Saving power… is it false or real?

Most of us don’t remember the times without electricity. Life was completely different back then, the only light sources at home were candles or furnaces, which had to be fueled by coal or wood that you cut down yourself. Currently, however, we use power for everything, from powering devices to cooking. It became so common that even short blackouts can make our life really hard. But it turns out that a lack of it may not be the only problem with electricity…

Life with and without power

Electricity might call to mind Benjamin Franklin or the famous feud between Tesla and Edison, but the history of power begins way in the ancient times! Many centuries ago the Greeks found out that rubbing amber with cloth causes is to attract dust. And during the excavation around Baghdad the archeologists found ceramic pots with metal inserts, which could be the ancient proto-batteries. They were probably used to gild small items, and their age has been assessed to be over 2000 years!

However, this knowledge was lost with the dawn of Middle Age. Like many big historical changes, coming of a new age was not peaceful and many discoveries were cast aside, lost, destroyed, and later even condemned as “pagan superstition” and “black magic”. The topic of electricity resurfaced in the 17th century, thanks to William Gilbert, who built a machine, which could measure static charge. It was also him who started using the word “electricity”, after the Greek word for amber: elektron.

But the true Renaissance of electric power came in the 19th century, when many now famous physicists began to investigate its laws. Thanks to people like Georg Ohm, Nicola Tesla, Werner von Siemens and Thomas Edison we were able to harness power and put it to use. Their discoveries became the basis of our current knowledge and became a catalyst to many other inventions in fields like medicine, entertainment, and industry.

From scarcity to excess

This wonderful discovery quickly became commonplace, as it allowed for things that would be unimaginable before. Light on demand or a machine powered without steam or fire sounded almost like magic. And so people were eager to find new uses for electricity in every aspect of their life. And this process is still ongoing. After all, power is more convenient, cheaper and, as one would think, better for the environment than the previous solutions. But is it really?

Unfortunately, it’s not a miracle solution of all our problems, and while the risk of getting shocked is steadily decreasing as we come up with better safety precautions, it’s becoming very apparent that electricity contributes to a far greater threat.

Wasting power and its consequences.

According to a WWf report, in Poland alone 40% of electric energy is wasted. It is very often caused by our own laziness. Wherever we go, power is there, so we usually don’t wonder about how we waste it by simply not thinking. Tiny oversights, like leaving your charger plugged in when you don’t use it or placing a small dish on the biggest burner of your induction hob, can add up and cause real problems.

Growing bills are never a nice thing and not only for our wallet. After all, electricity doesn’t come from nowhere and has to be produced somehow, as cheaply and as much of it as possible. Unfortunately, over 60% of power is still produced using non-renewable energy sources, which seem to generate more problems than they solve.

They are mostly fossil fuels, like gas, petrol or coal, which were created over millions of years from the remains of prehistoric plants and animals. Currently we are using them up much faster than they would ever have the chance to regenerate, which is why they are called “non-renewable”.

Their extraction, transport, and burning generate a lot of pollution that goes into our water reservoirs, groundwaters, and air. Petrol leaks cause the pollution of ocean water and many animals, and the large amount of CO2 released while burning coal goes into the atmosphere much faster, than the nature is able to deal with it. It leads to the accumulation of CO2 in the upper parts of our atmosphere, where they retain too much heat and solar radiation, which results in an unnatural rise in the average global temperature on Earth, a thing called global warming. This in turn causes extreme climate changes and weather anomalies like droughts, hurricanes, and floods.

For this reason using too much electricity is a threat not only to our finances by raising the bills, but also the whole environment by pollution and using up natural resources. And although we hear more and more about renewable energy sources, which don’t run out or regenerate themselves very quickly, the pace of these changes isn’t fast enough to save us from trouble. That’s why it’s important to start saving power today. Not only will you save money, but the environment as well.

Tips… how to save power.

