Earth Hour, Kill-a-watt and electricity usage

Last night’s Earth Hour reminded me that I had wanted to write about electricity usage at my house and had already drafted this entry. It turned out that Earth Hour was not well observed in my neighborhood. It looked like every other night on my street. Our house was nearly the only one that was dark. My son was curious as to why we had the lights out. We told him it was for him and his kids. We read our bedtime stories by candles and flashlights. It must have been fun for him since tonight he asked for all the lights out again.

I’ve talked about a couple of gadgets here lately. And, trust me, there are plenty more that I haven’t talked about yet. All of these gadgets mean more stuff plugged in either to charge or to use. And, I live in an area with increasingly painful electricity costs.

I’ve already done the logical things. Almost two years ago I converted most of the light bulbs to compact fluorescents. All of our appliances are less than 5 years old and Energy Star when available. I no longer leave my computer running 24/7 purely for convenience. I’m always shutting lights off. But, we’re still using as much electricity as we ever did. So, it seemed to make sense to try to get a handle on which are the big offenders in my house and I borrowed my brother’s Kill-a-watt. The Kill-a-watt is a device that can help you measure how much electricity each consumer of electricity in your home is consuming.

The results were interesting but not earth shattering (no pun intended). I’ve got a lot of devices plugged in and on standby. I’ve always heard that it was best to keep these on a power strip and keep that powered off when not in use. Although, I’ve found that most of these devices are using little or no measurable electric power in standby. I still have more to check, though.

The biggest offender in terms of waste is our Comcast (Motorola) DVR. I knew it was going to be bad because of the heat that the thing throws off. So much, in fact, that the cat likes to sleep on top of the cabinet that houses it. It turns out that it uses 30 watts of electricity when it is operating. When it is powered off and in standby it uses, get this, 30 watts of electricity. I realize it is essentially a computer and needs to keep running in order to run scheduled recordings but this is alarming. My laptop powered on but idling with the display and hard drive off uses just 18 watts. Think about the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of these set top boxes that are out there consuming this amount of electricity 24 hours a day and being actually used some small fraction of that time. The cable company insists that you keep it on 24/7. Damn that’s irresponsible.

2 thoughts on “Earth Hour, Kill-a-watt and electricity usage

  1. Hey John this is really what I like about this forum. Out of the box exchanges. We live here in “fly over” land NE Indiana and we knew about Earth Hour. Our children had brought home some info from school on it and some local radio dj’s and discussed it. In our area the lights were blazin as usual and I am sure that most folks did not think about it at all. Your response to your son was a very good one regarding he and his kids. That is what we are he to do be stewards and pass it on to the next generation. Thanks for giving some insight to this and passing on your experience. Chet and the gang.

  2. It’s good to hear that the schools were bringing awareness to it.

    On Friday I first learned about it on our local news. Although, they stated that it was to occur starting at 7:00 PM. On Saturday, I noticed that the Google search page had gone to all black to recognize the event. They had a link to the Earth Hour web site where I read about the actual time; 8:00 PM.

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