Household Appliances Revealed – Aug 2014

Many of us have devices in our home that are capable of ‘standby mode’, like Tablets, televisions, DVR boxes, Microwaves and Computers, and the list goes on. While this allows these devices to be quickly flickered on conveniently, it comes at a price and is taking a bigger chunk out of your utility budget than it should. Research presented to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), has estimated that devices on ‘standby’ waste enough power to sustain 80% of Canada’s electricity needs per year.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has prescribed that this problem will only get worse in years to come, as world population is increasing, and so is the number of appliances per household. Energy use is a problem worldwide, as politicians, engineers and scientists struggle in the race to find clean, inexpensive, reliable forms of energy. Major culture change is necessary in order to fend off electricity shortages and rising prices as we move closer to 2030.

With an increasing number of devices such as coffee makers, lights, fridges and furnaces having Wi-Fi connectivity for easy control and convenience, the fact is that our devices will not only require more energy to function, but need to be constantly powered to support spontaneous instruction. These appliances on standby, along with the other appliances that are constantly on in your home, are referred to as “base load”. Base Load is the minimum amount of energy that your home will use at any given time (usually over a 24 hour period), to keep all of these devices powered. Now think of your base load, add your neighbor’s base load, and then your neighborhood’s base load, and then your municipality/township. All of this base load needs to be covered by the grid. The sum of these base loads is the amount of electricity that must be generated to the grid to keep it powered over a 24 hour period. This figure is roughly 13,000 MW in Ontario, and is met by Hydro and Nuclear energy mix.

In Ontario, base load is provided by nuclear power generation stations such as Darlington Nuclear generating station, and Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric station. Because base load is needed on a 24/7 basis, the source in various geographic locations can vary and this will directly affect the price of electricity. The more expensive base load is to produce, the more expensive the spot price of electricity. Another point that I would like to add is this: These appliances and devices constantly record and log data, meaning that they constantly require power. This is also the case for our smartphones, computers and tablets which not only record data but transmit it as well. This data is stored on remote servers and basically creates a repository over time. As  IBM’s blurb on big data stated, we in the world generate 2 Million, 500 Thousand Terabytes each day and this number is expanding exponentially. Roughly 90% of all the data created in the world has been made in the last two years alone. This means that by 2030, we will need roughly over 50% more energy, to power our basic needs.

My suggestion to save on power is simply this: unplug electronics when not in use, as the plug being physically connected still uses energy, even though the device may not be on. Equip your space with power bars/surge protectors. Power bars disconnect the connection, disallowing electricity to pass between the source and device prongs. After outfitting your home with power bars and adhering to a regime of unplugging devices when not in use, one can expect roughly a 3% reduction in energy in the average three bedroom, two bathroom home.

Marcus Hinds

EnerScope Energy Research & Mapping Inc.