Believe it or not, improving your home’s energy efficiency doesn’t require an advanced energy science degree. It’s really just a matter of being more aware of choices and recognizing whether they save or waste energy. Individually, some energy-wasting practices might not amount to much, but when you add them all together, you’ll gain a better picture of how how much you could save. To help you live Live Brighter, our “Energy Efficiency ‘Round the Home” series will showcase ways you can lower your home energy usage and possible reduce your monthly energy bill.
Energy Efficiency in the Kids’ Recreation Room
Children play with different types of toys at different ages. With more hi-tech devices available, children’s interest can vary from blocks and dolls to battery-operated toys to electronic media.
For parents, as their child gets older, electronic devices gets more interesting and often consumes more energy. If you have a designated playroom or recreation room in your home and your child is of a certain age, you might be noticing that not only are lights being left on but so are all those hi-tech toys and battery chargers. That’s because kids usually seldom think about reducing energy usage.
As with other rooms, energy waste in the recreation room comes from simply forgetting to turn things off once playtime ends. This article will examine the two main energy-consuming parts of this room so you can better control energy usage in a way that’s both convenient for you and your child. You could even turn these into teaching moments for your kids so they can save money later on when they’re in your shoes.
Today’s recreation room come well stocked with all sorts of electronic devices. While many newer models operate while consuming less energy than years past, when it comes to their children’s energy usage parents still have to watch for two problems:
- Your kids forget to turn the electronics off; and
- Vampire power.
If any of your electronic devices rely on some sort of remote control device, then it’s never completely turned off because it uses a small amount of electricity called “standby power.” While this can be a small amount of energy – about one to two watts per hour – it’s on ALL THE TIME.
Consider an XBox One which draws more than 15 watts per hour as standby power. If you’re paying 10¢/kWh, one year of XBox One in 18-hour standby (meaning you’re not using it) equals $6.57. Added on is that many console game systems can be used to access cable or satellite TV channels. While that’s certainly convenient, your game console is essentially acting as a remote channel control, but you’re paying for using more electricity — anywhere from 12 to 72 watts per hour. Compare that to the average battery-powered remote using about one watt per hour.
And while laptops, smart phones, and even educational tablets use rechargeable batteries, they can keep consuming electricity if the charger is left plugged in. Battery chargers are inexpensive AC adapters that use transformers to convert wall current into low voltage DC. So, just because you have disconnected your device from the charger, it doesn’t stop the charger from converting electricity.
As long as that charger is plugged in to the wall, it’s using electricity and adding to your bill. While that amount is usually one or two watts, your family could have several of these things plugged in all the time, adding to your electric bill.
Fortunately, both problems have a simple solution: unplug them or connect them to a timer or a power strip you can switch off manually.
Advanced power strips (or smart power strips) add an automatic layer of convenience. These work by sensing the power draw from the plugged-in electronics. When that power usage falls to standby levels, the strip’s controller turns off power to that plug. Some smart power strips can be configured to turn on or off by sensing motion or only when a “master device” is turned on.
Even if your recreation room isn’t a haven for electronic devices, lighting can consume a significant of electricity in any room, especially if the bulbs are old incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs work by heating their lighting element until it glows. Nearly 98% of their energy output is heat, so light is basically an accidental by-product. Thankfully, new-school LED bulbs use most of their energy to produce light and can be made to produce light in precise wavelengths
What about remembering to turn of the lights in the room? Smart light switches, such as the Wemo WiFi light switch lets you control lights via your smart phone or tablet. Many smart switches cost less than $50 and install in minutes.
You could also install a motion sensor light switch to turn off the lights in a room when no one is in the room for a set period of time. Occupancy sensor light controls turn lights on by detecting motion and infrared heat. They turn lights off when they no longer detect motion or a heat differential. Inexpensive retrofit kits for existing lighting circuits are available with wall-mounted sensors running from $15 to $38 (depending on single, two-way, or three-way switch wiring). Installation takes less than 15 minutes (as much time as it takes to install a light switch).
Keeping the Room Comfortable
Make sure both blower vents and return vents are not blocked by furniture, rugs, or toys, as this could keep the room’s ventilation system from working as efficiently. If this room has a thermostat in it, your HVAC system could wind up running longer, adding to your energy bills.
If the room has south-facing windows, it probably gets warm in late afternoon. While sunshine is a great source of free heat in the middle of winter, it will make your air conditioning system run longer in the summer — costing you more money. Using thermal backed drapes reduce a room’s heat loss by 10% in the winter and cut summer heat gain by 33%.
One Final Tip
Keep your electronic devices away from sources of heat, including prolonged exposure of direct sunlight. Electronics create heat when they’re being used, so putting them in places where they can’t cool increases their energy consumption and also reduces their lifespan by increasing the thermal resistance in their components.
Fearful your immersive home theatre will immerse you in high energy bills? Stay tuned for Energy Efficiency ‘Round the Home next month as we step into the Multimedia Room to see the special effects of saving electricity!