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Electricity a Penny an Hour

Scott Peer: If you want to reduce your electricity use, put your efforts into things that either use a lot of power, or use power a lot of the time.
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Conserving electricity is noble, but it can be difficult to decide how to do it effectively. If you were to save a penny every hour for a year, that would total $87, a nice savings. But if you have to work to save a single penny, that is probably not a good way to invest your time.

It costs about one cent per hour to power a 66 watt device for a typical utility customer. That is the wattage for a common incandescent light bulb, or four CFL lightbulbs, or 13 common 5W LED bulbs. So if you are coming and going from rooms, it is difficult to save much by turning lights off for a while here and there. If you have LED lighting, you can leave it on for hours for just a penny.

Other electrical devices fall into the penny-an-hour class, too. A typical stereo, small TV, fan, or laptop computer will each cost about a penny an hour for electricity.

When you are considering the importance of the consumption of an electrical device, you can use two rules to make it easier. The penny-an-hour rule says that the device must use more power than a light bulb for more than an hour to add up. The buck-a-watt rule says that if it runs all the time, using just one watt continuously will cost you a dollar a year.

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If you want to reduce your electricity use, put your efforts into things that either use a lot of power, or use power a lot of the time. For example, air conditioning and electric heating (including small space heaters) tend to use more than 1000 watts and cost over a dollar a day. Some electronics (such as game stations) have semi-functional on/off switches; consuming up to 100 watts even when they are turned off. They are called “vampires” because they draw electricity whenever they are plugged in. Putting a vampire on a power strip and using the power strip to really turn it off can save you as much as $100 a year.

Scott Peer

Scott Peer

It can take some skill and effort to root out your energy hogs, but once you find them you can save a lot of electricity with no more effort than turning lights on and off.

Scott Peer

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