Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cool savings on electric use

Keeping it cool is tough.  That's true for our electric appliances as well as for us.  And sometimes we get all hot-and-bothered because we feel like if we don't do a perfect job, we shouldn't try at all.  But it's okay to do a little bit, for now.  That little bit might clear the way for bigger changes, or it might convince us that those changes aren't worth it after all.

Our family doesn't have air-conditioning (we use passive solar cooling, which I describe in my June 9, 2011 post).  But if you have air conditioning, you don't have to choose between giving it up entirely or continuing on with your AC running 24/7.  You could use passive solar techniques to reduce the amount of work your air conditioner has to do; you could give up air conditioning on dry days and keep it on humid days; you could close your blinds while you're gone during the day and use the air conditioning only at night.

In the same way, the fact that some people never use a clothes dryer doesn't mean that your two choices are (a) line-drying everything or (b) throwing everything in a dryer.  My husband, who LOVES his clothes dryer, has two wooden drying racks close by that he uses to hang the more delicate stuff.  He uses electricity to tumble his towels, and lets spandex and nylon drip-dry.

But it's hard to "sort-of" use a refrigerator.  So here's a technique I use to keep my fridge from working too hard.  I filled a bunch of milk jugs and juice jugs (the kind that has screw-on caps) with water, and I stuck them in the back of the fridge.  They're on just about every shelf of the fridge, some of them lying on their sides so they can fit.

How does this save energy?  One way is that it reduces air transfer when I open and close the fridge -- the bottles take up space, so less air gets exchanged, meaning less air needs to get cooled down once I close the fridge again.  Another way has something to do with "thermal mass".  Think of it this way:  if you need to cool down quickly, you can put a cool cloth on your head.  But the cloth warms up quickly -- an ice-pack works for a much longer time, simply because it weighs more.  In the same way, having a mass of cold stuff in the fridge helps to keep the fridge cold.

There are also two, non-electric, added benefits.  Before I added water jugs to the fridge, I used to lose left-overs in the back of the fridge, where they'd often spoil.  Now the jugs are in the back, so the food stays near the front.  It's harder for food to get lost -- less spoiled food.  The other benefit is that emergency-preparedness experts say we ought to keep water on hand in case of an emergency -- well, at least I have some on hand.  (If you're nervous about old milk jugs and juice jugs, I suppose you could shell out for store-bought water).

No comments:

Post a Comment