Tag Archive: Saving Money


An introduction to killing watts with this fun toy!

This week’s issue of The Free Weekly (which came out last Thursday, sorry for the delay) is worth a look.  If you haven’t used one before, Making Ripples column talks about using a Kill-a-Watt meter to reduce energy consumption from entertainment appliances like the TV and video games.

Hey all, this is Ryan finally hoppin’ in here to add some detail to this post.  Measuring appliance energy consumption can be tricky.  The easiest appliances are those that pull a steady amount of power as long as they’re plugged in.  These include things like TVs, stereos, and other items that are not pulling energy to simultaneously power the device and charge a battery – they run, pure and simple, on wall power while powered on.  However, as you’ve probably heard, these devices also usually draw energy while powered off, to maintain various internal functions like clocks, “instant turn on” functions, and other things.  This is often know as a device’s “phantom pull,” though I’ve also heard it called “vampire power.”

The more intriguing appliances include refrigerators, laptops, and other devices that draw power sporadically or consume varying levels of energy depending on at what stage in the recharge cycle their batteries happen to be.

Our old apartment was 100% electric, meaning that not a single appliance used gas or any other form of energy.  By watching the movements of the meter, I could determine that we would use, when we avoided using the heating/cooling wall unit, between 3.0 and 4.5 kWh of energy per day.  This apartment provides a more useful comparison to the kind of living conditions we’ll have in the off-grid earthbag house.

That all said, let’s look at a few of our devices:

  • Our “entertainment center,” which consists of an ancient 13″ CRT television, DVD player, and VCR (which mostly just acts as an RF modulator for the DVD player) varies between 60 – 80 watts while fully powered on, and has a phantom pull of 13 watts when everything is powered off but the power strip remains active.  This series of devices would leach nearly 1/3 of a kWh every day if we didn’t turn off our power strip when finished with it.
  • Our refrigerator uses 13o watts while running, and the frequency it kicks on depends on how often it’s opened, how good the seals are, how much/little is inside of it (actually having more is better since the items inside store and radiate cold, which helps modulate the internal temperature), how hot it is in the house, and how clogged the air intake filters are.  On average, during a warm day, ours would run for about 16 hours per 24-hour period.  This equals just over 2 kWh of power consumed.  This actually accounted for, generally, more than half of the power we would use day to day.
  • In our old apartment, we used to have an electric stove.  Classically, converting electric power to heat is one of the most inefficient ways to use it.  Every bit of heat you feel radiate off of something hot is “lost” power, which is not being channeled into your food.  This is why one coil on an electric range uses 1000 watts, a full kilowatt of power at all times while active.
  • In the same vein, our old heating/cooling unit would use 6,000 watts of power, which blew my mind so much that we made every effort (most of them involving shivering like crazy) to avoid using it.  That used to floor me until my dad told me about the industrial-strength heating units hanging from the ceilings of some parking garages.  Each unit, spaced about 20-feet apart, and totaling perhaps 50 or more for the whole garage, used between 20,000 and 30,000 watts.  EACH UNIT!  This is 1,000 and 1,500 kilowatts of power, which would consume 1.0 to 1.5 MEGAWATTS of power every hour.  I am humbled, and slightly sickened, I must admit.
  • Our various laptops use anywhere from 25 – 75 watts of power.  The netbook, from ASUS, uses the least, charging at around 40 watts to start, decreasing to 10 when the battery is almost full.  When shopping computers, I always look for the EPEAT designation, which means the device is made with many environmental considerations in mind.

And that’s just a snapshot.  If you’re curious about anything else, just let us know!

 

Are you ever asked, “Why do you go to so much trouble trying to be more sustainable?”

If so, keep reading for some objective responses that don’t involve tree hugging.

Frequent reasons for people not wanting to do more include not having enough time, money, or desire – after all, life is short, and money is scarce.  But life could be much shorter and money much scarcer without at least some effort to live sustainably.  Although death can come knocking at surprising times, such as after a freak accident involving rabid skunks, there are things we can control in life and things we can’t control.  Ignoring information about what we CAN control leaves us at the mercy of both.

