Small appliances drain power

Lowering home energy bills this winter is a main concern for consumers. Natural gas, electric and propane rates have increased and consumers are forced to evaluate their usage and conservation methods. Changing your main heating source may or may not be an option for you, but there are some less costly options that can help control your energy usage.

The Department of Energy reports that small “miscellaneous” appliances will account for virtually all the growth in America’s residential electricity use over the next 20 years. As more efficient major appliances — from refrigerators and water heaters to heating systems — have been developed, the importance of reducing consumption of smaller appliances has grown. Miscellaneous appliances account for about one-fifth of all the electricity used by American households, including televisions, VCRs, waterbed heaters, aquariums, electric toothbrushes, computers, microwave ovens, ceiling fans, space heaters, stock tank heaters and hot tubs.

Over the years the use of small appliances has increasingly affected our energy consumption and our electric bills. In order to get the latest and greatest, most of us will update our last year’s model cell phone, but continue to use the same lighting technology invented in 1879 by Thomas Edison. Those traditional incandescent light bulbs are inefficient and 90 percent of their energy is used to create heat. Plus, they don’t last very long. By simply trading out your high-use incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs that require only one quarter of the energy to provide the same amount of light, you can save $100 a year in energy costs.

Mobile heating units seem to be flooding the market and come in several forms, from oil-filled to infrared. It is difficult to know which one would best fit your needs. Keep in mind that these units are designed as supplemental heaters and not intended to replace your main heating supply. These units are intended to heat personal space and can run 24 hours a day trying to heat a large area, costing you even more.

A desktop computer and monitor can consume about 65 watts per hour according to a fact sheet published by the Energy Department in reference to its conservation program, Energy Star. Half of the energy for home and business computers could be saved by enabling power standby modes which can reduce consumption to 35 watts per hour and by turning off PCs and monitors after work which can cut the annual energy costs from $185 per computer to $97 per computer. The Energy Department noted that computer users are reluctant to turn off the power for fear of harming the circuits or the hard drive. The power switch on computers is designed to handle 40,000 cycles before failure. When you need to replace your desktop computer you might consider a laptop computer, which uses much less electricity.

Buyers beware, if you are using stock tank heaters. Despite manufacturers’ claims, stock tank heaters can cost a lot to operate. Most are rated at 1,500 watts and, in terms of money, that is 15 cents an hour to operate. Sounds good — only 15 cents, and no busting ice on cold mornings. The problem is that most stock tank heaters work at least eight to 12 hours a day, which can add over $40 to your monthly bill. By tracking how long the tank heater is on, you can figure out how much it is costing.

Electric companies bill consumers by the kilowatt-hour. If, for example, you have an appliance that consumes 1,000 watts and leave it on for one hour, it will consume one kilowatt-hour. Another example, 10 100-watt light bulbs burning for one hour will also consume 1 kilowatt-hour. The current residential rate per kilowatt hour at Empire Electric is 10.734 cents.

If you want to estimate how much an appliance will cost to run, you can use the formula below: (A 1,500 watt stock tank heater is used for this example.)

1,500 watts x 10 hours per day = 15,000 watts per day

15,000 watts per day x 30 days = 450,000 watts per month

450,000 watts per month divided by 1,000 watts (1 kWh) = 450 kilowatt hours

450 kilowatt hours x $0.10734 = $48.30 per month

If you are in the market for a new appliance, using this formula can help you to estimate how it will affect your energy bill.

As you use more electricity for small appliances, be sure to use it responsibly. Unplug “instant on” appliances when you won’t be using them for a while. Put a timer on appliances like stock tank heaters, water bed heaters and even hot water heaters to save energy when they are not needed. Replace those unsafe, energy-wasting halogen lamps with compact fluorescent lighting. For more energy saving ideas, contact the member services department at Empire Electric at 565-4444.

Bobbe Jones is the Assistant Member Services Manager with Empire Electric, 801 N. Broadway, Cortez. Empire Electric Association is working with the community to save energy and money.

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