Around Home Electronics and Energy Efficiency

What kind of appliances, gadgets, and other forms of electronic technology do you have plugged in around your home? Small kitchen appliances, televisions, cable and satellite boxes, gaming consoles, computers, modems, wireless routers, printers, fax machines, cell phone chargers, bluetooth headset chargers, Kindle chargers, ipod chargers, toothbrush chargers—the list goes on and on. And you may be able to find this amount of electronic technology in several rooms of your home. This is why many home owners can benefit from a home energy audit


Electronic appliances and gadgets now account for 41% of energy use in the home and 26% of energy use in businesses, a drastic rise from 8% and 2 %, respectively, just over a decade ago, according to data released at the Consumer Electronic Association’s recent International Consumer Electronics Show.


Since it’s unlikely that we’ll exchange our Kindles for paperbacks and rotating head toothbrushes for manual ones, much less turn off our computers and television sets, how can we minimize energy use in the wake of an increasingly technologically dependent world? Heavily used appliances like televisions and computers now come with energy-saving devices built in, but the gadgets we connect to them—cable boxes, DVD players, gaming consoles, modems, printers, scanners, and fax machines—do not.


“Smart Homes” and “Energy Intelligence Dashboards”—energy efficient systems that integrate smart appliances connected through a smart grid and monitored by the homeowner through a dashboard—are in the works but will not be available to the general public for a few years. Even then, it will take several more years for older homes to convert to smart homes. So what can we do now to minimize our increasing energy use?


Consumers Must Demand Better Product Efficiency

Consumers are still buying products based on price, not on energy efficiency or the amount of money they could save each month/year by purchasing a more expensive but more efficient appliance. Appliance manufacturers aim to make money, so they are unlikely to create more energy efficient products when consumers are still going for the cheaper, less efficient versions. Making more energy conscious product choices is one way to increase the demand of these products.

The same situation used to apply to larger in-home appliances, such as dishwashers, refrigerators, and washers, until homeowners started receiving incentives for purchasing ENERGY STAR appliances.  ENERGY STAR appliances can lower your electric bill and homeowners now realize the benefit of spending a little more initially and saving a lot more on utilities over time. 


Convert to Renewable Energy Sources

Solar energy and windpower have been available for years, and more and more households have been making the switch recently, even though it can take several years for a home’s decreased energy costs to make up for the initial investment. Once this period has passed, however, the monthly savings can be drastic, as is the increased value renewable energy sources add to a home.


Solar-based homes in perpetually sunny regions can store up excess solar energy to send back into the grid for others to purchase. Even in cloudy and rainy regions, enough sunlight gets through the clouds for solar panels to capture the energy and convert it to power for home use. Windpower works in the same cumulative manner, so areas that experience frequent wind can share power with those that don’t.


Other Energy Saving Technologies

Smart plugs have already been developed and will soon be more readily available. A smart plug is a new kind of power strip designed to cut off the energy going to gadgets and appliances that are fully charged or turned off, because they still continue to draw a small amount of electricity out of the socket.


Charger chips are being developed for manufacturers to begin installing in the various charging devices we use daily—everything from cell phone chargers to ipod chargers and camera battery chargers—in order to cut off the energy that chargers continue to extract even after they’ve fully charged a device.


Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs have been on the market for years. The upfront cost compared to an incandescent bulb is typically higher, the cost savings over the life of the bulb can be substantial. A typical CFL uses 75% less energy than an incandescent light bulb to provide the same amount of light.  In addition, more than half the energy consumed by an incandescent light bulb produces heat, not light.   We also cannot forget about the benefits of the LED which uses up to 80% less energy and lasts 25 times longer than the incandescent light bulbWe recommend replacing incandescent light bulbs that are used for one hour or more a day with an ENERGY STAR rated CFL or LED.  The benefits:  consume less electricity, less coal will be burned, and less greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere.  The payback is worth the switch!


Although technology is headed in the right direction, it never hurts to turn off some extra lights around the house and unplug some of the appliances you don’t use daily, since they do continue to use a small amount of energy, even when turned off.


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