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... A Few Simple Steps You Can Take to Save on Lighting and Other Electricity-Related Costs

In the 1970s, Pat Travers had a minor FM radio hit with the song "Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)." Today, whether it's in a rock arena or in your home or office, putting out the lights when they're not in use seems like good advice. Another piece of good advice: Your leather wanna-be rock-star pants are not within the bounds of "casual Fridays."

In addition to lights, other "switched" electrical devices also use plenty of power. The US Department of Energy notes that electricity usage is an increasingly large share of our total energy consumption due to the rise our high-tech, computer- and gadget-based economies and lifestyles.

Turning off computers, TVs, and lights when they're not in use is an easy way to save energy. There are other steps we can take to conserve electricity too. But have we lost our picture of lighting fixture at dusk enthusiasm for conserving energy because of its general abundance and relatively low cost? In 2001, a White House report noted that the share of household income devoted to energy needs saw an overall decline in the last two decades of the century. More recently, however, the electricity crisis in California, the major North American blackout of 2003, and the sharply fluctuating prices for natural gas (which is being used more and more for electricity generation) reminded us that the supply of electricity is not endless and may not stay so cheap.

To make sure our daily lives and the country's economy continue to hum along like a happy electrical transformer, we need to ensure that energy supply meets energy demand. While the country's energy-supply wonks argue over what types of new power plants we should build and how many we'll need, Grinning Planet would like to point out that energy conservation is an easy way to work the problem from the other side of the supply-demand equation.

Here's a sampling of steps you can take to not only save electricity but also save yourself money:

  1. If you're in the market for new appliances or electronics, make sure the products you buy have the EnergyStar label. The bigger the share of household electricity used by the item, the more important it becomes to get the most energy-efficient model possible. Take refrigerators as an example—they use anywhere from 9% to 15% of household electricity.
  2. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use only about 25% of the electricity used by their incandescent counterparts, and they last 6-10 times longer. Making the switch to compact fluorescents will cost you a little more up front, but over the long term you'll see a significant reduction in total expenditures (bulb costs + electricity costs). It makes the most sense to change your high-use bulbs to compact fluorescents and leave seldom-used bulbs—say, those in the attic—as they are.
  3. If you use electricity to run your A/C and heat, setting the thermostat a few degrees higher or lower—and dressing appropriately to keep cool or warm—can save lots of electricity. Programmable thermostats can also help by adjusting the temperature automatically for times when you're asleep or away. An EnergyStar-qualified thermostat can save you $100 per year in energy costs.

Besides saving us money, there's another big benefit to reducing our electricity usage: Less pollution from electric power plants. So, doing these things will put more money in our pockets and less mercury, sulfur dioxide, and greenhouse gases into the air? Now that's worth flicking our Bics over!


Publish date: 11-NOV-2003


It used to be common wisdom that it uses less electricity when you leave something on as opposed to turning it off and then back on again. The US Department of Energy would like to set the record straight: "The small surge of power created when some devices are turned on is vastly smaller than the energy used by running the device when it is not needed. While it used to be the case that cycling appliances and lighting on and off drastically reduced their useful lifetimes, these problems have been largely overcome through better design."


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You Can Prevent Global Warming (and Save Money!)—51 Easy Ways

by Jeffrey Langholz




Jeffrey Langholz starts of this book wondering why most of us are still using the same basic light bulb that Thomas Edison invented way back when. He moves quickly from the benefits of compact fluorescent bulbs and energy-efficient refrigerators to better heating, cooling, cars and shopping, and even discusses how we can be smart purchasers of electricity. All this is designed to save you money and reduce global warming and other environmental problems. That's a win-win.

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"To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them."

— Theodore Roosevelt


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