December 29, 2009

POWERful 2010 resolutions

Lights on? — Hope you’re among the 74 percent of us (according to a survey by Sylvania) who have switched to at least one energy-saving light bulb in the past year. However, 75 percent of Americans are unaware of the phase-out of incandescent bulbs, beginning with 100-watt bulbs, starting on January 1, 2012.

Vampire power — It’s the electricity used by most of our electronics, even when they’re turned “off.” Those video games that were under your Christmas tree last week are a real drain—both on our power grid and wallets. Assuming that 50 percent of video game consoles are not turned off after use, we waste about $1 billion annually. According to the International Energy Agency, the average American household wastes about $1000 each year in electricity--or about $4 billion as a nation.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 consoles can automatically power down after extended periods of inactivity ONLY IF users go into the operating menu and turn on the energy-saving features. There’s a how-to on this Web site.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 can also power down, but it needs to sit idle for six hours before it goes into standby. Nintendo’s Wii uses a fraction of the power that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 use. But Wii units that are hooked up to the Internet apparently use almost full power even when the device is in standby mode.

Key portions of the EPA’s proposed EnergyStar recommendations will require, by July 2010, that new video game consoles be shipped with the auto power-down feature enabled and will no longer require users to “opt in.”

Thermostat adjusted? Try not to picture Jimmy Carter is his dreadful cardigan sweater, but I'll again remind you that setting the thermostat to 70 degrees in the winter (68 if you can stand it) will do wonders for your electric or gas bill. At night, 63-65 degrees is really comfy under a good quilt.

On those hot summer days, AC doesn't need to be set at a North Pole setting. Experts say that you'll see savings of 4 percent on your electric bill for every degree you push your thermostat up.

In both winter and summer, shut the doors to unused rooms AFTER you shut the vents. Change the air filter once a month and get a “tune-up” by a contractor every 2 to 3 years.