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5 Earth (and money) savers

5 Earth (and money) savers
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First Published: Mon, Apr 20 2009. 01 15 AM IST

Updated: Wed, Apr 21 2010. 10 56 AM IST
Usually when we think of “going green”, we assume it’s for people with deep pockets—that it will involve taking a lot of trouble, going out of the way in terms of both effort and money. This is just a widespread misconception—on the contrary, green measures will help you save a lot of money. Adopt these five simple steps on Earth Day. Believe us, they will help you save money—and even the planet.
Switch to CFLs or LEDs
Environmentalists have been arguing for this paradigm shift for quite some time now. If you still have incandescent bulbs, then you really need to throw them out. Consider this: By some estimates, the lifespan of LED bulbs is 45,000-60,000 hours. Incandescent bulbs and CFLs operate for 1,500 hours and 10,000 hours, respectively.
In terms of luminescence, or the amount of light each of these produce, to get the equivalent of 60W of light from an incandescent bulb, you only have to consume around 14W for a CFL and 6W for an LED.
You may argue that the initial investment in environment-friendly options would be high. Yes, but considering the lifespan and the low power consumption of both CFL and LED, you’d recover the cost in no time. In fact, imagine the money saved over the entire lifespan of an LED bulb—60,000 hours. By some estimates, one LED bulb will save you close to Rs16,000 in the cost of bulbs (40 incandescents) and electricity consumed. How much will the switch from incandescent bulbs save you in simple energy costs for a year?—Rs788 for two bulbs.
Switch to solar heating
One of the biggest guzzlers of electricity in any household is the storage water heater, or geyser. In some parts of the country, water needs to be heated six months in a year. This water is not used just for bathing, but also for other applications—washing hands, cooking, etc.
A typical storage water heater that can raise the temperature of 25 litres by 35 degrees Celsius has a rating of 2,000W and takes around 33 minutes to do it. So a reasonable estimate would be that you’d need an average of two cycles to heat around 100 litres of water, i.e., 1 hour of usage a day (considering some water will not have to be heated that much). This means 2,000W a day x 30 = 60 kWh. So, it costs you Rs240 a month just to heat water.
The amount is almost the same for instant heaters. At a flow of 3 litres per minute, most instant heaters raise the temperature by 21 degrees Celsius. So heating around 100 litres of water takes about half an hour of run-time. However, instant heaters have a higher rating than storage water heaters: 4,500W. That means that with daily use, 15 hours a month x 4,500W = 67.5 kWh. At a cost of Rs4 per unit, that comes to Rs270.
In both cases, you end up spending more than Rs1,500 a year on heating water, i.e., if you only consume hot water for half the year.
Switching to solar is a viable, cost-effective alternative. These heaters work in any climate and the only fuel they need is sunlight. The real cost benefits of this system show up when you opt for a solar water heater for your entire building or society. Here we’re talking about evacuated tube solar collectors. For an individual household, the set-up costs are around Rs30 per litre. So a 100-litre set-up would cost around Rs13,000, with an additional installation cost.
Some of the things to look out for while choosing a solar heater are the quality of insulating material and the reflective sheet underneath the tubes.
Banish the vampires
Any electronic appliance, when it’s on standby or even switched off, draws some amount of power as long as it’s plugged into a socket. This is known as vampire power. While many of us know that such a thing occurs, we often underestimate the magnitude of this drain. Some estimates suggest that up to 22% of all appliance consumption occurs from standby power drain.
Adapters, which usually don’t come with a power button, are the most hefty vampires. To avoid this, it is recommended that you get power strips and flip just one switch for a set of connected appliances to turn them off. Or better yet, pull out the plug. The minimum reduction in bills is estimated to be around 10%. So, if you spend around Rs1,000 on your electricity bill per month, you should save Rs100.
Adjust the settings
• Turn your water heater thermostat down 2 degrees Celsius in winter and consider switching it off (or going lower still) in summer, when a cool shower is rather pleasant.
• Set your AC thermostat to 23-25 degrees Celsius. It provides enough comfort and the AC operates for less time.
• Regulate the refrigerator thermostat so that it doesn’t cool more than you need.
• Use appropriate load settings for your washing machine.
Go LCD
Some people believe that the lower power consumption of a liquid crystal display (LCD) is overrated and that continuing with a cathode ray tube (CRT) is the way to go. This is absolutely false.
A typical 19-inch CRT’s power rating is set at around 100W, and a similar-sized LCD, around 30W. So what type of savings are we talking of here? Say, you run a monitor for 7 hours a day for a year. A CRT will then consume around 255 kWh of power, and the LCD will pull around 76 kWh. Assuming that 1 unit (1 kWh) of power is priced at around Rs4, the difference in bills between the CRT and LCD over a year is around Rs700. Multiply that by three years (the common warranty with most monitors), and that’s over Rs2,100 saved. If you use your screen for more than 7 hours, that would mean an even bigger saving.
Replacing a CRT is also very affordable, since LCDs in the lower screen sizes are cheap.
And remember, LCDs run at much lower temperatures. If you use an air conditioner in your computer room, the benefits of using an LCD might show up from further savings in this region as well.
And of course, let’s not forget the glare reduction.
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First Published: Mon, Apr 20 2009. 01 15 AM IST
More Topics: Green | CFL | LED | Incandescent bulb | Earth Day |