Saturday, January 19, 2008

Power Strips and Standby Power

Most appliances and electronics in the home are never completely off. They are usually in standby mode ready for someone to touch a key or use the remote control. While in standby mode they are still drawing power twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Maybe its not much, perhaps only one to ten watts. But start counting the number of devices you have in your home and the standby power consumption can add up quickly.

It is estimated that 7% of the power used in a home is for devices in standby mode. It could amount to the equivalent of leaving two or three 100 watt light bulbs on all the time. These standby loads can add a significant amount to your electricity bill over a years time ($50 or more). They also add to the global warming CO2 going into the atmosphere since the electricity probably comes from a coal or natural gas fired electric power plant.

The standby loads also are called phantom loads and vampire loads. The devices that have standby modes include TVs, microwave ovens, cell phone chargers, battery chargers, computers, computer monitors, printers, video game consoles, VCRs, DVD players and stereos. Anything with a clock, remote control or LED ready light draws standby power.

What can be done to reduced these standby loads. There are two simple low cost ways to eliminate phantom loads. Unplug the device when not it use or use a power strip. The power strip is usually the most convenience since it can be used to turn off multiple devices with one flip of a switch.

I use power strips at home to turn my PCs completely off. One power strip is all that is needed to turn off the PC, monitor and printer. At my home, we usually only use our PCs in the evening. It makes sense to have them off the rest of the day. PCs can use up to 50 watts even in standby mode. So its good to shutdown PCs completely and then cut off their power with a power strip.

I also use a power strips at work. I have a laptop PC that fits in a docking station. Whenever I undock my PC, I flip the power strip off. That eliminates the standby load from the docking station and my desktop monitor.

I only plug my cell phone charger in when I am actually charging the cell phone. The charger will still draw some power even when the cell phone is not plugged in.

The only devices in my home I do not have on powers strips are the TVs. Its not just a matter of being able to use the remote control. It is that they also loose all their programming and need to search to fine all the channels again when power is re-applied.

For more information on Standby power see:

So unplug or use power strips to reduce the standby power loads in your home. You’ll save some money and help reduce CO2 emissions. That a win-win.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Soft Drinks - Just Another form of Bottled Water

The Fanatic Cook wrote a blog called How America Eats in which she has a picture of a huge soft drink display in a supermarket foyer. The Fanatic Cook is concerned about the health effects of the soft drinks. When I saw this I started thinking about the environmental impact too. My thought was how is bottling all these soft drinks in aluminum and plastic bottles any different than just bottling water?

The major content of soft drinks is water. Its as much as 99.8% water. The rest is just some added flavoring, sugar usually in the from of high fructose corn syrup, carbonation and caffeine. So soft drinks are just bottled water in an unhealthy disguise of caffeinated sugar water. We still have the problem of transporting all the water in these soft drinks and disposing of all the bottles just like plain old bottled water.

To learn more see the following links:

If you still need sugar water, buy powdered drinks like Kool-aid or Gatorade powder and mix them with tap water. If you don’t like straight tap water, just use a carbon filter on your tap. A carbon filter makes tap water as good or better than most bottled waters. My filters work great. Drink the mixture from a reusable glass or bottle.

So do the environment, your waistline and your health some good by cutting out the soft drinks.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

China Restricting Plastic Bag Use

One of the simple ways we can reduce waste, reduce oil consumption and help the environment is to forgo the plastic bags we get stores. I try to take my clothe bags to the super market whenever I remember. When I just pick one or two items, I will carry them out without the bag. Checkout clerks just put things in the plastic bags instinctively. Its a bit of a shock to them when I refuse a plastic bag. Its like I’m the only one who does this.

However, I am no longer alone in my in trying to reduce waste from plastic bags. I now have China behind me. National Geographic is reporting that “China is banning free plastic shopping bags and calling for a return to the cloth bags of old.” The Chinese seem to be taking the plastic bag restrictions in stride with many realizing it’s a good thing. Click here for the complete article

Some other insights from the article are:

  • San Francisco last year became the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags
  • The United States throws out one hundred billion plastic bags per year!
  • Other countries have restrictions including South Africa, Ireland, Taiwan and Bangladesh

One other note I would like to add is Sam Club does not provide plastic bags or bags of any kind at their stores. They do keep used cardboard boxes from goods shipped to their stores at their checkouts for customers to use. I also know that Ikea is charging their customers a nickel per plastic bag in an effort to get their customers to use reusable bags. (click here). It think both of these stores should be given credit for not fostering plastic bags.

I hope you too will follow China’s lead and reduce your use of plastic bags.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gas Saving Tip when Parking the Car at the Store

The Pragmatic Environmentalist is all about saving energy whether its in the home, office or car. There are many tips on how to improve the energy use of your car and save gasoline like the ones I found on Yahoo! Green. But I never heard the tip I am about to give you here.

When going to the supermarket, mall or big box discount store (e.g. Wal*mart), park in a spot near the parking lot entrance. Just pull in the lot, take a space at the back and turn off your engine. You can waste a lot gas (and time) trying to get that space close to the store door. Some of your worst gas mileage come when inching through a parking lot.

In a busy store parking lot you can spent a great deal of time idling the engine or inching along waiting for people to move out of your path. There are drivers stopping their cars by the store entrance to pickup passenger or load their vehicles who block your way. There are drivers cruising around to get that close in space that slow everyone down.

Then there is the driver who blocks a lane waiting for another shopper to pull out of their close in space. The shopper usually must first put their purchases in the car, then take his time getting in the car, before finally pulling out of the space. Then the blocker finally pulls in the space and out of your way. This process seems to take 5 minutes or more. All this time, the blocker is wasting your gas, his gas and the gas of many others caught in the gridlock.

The are other advantages to parking in a space near the lot entrance is that they make it easy to get in and out of the lot. This reduces the stress of navigating the parking lot. Sure you have the walk a little further, but it’s a good way to get a some exercise too. With shopping carts its usually not a problem getting your purchases back to your car.

So save a little gas and get some exercise by parking in a space in the back of the lot.