Monday, February 13, 2006

Standby for an “energetic” post?

When you were growing up, how many of what sort of electrical appliances did you have at home? (exclude refrigerators, ovens & washing machines, unless you had more than one at a time)

Let’s guesstimate around 1987: I remember the family having
  1. a combo turntable / cassette deck / radio
  2. a TV
  3. a VCR *
  4. a radio alarm clock *
  5. a hairdryer
  6. maybe two radio cassette players
  7. a toaster
  8. a water heater
  9. a vacuum cleaner
  10. a typewriter
  11. two irons (1 "normal", one steam)

And how about now? From the apartment my parents just vacated, I can picture the following:
  1. 1 microwave oven
  2. 1 toaster
  3. 1 blender
  4. 2 water heater units
  5. 3 air conditioning units
  6. 3 radio alarm clocks *
  7. 1 personal computer
  8. 1 laptop
  9. 1 scanner
  10. 1 printer
  11. 1 electric toothbrush
  12. 1 hairdryer
  13. 2 radio cassette/CD players
  14. 1 TV *
  15. 1 DVD player
  16. 1 satellite TV receiver/decoder *
  17. a “surround sound” type system *
  18. 1 vacuum cleaner
  19. 2 mobile phones & chargers
  20. 1 steam iron
  21. 1 steam gadget (for clothes, in lieu of ironing)

What a difference 20 years make! Immediately you can see an increase in the number of different items. In some cases, there has also been an increase in the quantity of a particular item. Also - how about the items marked with * denoting “on all the time / standby mode”?

And the above is just an example of changes in a middle-class Malaysian family.

And if I were to list a typical U.S. household? According to energy consumption surveys conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 1978 there were no personal computers in U.S. homes – compare that to 1997 where 35% homes boasted of at least one PC: I wonder what the number is like now in 2006… And imagine this: in 1978 only 8% of U.S. homes had microwave ovens. 1997 saw a jump to 83%! Add in “necessities” like a clothes dryer and dishwasher. Maybe a garage door opener too? And multiple TV’s, DVD/VCR players, perhaps entire home entertainment systems including drop-down screens, X-box, PS2, etc… and DSL / wireless routers…

So many things that we think we just can’t live without now, which may not have even existed 20 years ago!

And if all that wasn’t bad enough…. did you know that 20% of energy consumed in American homes is consumed by appliances in standby mode?

That’s TWENTY PERCENT, folks.

Here’s a thought… How about taking an inventory of everything plugged-in in your house: is there *anything* that is currently on all the time / on standby mode that doesn’t really need to be? Can you set it up such that you switch it on /plug it in only when needed?
  • Example: do you really *need* to tell time on the microwave oven, when you have VCR that already tells time PLUS the alarm clock at your bedside AND the watch on your wrist AND that clock on the wall?
  • Also: If you have just the one or two radio stations you listen to, is it so vital to keep the stereo on in order to save the pre-programmed stations on the tuner? Besides, if you’re like me, I listen to my CDs much more then the radio nowadays, so having radio stations in memory is not vital.
I’m sure there are lots more possible suggestions out there.

I figure if we all do our bit to reduce this portion of energy consumption, that may reduce *ever so slightly* the energy consumption that’s just too darn high. Not just for those in the U.S. either! And we’d shave a few bucks off our energy bill for our effort.

And while you’re at it, how about taking a step back
and asking yourself
how much you actually really need all these gadgets anyway. ;-p

Which leads me to fodder for a whole other post (later!! If I feel like it!!!) about how we’re surrounded by so much “noise” and “clutter”, we’d be so much better off simplifying our lives.

(This post was inspired by the article Consumption UP – New Appliances Eat Energy in the January 2006 newsletter by AmerenIP)


  1. I make sure that the only electric appliance in the house that is always plugged in is the refrigerator. The others are unplugged when not in use... electricity bills here costs an arm and a leg these days, what with all those mysterious 'add ons' included in the monthly ststement. :-(

  2. Great post Lynne.
    I studied electronics, and in one of the classes, we did have to study "wasteage". Whenever i go back to Malaysia, my mind boggles at how much electricity is being used, and mostly, wasted.
    Even at home... I am no Greenpeace militant who lives without electricity, but I do TRY to get the standby stuff out of the plug (except fir the DVD player and the hifi) :-)


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