Saving electricity is of primary importance to folks who aspire to live off-the-grid. Our Little Pod on the Prairie is hooked up to the municipal electric utility in the usual way, but we hope to use solar power in the near future. First we need to cut power usage so we’re able to meet all our power needs with alternative energy sources. This was a fun project to research, but I came away thinking my head would explode from sheer data overload. To make it easy, I’ve distilled it down to just three things:
The easiest way to save power is to not use as much. I’m sure you’re wondering why you read this far to be told something so idiotic, but let me explain. I work from home, so I have a 27-inch Mac and all the attendant accessories, including a printer/fax/scanner hybrid, at my workstation. It’s plugged in 24/7. I occasionally turn it off when my husband harangues me for leaving myself open to hacking by keeping the darn thing on even when I’m not physically working at it, but I never unplug it from the wall.
I use my computer every day, but I hardly ever use my printer. Still, it’s plugged in, happily sipping wattage from the wall like an overzealous mosquito. Known as “energy vampires” these devices are draining your home’s energy constantly until you put a stop to it. According to Treehugger, energy vampires cost Americans $19 billion per year, and anywhere from $140 to $440 per household. Even if you’re at the low end of that scale, imagine what you could do with those extra dollars?
This is an easy fix. Turn it off and unplug it. I’ll bet some of you have rarely-used fitness or office equipment or kitchen gadgets plugged in and sucking away. If you’ve several devices in one room, just plug them into a power strip. That way you are just unplugging the one thing, the strip, rather than all the separate things. See? I made it easy!
Saving Electricity By Generating Power from Other Sources
The next thing I checked into was generating power in ways not involving solar panels or wind power. Turns out there are a lot of options. People have come up with brilliant ways to help consumers generate power with a little effort. Exercise equipment that generates power as well as stands that you can use with your common, everyday road bike to kick out some watts abound. The only problem is the cost. One item, the EcoMill, is a power-generating treadmill that really appealed to me. I have a standing desk and thought this would be awesome to put beneath it. Then I could generate energy while I worked. Of course, the price tag said otherwise. One of these is a mere $11,800. Are you serious? That’s a dozen or more years of paying my electric bill just to break even — and it’s not like it’s going to power my whole home! Even the lower-tech models run from $399 to $999, and you supply the bike, although thankfully there are some plans online for intrepid DIYers. Still, the choices are disappointing.
Saving Electricity by Going Manual
It’s nice to know that there’s an option for those of us that don’t have enormous bank accounts, and it’s easy to put into practice. Wherever you can, use manual devices rather than electricity-powered ones. At the Little Pod, we won’t have a washer and dryer, so I’m planning on getting this fantastic low-tech washing machine–at around $20 you can’t beat it. And I’m sorry my mom didn’t keep her antiquated clothes ringer from when she was a kid, because I could use it now. I’m going to invest in this one even though it’s around $143, because I typically don’t dry my clothes in the dryer anyway and I think this will speed up drying time for me, even when we have our permanent home. I already own a manual food processor and I love it, even though I can easily plug in a processor at my rental home if I wanted to. My manual one is quiet, easy to clean and does a great job.
Just Save It!
It doesn’t matter which of these you adopt for your home, as long as it meets your needs and helps you reduce energy consumption, you’re moving in the right direction. If you really want to get down in the weeds with it, you can purchase monitors that will track your usage and show you which devices are drawing power and when. But you can go low-tech and just look at your monthly bill to see how you’re doing. And after reading through it all, I’m thinking low-tech might just be the way to go!