If you’ve seen Ed Begley, Jr. on TV, you probably know him as an environmental advocate. His show on the Planet Green channel, Living with Ed, is an entertaining, real-world account of his green home improvement adventures, often to the dismay of his wife, Rachelle Carson. The couple clashes over just about every eco-home initiative Ed concocts. Begley has parlayed the success of the show into a book, Living Like Ed, and spokesperson opportunities for green products such as Bayes Waterless Vehicle Wash, a non-toxic car cleaner. Begley also has a line of his own green cleaners, Begley’s Best. The actor spoke to us from his modest and ever-evolving green home in Studio City, CA.
Q. What’s your favorite green gadget?
A. My 6.5-kilowatt solar array. And the one gadget would have to be the solar tracker [that pivots solar panels] to track the sun all day. I have enough power to run the house and charge my car. Another favorite gadget is my [plug-in] electric car. It’s a 2002 Toyota Rav4 with 67,000 miles on it, and it’s still running great. I have a friend with one that has over 100,000 miles, and there’s someone else with over 150,000 miles on it.
Q. Any favorite green electronics?
A. I have a Solio solar charger to charge my cell phone. It works pretty well, if you get one with the bigger panels. I have one that folds open to about three times the size of the cell phone.
Q.Tell us about the GreenSwitch in your house.
A. It works great. I have a bunch of vampire devices like the printer, speaker system for my computer, cell phone chargers, and things that don’t need to be working all the time [and that draw power even when turned “off”]. With the flick of one switch, I can shut off all the power to them when I walk out the front door. It’s wireless, so they went to a higher frequency, and it really kicked in. It’s a better signal.
Q. Does Rachelle use it?
A. No, I haven’t gotten her to use it, so thanks for asking. I need to get her in the habit.
Q. Do you try to save energy with a home entertainment system?
A. I’m kind of in the Stone Age with that. I have an old NTSC TV. I don’t have an HDTV yet, but I will get one, and when I do, it will be one with an Energy Star rating.
Q. Do you think electronics can be used to help us become greener?
A. Definitely. We’ve already gotten a lot of help from them. Solid-state electronics have made many appliances more efficient. Electronics have told us about ozone and global climate changes and air pollution. And things like the GreenSwitch really help with energy efficiency.
Q. How did you hook your exercise bike up to run your toaster, as you do in the show?
A. It doesn’t really run the toaster; it goes into the battery bank for the house. I just took a 120-volt DC motor and put it on a stand at the rear wheel of the bike. Riding hard for 15 minutes at 2 amps and 120 volts is enough to toast bread for two minutes.
Q. What’s your biggest environmental crime?
A. Flying. I try to avoid it, but once in a while I have to. I drove to New York and Florida last year. I drive in the Prius, which consumes less gas.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates