Electricity is an odd thing. It is all around us but you rarely see it. You can see the results it produces for us every day. It is something that would be so hard to live without but it is also something we take so much for granted. Most people don’t give electricity a second thought until either the power goes out or when they see their monthly bill from their friendly neighbourhood electrical company.
I believe I think about electricity a little more than most people do. I don’t think I’m an electrical geek but I like to look at the historical daily usage numbers I receive with my electrical bill and compare them to my present bill. My household daily usage is fairly small at around 5.5 kWh/day in the summer and 8 kWh/day in the winter so a small change is quite noticeable to me. This past month I got a little bit of a jolt because my usage was quite a bit higher than my historical usage. It got me wondering about what was happening differently in the house. I narrowed down the culprit to the dehumidifier running in the basement. It has been very humid summer and so it has been running much more than usual.
In order to test out my theory I plugged the unit into my handy watt meter. A watt meter is a device which you can purchase at many hardware stores or electronic shops. It allows you to plug any piece of electrical equipment in and show the amount of electricity the equipment is using. It will even total up the amount electricity the device uses over the course of a few days or weeks. This is very handy for things that turn on and off like a refrigerator or my dehumidifier. My suspicions were correct and it was indeed the source of my increased usage.
I learned a lot about electricity by being involved with the Power $aving Network which is part of CREW (Community Renewable Energy Waterloo) http://www.crewzone.ca/ . We developed a toolkit that helps homeowners access and take charge of their electricity use. You can download the kit from the CREW website. Go to www.crewzone.ca and click on the Power$ave link.
Many electrical devices use power even when they are off. This is called a phantom load. By using the toolkit you can determine what items are contributing most to your electrical bill. There are many surprises when you start plugging things into the watt meter.
The next step is determining how you can reduce your electrical usage. I my case I just bumped up the humidity level on the dehumidifier so it does not run quite as often. In most cases reducing your usage is simple. Things like plugging devices into a power bar which can be turned off to cut out the phantom loads or even just unplugging that cellphone charger. When shopping for a new television or appliance have a look at the energy label and select one that has a lower energy consumption rating. Easy, but it just requires a little different way of thinking as you go about your daily routine.
It really is all part of trying to live a bit more of a sustainable lifestyle, to tread a little lighter on the planet. By reducing our energy usage we help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases going into the air and the number of power plants that need to be built. Conservation is a key piece of the puzzle on how to solve our present energy problems and with increased electricity costs it helps put a little extra money into your pocket each month.