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Appliances Hog More Energy Than High-Tech Gadgets

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the that's-a-relief dept.

Power 688

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "A tech columnist looked around his home and wondered, 'All these TVs and cable boxes and computers and computer gear and chargers for various adapters have to be sucking up a lot of power, right?' So WSJ.com's Jason Fry bought a power meter to find the biggest power hogs in his home. They weren't his newfangled gadgets: 'The heavily used agglomeration of PC / two monitors / printer / hard drive / speakers in my downstairs study costs a bit more than $10 a month. The PC in our bedroom costs about $6 a month. The upstairs laptop? Less than $1 — a bit more than other always-on gadgets such as the router, cable modem, wireless repeater and Airport Express. So what were our apartment's power hogs? The lights and the dryer. I estimate our lights cost us around $30 a month, nearly a third of that from a chandelier with eight bulbs. Then there's the dryer. I don't know exactly how many watts it uses, but estimate it's costing us at least $25 a month.'"

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688 comments

Dual Use Tech (3, Funny)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292250)

If he hung his wet laundry on that chandelier's hot bulbs, he could save $25 a month.

Re:Dual Use Tech (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292330)

In the winter my house gets so dry that laundry hung up will be dry by morning. That can be a huge saver. Of course then you have one really humid room for the day.

Re:Dual Use Tech (4, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292542)

I just use a gas dryer, gas heat, and gas stove.

There's really no other way to cook (if you like to cook) than to use gas stovetop. Electric burners suck....just no heat control there.

I've always been curious why more people don't use gas. Is it not readily available across the nation? I've lived in the SE and deep south mostly....and have pretty much refused to even rent from the few places that didn't have gas, tho, I rarely rent in apt. complexes...mostly I rent houses or lived in a part of a house built as a double (common in NOLA). This worked out for me in Katrina...we had 7ft of water at my place, the neighbors downstairs were totally washed out, but, I had the top floor, and nothing happened to my stuff...I was more worried about it getting looted, but, was lucky and got my stuff all moved out before they got to it...

Re:Dual Use Tech (3, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292850)

There's really no other way to cook (if you like to cook) than to use gas stovetop. Electric burners suck....just no heat control there.

Have you tried an induction cooker? I used to think the same way as you, until I first tried one. To my surprise, it is even more responsive than the gas burner I previously had (I don't know how that works, but it does).

I've always been curious why more people don't use gas.

I think safety issues are the prime concern, these days. Cooking on an open flame just seems risky.

Re:Dual Use Tech (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292910)

I've always been curious why more people don't use gas.

People are afraid the pilot light is going to go out and then their house will explode with the next spark.

Not saying it's a realistic reason, but seriously, a lot of people are just afraid of gas.

Re:Dual Use Tech (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292914)

There's really no other way to cook (if you like to cook) than to use gas stovetop. Electric burners suck....just no heat control there.
I grew up around an electric stovetop & now, whenever I'm at my parents, I frequently lose hair off my hands/arms & burn kitchen towels because they replaced the electric with a gas stove.

And you still have heat control, it just isn't instant.

Re:Dual Use Tech (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292926)

I seem to remember that in 2000/2001 in the SouthEast, there was a gas shortage and price per therm went through the roof. Gas was much more expensive than electric.

I had gas heat and a gas stovetop and my highest gas bill for the month was over $400 and that was for a small 1800sqft house. The year before and cooler, it was no more than $150.
The gas companies were looking for handouts for people to pay for the people who couldn't afford to pay their bill.

I prefer NG over eletric for heat but that really put a sour taste in my pocketbook for NG.

Re:Dual Use Tech (3, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292980)

I've always been curious why more people don't use gas. Is it not readily available across the nation? I've lived in the SE and deep south mostly....and have pretty much refused to even rent from the few places that didn't have gas, tho, I rarely rent in apt. complexes...mostly I rent houses or lived in a part of a house built as a double (common in NOLA).

Bingo. In a typical apartment complex with 16 units per building, all fire risks are multiplied 16x, because a single tenant can burn down all 16 tenants' apartments. So anything that significantly lowers the fire risk gives a bigger payoff.

Re:Dual Use Tech (2, Funny)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292388)

All he really needs to do is buy a high power laptop, preferably Dell with Sony made batteries, and set that on top of his clothes, they'll be dry faster than they would with the dryer and it would cost less!

Yet another reason to upgrade, multiple uses! "Hey dude! You're laptop gets hot!" "Yeah, I disabled the fans so I could dry my clothes and cook my food with it, now I only need it, a washer and a dishwasher and I've got everything I need!"

Re:Dual Use Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292470)

Why isn't anyone combining supercomputing & dryers? The way I see it, if you're going to turn electricity into heat, you might as well get some CPU-time out of it. Here's a geek project: your beowulf cluster should also be your drier. On a larger scale, why isn't Cray making a joint venture with laundromats?

Re:Dual Use Tech (0, Offtopic)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292762)

If he makes a habit of ordering dual-use technology, he better be prepared for a rather drawn out series of overly-involved yet useless visits from Mr. Hans Blix.