One of the biggest reasons I’m choosing to live sustainably is because my first two decades of life were so unsustainable, I felt that the quality of my life made living less worthwhile.  I coped with my poor health by embracing creative escapes from reality through reading, art, and music.  Switching to a more sustainable life, however, is not a light switch turning on good health.  Many of you know I’ve been struggling with gluten intolerance that damaged my gut and kept my weight too low.  The lab technician says that this began about 12 years ago, when I was 15 and still living unsustainably, not to mention taking loads of pharmaceuticals.  Now that I’ve been diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis, the doctor said such an advanced stage must have begun close to when puberty began.  Thus, my lifestyle cannot be held up as a reason for disease or health (yet).  I think of it as planting an orchard today to enjoy the fruits 20 years from now.  It may take awhile…but it’s something I can choose to do, unlike avoiding a meteor collision.

What will you do to live more sustainably and try to avoid cancer in 2013?

Here’s an interesting article from Care2.com about the difference between believing we can heal ourselves, and shaming ourselves or others for being sick.  I had to share this because I had no idea some people focused on Western medicine could misunderstand when alternative medicine is suggested, as though the sick person had brought the disease on themselves or could cure themselves if they really wanted to.

 

America's Cancer Clusters
Image source: www.best-nursing-schools.net

Living sustainably could be a way to generate income!

Sol Chariots

For Ripples to be successful, Ryan & I know we need to earn income from home as much as possible, to minimize our commute and the need to own a car, and maximize our free time to devote to Ripples’ work, such as workshops, non-profit support, tours, etc.  Part of being a green entrepreneur, for us, was reducing our expenses in every possible way.  Living in our earthbag home should reduce our expenses even more, allowing us to live on $10 – $20,000 a year very comfortably.

There may be something you are already doing which could generate income for you, too.  I am a writer, and Ryan is a technology consultant for non-profits, thus allowing both of us to work from home as part of our income.  We also do other jobs to make up the majority of our income, but the income we earn from home is not at all trivial.  We can also grow this income over the next few years as our skills improve.  What aspect of living sustainably could turn into a job for you?  Bicycling? Crafting? Lawn care and gardening?

My friend Ashley, who visited Fayetteville with the Summer of Solutions program in 2010, has begun her own pedicab business!  Read all about it in this week’s Free Weekly, and help support Ashley by watching her video and visiting the website for Sol Chariots.  You can show support with a click, too, and like them on Facebook!

UPDATE February 5th 2013: Sol Chariots reached their fundraising goal and even raised more than they expected!  They will be a successful pedicab business, I’m sure!

As Ryan & I decide on our best choice for transportation to & from our Ripples homestead in the future, we have many factors to consider.  The midwest isn’t necessarily the best place to own an electric vehicle, for one thing.  This infographic from CarInsurance.org fascinated me, and pushed me further in the direction of starting a car or truck co-operative among friends to share costs and avoid owning a personal vehicle that wouldn’t be used as often. What do you think? View full article »

Revisiting How I Spend My Homestead Hopeful Days

Last year, I wrote about Why I’m Not Seeking Traditional Employment.  One of the main reasons left out of this post is the obvious one – my health issues make it difficult to hold down a steady job at this point.  But while I’ve been working to figure out what was going on inside my body, I’ve also been working to generate income without the need to commute to an office.  Living off-grid will make commuting very difficult, and both Ryan & I are developing ways to work from home. View full article »

Finally! I sewed my hat back together.

Many people have seen me wearing Mr. Holey Hat around town, with its straw flaps blowing in the breeze.  This hole-filled hat is often how people recognize me in public, noticing the hat first.  So many people have commented that it was time for a new hat, or that I should just sew it back together.  I. Hate. Sewing.  So for the past couple years, the hat became more and more squished, ripped, and torn-looking and less effective at keeping the sun out of my eyes and off my shoulders. View full article »

Driving is more than a drag on your wallet.

Check out this amazing graphic given to us by College@Home!  Ripples supports alternative transportation options like walking, bicycling, skateboarding, and public transportation (to name a few) that save you money and improve overall health. Thanks Jen for sharing this with us!

View full article »

Financial decisions are not very easy ones.

Our 5th year wedding anniversary is coming up, and we want to celebrate it!   View full article »

Mother Earth News has inspired a new generation of readers to become self-sufficient. View full article »

Reusing items is a genius way for people taking recycling to a lifestyle level.

The term “repurpose” has become my new friend.  I understood the value of reducing my consumption, reusing items multiple times, and recycling them once finished, but taking old wooden pallets from a grocery store to turn them into a bedroom furniture set was beyond my imagination until today. View full article »