Green Living – Power at Home

Changing our behaviors in the purchase and use of consumer electronics can reduce environmental impact.

Ever wondered how much power all your various electronic appliances and gadgets consumed and how much of that you can actually control? The good news is that by making the right choices when purchasing products and in adopting the right behaviors during usage, you can make a significant impact on reducing the energy consumption of these products.

If you live in a typical U.S. home, your appliances and home electronics are responsible for about 20 percent of your energy bills. These appliances and electronics include the following: clothes washers and dryers, computers, dishwashers, home audio equipment, refrigerator and freezers, room air conditioners, televisions, DVD players and VCRs, and water heaters.

Specifically, a report released in January 2007 by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) finds that electronic appliances and gadgets account for 11% of residential and 4% of total U.S. electricity consumption. Just three product categories-analog televisions, desktop personal computers and set-top boxes for cable and satellite services-account for two-thirds of residential consumer electronics electricity consumption. The report finds that these stationary electronic devices aren’t the only energy guzzlers in the home. Portable devices account for 4% of residential electronics electricity consumption, with notebook PCs and CD boomboxes representing more than 80% of that total.

Here is what you can do to mitigate the environmental impact of these home appliances and consumer electronics:

-Keep cool air inside by opening the door as infrequently and as briefly as possible.
-Check the temperature to ensure that the refrigerator operates between 36 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer between 0 degrees Fahrenheit and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer to check the temperature, and adjust the settings if necessary. Your refrigerator may use 25% more energy if it is kept at 10 degrees Fahrenheit colder than recommended.
-Keep door seal clean and in good repair. Test the seal by closing a piece of paper or dollar bill half way in the refrigerator door. If you can pull the paper out easily, the latch may need adjustment or the seal may need replacing.

-Approximately 80% of the energy used by dishwashers goes toward heating the water.
-Run the dishwasher only when it is fully loaded.
-Select the air-dry option. If you do not have the feature, stop the machine before the drying cycle and open the door to air-dry your dishes.

-For energy savings and convenience, consider turning off the monitor if you aren’t going to use your PC for more than 20 minutes.
-Make sure your monitors, printers, and other accessories are on a power strip/surge protector. When this equipment is not in use for extended periods, turn off the switch on the power strip to prevent them from drawing power even when shut off.
-If you don’t use a power strip, unplug extra equipment when it’s not in use.
-Make sure you have the power-down/sleep function feature set up on your PC.

Note: Screen savers are not energy savers. Using a screen saver may in fact use more energy than not using one, and the power-down feature may not work if you have a screen saver activated. And also, most PCs reach the end of their “useful” life due to advances in technology long before the effects of being switched on and off multiple times have a negative impact on their service life.

Learn more: Sustainability at Harvard