Five Suprising Energy Hogs Around the Home

By Holly Royce

Our Women Power Participants are on a journey to cut their energy consumption back by 20%. The first step in their journey, before making any changes, was to simply observe their energy use in real time. All of the participants were shocked to find that it was an accumulation of the small sneaky appliances that absorb most of the energy, not the larger ones that are used much less.

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Energy consumption around the average Australian home

You might remember our recent post, “Does your smart phone use more electricity than your refrigerator?” – which had very surprising results. Thanks to some information from the Women Power Participants and the National Geographic we would now like to share with you some of the sneakiest energy guzzlers around your home.

Set-Top Boxes

So many people have these common devices attached atop their television, connected to our entertainment systems. Think digital set-top boxes and even TiVOs. Did you know they have clocks that run when no one is watching? These devices function much like mini-computers that communicate with remote content sources or record favorite shows while you’re out. That means they require a lot of energy.
“The issue with set-top boxes is that they never power down and they are almost always consuming their full power requirements even when you think you’ve turned it off,” said Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “If you have a DVR on your main TV, and a regular set-top box on a second TV, that could equal the energy use of a new refrigerator.”

Look into an energy efficient set-top box, which are now becoming more widely available.

Battery Chargers

Almost every item of modern technology we use requires rechargeable battery power of some sort. Many charging systems use out-dated technologies that waste electricity. Not many people are going to go out and buy a laptop or mobile phone according to how effective the battery charger is. Aside from the fact this marketing barrier needs to be rethought, there are other actions we can take to cut our battery recharge energy consumption. If your charge your electronics over night, considering getting a power board with a timer, which will switch off when the battery is full. When not in use at all, turn all appliances off at the power point. Standby power is a sure way to chew up a large amount of unnecessary energy.

Microwave Ovens

Though you only use your microwave part of the time, the truth is these appliances consume most of their electricity when they’re simply sitting in your kitchen doing nothing.
An Appliance Standards Awareness Project study found that the typical microwave is only used about 70 hours a year. During the other 99 percent of the time, or 8,690 hours, it burns as much as 35 kilowatt hours in “vampire power” to illuminate the clock and keep electronic push button controls in standby mode. Whenever it is not in use, make sure to turn your microwave off at the switch.

Game Consoles

Powerful game consoles like the Xbox360 and PlayStation 3 have important power-saving features, but also some significant issues, said Noah Horowitz.

“They feature an on/off button, which puts the console into a standby mode with less than one watt of power usage, which is what it should be—they work great,” he said. Unfortunately many users don’t turn the units off, or turn off the television but leave the console powered up—a costly mistake.
“If you run the console 24/7 because you don’t turn it off, it could cost you an extra hundred dollars a year,” he said. Newer consoles now ship with an auto power-down feature that launches the standby mode after periods of inactivity. Older units have the feature too, Horowitz explained, but require users to visit the menu and make sure the device’s power-saving mode is turned on.

Game consoles also hog power when they are used to stream movies, something makers like Sony and Microsoft are increasingly encouraging their users to do. Watching DVD’s on the consoles will also eat up much more electricity then just simple using a DVD player.

“You’d like the console to turn off unused features. You don’t need that powerful game processor when you’re just streaming a movie, but right now the consoles are not designed to differentiate between those tasks.”

Pool Pumps

While some bemoan the heating costs for some pools, another, larger expense often goes unnoticed: the pool pump accounts for 70 percent of a typical pool’s energy use and seven times that of a refrigerator.
The pump keeps pool water circulating and passes it through filters. Single-speed pumps always run at the same maximum speed, burning extra energy. But multi-speed pumps can be scaled up or down as needed for tasks like filtration and cleaning.
Using an energy efficient and certified pump with multiple or variable speeds can cut energy use by over 80 percent and save hundreds of dollars a year.

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