I’ve read enough energy-saving tip lists to fill a Webster’s dictionary. In this rant, I dissect some common ones, some uncommon ones, and provide some myself.
Cook with small appliances – toaster oven, slow cooker, electric skillet: I would strongly advise against a toaster oven because (1) using it to make toast wastes energy – a “slice” toaster evenly toasts bread with coils in the closest proximity possible minimizing wasted heat, (2) my experience with toaster ovens for baking things like quick bread is that they burn. The temperature and coil proximity (ironically) is too close to what is cooking, and it blasts the dough with ultra-intense heat such that the surface is cooked while the middle is raw and (3) toaster ovens are disasters waiting to happen. It represents the only time I’ve ever used a fire extinguisher to put out a bona fide fire in my house. They also will be used as a shelf for buns or bread, and then you have a plastic bag melted to the top. Save energy; don’t burn down the house; don’t light plastic bags on fire – destroy the toaster oven. If you do choose to roll the dice with a toaster oven and the contents catch fire, get the fire extinguisher, pull the pin, and be ready to blast before opening the oven, which will feed the fuel with a lot of oxygen and the flames may shoot up to the ceiling – this is no joke.
The most efficient means for cooking with electricity is the microwave. I don’t have the data but I guarantee a much greater percentage of electrical energy is absorbed by the food than with any conventional cooking method – by far. Note, I did not say pale rubbery food is desirable.
Heating and cooling equipment – Yeah, yeah, replace the filter every now and then. Did you know that a dirty filter is a “better” filter? The more crap lodged in the filter, the smaller and smaller the particles it will catch. Hence, a “better” filter. To maximize heating and cooling efficiency, a filter romantically known as a cat catcher is best. This is one of those green things a person could tape to a clean windshield and have better visibility than some cars with dirty windshields that I’ve been in. I.e., it catches the big stuff that plugs coils and nothing else. A clean filter will result in MORE fan energy consumption, but will also extract more heat from the natural gas being burned or cooling provided by the condensing unit/AC . Oh, and these are like single speed bikes, not race horses. Turning the thermostat to 90 to heat up faster, or 50 to cool down faster, doesn’t work like beating a race horse with a whip. It ain’t gonna run any faster. It will simply over heat or over cool the house.
Clothes – This is a big deal. We heat our house almost entirely with wood and a wood stove. The furnace thermostat is set at 52F in the winter and the temperature will drift down to 52F from 70F in something like 18 hours when it’s 10F outside. It only takes an hour or two to return to Bermuda conditions in the living space. Think of beautiful fall sweatshirt weather. Energy efficiency tip: don’t be a wimp. Dress for the season.
Here’s a problem – in the office we have energy inefficient attire requirements. We have to wear shoes, pants and shirts. When the AC goes down, it’s miserable. Not so at home. Peel stuff off till comfort is achieved. Energy efficiency tip: take advantage of freedom from the fashion Gestapo.
Here’s another thing about living in cold climates – observe the people who whine the most – they dress like they are in Tallahassee. Cold weather sucks for two reasons: (1) machines don’t like to work because things freeze, jell, and condense in very cold weather and (2) pretending it isn’t cold by dressing for the Gulf Coast.
Here is one from WE Energies: Use cold water for disposal (e.g. in-sink-erator). This is good advice, but they should stop there. They go on to say cold water solidifies grease, allowing it to more easily pass through the disposal and pipes. OMG! Do not put fat of any sort down the drain.
Get a power meter for 120V outlets – One such brand is Kill-A-Watt and they cost maybe $20. I used this for the couple rants I wrote about vampire loads where I conducted my own in-house tests. Check what your own vampire loads and non-vampire loads (operating TV, computers, monitors, etc.) are and decide what conveniences you want to give up, if any.
Recognize the big users: If you want to save energy, you need to hunt the big fish and use them wisely. Running a clothes dryer too long on one load may equal all the vampire loads in your house running for a year. An electric dryer sucks 5,000 Watts baby. The electric stove is probably in the same ballpark. A refrigerator less than ~ 10 years old is probably in the 100-150 Watt range and they run half the time, which brings me to the next one.
Don’t be stupid: That’s right. Standing in front of the refrigerator and watching the contents like a sitcom wastes energy. I had a roommate who did that frequently. I don’t know if he was fantasizing about what sort of cardiac sandwich he could make or what. Leaving the door open while rummaging through the beer selection to pick the perfect style for the mood is perfectly acceptable. And keeping the fridge full of beer also helps reduce energy consumption, just a smidge. Why? Opening the door of an empty fridge allows all the cold air to spill out. A fridge full of beer has no air to spill.
I barely got started so I will need to do a series of these over time, but I won’t overwhelm the reader with too many of these in a row.
Did I tell you the fiscal cliff, aka, the fiscal ant hill would result in high drama? Here I am, a couple days before the New Year, and the President flew his 747 to Washington all the way from Hawaii, while congress people from all over the country pour in for the media carnival which will result in NO substantive budget resolutions whatsoever. They won’t come close to 10% deficit reduction once interaction effects (behavior change as discussed last week) are accounted for. I doubt we will fall off the ant hill and rather, there will be a meaningless delay scam so they can all go home for their New Years bashes and at the same time, establish another media spectacle in a month or two.
 Note to millennials – a Webster’s dictionary is a book with ink on paper with the definitions of thousands of words, all in convenient alphabetical order.
 Hard core energy geeks: yes, more air flow results in greater cooling capacity as the compressor works against less dP and thus moves more refrigerant.