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© 2004-2018 John Ford

Become an Educated Energy Consumer    OttawaEnergyAudit     Tuesday 18 December 2018
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Published Columns: December 2004
Curbing Your Consumption:
Think like Scrooge

By John Ford

It's the time of year for looking back.

Last March we talked about LED Christmas lights and the incredible savings from reduced consumption - but there's another benefit - LED lights are virtually burn-out proof. That's why most truck brake lights and traffic signal stop lights are now LEDs. Think of all the time and money you've spent finding and replacing dead bulbs!

Negawatt: A unit of energy saved in watts.
Here's an idea: Remember IR detectors and outside lights? How about aiming your detector in front of the house and plugging your outside Christmas lights into the socket. That way they're only lit when there's actually somebody there to see them.

Here are some answers to questions received de-bunking a few energy myths: A) Different electric space heaters are more or less efficient than others. Not true. All electric heaters are 100% efficient. The only variable is where that heat is going. B) Fluorescent bulbs (and some say others) take more energy to start them than to leave them on. False. Always turn off bulbs (any kind) when not in use. C) Halogen bulbs are more efficient and therefore less costly than an ordinary incandescent bulbs. True, but misleading they often use much more power. Always look at the watt rating. 150 watts is still more than 60 watts. You should be changing them to compact fluourescent bulbs anyway which are much more efficient. D) Light timers save electricity. Maybe. Some timers can use as much as 15 watts. Some as little as 2 watts. It doesn't make much energy sense if you're using a 15 watt timer (on 24 hours a day) on a 13 watt CF bulb. Check the numbers first.


Some gift ideas: A couple of packs of CF bulbs (about $12 for 3). Power bar with On/Off switch ($6). Wind-up radio (~$50), very handy for blackouts and camping. LCD computer monitor (~$400+) - about one third or less of the consumption of a CRT type. For those who want to know how much each appliance is using, look for a Kill-a-Watt or equivalent meter (~$50). You plug in your appliance, and the meter tracks consumption.

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If you would like to see answers here to your questions about energy consumption, email them to

John Ford is a technology consultant, and owner of a small energy conservation business.