, lights, heating, or cooling systems since their tenants, not they, pay the energy bills.

Homeowners aren't helping. Energy efficiency takes a backseat whenever money is tight. In a 2007 survey of Americans, 60 percent said they didn't have enough savings to pay for energy-related renovations. If given an extra $10,000 to work with, only 24 percent said they would invest in efficiency. What did the rest want? Granite countertops.

The biggest CO2 culprit is buildings (38%), closely followed by transportation (34%) and the industrial sector (28%).

What's the impact?

Peter wondered how the numbers added up? How much CO2 could we save if the whole nation went on a low carbon diet? He found a study by McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, that estimated that the United States could avoid 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year, using only existing technologies that would pay for themselves in savings. Instead of growing by more than a billion tons by 2020, annual emissions in the U.S. would drop by 200 million tons a year.

Did it work?
Eventually, Peter and PJ got into the flow of the reduced carbon lifestyle. They walked to the neighborhood pool instead of driving, biked to the farmers market on Saturday morning, Peter worked from home, and when he did commute he took the bus and subway.

Compared with the previous July, they slashed electricity use by 70 percent, natural gas by 40 percent, and reduced their driving to half the national average. In terms of CO2, they trimmed their emissions to an average of 70.5 pounds a day, twice their targeted goal but only half the national average.

Or so they thought.

Their round-trip flight added the equivalent of 2,500 pounds of CO2 to their bottom line, more than doubling their daily average from 70.5 pounds of CO2 to 150 pounds — five times their goal. Air travel caused a huge CO2 impact.

Their neighbors had mixed results. The Bauers got down to 97.4 pounds of CO2 a day but the Freedmans couldn't eliminate driving where they needed to go and ended at 248 pounds daily.

Efficiency, in the end, can only take us so far. To get the deeper reductions we need, as Tim Flannery advised — 80 percent by 2050, we must replace fossil fuels faster with renewable energy from wind farms, solar plants, geothermal facilities, and biofuels. We must slow deforestation, which is an additional source of greenhouse gases. And we must develop technologies to capture and bury carbon dioxide from existing power plants. Efficiency can buy us time — perhaps as much as two decades — to figure out how to remove carbon from the world's diet.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Charging with Solar Power

Posted by Kendra Collins

So we are all trying to figure out new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and particularly the footprint caused by use of electricity. Have you ever thought of using something besides the power you get through the power lines? Even for your small devices such as your digital camera, your cell phone, your iPods and blackberries, they all use electricity, sometimes not even when charging something. How often do you set your cell phone on the dash of your car? Wouldn’t it be nice if it was charging while sitting there? Well it is possible by way of solar power. You could even have a solar charging system in your home placed in direct sunlight that you could use to charge some of your “phantom power” sucking devices.

I came across a device called the Solio. So if you can’t afford putting solar panels on your home maybe you could put a Solio to use in a spot of sunshine near you, it is portable. Also, the particular site I visited said that every time they sell a Solio they plant 10 trees to offset their factories carbon emissions. Anyway, I thought this was a pretty ingenious idea, you should check it out at the link above.

Don't Let Your Energy Go Out the Window

Posted by Ellen Milich

With the economy in the state it’s in, my husband and I have been looking at ways to upgrade our home rather than moving. The first order of business has been the windows, as we realized how much money and energy we were likely losing out of them. I began researching the various options to see what the best course of action would be, repairing or replacing them with argon-filled windows. Turns out replacement is far the better option and now is a great time to do so because under the new economic stimulus plan homeowners receive a tax credit of up to $1,500 for upgrading their home with energy efficient building components and reduce their income tax by up to thirty percent of the purchase price on qualified products installed in 2009 and 2010 (1).

Moreover, it’s staggering the amount of energy lost out of substandard windows. According to one website, “Windows represent the single largest opportunity for improvement. 39% of all emissions are tied to building operations, with 38% of that for heating and cooling. Up to 40% of that energy – and cost – literally goes out the window. This wasted energy results in over 250 million tons of emissions per year” (2). 250 million tons!!! And that’s only considering homes within the United States. Consider the amount that must be wasted if we take into account all industrialized nations.

