The week of April 30, we asked you what you thought was the most power hungry device found in homes. The race was behind a dishwasher, toaster, coffee maker or plasma TV. The right answer, which 22% percent of you selected, was none of the above.
The fact is you don’t need to follow a political campaign or tune in to the wheeling and dealing on the latest reality TV show to get an up-close glimpse of the power hungry. The true reality is that they live and breathe (and heat and cool) among us. They are, in fact, some of the most trusted and relied upon appliances in our home. Take a look at these five biggest home energy eaters and see how a little conservation can go a long way to savings.
No. 5 – Refrigerators: the irony that the appliances we rely on to curb our hunger are also the hungriest in our kitchens is not lost. Despite the efficiencies technology has provided, a refrigerator is still one of the biggest energy draws in a home. There are two things to remember: one, listen to your mom and shut the door; and two, refrigerators don’t have to work as hard when they’re full because there’s less air to cool.
No. 4 – Dehumidifier/Air purifier: clean, dry air is pretty important, yes. But a dehumidifier uses twice as much energy as a 27-inch TV and an air purifier uses 60 percent more energy than a refrigerator. If your climate or a physical condition requires their use, be sure to monitor that use to ensure they are not operating at times when windows or doors are open.
No. 3 – Water heater: washing clothes in cold water and limiting showers to a couple of minutes can help dramatically reduce run times. An electric water heater might run for as long as an hour filling its tank during these typical everyday tasks. You can also turn down the thermostat on your water heater – if your water is too hot to touch when turned all the way to hot, then you are overheating your water and wasting energy.
No. 2 – Air conditioning units: it’s hard to believe that there was once a time when air conditioners weren’t a part of every home, but it’s also hard to believe that people used to walk to school uphill each way (and in all that snow!). To stay comfortable and save money, make sure you’re using a programmable thermostat and setting the temperature a few degrees higher when you’re not at home.
No. 1 – Heating system: another critical appliance, yes. But the cold of winter likely requires the most energy for homes warmed with electric heat. It is not unusual for a heat pump to run 12 hours a day on the coldest of days, with a typical consumption of about 15,000 watts. This can add up to several hundred dollars each month, more than enough to buy some nice sweaters that will allow you to program your thermostat a couple degrees lower. Do it when no one is looking; they probably won’t even know.
And bigger doesn’t always mean the most gluttonous. Always be vigilant for ways to drive a stake through the heart of your energy vampires, the small “always on” devices or chargers that continually draw power, even when the devices they power are not connected. Officials with the Electric Power Research Institute estimate that the average home 30 years ago had three “always on” devices. Today? Try 30. Here are some places to look to help keep energy costs down:
Digital picture frames – EPRI estimates that, if every American home had a digital picture frame running around the clock, it would require five power plants to keep them running.
Un-used chargers – it’s certainly more convenient to keep cell phone and laptop chargers plugged in, but these still draw energy. Pull the plug until you’re ready to charge, or make it easier on yourself and connect these devices – and others, like printers and CPU speakers – to a power strip that can be turned off when you’re away.
Share how you’re taming the power hungry devices in your house in the comment section below.