Can you imagine the terror he will face when he receives a 600 page long, sternly worded, yet entirely vague letter from Mr. Blix? Can you?!

Next thing you know, he'll be banned from buying iPods by the Treasury Department.

If only... (1)

butterwise (862336) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292260)

The upstairs laptop? Less than $1
If only it would keep my beer cold and my underwear clean...

Re:If only... (4, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292364)

You need a wife. As my Daddy used to say, "A wife is an appliance you screw on the bed to get the housework done."

Re:If only... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292472)

Well, it can keep your beer cold...you would be suprised what you can buy nowadays that runs off a powered USB port...

Perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292272)

He should use CF and hang-dry more clothing.

Wow (4, Funny)

kjart (941720) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292274)

He owns a PC and a hard drive. The Wall Street Journal must be paying rather well, nowadays.

Re:Wow (1)

CDPatten (907182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292408)

i guess that funny. In his defense its very common to have EXTERNAL hard drives, and even more common to find laptop owners with them... I believe he mentioned his laptop correct?

Lights? (4, Informative)

Quila (201335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292288)

Time to get those compact fluorescents. I have them in all but a few of the sockets in my house, and I estimate they save me big $$ given how much we have the lights on (there's almost always someone home, and I'm a night owl).

Oops (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292336)

RTFA I guess. But why is he thinking about switching rather than switching? Each month he waits, that's enough money to buy a few compact fluorescents. After a year, most of his house will be switched over.

Re:Lights? (2, Insightful)

oni (41625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292410)

I've converted most of my house - but I keep wondering what's going to happen to all that mercury once they do eventually wear out. I'm not aware of any place in my town that will recycle them.

Re:Lights? (2, Informative)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292504)

I've converted most of my house - but I keep wondering what's going to happen to all that mercury once they do eventually wear out. I'm not aware of any place in my town that will recycle them.
Depends on where you live, but usually you want to call the people that run your local dump. They will be able to tell you the correct way to dispose of hazardous waste in your area.

My wife switched us completely to compact flourescents a few years ago. It has saved a bunch of money.

Re:Lights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292512)

It's still a lot less mercury than the coal-fired power plants would have pumped out into the atmosphere for every watt you wouldn't save while running incandescent bulbs.

Re:Lights? (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292832)

Break open the bulb and put the mercury in a mason jar for future recycling? They put a single drop in a fluorescent bulb. Depending on how many you go through, you might have to recycle it before you die.

What I want to know, is it possible to make CFLs that oscillate above 60Hz? Fluorescent lights flicker too much for my tastes.

Re:Lights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292960)

What I want to know, is it possible to make CFLs that oscillate above 60Hz? Fluorescent lights flicker too much for my tastes.

CFLs use electronic ballasts now - and have for some time - and don't flicker. Tube fluorescents may still flicker, but it's uncommon unless the ballast is starting to go bad.

Re:Lights? (2, Informative)

dfn_deux (535506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293034)

Not sure where you are located.... But, for most of us Americans and Europeans you can bring your burnt CFLs (used up alkaline batteries too for that matter) to your local Ikea store where they will accept the waste for proper disposal free of charge.

I don't work for Ikea, I just like referring others to free resources that help people be more responsible in their consumption behaviors.

Re:Lights? (1)

MiloBlue (1029874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292488)

We've almost completed the switch to CF bulbs at home... in the first month (with about 1/3 of the former incandescents switched over) we saved about $15. This was over the summer, when we had the all the computers running, and a large, older AC window unit (not EnergyStar compliant) running, too.

Re:Lights? (3, Interesting)

Line_Fault (247536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292572)

I put compact fluorescents in every light possible in my place after our renovation. The only other lights are the halogens in the kitchen. They are new 15w ultra compacts which emulate a 75w bulb, I thought this was better than the 13w -> 60w, a lot brighter for 2 watts!

It was around $20CDN for 8 of them.

They also produce a nice white light, not yellow!

But, now that I'm not producing incredible amounts of heat from light bulbs, how much more does it cost in natural gas to heat my house?

Re:Lights? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292712)

Okay, but why would you want to put up with such crappy lighting that makes a buzz? (I know, I know, "you can't hear it". Probably from torturing your ears with loud bass music all your life, but some of us have more sensitive hearing.)

Re:Lights? (1)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292730)

This is absolutely true. We switched all our lights to compact fluorescents and our electricity bill dropped 40%. I'm giving them to my family as stocking stuffers this year.

Re:Lights? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292838)

I have a few CFs in my house. Unfortunately, they won't fit many of my existing fixtures, especially ceiling fans. My experience has been that they may be cheaper to run, but cost more and burn out just as frequently as regular bulbs.

Re:Lights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292998)

I wonder if there are any comparisons out there comparing lifespans of various CF bulbs. I've been buying them for about 5 years and have yet had to replace one. I've also had your problem with them not fitting all applications properly.

