Everyday electronics may be the source of a costly utility bill

By Bill Bullock

This is the fourth in a series of articles on energy use and practical information to help a resident of Memphis make wise decisions regarding ways to lower energy consumption and overall utility costs.

Previous articles have dealt with heating, water use, and air conditioning – some of your largest energy users. Depending upon your lifestyle and equipment, however, you may be wasting a lot of energy in other areas.

Refrigeration can account for a significant amount of energy use depending upon how many refrigerators and freezers you have, how old they are, how well they are maintained, where they are located, and their temperature setting. Similarly, you can spend a good bit of energy on lighting depending upon the number of lights you use, the type of lights, and how often they are used. Lighting accounts for 11 percent of a typical household’s energy expenditure. This can easily be cut in half.

Gaining ground, as a contributor to electricity usage, is electronic equipment. We have more and more things that are plugged and use a good bit of energy when in use, and more than we might suspect when they are “off.”

Here are some specific tips to help you in using less electricity:

Refrigeration – Vacuum the coils under or behind your refrigerator or freezer. If you haven’t done this before, you may also find that earring you lost years ago. Keep the freezer portion at around 5 degrees. long-term storage, stand alone freezers should be at about zero degrees. New refrigerators use a lot less energy than old ones. If it’s time for a new one, choose an Energy Star model, and try to resist the temptation of keeping your old one plugged in on the back porch for cooling your beer.

Lighting – There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy you use when lighting your home: reducing wattage and hours of operation. You can reduce wattage by replacing incandescent lights with something that gives out more lumens per watt such as a compact fluorescent (CFL). You can reduce hours by using programmable or automatic switches, timers, motion detectors, and photocells. For outdoor lights that you need on all night long, utilize a programmable timer or a photocell. For outdoor lighting that is geared toward security, use a photocell with motion sensor. Some evidence shows that lights on motion sensors are more efficient at curbing crime than those left on all night. Additionally, they can save energy and reduce light pollution. For the basement, attic, or closet light you sometimes forget to turn off, consider a twist timer or a switch with an occupancy sensor.

Plug Load – Computers, monitors, flat screen TVs, and other audio/video equipment can use a good bit of energy in the “standby” mode. Turn them off at the switch when they are not in use. Consider putting some of that equipment on a power strip that can be manually or automatically turned off. Activate “power management” on your computer or other devices if so equipped. Cell phone and other battery chargers don’t use a lot of energy when left plugged in, but when you consider how many there are, they add up. Unplug those devices when not in use.

Log on to www.mlgw.com and click on “In Home Evaluation Program” to learn MLGW/TVA incentives for making energy improvements and investments. Look at “Energy Tax Incentives” to see how some of these improvements qualify for Federal Tax Credits. Use “My Account” to track your energy use, get energy conservation tips, view and pay your bill, or sign up for paperless billing.

Bill Bullock has a degree in Mechanical Engineering, has been working in the energy field for over 25 years and is a long-time resident of Midtown Memphis. If you have questions regarding this information or energy use in general, contact him at bbullock@mlgw.org.

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