A more energy-efficient lifestyle is coming for us all.
But even if you don’t believe in climate change and the potential effects of global warming, there are compelling reasons to be more energy efficient in your home. And not just with your heating and cooling systems, but with your electricity consumption as well.
There’s no reason not to embrace energy efficient technologies, except because of higher prices. But costs are coming down, and those premiums can often be justified by the energy savings that result.
Here are five reasons to embrace energy efficiency.
Electricity Costs Will Go Up. A possible global climate treaty being negotiated in Copenhagen will be costly for developed countries, especially the United States, which will have to make more changes to be energy efficient than most countries.
Add to that the EPA’s recent declaration that carbon dioxide emissions constitute a health threat, climate change legislation due from the U.S. Congress in 2010, the strong likelihood of moving to more expensive alternative energy sources like wind and solar, plus our increasing electricity demands—and you don’t need an economics degree to know that our electricity costs will rise.
Smart grid services coming in the next few years may help us save some money at home, but we’ll need energy monitoring systems and home control systems tied to energy monitors to help us automatically turn appliances and electronics on and off as needed, without wasting energy.
The smart grid services are still in the works, but the energy monitoring and home control systems are already available.
You’re Wasting Electricity. Nobody likes wasting money, but nearly all of us do it every second of every day when our home’s electricity is on. An average home can contain 40 or more energy “vampires” that continue to use electricity when they’re idle or “off.” This includes everything from TVs to computers to microwave ovens to battery chargers to hard-wired smoke detectors and motorized garage door openers.
Basically, any electronic device with a clock, an LED light or readout or a touchpad will continue to pull a small amount or power when it’s not being used.
But these small amounts add up to about 5 percent of our electricity consumption. That may not seem like much, but it’s estimated that 40 percent of the electricity used by our home electronics is consumed when they’re not being used. That’s undeniable wasteful.
The solution? Cut power to these devices when they’re not being used. You’re not going to want to unplug a microwave oven or cut power to your smoke detectors or garage door openers, but you can better regulate the power use of most of your electronics by using switchable surge suppressors and switching them off. Or get smart surge strips that cut power to connected devices when a computer or TV is off or in sleep mode. They’re cool, they work, and they’ll save you money.
Convenience. Convenience. Convenience. The appeal of much of our electronics is convenience. And yes, saving energy can be convenient. Smart surge strips are much more convenient than manually switching off a surge suppressor to save energy.
Lighting control systems also offer great convenience by offering energy savings and only using the lights you need and automatically shutting off those that you don’t. But you don’t need to invest a bundle in lighting or home control to have energy savings and convenience. Some simple dimmer switches can conserve power—dimming a light by 10 percent is unnoticeable to most people.
And relatively inexpensive occupancy and vacancy sensors can automatically shut off lights when they detect no motion in a room. Look to invest in smart and programmable thermostats, and program them to cut back on your heating and cooling when no one is home or everyone’s asleep. Turning your HVAC system back one degree in temperature can save you significantly.
Want real convenience? Invest in good LED lamps and you’ll save more energy and not have to buy a replacement for years.
Better Performance. Energy-saving electronics have gained a bad rap for compromising performance, especially in audio and video. Until recently, that criticism has been warranted. But some of today’s energy-saving LED-backlit LCD TVs, for example, offer much better contrast and black levels than traditional fluorescent-lit LCDs, especially if they feature “local dimming” that turns the LEDs off in dark areas of a scene.
LEDs have even made their way into video projectors, though the prices of these remain high. TVs with ambient light sensing can dim or brighten a picture, depending on the amount of the light in the room, making viewing easier and saving energy.
In audio, efficient class D amplifiers have improved their performance and are being used in some audio/video receivers and whole-house music systems. They are worth your consideration and can save you money.
It’s Wicked Cool. If you’re really into home technology, how can you not get excited about innovations like LED TVs and energy monitoring systems that can be tied to home control systems?.
Think about it: many of us still learn about our electricity usage a month after the fact, in the form of a paper bill sent to us via snail mail. Wouldn’t you rather be able to monitor your energy usage, in real time, and be able to command a home control system to turn on and off things from your iPhone or other mobile device? Or get alerts when running the washing machine will cost you less if it isn’t turned on until later?
That’s cool, convenient, and economical. And with upcoming smart grid services, these kinds of features shouldn’t cost exorbitant prices. In fact, you can get fairly affordable home control systems and energy monitors now. If that doesn’t get you juiced about energy efficiency, here’s what’s coming down the pike: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that we’ll charge in our garages or driveways.
They will be automatically regulated by home control systems so they charge at times when the electricity rates are lower and possibly feed power from the car’s batteries back to the smart grid when needed.