Re:Lights? (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292966)

I agree.

I am suprised that incandesent bulbs are even legal to sell (I will probably get crap for this). The percentage of electricity saved for a gas house is huge. I do admit that in my bathroom the slower turn on and lower brightness/size ratio causes a mild annoyance, but even if I left them on all the time I would be saving overall in my house (I don't it just takes about 30 seconds to get decent brightness in the bathroom at night).

The only places I still use incandesent are the dimmed kitchen lights (am buying a new switch soon) and 2 3-way lamps that use current reduction on standard bulbs (but they are rarley used above low).

The floresent change truly seems much more a no-brainer than moving DST or selling crappy low-flush toilets (though the new ones are pretty good).

At WSJ, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292298)

the Dryer charges you!

energy saving lightbulbs (1, Redundant)

thelost (808451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292310)

a great reason to invest in energy saving lightbulbs i would think.

This was actually printed in the WSJ? (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292318)

Power usage percentages have long been known, and is a very simple search away. This article adds absolutely nothing of interest to the equation.

And the author's contention that gadgets don't deserve the blame for increasing power usage is dubious -- yes, lights, fridges and dryers consume a lot of power, and they have for years. Yet while they're getting better, we're offsetting their improvements by 200W sucking PVRs that are on 24 hours a day, PCs that are on throughout the day, massive power sucking plasma screens, etc.

As an aside, energy conservation articles always mention that reduced heat = less air conditioning. Yet to be fair it should be mentioned that power hogs do help in heating the home.

Re:This was actually printed in the WSJ? (1)

compwizrd (166184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292356)

Natural gas or oil heating costs a lot less than electric heating though.

Re:This was actually printed in the WSJ? (2, Insightful)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292412)

Natural gas or oil heating costs a lot less than electric heating though.

True enough, though they've gotten a lot closer.

Nonetheless, I remember having a computer room full of always-on PCs, a giant tube television, a huge power sucking amp, and so on -- my furnace never came on. Since switching to a lot of power efficient gear, a low power LCD screen, CF lighting throughout, and so on, suddenly the furnace seems to always be one, so my conservation has been offset to a degree in the winter.

Re:This was actually printed in the WSJ? (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292566)

Natural gas or oil heating costs a lot less than electric heating though.
Depends on where you live. Some places have cheap/free electricity.

Ok. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292320)

So how did you reach the estimate of what your dryer or lights use?

Wow ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292340)

Did this surprise him in some way ? Did he really think a PC could compete with a dryer for top energy usage ?

EIA Residential Energy Statistics are free to all (5, Informative)

radl33t (900691) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292352)

This isn't a suprise at all. Residential energy use is well documented in the EIA's Residential Energy Consumption Survey [doe.gov]. The DOE runs these once every 4 or 5 years. Heating > A/C > Lights/Fridge/Cook/Clothes > gadgets.

Things might change as people consume their 8h/day TV on 60" plasma space heaters.

Use a dimmer (4, Interesting)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292382)

I'm about done with replacing the light bulbs (that I can) from incandescent to fluorescent, but we have a smaller chandelier that's hooked up to a dimmer. I generally keep it at 75% of full power. The light bulbs also last longer because (hearsay warning!) apparently, the fact that the lights don't flip on/off immediately helps the bulbs not burn out as quickly.

Anyways, somewhat on topic, I hear that in California all new development and remodeling requires fluorescent lighting. Is that true?

Re:Use a dimmer (1)

grant420 (985416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292784)

By all means someone should correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe a dimmer doesn't actually save on power use, because the "dimming" mechanism is merely a (forgive the lack of electronics terms) a device that increases resistance. i.e. the lamp is drawing just as much power as before, but the dimming mechanism adds a bunch of resistance to effectively lower the amount of power going to the bulbs, so all the power (100% not 75%) is still being drawn from the grid and entering your house.

Re:Use a dimmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17293020)

Incorrect, but not off base. Increasing the total resistance of the circuit decreases the current drawn, so some extra energy is being wasted in the resistor, but the overall power is reduced, too.

Re:Use a dimmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292792)

Dimmers don't save you anything. They use just as much electricity, only a part of it is turned to warmth.

Re:Use a dimmer (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292880)

I'm not sure if the California building code requires fluorescent lighting for homes and remodels. The electric company did a free energy check on my apartment earlier this year. My appliances were up-to-date on energy standards, got new weather striping on the front door, got five CF bulbs even though all my lights are CF, and a 20% discount on my bill. I got five computers with two monitors, two aquariums, and the usual video game/TV set up. My monthly bill is only ~$35 each month.

Re:Use a dimmer (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292916)

Anyways, somewhat on topic, I hear that in California all new development and remodeling requires fluorescent lighting. Is that true?

Not sure about California, but here in the UK new building requires a "low energy" lighting installation. This can be either CF or a halogen type that provides efficiency about halfway between the two. You may find this is a useful alternative for your dimmable lighting, BTW.

