Monday, February 5, 2007

Saving Green Electrically

In the Famous Words of McFly in Back to the Future..."What the hell's a gigawatt?!"

Indeed what the hell is a gigawatt? Or more pertinent to how we're going to save the planet and our wallet with this post, what the hell's a kilowatt hour? Let's find out...

In looking around on the internet on ways to be more green around the house I came across a site all about electricity. I think it's very well put together and the guy really seems to know his stuff! There is tons of info on there including all you'll ever need to know to finally fully understand you monthly electric bill.

Anyway back to defining a kilowatt hour. If you look at a light bulb it will say how many watts it is. For instance a 100 watt light bulb. This is the rate of electricity that it will draw. However it is not the amount of electricity it will draw. To know the amount (which is what the electric company uses to know how much to bill you) you have to know for how long you have been drawing electricity at the rate of 100 watts. The most common amount of time used is an hour.

So for a 100 watt light bulb which is turned on for an hour, it was drawing 100 watt hours. Since this is a small unit of electrical measure you must convert this to kilowatt hour. There are 1000 watt hours in a kilowatt hour. So the 100 watt light bulb that is on for an hour used .1 kilowatt hours of electricity. If you power supplier charges say .17 cents per kilowatt hour, then you have just spent about 2 cents to run that light for that hour.

Surprisingly low I thought. However think about that same bulb that you forgot to turn off when you leave for your 1 month business trip. So the light stays on all month. That's 24 hours a day for 31 days or 744 hours. Or in dollars that's $14.88. I guess I can still afford that. But how many lights are there in your house? One light won't kill you but when they gang up they will. (See my first post's helpful hint #1, switch to compact fluorescents!)

The moral of the story however isn't to just turn off your lights (all though you really should turn off your lights if your not using them). It's the larger amp guzzling appliances that you can change to really make a difference. Buying a new refrigerator, or using cold water to wash you clothes, or switching to a LCD monitor for you computer can make a sizable difference. And remember anything you do even if it's small can add up.

This information is just he tip of the iceberg! If you find this interesting you really should check out Mr. Electricity's web page. Not only does he explain what a kilowatt is, but he shows how it relates to your power bill. And more importantly how you can use this information to reduce your bill.

In sticking to my new credo or saving the planet by saving your wallet, this could not fit more perfectly. In order for the power company to supply you with the electricity that you use, somewhere a power plant is burning coal, natural gas, oil, or maybe nuclear (there are wind, and solar but as of right now they are a small percentage). All of these except maybe nuclear (I don't know enough about this one but it obviously has pollutants of its own) create CO2 gas which gets released into the air and contribute to the greenhouse effect. So the less electricity that you use the less fuel will need to be burned to create it. So every time you decide to wash your clothes in cold water you are doing your small part to save the planet. Of course at the same time you are lowering your monthly power bill. Both things will make you feel good :-)

Again I highly suggest that you check out Mr. Electricity's web site. I found quite a few items of interest on there, and haven't had time to check out all that he has to offer yet!

As promised here is this post's helpful hint...

Helpful Hint #2:

Did you know that it is a myth that lights and other appliances use more electricity when your first turn them on to "warm up"? According to Mr. Electricity this is not true. Actually, I guess technically they do use a very tiny bit more which is where the myth comes from, but the amount is so small you wouldn't even notice it on your electric bill!

I always thought the myth was true, so if I was leaving a room that I knew I was going to come back to shortly I would leave the lights on "to save money". I guess I can stop doing that now!

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