Global Warming is real. The urgency of the global warming problem can no longer be denied. It could be a matter of life and death for our children and grandchildren. We can do something about it before it’s too late. The quickest and least costly way to address the problem is to reduce our use of energy, which is, for the most part, the root of the problem. We use energy in many ways, but this brochure is focused on the most expensive and environmentally damaging use of electricity.
Changing our habits in this respect can achieve immediate benefits at a relatively low cost. While it defies logic, electric utility companies in Missouri and Kansas and across the United States are embarked on a program to build more than a hundred new coal fired power plants. Their excuse is the need to meet growing summer peak loads and their assumption is that Americans will continue to demand ever more power. We can prove them wrong, and hardly break out in a sweat!
Challenge # 1. The most expensive and environmentally damaging use of electricity by the general public is, surprise… Air Conditioning in the Summer.
Air conditioning is very costly because peak demand, also called peak load, is caused by home and office cooling needs during summer heat waves. Electric utility companies must install equipment that can be ramped up quickly to meet surges in load. As a rule this need is served by combustion turbines fueled by expensive natural gas. Even if natural gas were cheap, the cost would still be high because the equipment sits idle all but a few weeks of the year.
Challenge # 2. People love their air conditioning! This requires no further explanation for long time Kansas and Missouri residents.
Meeting the Challenge with personal solutions. Is there a way out? Can I be part of the solution and not suffer in a sauna? Yes you can! But first some principles to guide your actions.
Fundamental Action Principle #1: Stop making your air conditioner work so hard.
Many uses of electricity in homes and businesses give off waste heat that forces your air conditioner to work longer and harder while using extremely costly power. The five main sources of waste heat are:
a. incandescent lights – perhaps the most energy inefficient device ever invented. They work on a principle of creating so much resistance to the flow of electricity that the internal element becomes white hot. The bulb gives off heat that significantly increases the temperature in a room. In contrast, fluorescent lights use 65 to 75% less energy and give off little heat.
b. gas compressors. These are also very inefficient devices because they are, in effect, trying to pound air or gas into a smaller space. Try that with your fist. The “guilty parties” in your home are your refrigerator and freezer. The waste heat is given off by the cooling coils underneath or on the sides of the appliance.
c. heating elements. Like incandescent bulbs, they work by creating resistance to the flow of electricity. The “Perps” are electric stoves, ovens, counter top ovens and heating plates, coffee makers, toasters and electric clothes dryers.
d. gas fired appliances. Gas stoves put most of the energy into your rooms not your food. And don’t forget hot water heaters and pipes.
e. electronics. all electronic devices like computers, monitors and TV’s contain resistors and capacitors that give off heat. Many of these devices are unnecessarily left on while unused.
Fundamental Action Principle #2: use your appliances during off-peak hours.
Note: Peak summer loads occur between 11 AM and 7 PM. It’s coolest from 6 to 7 AM in the morning.
Thus, especially on hot days, do your chores and run your appliances late in the evening or first thing in the morning. This way the appliances don’t draw power while air conditioning everywhere is going full blast and straining the grid.
No Sweat Action Steps (while still enjoying your summer)
1. Replace incandescent lights with fluorescent lights. Fluorescent lights now come in all shapes and sizes at low cost. It’s worth it to replace all your incandescent lights that operate more than a few minutes each day. Tube flourescents are moderately more efficient than the compact units (CFL’s), but of course, tubes cannot be screwed into exiting fixtures.
If you have recessed lighting fixtures of the open-end kind, you can now buy flood-type CFL’s to fit, or you can coat the insides of the fixture with aluminum paint to increase reflection in the desired direction from a standard CFL which are much less expensive. Of course it’s best to keep any lights off when unneeded. Regularly clean fluorescent lamp tubes and shades.
Flourescent lamps contain a tiny amount of mercury and need to be properly disposed of or recycled. See website at end of this brochure. The good news is these lights last many years with normal use and cause less emission of mercury than would occur if more coal was burned to run incandescent lights of comparable illumination.
2. Turn outdoor security lights off during the day. Use fluorescent, high density discharge or low pressure sodium lights.
3. Unplug that old refrigerator or freezer. Our grandchildren can’t afford for us to use the old frige to keep our beer cold. Throw out or use up old food so you can consolidate into one refrigerator. You can keep the old frige for emergencies.
4. In early AM use your whole house fan to draw in outside air. Then shut the house up during the day. This helps during all but the hottest days. When the house is closed up, use ceiling fans to circulate the air. This allows you to turn up the thermostat and still remain cool.
5. Cool only the rooms you need by closing cooling vents and doors of unused rooms.
6. Do your chores late at night or during the cool of the morning. Wash & dry clothes, run your dishwasher, take your shower and cook meals to eat later. Better yet, dry those highly water absorbing items like towels and jeans on an outside clothesline.
7. Wash your clothes in cold water.
8. Use your microwave to cook and heat food. It uses 1/3 the energy of electric ovens. Better yet, eat cool foods on hot days, like forget the toast.
9. Turn your electronics completely off when not in continual use. If you aren’t planning to use your computer in the next hour or so, turn it completely off. That goes for your TV, too. Make sure your computer is on a power strip/surge protector which you can use to easily disconnect the system. Most PC’s reach the end of their useful life because of advances in technology long before being switched on and off reduces their service life. If you can’t wait for start up, use the sleep mode. Screen savers do not save energy and are no longer necessary.
10. Complain to your boss! That’s right. The next time you are freezing cold in your office while it’s 95 degrees outside threaten that you are going to tell the stockholders that he is wasting a lot of their money. Better yet call his children and grandchildren! This kind of nonsense has to stop now!
Longer term action steps
OK, you’ve come this far and you haven’t even broken a sweat. Your grandchildren can breathe a little easier. If your credit card still has some room, though, or you received an inheritance, there’s more you can do. Buy new, high efficiency home appliances. Add insulation. Install a whole house fan. Do an energy audit and install some electronic controls to reduce power use during peak demand. Go off the grid, even … with a wind turbine or solar panel. The energy policy Act of 2005 allows tax credits for certain home improvements.
Come to think about it, that’s like giving an inheritance to your children and grandchildren… now, while it’ll do the most good…. and they can’t blow it on a Hummer or a boat. Let’s “Spread the Light.”
Here’s some websites where you can get additional information:
www.energystar.gov (Guide to energy efficient appliances & certification of compact fluorescents -CFLs)
www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/ (DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)
www.lamprecycle.org (click on “recycling household lamps” and the EPA Fact Sheet) for info on proper disposal or recycling of CFLs.
www.ase.org and www.powerisinyourhands.org (Comprehensive energy savings info)