Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Sprouts of Hope: Getting Rid of Wasteful Energy Use

Tracking Energy – So We Use Less of It

The Sprouts of Hope welcomed 2009 with a new project, one that we will feature at the Cambridge Science Festival in our presentation on Saturday, April 25. This will be the third year the Sprouts will have had an exhibit as part of the festival's opening day activities. Plan on coming that day and visiting with us and seeing all of the other cool exhibits, too.

Our project is about using in-the-home digital technology to tell us how much energy we are using. These simple-to-use tools can show us not only how much power we are using but how much it is costing us --and by knowing this information we can figure out ways to reduce both. We are doing this project in partnership with NStar; this is the first time that NStar has trained any kids in how to use the combination of Power Cost Monitors – we like to call them “Smart Meters” -- and Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitors. (If we do a good job using these tools, then they hope to do a lot of other trainings with kids, so we really hope this works so everyone can learn more about energy use and have fun doing it.)

We learned how to do this when we went to NStar on January 2nd – a visit arranged for us by Mary McCarthy, NStar’s Residential Program Manager, and David MacLellan, who is the technical expert.
He explained how to use the tools they were giving us. Listen to our training on this YouTube video.
He and Mary also gave us good suggestions about
various things we can do in our homes to try to reduce the amount of energy we use. For example, do you know that it ALWAYS makes sense to turn lights off when you leave a room, no matter how long you are going to be away from it? And shutting down computers when you are through using them is a good idea, too.
Here is a link to a short video that tells you how to install and use a Power Cost Monitor:

One of the Sprouts decided to write about the ways her family is planning to make small changes in their home so, as a family, they can be more energy efficient. And they will use these tools we got from NStar to see if their changes make a positive difference.

By Eliza

My family is taking part in the Sprouts Energy Efficiency project. This means that we will have to make changes in our daily lives to conserve energy. First we set up the two meters. Part of the Smart Meter goes around our electric meter outside and the other part, which tells us what is happening with our energy use, stays inside. (I'm showing you pictures of the two parts of the Smart Meter here.) The Kill A Watt one always stays inside and we plug things into it to get readings on energy use. After we did this, my mom and dad and two brothers and I had a meeting about all the different ways we could conserve energy.

I found out that we already had Energy Star kitchen appliances, such as our dishwasher, which meant we are conserving a lot of energy in our kitchen. We also have a basement freezer and it wastes a lot of energy. My parents will be looking into ways to either get rid of our basement freezer or use it in a more energy efficient way. Same with our dehumidifier that is in the basement too. Even though it is a crucial device to prevent things like mold, it consumes a lot of energy. Most dehumidifiers are turned on 24 hours a day, every day, and the cost really adds up on our energy bill. We will be looking into Energy Star dehumidifiers because we’d like to save all that energy!

Washing machines and dryers also use a lot of energy. When we tested our dryer using the tools we’d been given, we found out we are paying $0.04 each hour on our energy bill (just to have it plugged in), which is still a lot. When my dad turned on the dryer, the cost went up to 32 cents per hour. As a family of five, we do laundry a lot and use both the washing machine and dryer. I know there are many families out there that wash as many clothes and even more than we do, which means everyone is using all that energy and paying all that money, too.

At the NSTAR meeting, I learned it is most energy efficient when you use settings for laundry load sizes on your washing machine and dryer. So now we always use the different settings. The best option would be to get an Energy Star (or some other eco-friendly) washing machine/dryer but since they are very expensive most families won’t be able to make that change right away.

But there is one change every family can make with light bulbs. My family is changing all of our incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). One incandescent bulb costs between $1.44 and $2.40 on each month’s energy bill; a CFL that provides the same amount of light costs between $0.38 and $0.67. I am guessing that in my house we use around 100 lights, and only some are fluorescent. Changing to CFL’s will cut down the energy we use by a lot.

Another thing we’re going to do that will make a huge impact on our energy consumption and on our monthly bill is to use power strips to plug in big energy users like TVs and computers. When you don’t use a power strip, and therefore you JUST press the “off” button on the TV or computer, it still uses electricity. For instance, without power strips the average energy bill will be almost $11.00 for the average TV and in between $5.00 and $22.00 for computers, depending on whether they are in sleep mode or not.

The Sprouts’ goal for this project is to cut down on the energy we use in our homes. This way, we can do our part in conserving the precious energy that humans waste every day and reduce our impact on harming the earth. Hopefully after my family and the rest of Sprouts of Hope try this, we’ll be able to tell others about it and they will try it, too. That is what we are planning to do at the Cambridge Science Festival, and hopefully in other ways, too. Maybe, one day, people throughout the world will be using Smart Meters and everyone will be able to easily find out how much energy they are using and then find ways to reduce. This will help protect the earth and conserve energy, things the Sprouts of Hope – and many, many others – are trying so hard to do. It only takes a few small changes to make a big difference.

Join us at the Cambridge Science Festival – in Kresge Auditorium at MIT -- on Saturday, April 25th from noon until 4:00 and find out what we learned and what you can do in your house to reduce wasteful energy use.

No comments: