energy Icon

2 UNPLUG APPLIANCES WHEN NOT IN USE

This action focuses on reducing unneccessary energy use by unpluging any appliances which are not in use.

  • Spring Icon
  • Summer Icon
  • Autumn Icon
  • Winter Icon

why?

Although 'unplug your appliances' is a mantra that is nothing new in the sustainable living world, it is a high impact action in the scheme of total energy use in our homes. Appliance electricity use accounts for 37% of total household energy across the nation. The largest users are refrigeration, television, clothes dryers, computers and cooking which account for 3-5% each. While many other appliances may only account for 1% or less of total energy, their collective use adds up be the second largest energy user in homes today. The breakdown is as follows (from the Energy Information Administration, EIA):





Refrigeration 5%
Color TC 5%
Clothes dryers 3%
Personal Computers 3%
Cooking 3%
Furnace fans, boiler ciculation pumps 2%
Dishwashers 1%
Freezers 1%
Clothes Washers 0.5%
Other Appliances all less than 1% each 14%
TOTAL 37%

Much of this energy use is unnecessary because it is from appliances drawing energy while not in use. This is known as 'standby power' and refers to the energy used by some products when they are turned off but still plugged into an outlet. While this standby power sometimes provides useful functions such as remote control, clock displays, and timers, in other cases it is simply wasted power as a result of leaving an electronic device or power adapter plugged in. A study done by graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley found that standby power consumption averaged 67 watts per household, more than you would waste by burning a 60-watt light bulb day and night all year long. Standby usage ranged from 6-26% of the home annual electricity use (Sanders). On average, the homes measured contained 19 appliances using standby power. According to Energy Star, the average household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off (or in standby mode). On a national basis, standby power accounts for more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of annual U.S. Electricity consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.

While consumers have the power to turn of these devices manually, a larger solution is in the hands of appliance manufacturers. "While it is impossible to turn off many U.S. appliances, in Europe many come with two "off" buttons: one a remote ready and another that actually turns the appliance off. Rechargers, on the other hand, could include a feedback circuit that shuts off the transformer when a battery is fully charged" (Sanders).


how to do this action:

(1) Take an inventory of all of the appliances which are typically plugged in throughout each room of your home.

(2) Identify which products draw standby power and could be turned off. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory almost any product with an external power supply, remote control, continuous display, or charges batteries will draw power continuously. Sometimes there is no obvious sign of continuous power consumption such as an LED and you need a meter to be certain. Unfortunately, few meters have sufficient resolution to measure standby power accurately and are often expensive. A chart of standby power (in watts) can be found here (http://standby.lbl.gov/summary-chart.html) and a summary chart here (http://standby.lbl.gov/summary-table.html). Look up wattage values for each appliance which can be turned off/unplugged when not in use.

(3) Create groups of appliances in each room which could be plugged into the same power strip and turned off all at once. For example, entertainment systems include televisions, game systems and stereo equipment which are typically all in use at once and can be turned off when not in use easily by turning off a power strip instead of unplugging and replugging them all in. Another example would be in your home office where computers, scanners, printers and external monitors are all in use at once and could be plugged in to a common power strip.

(4) For each appliance which can be unplugged, determine the standby wattage using online resources (see action text).

(5) Determine how many hours the power strips can be turned off each day. For example, if a television is used for 2 hours each day the entertainment system power strip (dvd player, television, stereo system) can be unplugged for 22 hours.

An appliance inventory/plan could look like the following:

Standby Power reduction Plan

In the example above, 31.9 kWh/month are saved. With the average home electricity bill at 800 kWh/month, this is a little less than 5% of the total electric bill.


what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of determining your stand-by power usage and setting up power strips to turn of appliances when not in use affect total kWh usage each month?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of unplugging appliances when not in use affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (E2_BASELINE) determine energy saving of unplugging appliances when not in use:

  • (1) Begin with listing each appliance going through every room in your house.
  • (2) Designate with an ‘x’ which appliances use stand-by power, refer to action text if unsure.
  • (3) Designate with an ‘x’ which appliances can be turned off/unplugged when not in use.
  • (4) For each appliance which can be unplugged, determine the standby wattage using online resources.
  • (5) Group appliances that can be turned off with power strips. Turn off power strips when appliances are not in use.
  • (6) Determine how many hours the power strips can be turned off each day.
  • (7) Enter all numbers on the Excel spreadsheet to calculate energy saved each month.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (E2_BASELINE) as it relates to your current electricity use patterns:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Participants choosing this action will set up power strips and get in the habit of turning off all appliance ‘groups’ when not in use. Each participant will calculate the total energy actually saved per month using their electric bills and compare this to the hypothetical savings from the baseline chart using the corresponding spreadsheet (E2_QUANTITATIVE).

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on each day that you recieve an electricity bill on the spreadsheet (E2_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. What surprises or realizations did you have tracking the energy which could be saved by unplugging appliances when not in use? Was getting in the habit of turning off power strips difficult or easy? Did you see a difference in your electricity usage? Why do think that is/isn’t? Were there habits that you changed? What stayed the same?


resources

ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

E2_Unplug Appliances When Not In Use Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

E2_BASELINE
E2_QUANTITATIVE
E2_QUALITATIVE