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Being an Ebenezer Scrooge of energy

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we recently had solar panels installed on our garage roof. We love them. Monitoring how much electricity we are generating and consuming on our outside electric meter has become my husband’s new pastime. We also can see how much electricity we are generating on the computer.
 
Solar installation prices have dropped dramatically since solar energy first became a buzzword back in the mid-1970s. It was at the time that we had the famous oil embargo, and gas supplies were limited.
 
People had to wait in line for hours in some cases to fill up vehicles. I remember those times well as I was commuting back and forth to college.
 
Energy use and climate change are topics we need to take action on. The recent withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change has left many of us wondering how we as individuals can address climate change.
 
Converting to a renewable energy source like solar, wind, geothermal or biomass are options, but even with tax incentives, rebates and lower prices, some families will not be able to afford green energy. Others are not in the best geographical region to take advantage of these sources.
 
Many professionals who install renewable energy will tell you there are other areas where you can cut back on power use before thinking about investing in an entire system for your home.
 
Energy conservation and efficiency is one of the best options. First, you’ll need to know how much energy your family uses and where that energy is being wasted. Getting an energy audit performed on your home is one way to accomplish this. Often an infrared camera assessment will show the homeowner just where heat is escaping from the structure. These audits can range anywhere from $300-$600.
 
However, if money is an issue, any homeowner can perform his own audit. The Department of Energy has guidelines on its webpage that will walk you through your home and help you identify problem areas. You may not be able to afford the thermal camera, but you can get a very affordable device that allows you to measure all the energy used by any appliances. This device is called a Kill A Watt meter and can be purchased at most local hardware stores or chain retail stores. Their price should be under $30.
 
When we first got our meter, we spent a day plugging in devices to determine how much energy each one used. Of course some appliances like hair driers have their wattage listed right on the device itself. Others are not as obvious, and some devices can surprise you at the amount of energy they use.
 
Older-style computers are one of those devices. Opting for a newer laptop computer over an older tower model can save a substantial amount of energy if you are a family that spends a lot of time on your computer.
 
Of course leaving your computer on 24/7 is another issue too. A university study showed that an average desktop computer left on for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, cost the university $130 dollars over a year. If it was only used for an eight-hour day during the week, it costs $30 a year; quite a difference.
 
Another place where energy is often wasted is called phantom energy or vampire energy. This is energy that is used by equipment even when that equipment is not on but is still plugged into the outlet. Devices that can be pretty hungry for vampire power are computers, printers, scanners, treadmills and stereos. In some cases this power can be 15 percent of the total energy used by that device.
 
So how do you address phantom-energy use? Using a power strip is an easy way to cut down on wasted energy. No one wants to unplug all those devices while not in use, so just plug them into a power strip and click the strip off when you are done. I have several: one for my sewing machines, iron, sewing light and glue gun and another for all my computer equipment.
 
Changing over to LED lights also will make a difference in your energy use. LED prices have dropped dramatically and come in all styles, even candle-shaped lights. We noticed a big drop in our January bill after we purchased LED Christmas lights for our home.
 
One of the biggest sources of energy withdrawals, aside from your furnace and refrigerator, is your hot water tank. You can buy a newer higher-insulated model, use an insulated hot water blanket or just turn down the heat on the water tank. If you have to add cold water when taking a shower, your water is too hot. After all, isn’t it silly to use energy to heat water and then turn around and add cold because it’s too hot?
 
Saving energy is a win-win situation. You save money for your family and you cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. My latest attempt at cutting back on energy is to use my cast iron skillet as a slow cooker on top of our wood-burning stove. I use conventional slow cooker recipes and start dinner in the morning. I have yet to try a cake, but it’s on my “to-do” list. I wouldn’t try this with a turkey though.
 

Published: November 24, 2017
New Article ID: 2017171129962