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Bright ideas to save

Conserving energy through clever use of electronic appliances can lower utility bills and increase everyday savings

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A staggering 40 per cent of all electricity used in a home is being used to power them while the products are turned off
GN Focus

It is a little known but rather astounding fact that electronic devices and electric appliances use energy even when they are off. On the other hand, they can be made to perform better, and at a lower cost, with very little effort.

Most appliances that use electricity, such as televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. Known as phantom loads, this power is used to run features like clock displays, stand-by modes, and remote controls.

If the average apartment has a kettle, toaster, microwave, washing machine, television, stereo system, DVD player, and an air-conditioner — with almost double these numbers in a villa — a staggering 40 per cent of all electricity used in a home is being used to power them while the products are turned off.

Even unknowingly, a person makes at least a dozen energy decisions every day, and with a little foresight, they can be turned into prudent and cost-saving measures. Besides, energy-efficient spaces are less costly to own, operate and maintain.

Simple, quick, practical and easy conservation measures can lower utility bills and at the same time increase the comfort of an apartment, a villa or a home office.

Appliances and devices

- While washing a small load of clothes, use the appropriate water-level setting. Dry towels and heavier cottons separately from lighter-weight clothes. Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible.

- When buying a new dryer, choose one with sensors that automatically shut off the machine when clothes are dry. Not only will this help save energy, but will also prevent wear and tear caused by overdrying.

- Wash only full loads of dishes and air-dry clean dishes instead of using the dishwasher's drying cycle.

- If available, activate the cool-down cycle on a dryer and allow clothes to dry with residual heat. Cleaning the lint filter in the dryer after every load improves air circulation.

- Lower the thermostat on the geyser to 120° F or 48° C, and take short showers instead of baths (bathing uses most hot water in the average household).

- When setting up a new villa, consider tank-less water heaters which can provide up to 30 per cent savings. Also in villas, invest in a new water heater if the current model is more than seven years old.

- If heating a swimming pool, consider a swimming pool cover; evaporation is the largest source of energy loss in swimming pools.

Workstation solutions

- Ideally, the PC monitor must be turned off when away for 30 minutes or more, and both the CPU and the monitor must be turned off when away for three hours or more.

- Screen savers do not reduce energy use. Turning on the automatic sleep mode or hibernation features, or manually turning off the monitor is always the better energy-saving strategy.

- Laptops or notebook computers use much less energy than a desktop model.

- Using rechargeable batteries for products such as cordless phones and PDAs is much more cost-effective than using throwaway batteries.

- It is a small but practical gesture to unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged, or when the chargers are not in use.

Cooling units

- Replacing an old model with a new, energy-efficient air conditioner can save up to 50 per cent on a utility bill.

- Lamps and TV sets placed near the air-conditioning thermostat cause it to sense heat from these appliances, and make the AC unit run colder and longer than necessary.

- When turning on the AC, setting the thermostat colder than normal will not lead to faster cooling, although it will result in excessive cooling and, therefore, unnecessary expense.

- Keeping window coverings closed during the day prevents solar gain and maximises cooling.

- Planting trees or shrubs to provide shade to window AC units can make a difference to its performance — a unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10 per cent less electricity than if it operates in the sun.