Irrelevance (5, Funny)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292390)

I fail to see this article's relevance to the Slashdot userbase. Being nocturnal, underground dwellers we have no need of light other than the soft glow of our displays and diagnostics. As for the rest of our energy needs, we tap into the power grid of the mysterious beings that dwell above us. They provide us with nourishment and also manage the laundry.

Re:Irrelevance (1)

ak3ldama (554026) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292716)

While being a humorous post you bring up a good point. Using electricity at night instead of the daytime can be easier on the electric grid because we're not burning extra coal during the peak hours.

Re:Irrelevance (1)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292912)

Being nocturnal, underground dwellers we have no need of light other than the soft glow of our displays and diagnostics.

Oh look at meee, I'm silentounce, I only need the glow of my displays and diagnostics. I'm so independent and free, look at meeee!

Well what about those of us who need our blinkenlights as well, huh? Ever think about that, you insensitive clod? Oh, but I suppose in your world, people oughtn't need their blinkenlights, right? right? I know you must look down on the rest of us, smug in the knowledge that you can get by without blinkenlights, but your self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude belies your very obvious, dark, twisted relationship with blinkenlights. Admit it! J'accuse!! You were once addicted to blinkenlighten weren't you? Now that you're "clean" you think you can subtly mock the rest of us, do you? For shame. Have you no sense of decency? At long last, have you no sense of decency?

I have heard the blinkenlights blinking, each to each

I do not think that they will blink for me

Dryer (2, Insightful)

frostyboy (221222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292392)

Well, that $25/month that you pay to run your dryer (even less if you spend a little more upfront and get a gas model) is just about a wash in the long run as compared to the $1.50/load that it would cost at a laundromat. We used to spend $40/month on quarters for laundry. About two-thirds of that was for drying and the rest for washing.

But yeah, those multi-bulb units will really kill you. Once you realize how much it costs per month to operate a 100 watt incandescent light bulb, that's the real incentive for switching to compact fluorescent wherever you can (slow startup-time and all).

Re:Dryer (1)

MaGogue (859961) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292602)

What about the good old natural evaporation? Why do you need a dryer when you can just hang the laundry on a wire and wait?

It also surprises me that eve tech savvy people still can't read the power ratings - the wattage, hence the consumption, is written on the label.

Re:Dryer (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293064)

the wattage, hence the consumption, is written on the label.

Almost all appliances only put peak consumption on the label. Most appliances average substantially less. Some never even reach the peak,it being a theoretical maximum.

The bottom line (3, Insightful)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292434)

Wasn't there an attempt to force a label on every appliance saying "this device will cost you $x.xx per month if it's kept running" or some such? Can't remember. That would definitely make a lot of sense.

On the other hand, as long as everybody I know never turns off the light in their office I don't expect them to do that at home either. That tells me that energy is still far too cheap.

Re:The bottom line (5, Interesting)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292518)

Wasn't there an attempt to force a label on every appliance saying "this device will cost you $x.xx per month if it's kept running" or some such? Can't remember. That would definitely make a lot of sense.

Yes, but they're still working out kinks with the measurements. For instance I bought a dishwasher that was world's better than the competitors on the energuide/energy star scale. Turns out that my dishwasher has a sensor that measures how dirty the water is, automatically (and significantly) shortening the cycle for small/null loads. Turned out that the energy test the government ran did a cycle with nothing in it at all, making a best case.

While the sensor will definitely help, it certainly won't to the degree demonstrated in the artificial benchmark.

Re:The bottom line (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292938)

Wasn't there an attempt to force a label on every appliance saying "this device will cost you $x.xx per month if it's kept running" or some such? Can't remember. That would definitely make a lot of sense.
They have that for major appliances. Go look at refrigerators next time you are at home depot or best buy. There's a yellow sticker on the front that says how much it costs to run it for a year.

Felt the article was lacking. (3, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292468)

It did not discuss the "remote on" issue at all. (When your TV, Stereo, etc. has a remote control that lets it turn on, that means it is really ALWAYS on, just in a kind of 'sleep' mode, draining some power, costing your money)

He also failed to give real numbers and total things up. Sure, maybe the electric clothes dryer is an energy hog as compared to say the a computer. But it does not let us know if the dryer is twice as bad as a computer, 10x, or 100x. If you have say 3 computers up and running constantly, then it still makes sense to unplug them instead of 'the energy hog' dryer, if the dryer only uses up twice the power of a single computer. I would have loved to know relative strengths, such as 1 electric stove = 7 laptops.

Re:Felt the article was lacking. (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292882)

(When your TV, Stereo, etc. has a remote control that lets it turn on, that means it is really ALWAYS on, just in a kind of 'sleep' mode, draining some power, costing your money)

It's an immeasurably small ammount of power. A fraction of a watt.

The drain comes from the ineffecient power supply, when totally idle. Even if your device doesn't have a remote, unless it has a heavy duty 120V/10A power switch, your power supplies are probably drawing 2W constantly, even when off. That includes all wall-warts, (ATX) computers, TVs, etc.

