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December 15, 2013
In these days of soaring energy costs, and concern about the planet's resources, there is no excuse for wasting energy -- yet most of us do so on a daily basis. We keep items turned on when they aren't being used, and let energy out where it does no good. If we can learn the common ways people waste energy in a residential house, we may find ideas for reducing our wastage.
One common misconception is that very hot water keeps us, and our clothes, cleaner than cooler water, and this helps to create a phenomenal waste of energy. We have been told for a long time that washing clothes at 86 degrees gets clothes just as clean as washing them at 104, and now people are beginning to get the message -- making this reduction will use 30% less energy. And, of course, drying the clothes outside will save a huge amount.
However, an even more common misconception is that hand washing with hot water is the only way to kill bacteria. In fact, studies show that water as cool as 40 degrees Fahrenheit reduces bacteria just as well as hotter water (what's important is soap and scrubbing), and when multiplied by the number of times we wash our hands in a year, this can make a big difference. Homeowners actually keep their water heaters at a much higher temperature than is required for most household tasks, which experts say is no more than 120 degrees.
One of the most prolific energy wasters in our modern life simply consists of keeping items plugged in when they are not being used. Thirty years ago, an average home might have had about three plugged-in items, whereas now the figure is about 30. All of these devices -- televisions, computers, printers -- can account for up to 30% of your home's energy use, but this could be halved, if more care was taken.
For example, it's quite common for the computer to be left on round the clock, because most people assume the machine is not using energy when it's in sleep or standby mode. The fact is, however, that a hibernating computer still sucks power, and can use up to 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Printers waste even more, because 95% of the power they use is consumed when they are sitting there switched on and waiting to be used.
The same goes for televisions. Many people have several TV sets in their house, some of which may be old, and only used by the children for video gaming, yet they are kept plugged in. If you never turn your TV off at night, you are wasting huge amounts of energy.
However, it's not just about big items, like the fridge (of course you need to keep the fridge plugged in, but you can still save energy by keeping the coils clean). You almost certainly have numerous small appliances, like toasters, blenders, coffee machines and hairdryers, plugged in all the time. These still draw power from the outlets even when switched off, and all this adds up over the course of a year.
Block the Leaks
Have you blocked all the drafts in your home? The US Department of Energy estimates that drafts can waste anything from 5% to 30% of your overall energy usage. Look for leaks near windows, under doors, and where wires and pipes exit from your foundations. In addition, get your ductwork checked regularly -- leaks in ductwork can lose you up to 60% of your heat, before it even reaches the vents.
You may be surprised to learn of these common ways people waste energy in a residential house. Maybe you are guilty of some of these practices, without even realizing it. However, now you have this knowledge, you can reduce your energy bills -- and help to save the planet too.
Are you in the Denver, CO area and want us to energy audit your home or business? Contact us today.