Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Appliances use energy - even when they're off

Computer Equipment Pre-Survey

The average American home is brimming with consumer electronics and appliances - televisions, DVD players, stereos, and kitchen gadgets - the list goes on. All of these appliances are great to have when you need them, but they can add to your power bill even when they are turned off. These types of appliances can account for 15 percent of your power bill, and up to 40 percent of the energy they require is used when they are not running. Called "phantom" energy use, the power that clock displays, remote controls, and other features use in Off mode can really add up.

While altering the energy requirements of existing appliances is not possible, using consumer electronics mindfully or replacing them with energy efficient models will significantly reduce the amount of energy they require. Following are several ways to reduce the energy consumption of existing appliances:
  • unplug chargers for cell phones and other electronics when the equipment is fully charged
  • use a power strip as a central power supply for computers and peripheral equipment, video games, and other electronics. Turn off the power strip when the equipment is not in use.
  • enable power management features on your computer, monitor, and other office equipment
  • avoid using a screen saver on your computer's monitor; allow the monitor to switch to Sleep mode or turn it off when not in use
When it is time to replace an appliance, look for the Energy Star logo. Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Appliances and other household goods (such as light bulbs) bearing this logo have been designed to meet strict standards for energy efficiency.

Consumer electronics engineers today design not only for functionality, but for energy efficiency. For example, an Energy Star computer monitor uses up to 85 percent less electricity than a standard model. To earn the Energy Star label, a monitor must be desined to run extremely efficiently in On, Sleep, and Off modes. Requiring less power in Sleep and Off modes ensures that the monitor operates cooler and lasts longer than a standard model. According toe Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Program, in an average home, using Energy Star office equipment (computer, monitor, printer, fax) could conserve enough electricity to light a home for more than four years.

Lowering energy consumption not only means smaller power bills, but a cleaner environment. The less energy we consume, the less greenhouse gasses are emitted, and the healthier the environment will be. Being mindful of the energy efficiency of any appliance purchased benefits homeowners, business owners, and the community at large.

For more information on minimizing phantom energy use, see or Several podcasts about reducing the environmental impact of consumer electronics are available from Energy Star: You can also visit the U.S. Department of Energy at


Anonymous said...

Great information so far! I'm interested in solar paneling, metal roofing, and other remodeling that can be beneficial to an old house and the pocket book. I would also like to see any informaiton tax incentives and longetivity of products. (One contractor said metal roofing only lasts 15 years. I cant understand why this would be considered a "green" product.

Kevin Miller said...

Thanks for the compliment! I'm researching solar paneling and especially metal roofing for you so I can try to answer your questions with the best information available. I'll post that information as soon as I can.

Kevin Miller said...


After undergoing Renewable Energy Training this week, I've learned several things that, I hope, will answer your questions. First, solar paneling is costly and unlikely to be the best way for you to reduce your energy usage. For existing homes, according to Scott Suddreth from Southface (who led our workshop), the best way to reduce energy bills and consumption is through reduction and efficiency rather than use of alternate, renewable energy sources. It would be wonderful if solar paneling were efficient and inexpensive enough to use on any home anywhere, but we aren't there yet. In the meantime, consider having an energy audit done. An energy auditor can help you determine if your duct work leaks, if your house is insulated well enough, and if you are using energy efficient appliances. Often, those of us who have existing homes can make improvements to our insulation and air barriers that will allow our HVAC systems to run more efficiently, thus reducing much of our energy usage. Additionally, we can replace our incandescent lights with CFLs, properly insulate our water heaters, and reduce our "phantom energy" load, all in all potentially reducing our energy bills by thirty percent or more. Many of these changes cost very little and the payoff is immediate. Please contact me at should you like more information about energy audits and how you can find someone in the Catawba County area who will do one for you.

As far as metal roofing goes, Scott Suddreth said that even tin roofs will last a hundred years.

You can find information about tax incentives as well as more information about insulation, HVAC systems, energy audits, and more, at Scott's company website at

Welcome to the Catawba County Think Green Blog!

Reduce the environmental impact of your daily life by following these simple tips. Feel free to respond and add comments, but please be civil and appropriate with what you say. Thanks and have fun!