Re:Felt the article was lacking. (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293000)

It did not discuss the "remote on" issue at all. (When your TV, Stereo, etc. has a remote control that lets it turn on, that means it is really ALWAYS on, just in a kind of 'sleep' mode, draining some power, costing your money)

Having performed the same experiment myself and found that most of my appliances consume between 2 and 10W in this state, mostly tending to the lower end, I decided it is substantially less significant than other energy-waste issues. Changing a single light to compact fluorescent can save more power. Some appliances did drain large amounts of power in standby mode, though: my washing machine used 25W, and my electric cooker a staggering 100W to sit their doing nothing. Needless to say, these devices are now switched off at supply when not in use.

Old news, but... (1)

Cervantes (612861) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292506)

It's old news, but it's still good news. After my utilities went up for the holidays, I decided to do some cutting back... I try to keep my main PC in hibernate when I'm not around now, I can spare 10 seconds for it to start up. And I replaced my rackmount dual p3-700 server with a laptop in a docking station, and an external HD. Sure, it's a bit slower, but the power usage is a lot less. Now if I could just find a way to properly heat my reptiles without using heating lamps (undertank heaters aren't an option) I'd be set.

Also, the upside of having dozens of gizmos around is that you don't need to use regular lights... all the LEDs provide all the illumination I need.

Duh? (1, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292510)

You have to be perpetually asleep to not have realized this already. Light bulbs have a wattage rating right on them. So does practically everything else except for a clone PC, whose wattage rating is on a sticker inside the case (on the power supply.)

An electric dryer draws about 4 kW (heating element, blower, motor) while a gas dryer pulls about 400-500W (for the blower and the motor.) Any asshole could look this up with google... except the one who wrote this article.

It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to realize that a PC with a peak draw of, say, 500W is going to consume less power than a chandelier with 8 light bulbs on it. Even at 40W each that's 320W, which is a fair amount of juice.

But seriously, you have to be some kind of idiot not to know that an electric clothes dryer is consuming more power than anything else in your house (when running) save possibly the water heater. After the dryer and the water heater (which could have anything from about a 10 amp (1200 watt) to a 30 amp (3600 watt) heating element) the next thing is either an electric heater (usually at least 1000 watts; I have one of those portable oil-filled electric radiators and it's 700 or 1500W) or in the absence of an electric heater, the refrigerator, which draws about 500 watts. 1 kW = 1.34 horsepower. The electric motor turning the AC compressor is probably about 80% efficient. That's .5 kW = .67 * 0.8 = about .53 horsepower. (Fun with math, whee.) For comparison your car's AC compressor takes 3 to 5 HP to run. Er, I should mention your home air conditioning will, of course, consume more power than your fridge, but less than an electric heater.

Want to reduce power consumption? Unfortunately most people blow it when they build their house and nearly all commercial home builders blow it too; orienting your house in the proper direction and building overhangs and windows to match one another so that you get sun in the winter and not in the summer is one of the most important steps. Going big on insulation is another. Using solar preheat for your hot water and installing a water heater blanket will do a lot more than you think. I'm about to move into a rental house that's designed with all of these principles in mind (Except that the solar water preheat is out of commission right now) plus it uses a just-in-time propane hot water heater that saves you from having to keep water hot when you're not using it. We expect to save a bundle on both gas and electricity.

Re:Duh? (3, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292628)

Erm, no. The sticker on your power supply shows the PEAK wattage available, not the actual current draw, which is undoubtedly much less.

Re:Duh? (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292770)

Indeed. My specs:

Sempron 2200
1 GB RAM DDR400 (running at 333)
2 hard drives (one external)
geforce 5200
17" LCD monitor
400 W out PSU

Actual draw, according to APC PowerCute (APC BR1000I UPS): 126 VA.

Re:Duh? (1)

radl33t (900691) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292728)

It is entirely possible to eliminate heating/cooling load with passive design in residential stuctures. Given the remaining energy demand, the payback for renewable, distributed production of electricity is still well under that of a morgage, typically ~10yr. It is sad that all new construction doesn't at least take advantage of good passive design. Proper insulation and orientation of all houses in the US would have an impact large enough to transform the US into a global environmental/energy leader.....

Re:Duh? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292808)

It is sad that all new construction doesn't at least take advantage of good passive design.

Man, you're telling me. What really kills me is when they build these new housing developments and lay the houses out on this plan so that none of them are properly solar-situated. If they just rotated the development by a few degrees they could cut the energy consumption of the whole development by a very sizable portion. Maybe I'm just some kind of asshole but I really think we should force anyone building a housing development to do it the right way although I do not advocate doing the same thing to an individual building a house.

Re:Duh? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292830)

Hey, the two water heaters under my sink that give me instant hot-tea draw 19,000W. I can just smell the death of humanity when I turn it on.

I've given up some of my economizing. I can't stand the spectrum of CFL. Call me when they get dimmable CFLs with appropriate color temperatures (2000-3500K) and a 98-99CRI. It's a cost I pay to satisfy the millions of years of retina-brain evolution under blackbody radiation sources. Call me a traditionalist.

