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WNY GOING GREEN: CONSERVING ELECTRICITY

Friday, 03.18.2011 / 5:32 PM / Blue & Gold Make Green
By Michael Jafari  - Graduate Assistant (2010)
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WNY GOING GREEN: CONSERVING ELECTRICITY
When we look around our homes, offices and schools, it is difficult to find rooms not powered by electricity. From cooking our meals to washing our clothes, we use electricity throughout our daily routine.  In fact, Americans may be too dependent on the resource, which could be very costly for our wallets and our health.

Electric power is the rate of electrical energy that is moved by an electric circuit.  It is made by an electrical generator, which is a machine that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. The generator, which is made up of several different motors, forces electrons in the windings to flow through the external electrical circuit. The source of mechanical energy may be a reciprocating or turbine steam engine, water dropping through a waterwheel, an internal combustion engine, a wind turbine, a hand crank, compressed air or any other source of mechanical energy.

Almost anything in your house that needs power is dependent on electricity.  Some of these items are hair dryers, microwaves, refrigerators, lighting, house fans, computers and more.  According to a study conducted by nationmaster.com, the United States used the most kWh of electric power of any country in 2007.  The study also suggests that the U.S. consumed 22.7% of the world’s electric power.

There is a danger that comes with electricity in its ability to shock and electrocute living organisms, which can cause serious injury and even death. A simple light socket at your home contains a dangerous amount of high voltage, which has the ability to kill someone when it is conducted with either metal or water.  Because of its worrisome threat, there are precautionary steps you can take to avoid contact with electrical outlets like covering them with plastic caps or tape and also plugging in an item that doesn’t need to be powered.

Although it may seem impossible to completely rid ourselves of electricity, there are ways we can still live the same lifestyle and conserve its usage at the same time.  One of the easiest ways to conserve is to kill “vampire energy”. Bankrate.com suggests that many appliances use electricity even when they're turned off. It's called vampire electricity, and as much as 75 percent of the electricity used by home electronics and small appliances is used while they're turned off.   According to the Ohio Consumers Council, the average consumer spends $40 to $100 a year on just vampire energy. The simple solution is to unplug small appliances and electronics when they are not in use, or you can plug them into a power strip and turn the power strip off when you don’t need the items. Power strips cost $10 to $20 each, and can save you up to $100 a year, depending on how many electronics you have. Simply unplugging one television, computer monitors, and fax machines when you aren't using them could save Americans about $6 a month.

Another way you can conserve electricity is to use other forms of energy. For instance, you can avoid running your clothes dryer.  According to Project Laundry List, the clothes dryer uses the third-most energy in American homes, behind the refrigerator and washing machine, costing more than $100 a year to operate. You can avoid using this by choosing to dry your clothes the old-fashioned way and hanging them over a clothesline.

The living room and laundry room may use their fair share of electricity, but the room that uses the majority of electric power is the kitchen.  Bankrate.com states that you can help save energy by not pre-heating your oven before meals.  If you are broiling, roasting or baking a dish that will cook for an hour or more, then you can eliminate the preheating process, and when roasting meats or baking casseroles, turn off the oven 10 minutes to 15 minutes before cooking time runs out; food will continue to cook without using the extra electricity. However, you can’t get away with eliminating the option completely with some items like breads and cakes, but you can limit the time by not pre-heating for more then 10 minutes. By reducing the time your oven is on by one hour per year, you'll save an average of 2 kWh of energy. If 30 percent of U.S. households did this, 60 million kWh of energy could be saved.

There are many advantages to becoming less reliant on electric power as you are saving money, protecting your health, and the environment.  With the recent trend of solar, wind, and water energy, the earth is working on finding alternative forms of energy other than electricity, but it is up to us to make the new resources useful.  While the process may take a lot of time and teamwork, decreasing our electric power dependency is certainly a way to help the world go green.

For tips on helping blue and gold make green or to become a Green Team member, click here.

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