There are many steps you can take in order to cut down your energy consumption. Some of them are an important decision, that you have to take at the early stage of looking for a flat or home. One of them is choosing a power supplier, which utilizes renewable energy sources or offers special tariffs, that ensure lower prices after a certain hour or during the weekends. It is equally important to pay attention to the energy class of our home appliances to choose a model than will not add to our energy bill. It’s especially important when it comes to the fridge, as it is usually on all the time. It’s also important to put it in the right place, as energy usage might rise if it’s warmed by sun rays or a nearby radiator.

The appliances that don’t need a constant supply of power should be plugged out whenever they’re not in use. You can plug them into a power strip. A strip like that consists of a few sockets connected to one plug, often with an on/off switch and fuses, which protect against sudden power surges. By plugging in a few appliances to a power strip you can make it easier to turn them all off with just one button. It might seem like an overkill, but even a “stand-by” light in your TV can use up a lot of power within the year. Even something as trivial as disconnecting some appliances can make a big difference.

But power strips aren’t the only useful tool in reducing your energy consumption. You can also use:

  • Motion sensors, which are usually used with outside lighting. They turn it on whenever they sense someone within their range and turn off a few seconds after they stop detecting movement. Using them can help combat unnecessary using lights and forgetting about them.
  • Power Banks with solar panels turn light into energy, which is then stored in the powerbank, which works as an accumulator. It can then power small electronics without the use of a socket.
  • Programmable timer will cut the power by itself at a chosen hour. All you have to do is plug it into the socket, plug the appliance into it, and then set up the hour at which the appliance should be turned off.
  • Condenser is a small device that you plug into your socket to condense the reactive power and reduce the energy usage of appliances.

They are very useful devices that help to “automate” our power saving.

A bit smaller, but just as important step is to change your lightbulbs. And I don’t just mean exchanging them for LEDs, which are diode lamps that are much more durable while using less energy, but also adjusting the brightness. Unless we need very strong light for precise work it’s better to choose a bit dimmer bulb. It’s also good to use spotlight, as we don’t need to light the whole room just to read a book in the corner.

The last step might seem like the smallest, but it can be the hardest of all. It calls for a change in our habits. Everyday choices and habits cause the most energy waste, which is why you not only can but should work on them. Not everything can be done with smart timers or power strips, you have to pay attention to your actions in the most trivial matters, from turning off the excess lights to refraining from unnecessarily opening the fridge or the oven. These are really simple, small steps that over the year or even a few months can make a gigantic difference:

  • Unplug your charger from the socket if you’re not using it right now.
  • Defrost things in the fridge instead of the microwave.
  • Clean your induction hob regularly.
  • Turn off the oven or a burner a few minutes before you stop cooking.
  • Use a burner that’s the same size as the bottom of your dish.
  • Cover pots and pans during cooking to prevent heat from escaping and cut down the cooking time.
  • Wash your laundry less often, but in bigger batches.

Although remembering all that and adjusting our habits accordingly might take us some time, it is definitely the most important step on this list.

And… is it worth it?

If we introduce even a few of these changes and stick to them, we won’t have to wait long for the effects. They may even be visible while paying the next energy bill. But it’s just the tip of an iceberg, as our choices have a real effect on the world.

It’s a very simple pattern. Producers, upon seeing that people prefer to use the most energy-efficient appliances and not just cheap ones, will be more motivated to invest in producing better, even more energy-saving models. It can also encourage companies to seek new solutions to make their product consume even less energy or offering the same level of energy conservation at a lower price to get ahead of the competition.

Similar mechanisms happen, if aside from changing the appliances in your home we’ll decide to choose a provider that offers energy from renewable sources. Not only will we save money by using less electricity, but the amount that we do use will be less of a strain on our environment.

Saving isn’t just paying smaller bills or less for appliances at the moment, but also being aware of what we buy and investing in the future. Our money talks and informs sellers along with service providers about what we care about and are willing to pay for. That is why it’s important to pay attention to what and where do we buy. It won’t only help our wallets, but also our planet. We can always buy another laundry machine or a lightbulb, but we only have one Earth. By destroying it we’re doing a disservice to ourselves, so we should protect it before it’s too late.

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