Posts Tagged ‘Energy Consumption’

Weekly Round Up of Eco Building and Other Eco News from around the Web

May 1st, 2011

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the ecosphere. Keeping up with what’s happening in green building and on the environmental front would be a full-time job in itself. Here are a few of some of the thought-provoking the articles from the last week.

Nearly Net Zero Energy Home: This is an excellent example of a good looking nearly “zero net energy” house. A zero net energy home is defined as a home that produces the same amount of energy as it uses. This one comes close with a combined electric and heating bill of $263 per year.

US Energy Production Mix 2011 and 2035: I admit that I’m a numbers geek, so I love these two pie charts on Grist that show the make up of the US energy mix now and predicted for 2035. The big take away is that natural gas will have more of a presence and coal less. I guess my own disappointment is that renewables are still predicted to make up only 11% of the entire energy supply mix. Eleven percent? Can’t we do any better than that?

Living Future Conference 2011: Building Green people are attending the “Living Future ‘Unconference,'” in Vancouver this week. I admit that I’ve never heard of the event, but once I read about it, I will now be paying very close attention. Basically, the conference is a way to bring visionaries together who look beyond “green buildings” and towards how do we rejuvenate cities to be healthy urban environments?

Stop Climate Change — What you can do: From Earth Day, a list of the top ten things you can do to stop climate change. Really? We can stop climate change by eating local/organic and carpooling? The list of actions is symbolic of course — yes you should eat less meat and use the car less and it will make you feel like you’re actually doing something about it, but we should also be putting pressure on governments and corporations to lead by example. The last action: donate to your favourite environmental not for profit organization.

Why use an Energy Monitor: I couldn’t write a weekly round up without pointing to my own article, could I? For Practically Green’s action: use an energy monitoring device I wrote about why this is an important step. After all, if you’re trying to figure out how to reduce your own energy consumption at home, you have to know what’s consuming  all the energy. In the “Comments Section” one reader notes that one watt of power in Massachusetts produces 11 pounds of carbon in the air. It all depends on your state or province’s energy production mix, but it’s a good number to think about. Imagine how much energy is wasted (and CO2 pumped into the air) because we leave TVs and computers on standby all the time.

Putting the Kill A Watt to work to detect phantom power loads

March 4th, 2010

Phantom power load is a term that refers to how much power your electronic goods are drawing even though they might be turned off. In order for your TV to turn on instantly, it requires a certain amount of power so that it doesn’t go through the “warming up” phase that TVs used to do. The benefit of course is no waiting. The downside is even while you’re not home, you have electronic items and appliances that are drawing power unnecessarily.

Identifying phantom power loads:

While I’ve written in an abstract way about how effective the Kill A Watt is at measuring the amount of energy your appliances consume, I thought I’d share our experience using it. We measured the energy consumed by the appliances listed below.

Big, honkin’ Basement TV (Toshiba):  Off: 0 Watts              On: 165 Watts
Sony PS3:                              Off: less than 1 Watt   On: 95 Watts
Digital TV box:                     Off:  11 Watts                On: 12 Watts
VCR:                                       Off: 5 Watts                 On: 12 Watts (“play” mode)

Total phantom power load

  • when TV is off: 16Watts (digital TV box plus VCR).
  • Total Kilowatt Hours per year: 116kwh per year (estimate: 16 Watts x 1/1000 Kilowatts x 20 hours per day in standby x 365 days per year).

While the Sony PS3 has to use a little bit of power even when “off” (because of the on/off indicator light), it is less than 1Watt so it isn’t recorded by the Kill A Watt. Let’s say it draws slightly less than 1 Watt. In a year, it would use about 8 kwh of electricity. This is the same amount for our 4 cordless phones, but they’re used less often so they draw about 8.5 kwh x 4= 34 kwh per year in phantom loads.

Computer and accessories:

Hard drive:                  Off: 4 Watts         Standby:  5 Watts        On: 88-130 Watts (depending on amount of activity)
printer:                          Off: 0  Watts        On (idle):  5 Watts       Printing: 16-20 Watts
Router:                          Off: 0 Watts         On: 5 Watts
Monitor:                        Off:  0 Watts       Standby: less than 1 Watt      On: 37 Watts

Total phantom power load

  • when computer is “off”: 4 Watts.
  • When computer is in “Standby”: 5+ Watts.

Phantom power consumption per year is approximately 20 KWHs. (estimate: 4 watts x 1/1000kilowatts x 14 hours/day in off mode x 365 days per year).

What does this mean?

We have fairly good behaviour patterns regarding our electronics. The boys turn the TV and game systems off when they’re not using them. The one glaring fault I see is leaving the VCR plugged in. We use it so rarely and it’s drawing 43.8 kwh per year. I was surprised at how little power our TV and PS3 drew when turned off, but also surprised that the computer, even when completely off was still drawing 4Watts of power. I was at my local Home Hardware the other day, and while they didn’t carry a power bar with a timer, they did have a Smart Strip so I bought that instead.

The Smart Strip: If you’re not familiar with the Smart Strip, it’s a surge protector that goes a step beyond a basic power bar. I’d read about it on Treehugger but now having used it, the jury’s still out as to whether this is a good investment for our specific purposes.

Smart Strip

How it works: You plug your primary device into the “control” plug. The primary device is usually the TV or computer hard drive. Plug the peripherals (screen, printer, modem) into the controlled outlets. Any peripheral, such as a fax machine or cordless phone, that you want to keep on all the time can be plugged into two uncontrolled outlets.  The power bar is activated with a sensor that monitors electricity flow changes from the primary electronic. When power level decreases when the primary device is turned off, a signal is sent to shut off peripheral devices thereby eliminating phantom draw.

I decided to try out the Smart Strip with our TV/PS3/Digital Box option. I’m not sure this is the right way to go because the digital box will have to reset everytime the TV’s turned on but in theory it will save about 80 kwhs per year of electricity. The Smart Strip itself draws a minimal amount of power unless you turn the whole thing off, and then you might as well just use a regular and much less expensive power bar. My concern is the daily resetting of the digital box.

We shall see how successful this Smart Strip is, but for $39.95, it might be more suited to a home theatre system or a bigger home office than our small plug load. Our better bets would be to get rid of few cordless phones and eventually replace  our TV and computer hard drive to Energy Star models, and to use a power bar with timer for the computer and TV set-ups.

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