From Darkness Comes 1200 Lumens of Light

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Challenge #4: In the Dark?


From what I can tell, everyone in our house is pretty educated when it comes to moderating their electrical usage. We all make an effort to turn the main lights off if no one is here, as well as individual lights in our rooms. As I’ve talked about before, our biggest drains have to be our laptops, which are consistently plugged in and, if not on, then asleep. This still doesn’t mean there aren’t ways that we can still save energy. Especially since I finally received my box of Zoo schwag and energy saving devices (Green Family Challenge Kit) that never made it here the first time around (see post Shower Time at College). Unfortunately, this means I missed out on getting to use the nifty thermal leak detector, which is nothing short of awesome.

This week, I’m replacing four of our main light bulbs in the house with Philips Energy Saver light bulbs. It could have been any brand I guess, but these are free, and few things are as good as free light bulbs. The box makes miraculous claims like “lasts 11 years* (when used 3 hrs/day, 7 days a week) and “Save $272 a package” (which does actually make sense considering how much less electricity it uses). The only caveat seems to be that they’re not good with dimmers. Considering our house wasn’t built in the 1960s or 1980s, we’re just fine. I’m happy to report that these are just as bright as the bulbs we were using before, but I imagine they have higher watts available as well. Considering we already had these lights in two of our lamps, the four bulbs I received have been enough to replace the whole house. These light bulbs are 75 percent more efficient than their incandescent counterparts, saving money and delicious energy.

The second thing I’m destined to use this week is a watt meter. The KillAWatt Ez is a mostly inoffensive device that plugs into any outlet and displays the cost of that appliance in your overall electricity bill. Now, I say mostly inoffensive only because the front of this packaging says “Empowers you to save 100’s!!”. The actual device itself kind of reminds me of the fascination of looking at the electrical meter for the first time and is easy to put in an out-of-the-way spot. If you’re so inclined, you can actually sit there and watch whatever appliance you wish mercilessly suck down energy! I like to play a little bossa nova, dim the lights, and wait for the (not-too- fast) whisper of clicks. I decided to connect it to the small minifridge from my dorm room that we primarily use for drinks. It’s Energy Star-rated, so I expect it to do fairly okay, but I won’t be surprised if it uses a fair amount of energy (and putting it in stasis a la Han Solo might be a good option at this point).

The problem is that I would guess that for most people, a watt usage meter like this isn’t necessarily practical. This one seems like an excellent value for the money (40 bucks for a nice amount of features), but in terms of cost of watt meter (and they can range in the hundreds of dollars) to energy saved from said appliance it’s used on, this is probably only useful for someone who repairs appliances or has a large house with lots of old appliances. That being said, you can run it for a day with whatever appliance your heart desires, and it extrapolates the cost over the year, which is pretty great. Good thing I don’t have a compulsion to use it on everything, because I’m sure there are plenty of people who would do exactly that.

Michael Kranz

Read Michael’s previous post, Valentine’s Day Chicken.