It’s tougher to estimate what it costs per home to replace old windows as each home size differs as well as amount and size of windows, but generally a consumer could expect to spend a few thousand dollars, an amount that will (again depending on home size and climate) pay itself off in savings in a two to ten year time range.
The only setback I see to this form of upgrade is one we see often with “going green” and that’s the upfront cost. For lots of homeowners paying that amount of money is out of the questions regardless of the long term savings. As time goes on and new construction picks up again this problem will become less prevalent since building codes are constantly being revised to require builders to use more efficient products. For those of us with older homes and lower quality windows the savings is undeniable and if it is within your price range the long term benefits are well worth the switch.


The Price of Vampire Power

By Brianne McCleary

Below is an excellent video from GOODMagazine on the costs of Vampire Power. I have summarized the key points below but you can watch the original video at the bottom.

What is Vampire Power?
Even when household appliances are turned off, most are still using some electricity. Appliances are either in passive standby mode (the clock on the stove and microwave is still on) or active standby mode (the DVR is off, but programmed to record something. This is called vampire energy, phantom energy or wasted standby power.

How much energy do running appliances use?
- A 60 watt lightbulb kept on over a week costs about $1.
- Running a vacuum costs 17 cents per hour.
- Doing 5 loads of laundry costs about 20 cents

How much energy is wasted by Vampire Power?
Each American household has on average 20 - 40 devices that sap precious energy, even when not in use. Common offenders include desktop computers (33.5 Watts - $34 / year), microwaves (70 watt hours per day, enough to pop a bag of popcorn!) and even seemingly harmless rechargeable toothbrushes sap (1.4 watts / $1.50 per year).

It all adds up!
The average standby consumption of an American home in 2005 totals about $92 per month or the equivalent of one month's electricity bill.

Vampire energy is costing America about $4 billion per year and accounts for 1% of our global CO2 emissions!

What can we all do to reduce Vampire Energy?
- A smart power strip can cut the energy to multiple appliances with a single switch.
- The government backed Energy Star program tells you about appliances that use energy more efficiently and reduce total standby power consumption by over 70%.
- If we all followed this advice, we could reduce CO2 emissions by 0.5%, which is the equivalent of removing 18 million cars from American roads.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Is The DTA Converter Box Energy Efficient?

Posted by: Liliam Huckeberry

Is The DTA Converter Box Energy Efficient?

I like many of the millions of people who leave in the United States, have not purchased the Analog-to-Digital converter box. Why haven’t I switched? After all, Digital broadcasting promises to provide a clearer picture, more programming options, and apparently will clear the airwaves for the use of emergency responders for airports and hospitals. I am not sure. In any case, I must switch to the converter box before the deadline is up again.

I went on line to see how I could get one, and more importantly to find out if they are energy efficient devices. Well to my surprise, not all of them are energy efficient. I am not going to lie; I was a bit disappointed that the government is making us switch from analog to digital TV, and not providing us with the Energy Start Label converter boxes. When I was researching about the converter boxes I found some pretty interesting facts.

According to The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is estimated that the conventional converters boxes, or the regular converter boxes that do not have the Energy Star Labe on them, will consume more than 3 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year which equals a cost of more than $270 million annually in electricity, which is quite an astonishing amount of money, in my opinion.

If you have not purchase your converter box like me, you may want to look into buying one that has the Energy Star label. According to Energy Start Label (ESL), the converter boxes that have earned their stamp are 50% more efficient in electricity saving than the standard ones, the ones that do not get their label. Using an Energy start label converter box, you are guaranteed to not use more than 8 Watts in On mode and only 1 Watt in sleep mode. These converter boxes also come with a cool feature, and that is, that if the converter box is not in use for four hours or less it automatically powers down. Here a nice statistic, if all converter boxes sold in the USA were to get the Energy Star label we would save13 billion Kilowatts per hour and $1 billion in energy expenses over the duration of the converter box.

So why should you care to get an Energy Star Label product? Well the Energy Star Label was created by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States. The Energy Star was created, for the public to make the public aware of how much energy their products consume daily. To bear the Energy start label the product must work significantly more efficiently than its competitors. The products that do get the Energy Star label must reduce energy consumption by 30 to 50 percent

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Water use = Electricity use!

By Amy Padilla

The state of California uses 19% of its electricity in handling their water. This means in pumping, moving, treating and watering their homes. There is also diesel and natural gas that is used in handling their water. When I think of energy consumption the use of water is not something that I have ever considered. However, I believe that 19% of the electricity being used in California is reason enough to look at how I use water.

