Saving energy is easy. You can do as much or as little as you feel
comfortable with, depending on your family and finances. Saving energy
also doe's not have to cost you a lot of money. Start slowly and simply.
One of the most common complaints we hear from people that are trying to
save energy is that they have children and it is impossible to get their
kids to do anything to save energy around the house. In that case, we
always suggest that they sit down with their kids and talk to them about
what they are trying to do and why it is important. Most kids have been
taught all about conserving the environment through recycling at school,
but they may not have been taught that it is just as important to save our
resources as well. Hopefully, a bit of time spent talking with them about
this, will help them to understand. Try not to push them too hard. Again,
start slowly and simply. Make it into a game to see how low you can go
with your kilowatt consumption. Above all, praise them when you notice
that they have done something to conserve with out you having to remind
them. Positive reinforcement is definitely the way to go! After a while
these things will become second nature to your kids and you as well.
Now that you have your family convinced to reduce your household needs,
it's time to get started.
First of all, a little explanation about "Phantom Loads" in
your house. A phantom load is an electrical load that wastes electricity
and gives you nothing in return. A lot of electrical devices have phantom
loads. Things such as stereos and televisions, vcr's, dvd players,
microwave ovens and many, many more. Anything that remains in a
"standby mode" when not in use has a phantom load. Even things
that are not obvious such as chargers for batteries for cordless drills
and such have phantom loads. Just because it doesn't have a light on it
when it's not turned on, doesn't mean that it doesn't have a phantom load!
Some phantom loads are quite small but others can be as much as half the amount the device uses when it is turned on.
Phantom loads may not seem to add up to much, but if you add up all of
the things around your house that have theses loads, it can be a
substantial amount of energy being wasted!
Getting rid of phantom loads is easy. Simply unplug these things
when you are not using them. If the device is plugged in in a place that
is too hard to reach to unplug, then plug it into a power bar and put the
power bar in a location that is easier to get at and then simply turn off the
power bar when you are finished.
If you are in doubt about whether or not something has a phantom load,
assume that it does and unplug it. Obviously, there are essential
appliances that you can't unplug like your refrigerator and freezer, but
almost everything else can be unplugged when it's not in use. You will be
surprised at how many kilowatts can be saved by getting rid of those pesky
Another thing that we found that you have to be very cautious of are
things that say that they are "low voltage". These can be things
such as outdoor decorative lighting. These low voltage items use a wall
cub transformer that plugs into an outlet and changes the voltage from 120
to a lower voltage such as 12 volt. These wall transformers use a lot of
power to reduce the voltage. In the case of our own outside lights, we
found that the transformer used as much power as our refrigerator and that
was during the day when the lights were not even turned on! These
transformers use power all of the time that they are plugged in whether
the unit that they operate is in use or not! If you have these types of
transformers in your home, and they are not running anything that is
essential, unplug them and only plug them in when you want to use
whatever they are running.
Not every transformer uses huge amounts of power. We have a transformer
on our telephone that uses very little power, but if in doubt, unplug it.
Check around your home for things that are plugged in that you may have
forgotten about that are seldom used. A friend of ours told us that she
had a television in her sun porch that had not been turned on for at least
two years, but it was still plugged in and drawing that pesky phantom load
every hour of every day! Check that extra freezer in your basement to see
how full it really is and how old the stuff is that is in it. Maybe you
don't really need that extra freezer or possibly you could get away with a
smaller freezer. A lot of people have an ancient beer fridge in their
basement or garage that has nothing in it or very little. Again get rid of
it or get a newer, smaller fridge that better suits your requirements for
If you have outside lighting at night, turn it off in the morning.
Having outside lights on during the day is a huge waste of power! If you
can't remember to turn them off in the morning, put them on a day/night
sensor. Stay away from timers if possible. They use power waiting to turn
the lights on!
Speaking of lighting, everyone knows, or should know, of the virtues of
compact fluorescent light bulbs. They are great! They can save huge
amounts of energy around your home!
