Monday, August 3, 2015

Out with the energy vampires!


Out with the energy vampires!



I have my home computer on a special plug array so that when I turn off the monitor, everything else turns off, too.

Except for the router.  That thing takes so long to "find" itself when I turn it back on -- plus I need it on for my iPad -- that I have removed it from the energy-saving array.

Not good, I know, but I had no idea that ....

... "The modems, routers, and other household small network equipment used by America’s 88 million high-speed Internet subscribers consume about $1 billion worth of electricity annually," says the Natural Resources Defense Council in a new report. Sure, you can aggregate just about anything and it looks big. But still.

“These small, innocuous black boxes that never sleep consume enough electricity each year to power all 1.2 million homes in the Silicon Valley area, the hi-tech capital of the world,” said NRDC senior scientist Noah Horowitz. “Small network devices suck roughly the same amount of energy around the clock, whether or not you are sending or receiving any data."

Well, I guess I'll have to break out my Kill-A-Watt meter and see just how much power mine gulps down.

Still, I don't think there's much I can do. And while Horowitz may or may not agree, he does say there are steps manufacturers can take to cut that gigantic consumer bill by about a third.

The report, Cutting Energy and Costs to Connect to the Internet: Improving the Efficiency of Home Network Equipment, "is the first detailed look at small network energy use in U.S. households. It found that modems used to access the Internet and Wi-Fi routers that move digital content around the home to computers, printers, game consoles, and other electronics annually consume as much electricity as a new 32-inch flat screen television. That’s more than twice as much as an efficient 14-inch laptop computer, and 30 times as much as a cell phone charger," the NRDC says.

So check it out.

Meanwhile, are you wondering if manufacturers can really make a big dent in their energy hogs?

Check out microwaves for one answer.

Earlier this month, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced new national energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens.

Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project, blogged about it for the Energy-Efficient Economy, saying: A typical microwave spends only about 70 hours heating up food over the course of a year. For the remaining 8,690 hours (99% of the time), the microwave consumes energy continuously to power the clock display and the electronic controls.

Yeah, but what percentage of its total power usage is that vampire drain?  I emailed deLaski, and here's the answer: Based on the analysis by DOE, about 20% of a microwave oven's energy use occurs when it's not cooking anything (i.e. in standby mode).

So 80 percent goes to cooking; 20 percent goes to nada.

Guess I'll have to unplug that one, too.

Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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