The Alliance to Save Energy created a website called Watergy that addresses the issue of water use and its direct relationship to energy consumption. They believe that we could save as much as 25 percent of our energy consumption in water systems. Considering that 2 to 3 percent of our world energy is used in the pumping, treating and moving of water this could be an incredible savings worldwide. We need to be aware as a community that our water use isn’t just taxing our water supply, but it is also dipping into our other energy sources.

From a homeowner standpoint what can we do where water and energy consumption is concerned? Did you know that our water heaters can be responsible for up to 30 percent of our monthly electricity bill? The water is being heated 24 hours a day, but we only use it for a few hours each day for our showers, dishes, and miscellaneous use. We can reduce our electricity by making sure our pipes are insulated, our water heaters wrapped and lowering the thermostat.
As I looked around for more information on how water systems and energy use are intertwined I found that the Environmental Protection Agency have documented some very important basic information. Such as:

By taking just a little bit of time we can begin to make a difference in our daily lives. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has created an organization called WaterSense that is a great location to begin looking for what we can do to make a difference. They have created a label for products that are water efficient so we can make smarter choices from the beginning. They also have links to educational materials and an online calculator to figure out what your water usage savings could be if you install a WaterSense labeled faucet(s) or toilet(s). Why not tackle two serious environmental issues at one time. Let’s save our water resource while also saving a bit of electricity!

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Posted by Kendra Collins

To live in these economic times everyone talks about ways to save money. Have you every thought of turning off the air conditioner in the Summer? Using a clothes line indoors or out to dry your clothing? Turning off the heated dry on your dishwasher? I have been using a calculator from the website of Michael Bluejay that gives approximate costs of certain appliances. If I were to line dry my clothes I could save some where around $9.00 a month. If I turned off my air conditioner in the Summer I figured I could save myself $38.00 per month. Ways to stay cool in hot weather is to open windows at night and in the early morning, then close windows and blinds before it starts getting hot. If there is a breeze that usually helps, but for a really hot day try wearing something damp around the house. For Winter wearing extra layers of clothing is always an option and might allow you to turn down your inside temperature by a few degrees which could also save money.

From other posts we have seen that compact fluorescent light bulbs can cut energy cost by 2/3rds. Also, unplugging certain devices can reduce bill as well, but if your wanting some dramatic electric bill changes you should give my ideas a try. We all know that any extra pennies in our pocket today can bring about big changes tomorrow. Perhaps, we can put those saved pennies to better use stimulating our economy.

Can you afford to make the switch to CFLs?

Posted by Michelle Crawford

My husband and I first became interested in CLFs when we had our first house built. We didn't purchase them to reduce our electricity usage, but in hopes of our outside garage lights not burning out each month. When our house was built, something was faulty with the wiring. After several conversations with our builder, we became desperate and were willing to try anything other than to have another conversation with our builder that would only lead us to more frustration. Our neighbor told us to try a CFL since it can last up to 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb and use up to 75% less energy. Well, unfortunately this didn't solve our problem since our issue was bad wiring in the house.

We have since moved into a new house and the previous owners were very energy conscious. In addition to having three solar tube skylights, almost all of the light sockets were outfitted with CFLs. We have 7 CFLs in our kitchen and ironically one burned out last week. We were on the fence since we weren't sure if we should by the CFLs or the incandescent bulbs.

We looked all over the web to find a calculator to help us determine how much money we could save annually by replacing the remaining incandescent bulbs in our home. The General Electric Lighting website has a lot of useful information including the above calculator and images of the different types of CFLs you can use in your home lighting.

The cost of one CFL is approximately $1.39 but will save us $6.57 a year at $.10 kwh. In addition to saving money, we are saving approximately 470 kwh of electricity too – with this one bulb! One package of 10 CFLs (60 watt replacement) cost $13.99 (Costco). This one box full of 10 CFLs can save the consumer approximately $564 in energy costs (@ $.12per kwh) and save 4,700 kwh of energy. We are sold based on the savings in both our pocket and energy!

To get the same wattage as an incandescent bulb, follow this link to use a CFL to Incandescent bulb conversion.

Use a desktop computer? You probably have phantom power.

Posted by: Johnny Tran

A computer can require several different types of peripherals (or accessories) running at once to make it fully functional. Speakers, printers, and a modem are just the few essentials that are often used on a daily basis. Of course, many of these accessories also require themselves to be plugged in to a power source to work as well.

