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Become an Educated Energy Consumer    OttawaEnergyAudit     Saturday 19 January 2019
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Published Columns: October 2006
Curbing Your Consumption:
Small Is Beautiful

By John Ford

According to a report released by the Ontario Power Authority, the most significant growth in electricity consumption over the next twenty years in Ontario will come from minor appliances. The list includes plasma TVs, portable device chargers, and kitchen appliances.

While the trend to have dozens of small devices rather than the one or two from decades ago seems to be sending us to higher consumption, it is an opportunity to be more efficient and reduce our consumption. Small appliances are often targetted at a specific use, and therefore can be designed to use energy for that use in a more efficient manner.

Portable devices must be more efficient in order to have sufficient battery life on a charge to be useful. However, leaving chargers plugged in even when the device is not being charged can use many times more energy than the device uses. Create a charging station with a switched power bar so that they're only powered when necessary.

The large-screen TV that is becoming common in homes use far more energy than a typical 26 inch TV. A 58 inch plasma TV uses 665 watts compared to less than 200 for the 26 inch CRT or LCD. Using a small 5 inch TV for news or your favourite soap could use less than 15 watts. Did you know that what you watch can affect the power consumption? Viewing sports uses more power.

Some people argue that small devices have a shorter life and therefore will be replaced sooner by more efficient devices rather than larger appliances that last decades. Try to buy a high quality, long-lasting product though, since the efficiency could be outweighed by the energy used to make it. As we replace our CRT computer monitors with LCD monitors we cut our consumption in half.

In the kitchen we benefit from using a small appliance such as a rice cooker which can be smaller, better insulated, and more suited to the job than a stove-top pot. An electric kettle is the most efficient way to boil water. A microwave can be used for more than re-heating food and is more efficient than stove-top cooking or the oven because only the food is heated, not the container or the surrounding space.

Smaller, lower wattage lighting can be used to light the area you want to see, rather than very bright broadly aimed lights that waste watts. If you need high-intensity light for a work surface, put it on a separate switch so you can control it.

John Ford is a technology consultant, owner of a small energy conservation business, and the Energy Advocate for the Green Party of Ontario.