Actually, I'm not a rabid electro-hog, but I've come to an understanding that suits me. $80/mo for all my non-HVAC electric needs is okay. My rooms are brightly lit and pleasing at night. My electronic gear is on as much as I like. My clothes get washed and dried. I suspect I could be careful and economize by $15 a month by turning stuff off. I could drop another $10-15 if I changed all my lights to CFL and gave up the dimmers. And I would dislike nighttime in my house for the "wrong" colors and casts, and lack of proper dimming, and waiting for 2-3 minutes for the computer to boot, and for having to look at my stereo gear instead of having a single remote and all the gear hidden in a closet, perpetually on. It might cost me 5 minutes a day and degrade a couple of hours in the evening. But you know what? At the $120/hr I bill, that 5 minutes a day costs something to me. And the couple hours I get in the evening are some of the few hours which "belong" to me. And fuck all if it's worth degrading my personal time for $25 a month.

Man, I'm in a bad mood this Monday.

Re:Duh? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292892)

I agree with you on the lighting. I only use CFL lights where I'm not hanging out all the time; in the second bathroom, in the laundry room where it probably ends up costing more than it saves, et cetera. I'm personally looking to LED lighting to solve the problem because it's easier to get a specific color out of a cluster of LEDs than waiting for fluorescents to get the color right.

But besides the issue of saving money, there's the issue of "saving the environment", or more to the point, doing your part to not make things worse. There's little or no doubt that the climate swings around without our help... But accelerating the demise of our current climate is probably a bad idea.

Water is wet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292534)

Amazing that a WSJ columnist could be so clueless.

The energy hogs in the home have always been major appliances. Duh.

I wonder how long this guy has had to pay utility bills.

Save cash... (1)

thewils (463314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292540)

By not having your house lit up like the Griswolds' place. It might also reduce the requirement for another Power Station somewhere.

His guess about the dryer is spot-on (3, Informative)

raddan (519638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292546)

Our dryer died one day, and since it did not belong to us (it belonged to the landlord; he did not want to fix it; long story), we just left it there and started hanging our clothes instead. We were a little irritated by the inconvenice at first, but after that first electric bill we were sold. $25/mo less per month. I made sure to compare all the transmission/generation charges just to be sure it was all from the dryer.

Now this was in 2003. We've noticed that the generation charge has been going up, so that, compared to 2003, we are paying roughly $10 more a month for the same number of kWh (roughly 180 kWh/mo). So you'll even save a bit more now.

Anyhow, that prompted us to walk around and replace all of our lightbulbs with compact fluorescents, and so on (saving us another $10/mo). Considering that none of these bulb have died (save the one that our landlord dropped), I think the $40 or so we put into bulbs has paid us back quite a bit.

I did the same experiment with the power meter. I was quite surprised to discover that under normal load, my Soekris router consumed less than 1W. Very cool. The same can't be said about the laser printer (LaserJet 4M Plus), though. 700W peak, ~30W at idle. We leave that one off most of the time.

Estimate 18 Month Payback for CF Bulbs (5, Interesting)

Doug Dante (22218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292640)

I estimate rather conservatively that my compact florescent (CF) bulbs will pay for themselves in less than 18 months, and double their investment in less than 36 months.

That's better than a 26% per year ROI. The 100 Watt equivalents are about than $2.70 each when purchased in 3 packs at Walmart. I replaced every bulb that didn't have an occlusion due to a light fixture (about 30) in my home for around $80.

It's a better investment than the stock market any day.

Re:Estimate 18 Month Payback for CF Bulbs (1)

z4ce (67861) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292794)

I did some replacing of light bulbs around the house and it has met a very tepid reception to the home user community. :) I bought GE bulbs from Sam's club and their time to full brightness is just way too slow. It takes at least a minute before you can see easily.

I wish the light bulb manufactures advertised this metric on their bulbs. As it is, I won't be buying any more CF bulbs.

Re:Estimate 18 Month Payback for CF Bulbs (1)

Atlantix (209245) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292986)

Sounds like you got what you paid for. Sam's Club is great for some things, but you won't get the highest quality light bulbs there. Just ones they can sell super cheap. Newer CF bulbs reach full brightness much faster and there are some that claim "Instant-On" on their packaging but carry a higher price tag.

I've been replacing the lights in my house with CF as the incandescent ones die. As I do this, I put the newest CFs in the rooms I use often and transfer the older ones to places like the living room where they turn on and off each night by timer. No need to care about speed there. Eventually, those old CFs will find their way into closets and such. I've lived in my house ~18 months now. Most major lighting is already CF and not a single one has died. If I was tracking costs, I'd be getting close to breaking even soon.

--A2K

The shocking secret I uncovered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292648)

I found my furnance used the most energy, even more than the dryer. Got my fingers burnt trying to get the vom leads in there.

heating and air conditioning (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292652)

The author must have measured outside the summer/winter months, or have non-electric climate control.