Most of us are aware that these peripherals drain energy when the computer is off, but for many, the hassle of unplugging some of these electronics is the fact that many of them need to be reset or readjusted once they are turned back on. In the case of Comcast digital voice customers, it would not be practical to unplug their VoIP modems since they would not be able to receive phone calls otherwise. Also, as anyone who uses a power strip for their computer might be aware, it's not easy to mess with the tangle of wires awaiting them if they need to unplug something.

Luckily for anyone experiencing either scenario, there are great tools such as the Smartstrip power strip. The device is able to determine when the computer is turned off, and cuts off any other currents that are running on the strip. There are a few models that fit many different situations, including ones that have special settings for modems. Priced at about $32-$35 a strip, the Smartstrip should pay for itself soon after purchase, and is an essential for any computer user who does not want to fuss with their cords.

More information about the Smartstrip and similar devices can be found here:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Save $150+ with a Programmable Thermostat

By Amy Padilla

I am amazed at how many homes do not have programmable thermostats installed. These thermostats can cost as little as $29.00, but can save the average homeowner as much as $150.00 per year. I can honestly say that I had no idea the amount of money a simple programmable thermostat can save. It always seemed like a large task that would take a professional to deal with the wires for installation. Not only will it save your pocket book, but it also helps reduce unnecessary energy consumption. The old thermostats contained mercury, but the new programmable ones do not. It is yet another reason that these are better for our environment.

The installation of a programmable thermostat has never taken me longer than an hour and I have now installed 3. Different utility companies and some government agencies may even provide incentives for upgrading your home thermostat to a programmable model. This is something everyone should look into if they have one of the old mercury thermostats. Some of the thermostats also have the ability to program ventilation into them that will help keep fresh air circulating in your home to aid in our personal health.

There are calculators on the internet for everything these days and the amount of money that can be saved in your home from a new programmable thermostat is no different. Click on the following link to see how you can benefit from the installation of one of these: If your normal thermostat setting is 70 degrees and you lowered your thermostat to 65 degrees, with an average outside temperature of 45 degrees, you will use approximately 19% less energy for that time period. Why would you not install one? If the wires make you nervous then ask around. I bet you could find a friend that is comfortable installing them.

Recycle To Reduce Energy Consumption

Turning off unused lights or remembering to unplug unused electronic devices are simple and easy ways to save energy but another important and equally simple way to reduce energy waste is by recycling. According to, “Recycling is the process of taking a product at the end of its useful life and using all or part of it to make another product.” The recycled product requires less energy to produce it but also saves money and valuable resources.

Two important functions of recycling are: 1.Keeping, “valuable material such as aluminum and paper out of landfills, so this material can be reused in other forms and not wasted” and 2.Preventing, “hazardous materials and chemicals such as lead and mercury from ending up in landfills, which can contaminate soil and leach into our drinking water” (

Recycling has become a simplified task thanks to Single Stream Recycling which allows an individual to combine household products in one container for roadside pick-up. Recycling can also save you money by literally reducing your waste and ultimately lowering your garbage bill. I was surprised to learn just how many items I throw away on a daily basis that is recyclable. I bet you will find at least one item you can be recycling and didn’t even know it.

Recycable Items

Items such as opened mail, sticky notes, index cards, file folders, plastic bottles, jugs, tubs, and screw-top jars, paperback books, white or pastel office paper, paper egg cartons, cans (uncrushed and clean), balled aluminum foil, pie pans, empty aerosol cans, magazines, blueprints, newspaper, phonebooks, glass bottles and jars, lose metal jar lids, cardboard (flattened), brown paper bags, milk cartons and drink boxes can all be recycled in one container ( It is important to note that plastic lids or caps, plastic bags, Styrofoam or paper takeout containers/cups and shredded paper are not allowed to be combined with the rest of your recyclables. Plastic bags can be disposed at most grocery stores or at your local recycling center.

I recommend visiting
to learn about recycling and the significant benefits a simple task can have.

Interesting facts I learned on include:

•Recycled paper saves 60 percent energy versus virgin paper.
•Recycled paper generates 95 percent less air pollution: each ton saves 60 pounds of air pollution.
•Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water.
•Every year, enough paper is thrown away to make a 12-foot wall from New York to California.
•Production of recycled paper uses 80 percent less water, 65 percent less energy and produces 95 percent less air pollution than virgin paper production.
•Recycled glass saves 50 percent energy versus virgin glass.
•Recycling of one glass container saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
•Recycled aluminum saves 95 percent energy versus virgin aluminum; recycling of one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hour.
•Recycled aluminum reduces pollution by 95 percent.