wall wart waste
Thursday, June 14 2007
The weather was so cool this morning that it made sense to keep household doors and windows closed. It was a good day to start a fire in the woodstove and burn the accumulation of paper trash. In this climate, waste paper (junk mail, old catalogs, food packaging, and cardboard) satisfies all household heating needs between mid April and mid October.
Even at this time of year there is, of course, plenty of energy going into various forms of heating and cooling. The sun heats our household hot water supply, but to function that system requires a circulator pump. Then there's the microwave and toaster ovens, as well as the gas-based range. As I recently documented, there's also electrically-heated hot water on demand in the laboratory, but I think I've got its electrical demands down to about thirty watts. We're also using electricity to run both a refrigerator and a separate freezer unit.
Of more concern to us is all the perpetual accidental heating taking place throughout the house from the many wall-warts and instances of idling electronics throughout the house. Wall warts are particularly egregious offenders, since they tend to use inefficient linear power supplies that turn most of the electricity passing though them to heat. (Don't believe me? Then why are they always warm when plugged in, even when the gizmo that uses them is off.)
Today Gretchen read an article in the New York Times about the wastefulness of modern electronic marvels. The article provides something few other articles on the subject do: lots of useful quantitative information collected into one place: Tivos continuously use 30 watts, for example, and the author's stereo uses 47 watts when it's on but not playing music. And his computer used 134 watts straight through the night until he installed an application that forced it into standby (something Windows wouldn't do because it always thought it was "too busy" - probably spyware phoning home).
This article was what it took to convince Gretchen that it made no sense for her to have two desktop computers on all the time for her computational needs. (She mostly uses the one in the first floor office, though she'd kept her files on the one downstairs in her office and accesses them across the household network.) Gretchen decided to move her files up and the laser printer up to the first floor office computer (named Badger), and keep her office computer (Aardvark) off most of the time, firing it up only when she's actually down there writing. At the conclusion of this small energy-saving jihad all the equipment in all the basement rooms were completely off, even the wall warts. The only electronic equipment running continuously down there are in the boiler room: the DSL modem and the solar sufficiency controller.
This evening we went over to Penny and David's place in Marbletown and together we took their brand new stainless steel firepit ($52 on eBay) for its maiden voyage. We fueled it mainly with sticks gathered from the nearby forest, along with a few logs. To start it, I gathered an armload of dry leaves. Both David and a Calvados-drinking Penny thought it added enormously to the habitability of their summertime yard, particularly on a somewhat brisk night like this one.
Gretchen and I had brought both Sally and Eleanor, but we were careful to keep the latter from running around too much. Eleanor tends to be less active and investigative than Sally anyway, and eventually she just wanted to go inside and sleep on the couch. Meanwhile P&D's cat Mr. Fluffy was sporting a new haircut which had him looking like a cross between an albino lion and a banzai tree. From some angles Gretchen thought he looked like a chimera from one of those children's books with split pages allowing little Thomas to try different heads and tails on different animal bodies.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
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