In the southern USA, summer electric bills are very high.

In buildings with electric heat, winter heating bills can also be high. It's like a clothes dryer or oven only with many more hours per month usage.

He needs a power meter to identify the power hogs? (1)

banerjek (1040522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292656)

News flash -- any 220V appliance (water heater, range, furnace) draws more juice than the other stuff. One of the reasons these things are put on higher voltage is so they draw fewer amps.

Other hogs include anything that radiates a large amount of heat or has a compressor. Note that the purpose of such devices is typically to create or transfer heat (as in the case of a freezer). Anyone who needs a power meter to discover that the battery charger consumes less electricity than one of these appliances is a bit of a low Watt bulb.

ok, perhaps not obvious (2, Insightful)

mrcdeckard (810717) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292664)


but just a moment of reflection should tell you that yes, anything that generates heat is going to be a huge draw of power. one can directly express heat power in Watts; yes, the same watts used to express electrical power.

electric heaters are usually 1500 watts. light bulbs from 60 to 100 watts. appliance motors in the home are around 1/4 to 1/2 horsepower (1 horsepower ~= 746 watts).

let's keep this in terms of heat for a second. in case you're wondering what uses more power -- your hair dryer or wireless router, you can do this simple test. put your hand on the hair dryer -- in just a few seconds, it will burn. perhaps a 1st degree burn. now, put your hand on your wireless router. warm, but not burn. in fact, it might feel cozy depending on your clime. therefore, i give to you the severity of the burn is proportional to how much electricity a device is using.

another indication is the size of the power cable something uses.

i dunno. i thought every self-respecting nerd had a handle on basic home power and loading.

mr c

Never blamed the gadgets... (1)

bcmbyte (996126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292692)

I have never blamed the gadgets in my house for the rise in electrical consumption. I have a teenager that watches way too much television. If he isn't watching TV he's on the Computer. How have I compensated for this? Well for the dual screen PC, turn one off screen while playing a game, it burns power and doesn't get looked at anyways. Buy LCD Screens they save power. Turn off the TV while playing on the computer, I can not count the number of times the TV was on while playing on the computer. Change all the light bulbs for low watt bulbs. Some basic common sence goes a long long ways.

Re:Never blamed the gadgets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17292958)

yes buy expensive lcds to save money IS good sence

Wasting electricity in the winter impossible? (4, Insightful)

CaseyB (1105) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292708)

I've spent time thinking about this recently.

Assuming that you're spending money heating your house in the winter, isn't it effectively impossible to "waste" electricity? Any electricity you consume is going to end up as heat (minus an irrelevant amount as light and kinetic energy), which you want anyway.

Of course, if your main heat source is not electricity (e.g. gas), electricity might be slightly more expensive. But I think the basic idea holds.

Re:Wasting electricity in the winter impossible? (4, Insightful)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292922)

That does hold to some extent, but I think you are underestimating how much electric resistive heating can cost compared to other methods. I have a heat pump which will run with a coefficient of performance of around three for the usual winter weather around here, meaning it requires three times less electricity to run than straight resistive heating. Gas heating is still a bargain compared to electric in most places. Plus, don't forget that if one lives someplace where A/C is needed in the summer, the A/C will have to run even longer to get rid of that waste heat.

Re:Wasting electricity in the winter impossible? (1)

mr_pins (694549) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293010)

Quite true. Funny how few people realize this.

I suppose it's because we don't have the notion of the conservation of energy really internalized.

We still think of things like power as being consumed rather than just converted from one form to
another.

The big f'ing plug didn't give it away? (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292778)

Your dryer, which uses a big 3 to 4 pronged monstrosity of a power cable didn't strike you as an obvious one of the most power hungry devices in your home? You though it might be the thing that plugs into a 150W 12V DC adapter instead?

Moxi (1)

blackmonday (607916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292780)

The Moxi cable box from Charter is always on - theres literally no off switch. The power button on the remote only controls the TV. Its bizarre - why have the box site there and decode HD all day rather than sleep? T least my old DirectTV Tivo had a standby mode. What a big waste of electricity. I wonder how much that costs me every month?

Unused rooms? (1)

TFloore (27278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292782)

I was going to comment on CFLs, but the article already did. (That'll teach me to read the article, huh?)

But aside from more energy-efficient appliances (and lights), I really do have to wonder how much energy could be saved by just hooking up rooms to motion detectors.

I'm in my 30s, and growing up I often heard my Dad complain about rooms with the lights left on. Lately, I've been seeing advertisements from my power company about energy savings from turning off ceiling fans in rooms when no one is there.

How much energy does a motion detector use? They are generally passive IR, aren't they? Would it be offset by the gains from hooking the lights and ceiling fans into it? CFLs are great (I've replaced most of the incandescents in my house already, the rest as the little-used ones burn out eventually) but you save more by not having the lights on at all. If the lights came on automatically when I walked into a room, and turned off automatically 2 minutes after I walked out (to reduce needless quick on-off cycles) that would be both convenient and efficient... wouldn't it?