Compact fluorescent bulbs have changed a lot since they first started
to appear in the back corners of the shelves in your hardware store a few
years ago. First of all, the price has come way down. The first compact fluorescent
bulbs that we put in our home cost us about $20.00 each! Now they are
around $3.00 or $4.00 dollars each or even less if they are on sale. The
technology has improved as well. They don't have that long delay when you
turn them on any more and the light that they give off is virtually the
same as the light from a regular incandescent bulb. There are also many
more types of compact fluorescent bulbs available now. There is every
thing from bug lights to floodlights to really small ones for your
If you can, you should change every light in your home to a compact fluorescent
bulb. If you don't want to do it all at once, then change a few each month
till you have them all changed. Even if you have regular fluorescent
lights in your home, (the long tubes) you should consider changing the
fixtures if you can.
While we are on the subject of lighting, you can save yourself a lot of
electricity at Christmas time by switching all of your holiday lighting to
LED lighting. These lights use almost no power to run and they are about
the same price as regular Christmas lights! Since we changed to LED
Christmas lights, we have twice as many lights on our tree and outside as
we used to have and they cost us almost nothing to run!
A lot of people are now using the LED Christmas lights year round for
their outside lighting since they use so little electricity.
Large appliances such as refrigerators and freezers, washers and
dryers, dishwashers etc. use the most energy in our homes. If your
appliances are more than ten years old, you might want to consider
changing them to a new model. The appliances being produced today are very
efficient compared to ones that were produced even five years ago and they
are getting better each year!
As your appliances age, they use more and more electricity to operate.
In the case of fridges and freezers, they cycle on more often than they
did when they were newer and when they cycle on, they stay on longer as
well. Older fridges and freezers can use two or even three times more
electricity than new ones.
If you decide to buy a new appliance, try to stay away from unnecessary
gadgets. The more toys you have on your appliances, the more energy they
There is a very informative guide book put out through Natural
Resources Canada that tells you all about the Energuide system of rating
the energy use of appliances. It has listings of every make and model of
every appliance and how much energy they will use, on average over the
course of a year. It explains how to read the Energuide labels on
appliances and what the Energy Star rating means. This is a very helpful
guide if you are planning to buy any new appliances. To order this free guide
book, click on Energuide.
We found a really neat little gadget called a "Kill-A-Watt"
meter that you can use to measure the amount of electricity that is
consumed by the electrical devices in your home. This meter plugs into any
outlet and you simply plug whatever you want to test into it and turn it
on. It measures the amount of electricity that the device , let's say a
stereo, uses when it is running and if you turn the stereo off, it will
tell you how much it uses for a phantom load when it is turned off. You
can also plug in larger appliances such as refrigerators into the meter
and let it run for a 24 hour period and it will tell you how much power
it uses over the course of the day. You can then figure out by multiplying
that figure how much your refrigerator uses over the course of a year.
This can give you an indication, if you use the meter to test your
appliances occasionally, that the appliance may be starting to wear out if
you notice that they are using more power than they were last time you
We have these "Kill-A-Watt" meters available for sale. (see
the home page for pricing and ordering information) We decided to make
them available for people because they had heard about them, but were
unable to find them anywhere for sale. They are such a useful little
device and can save you so much on your electric bill, that we thought
that they should be more readily available to people.
Making Sense of What You See
Another good thing that everyone should learn how to do is interpret
their electricity bill. For most people, their hydro bill looks very
confusing and the fact that they keep changing the way they present the
bill, doesn't help either!
Depending on where you live, your hydro bill may look different than
someone else's bill. Basically, what you want to see is how many
killowatts you are using per month. Somewhere on your bill, there will be
a line that will give you that information. If you can't decipher your
bill, call your utilities provider and ask them to help you to understand
your bill. They are usually more than willing to help you with this.
Once you understand how many killowats you are using every month, then
you can try to reduce that number every month. It sounds strange, but we
actually began to look forward to receiving our hydro bill every month to
see just how much we had saved that month!
The Benefits of all of Your Hard
The benefits are multiple. First of all, you will be saving money on
your electricity bill. How much you save is really up to you, depending on
how far you want to take this. Secondly, you will be setting a good
example to your family as well as other people in your life. When you see
the results of your efforts, you will talk to others about what you have
done and they will begin to think about how they could put these energy
saving practices into use in their homes as well. And last but as far as
we are concerned, most importantly, you will be doing your part to leave a
smaller imprint on the planet.