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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Starlight Saturday

Saving the Earth Saturday

No, it's not really called it, but in light of these tough economic times, I thought that I'd post some great ways to not only save money, but be green at the same time.

This will be a monthly feature, so some of the ideas may seem like simple common sense to some of you, but some of you might be glad for the reminder. On the same token, some of them might not be feasible for some of you while they are for others. The goal of this feature is to help people realize that even the smallest steps can make the greatest impact when it comes to saving our planet.

I've participated in some debates with people on Facebook, so I know that there are skeptics out there who don't see the point of being green when "no one else" seems to be making the effort. It's sad that some people feel this way, but despite what you think, every little bit helps.


Think of yourself as that little snowball rolling down a mountain. As you roll down that mountain, you gather more snow, growing in size until you're big enough to crush a town. That's how ideas work. It takes time, I know, but if just one of your friends sees how easy it can be and how cost effective it can be to make even small green choices, he/she might think, "Hey, if you can do it, I can do it," and there starts the ball rolling.

I know the basic story that many of you learn, that when the switch is open, current won't flow. Well, I've got news for you, when something is plugged in to the outlet, the circuit is complete, and it will draw power from the socket. Sure, it will be residual, but it's still a power drain, and money down the electrical toilet. While just one appliance might not seem to be that big of a draw, you need to look at the big picture.

By big picture, I mean small appliances and electronics that you use everyday but don't even think about because they are such a part of your life.

10 Small Power Drain Offenders

1. I know many of us might use them multiple times a day, but things like printers, scanners, monitors and speakers can still drain power when not in use and we usually keep those on because we find it safer to keep the computer powered up then shut it down.

Note: Although, shutting the computer down regularly when not in use can save money, we do realize that there are types of computers where it's actually more cost effective to leave it running because the start-up power drain is more costly that leaving it run and some systems tend to last longer when left running, thereby saving you from costly repairs, or the cost of replacing the entire computer.

2. I know most of you might unplug it, but in case you haven't thought about it, even your toaster can be an offender. Sure, it doesn't have a light to let you know it's plugged in and ready to go, but it still draws electricity when not in use.

3. The next offender on the list is a coffeemaker. Many of these have clocks and programs that allow us to program them to have coffee ready when we get up in the morning. Okay, I admit for some it's a great convenience however, it's still a power drain. The power drained to keep the clock running, while small, is still more than a toaster would drain.

4. By now, you might be running through your own kitchens wondering what might be there to unplug when not in use, so this next one might not come as a surprise, your microwave. Yes, again, this might have a clock on it that you rely on, but how often do you really use the product itself?

5. Here's an electronic gadget that many of you use all the time and probably would have a hard time functioning without it, your cellphone. Sure, you might unplug it from the cord when it's done, but do you unplug the cord from the wall when you're not charging your cell? If not, there's another source for power drain waste.

6. What about your iPod, PSP or other rechargeable hand held gaming and/or audio devices? There are chargers and docking stations. Do you unplug these when not in use? You should because these are other sources for power drain waste.

7. This leads me to something else used but not paid attention to, your electric razor/shaver. Yes, this needs to be plugged in to charge, but when it's fully charged, do you make sure that you unplug the charger from the wall? If not, power drain waste.

8. By now, you might be thinking of all kinds of other smaller electronic I haven't mentioned yet, so let's see if this is one you thought of, game stations. While the newer systems have online capability, older ones don't. Either way, they are sources for power drain waste.

9. We've covered computers and game stations, so here's something to go along with that, TVs. Your television, whether new or old, still draws a small amount of power when "turned off". Sure, it's easier to leave it on because you have to keep reprogramming the channels whenever you plug back in, but how often do you really use it?

10. Okay, here's the last in this list, VCRs and DVD players. These are two devices that are also left plugged in because the cord are usually difficult to get to or because they're on a power strip with something we can't turn off.

This list isn't complete in any sense, but I hope it helps you identify possible power drain waste offenders in your home. Also, there are things, like cordless phones powered by our cable companies that must be plugged in to work. This is a necessity because we all need to have a working phone in case of emergency and can't be avoided. Or can it? Below are some solutions or questions to ask yourself.


For items that are plugged in, like computer accessories, it can be to your benefit to have these items on a power strip separate from your computer so that you shut all of these items off at one switch. Same thing goes for TV accessories (VCRs, DVD players, gaming systems). Having these items on a power strip separate from the items that go with a TV that you don't need to have on can make it much easier to "unplug" them when not in use.

Yes, I understand that it might be more convenient to leave them plugged in because they are in a hard to reach area, but it might be to your advantage to have them put on a separate strip connected to a grounded extension cord so you can just "unplug" that strip from the wall from a socket you can reach.

Also, think about your main, larger sized TV. Chances are, it sits from the time you go to bed at night until after you get home from work and eat dinner. Yeah, okay, you have kids, but don't they go to school? Are you home all day watching? Seriously, if it's not in use for a decent chunk of a 24 hour period, unplug it. It's not needed for your DVR to work or for your VCR to record programs. Because your TV is the last stop in the Video chain, DVRs and VCRs do not need it plugged in for them to work. Don't believe me, test that theory by recording/DVRing something that you don't care about while the TV is unplugged.

Those of you saying, "I can deal without my TV, but I need my coffee made for me when I get up in the morning!" - I have two words for you - light timer. That's right, instead of paying for a programmable coffeemaker, just get a simple one and use a light timer. How will that make a difference? A light timer doesn't need to be plugged in 24/7 to work, unlike a coffeemaker. In fact, you can unplug your maker and timer after your wake up in the morning and then just plug it back in before you go to bed at night, you'd have to set it up for brewing anyway, right?

Change is never easy, so if we find a way to make change easier, it works. In fact, I like the idea I mentioned about the different power strips and will have to implement that with my husband, so we can be even more conscious than we've been.

Anything not listed here you feel is a power drain waste? Tell us! Please talk about what you do to save electricity!

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