Just wondering...

Good Suggestions (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292848)

Energy Star Appliances...
CF Replacement Bulbs
Gas Dryer

Those three things will annihilate your electric bill.

Examples:

We recently replaced our twenty year old 15 cf* fridge with a 20cf energy start. Power usage went from 1500kwh/year to 425kwh/year. And the old fridge had new seals, was kept away from the stove, vents, and all that. Insane how much we've saved. Sure, it costs $450 plus delivery - but as long as you don't put it on a butt-raping credit card, your fridge will pay for itself in less than five years.

Same goes with electric appliances that heat or dry things. electricity is ten times less efficient than natural gas. So do everything you can to convert your dryer and stove to some form of gas. It'll pay for itself very quickly.

*cubic foot, I'm a lazy American who will not provide metric conversions. Sorry. Not really.

Duh. (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292886)

We *know* what the big power hogs are: anything that does heating or cooling. Air conditioning, stove (oven and range), clothes dryer, and any other electric heating or cooling devices you may have (e.g., space heaters).

Note that fans don't count as "cooling", because all they really do is move air around, which is rather easier. So even a really *big* CPU fan, although we call it a cooling device in IT, does not suck down power like an air conditioner or space heater would do.

After heating and cooling, the lights are often the next-biggest power hog, but they're still small potatoes compared to heating and cooling.

You want to save power? Put in better insulation, and set your thermostats to a wider temperature range (e.g., only heat to 60 instead of 70 in the winter, and cool to 80 instead of 70 in the summer). And if the area room with the heater is warmer than the rest of the house, put in a better fan to improve distribution. Fans are cheap to run, compared to the heater itself, and *much* cheaper than space heaters.

My Dryer Uses Half As Much Energy! (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292936)

I agree that the clothes dryer has the highest energy consumption in the house... but luckily I have a high efficiency dryer. It uses half the amount of energy that a normal drier uses! Here is the scoop on how the awesome technology works:

You have a knob that controls the timing for your dryer. The old energy inefficent dryers used to to have the knob labeled so that it had one normal cycle - Dry. But then they decided to relabel the knob to that there is TWO cycles painted above the knob: 50% of the arch is labeled "Dry", and 50% labeled "Super Dry". By relabeling the normal dry cycle to now be TWO cycles, the normal dry cycle now uses 50% as much energy! BRILLIANT!!!

Change the knob label, and I am sure the company got a big fat government subsidy or something for making the dryer "energy effiecient". Awesome!

Don't mod this funny, because unfortunatly I am not joking!

Some info from mythbusters (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292952)

I just saw a Mythbusters this weekend where they challenged the "myth" that you save money by leaving the lights on rather than turning them off.

They busted that myth wide open. They found that the energy it takes to start up the lightbulb is infinitesimal for all but the fluorescent bulbs, and the fluorescent loses any savings after only 23 seconds (i.e. if you are out of the room for more than 23 seconds, you are wasting money). Basically, it took very little power to start up the bulb, despite what the myth proclaims.

They also did a stress test of an equivalent of 5 years of turning the lights on and off. Even with an incandescant light bulb, the light bulbs all lasted long enough that any savings on "not stressing out the bulb" the bulb itself was negated by the power used to keep the bulb lit.

In short, if you are leaving the room for any length of time and have anything but flurescent lights, you'll save money by turning it off as you leave the room. If you use fluorescent, it's okay to leave them on if you just want to grab a drink or go take a piss, but anything more than 23 seconds will waste money.

not as bad as it used to be (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17292956)

The power situation for electronics is not as bad as it used to be. Standby power modes are becoming more effecient, so the electronics we leave on are becoming less wasteful. That said, there are a couple things to add to the article.

First, a dryer is in a class of it's own. It will suck electricity, but only when it is being used. Same things with lights. And both are very deterministic. If they are not being used, they will not use electricity. And often these things are not, in fact, being used. This is different from a cable box or stereo which often cannot be turned completely off, and goes into various modes that use various levels of electricity.

Second, for most people the biggest energy use is the heating and cooling, and the most dramatic gains in saving can come from reducing the need to heat and cool. So, if you move to cool fluorescent bulbs, you not only save by reducing the energy to run the bulbs, but also the energy needed to remove the heat of the bulbs. This applies to some electronics as well. The electronics are very efficient heat generators, basically converting much of the power directly to heat, which then needs to be removed. When it cold, this is a good thing, but not when it is hot.

American style science (3, Insightful)

mnmn (145599) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293024)

So you do not know how many watts your dryer is, yet take the liberty to 'estimate' the $25 figure.

I would start with reading the wattage close to the handle.

Evidently (3, Funny)

Cutting_Crew (708624) | more than 7 years ago | (#17293048)

he doesnt have a 30" Inch LCD screen as his computer monitor and a dual-core GeForce 7900 GTX with 512 MB RAM and a 7.1 Surround Sound System.
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