Powering Down

Analyzing my electric bill yesterday and reading the comments to my post about it got me thinking about ways to most effectively reduce consumption of energy.

Project Outlet Audit

I heeded baloghblog‘s advice and conducted a little audit of what’s plugged in to the outlets in my apartment. Here’s the lowdown by room:


  • Outlet #1: (1) power strip that has microwave and toaster plugged into it; and (2) coffee pot
  • Outlet #2: refrigerator
  • We also have a dishwasher and electric oven. I use an electric coffee grinder each morning, and I also have a food processer and mixer. The small appliances are not plugged in unless they are in use.

Living room:

  • Outlet #3: (1) lamp with CFL bulb; and (2) cell phone charger [Damn! I’ve been trying to keep the charger unplugged when there’s no cell phone connected to it.]
  • Outlet #4: stereo
  • Outlet #5: (1) power strip that has computer, printer, air filter, speakers, and desklamp plugged into it; and (2) lamp


  • Outlet #6: (1) extension cord with TV and DVD player plugged into it; and (2) lamp


  • Outlet #7: answering machine
  • Outlet #8: extension cord with lamp, clock and dust-buster plugged into it


  • Outlet #9: cd-player
  • Outlet #10: lamp

Main bathroom:

  • Outlet #11: hair dryer

Second bathroom: no outlets

Expert Advice

Having checked out what we keep plugged in all the time, I think I have a pretty good sense of where the kilowatts on the bill are coming from. We rarely use the overhead lights unless we’re in the kitchen or bathroom. Otherwise, we’re table lamp kind of folks. Since I don’t have one of these nifty devices for measuring kilowatts, I pulled out my handy Union of Concerned Scientists book to check out the chart comparing the electricity used in common household appliances. Here are some snippets from the chart which shows the average electricity use per unit (in KWH/year) of common appliances (when there are multiple units in the house, as with lamps, you’ll need to multiply this number by the number of units):

Refrigerator – 1,155

Lighting – 940

TV – 360

Electric dryer – 875

Range/oven – 458

Microwave – 191

Dishwasher – 299

Electric washer – 99

Computer – 77

Once they figured in the impact of multiple units in a household, the UCS’s bottom line is:

Overall, the top contributors to the environmental impacts of household lighting and appliances turn out to be, in descending order of importance, refrigerators, lighting, televisions, and far down in impact, electric dryers and stand-alone freezers.

What to Do?

The UCS says that using electric appliances as litt

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