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Some zero cost energy savings

Paul Kando

A programmable thermostat can save a few hundred dollars a year by ensuring your furnace or air conditioner isn’t running when you’re away. Set it to reflect your usual schedule. When your schedule varies, you can temporarily override your settings, without losing them. Turn your water heater to no higher than 120ºF and turn it way down – when you plan to be away for more than a few days.

Don’t dispose of things that still work fine. The manufacture of smart phones, tablets and laptops, for example, accounts for as much as 80 percent of their total energy footprint. So it is better for the environment to keep an old device in service longer. Give it to family, friends or charity. Take advantage of buy-backs offered by many web-sites. If the old device no longer works or is an energy guzzler, don’t trash it: take it to a recycler. Best Buy, for one, accepts old electronics, including TVs, at its stores at no charge, regardless of where the device was purchased. Staples has a similar program for office equipment but doesn’t take old TVs.

Cut your “base load”, i.e. energy demand regardless of season. Everything other than space heating and cooling is a “base load”. Cutting such loads will save you money, year round, and also eliminate the need to generate unnecessary electricity and thus millions of tons of pollution emitted by power plants. For example, let your computer go into Sleep or Hibernate mode when not in use for a half hour or more. These power management features reduce levels of standby power while maintaining the ability to quickly wake when you return. Don’t disable your settings, but do avoid having a screen saver run continuously when you’re not there to see it. A typical desktop computer and monitor running 24/7 consumes $40 a year more in electricity than when the device is asleep. Adjust power options so the monitor or screen to turns off after a maximum of 15 minutes of inactivity and the computer goes to sleep after no more than 30.

Studies have found that, nationwide, routers and a modems consume about $1 billion in electricity annually. However units that bear the ENERGY STAR label consume about 30% less energy.

Your various electronic entertainment gadgets can waste a lot of energy. If, like more than 85% of U.S. households, you are a pay TV subscriber, you have one or more “set-top boxes” from your cable, satellite, or telephone company. These boxes run at near-full power even when “off”. The industry has made some big improvements in the energy use of their boxes, with more

Many new big-screen televisions use far less energy when powered on than models manufactured even five years ago. Yet, with the wrong settings, they can still waste lots of energy. The “vivid” or “retail” settings, for instance, consume 15 -20 % more electricity. They are also needlessly bright for most home use. In the picture set-up menu, choose the “home” or “standard” screen setting instead. While in the main menu, also disable the “quick start” function. While “quick start” turns on the TV slightly faster, it will eat up a lot more power in standby during the 20 or so hours per day when your TV is not in use.

Internet-ready TVs can stream a movie from Netflix directly without another device. The next best thing is to access movies through a small device such as Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV. These use less than 5 watts. Game consoles, on the other hand, like the PlayStation or Xbox, use 10 to 20 times more energy to play the exact same movie. Speaking of game consoles, shut yours off or let it sleep when not in use. Failing to turn off the console after use wastes up to $75 worth of electricity annually, — that could pay for the set after only five years. Set the device to put itself to sleep when not in use, by going into the Settings menu and enabling the “auto power down” feature to kick in after one hour of inactivity when a game is loaded, and four hours to allow a movie to play.