Energy conservation through guilt

The other day I received a letter from SDGE, my local power company giving me a run down of my electric and natural gas usage compared to 100 of my neighbors with similar house sizes. We aren’t the most efficient, but we aren’t the least efficient, either. Of course, there were tips in there on how to reduce consumption, but the letter is quite clever in making people a bit competitive to encourage them to conserve more.

I think we do a reasonable amount to conserve; we run our air conditioning a few times a year, we turn off lights, and I turn off a bunch of my computer equipment at the end of the day. However, can more be done? I was at Fry’s last week getting a power strip to combine a bunch of other strips and picked up 2 little energy conservation helpers.

The first is a Belkin Conserve Socket which I bought not because of the energy savings aspect, but because I forget to unplug chargers for my RC car and helicopters. I am always afraid of leaving them when I’m not around as the warnings on the labels are pretty scary. Also, I had 2 chargers for my RC car melt and the batteries start overheating. This gadget should give me a little piece of mind.

The second was an APC 4 outlet surge protector with a timer. You basically set on and off times for it and it switches off power to the outlets. I was trying to figure out where to place it to handle a few chargers I have lying around (outlets are kind of scarce in my office) when today I figured out what to do with it.

Like a lot of geeks, I have a large collection of equipment centered around the TV. I have a Mac Mini for a media center, 2 El Gato EyeTVs, a Time Capsule, an Ooma, a cordless phone, a cable modem, 3 Squeezebox devices, 2 audio distribution units, 1 amplifier, 2 8 port gigabit switches, a Wii, a coax amplifier and a TV. With all that stuff, what could I have automatically turn off and what was consuming the most? While much of the equipment uses wall warts and uses a little power each, the big consumers are probably the audio distribution units, so I plugged those 2 into the timer surge protector as well as 2 other small devices. That takes care of cutting power to 4 devices. Next, I unplugged the amplifier I don’t use.

Lastly, I have an APC UPS that has a master controlled outlet which shuts down power to 3 other outlets when the main device draws very little power. I set my Mac Mini as the master unit and used Energy Saver to set a schedule for it to shut down around 11:30 pm and wake up around 4:30 am in time to start processing TV shows that it recorded. Then I plugged in the EyeTVs and a hard drive into the controlled outlets. So of all the mess I have, I just set 8 devices to stop drawing power for at least 5 hours a day (the audio stuff I set to come on even later). While this isn’t the end of my quest to reduce power consumption, it is a decent start.

I like the idea of the timer controlled power strips, so I may pick up a few more of those.

Too bad SDGE stopped sending the real time power consumption data to Google. I’ll have to search to see if something is available as I have a smart meter and it would be neat to see if my efforts are doing something.

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