Earth Hour

I just tonight received an email from my town reminding me of Earth Hour on March 28, 2009 from 8:30 to 9:30 PM –

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008, the message had grown into a global sustainability movement with over 50 million people switching off their lights. This is an opportunity for people everywhere to show their support for greater environmental responsibility. The simple act of turning off our lights will demonstrate our commitment to personal responsibility to reverse the effects of global warming. This year, people and organizations in over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support for Earth Hour 2009. Organizers of this event hope to obtain the support of over one billion people across the planet. Results of this effort will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009. Won’t you join us? For more information, please go to

I wrote about this event last year and, just like last year, I haven’t seen much publicity about it. So, I though it was a good time to mention it and update you on my electricity usage and attempt at better environmental responsibility. In that last post I mentioned the effort I had undertaken to identify the electricity hogs in my household.

First and foremost saving electricity means saving money. But, in June of last year it was really time to ‘put my money where my mouth is’. We signed up for a clean energy option from our electric supplier. This means that 100% of the electricity we use is generated through renewable sources. In our locale that means small hydro and wind. Well, it’s not exactly the electricity we use but an equivalent amount of clean energy is introduced into the regional grid.

This change means we spend an extra $8-$10 per month. But, I am happy to report that in 8 of the 9 months since that change we have used less electricity when compared to the like period in any of the five years that I have been keeping usage records.

So, join Earth Hour. Then go out and push your 5.0L V8 Mustang to the limit…guilt free, of course. Continue reading

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.

Recycling at its finest

Chris writes:

I was doing some kitchen work and was removing an old and dated cabinet to make room for a bay window. I needed a place for my power tools so I decided to make it worthy of placement in the garage. I spray painted it with a few coats of Krylon Fusion paint made for plastics. (Patriot blue, looks like Ford blue) It’s made with the same adhesives found in model glue so no sanding or priming is needed. Still, I gave it a once over with 220 sand paper. I bought a Mustang window decal on ebay for $12 and spent another $7 on new chrome hardware. It now holds all my power tools. I bored a hole through the bottom and ran the cord out for my cordless drill battery charger. Nice weekend project.

Chris' cabinet before

Chris' cabinet after

Very much like what I did with the cabinets I used in my garage. The major difference is that I picked up mine at a garage sale for $5 apiece and they were orange! Another difference…Chris took the time to tell us how he did it. Thanks, Chris!