The cleanest, quickest, and cheapest way to fight global warming and save energy is simply to use less. I've harped about this constantly, noting, for example, that folks like the Germans and Italians consume roughly half the electricity we Americans do. I'd managed to cut electricity use in my house in California down to 3,200 kilowatt hours a year, half the annual California average of 6,960 kWh, and way less than a third of the national average of 11,232. Mr. Green, of all people, dare not be caught with a stupendous utility bill like Al Gore was a few years ago.
Among the many suggestions I've given for painlessly cutting energy use is to shut off or disconnect computers, chargers, and other electronic devices, including those in standby mode. Yet, let it be noted that not until this April did I began to systematically turn off power strips that were feeding standby devices and chargers in our house. The results proved instructive, yielding a 25 percent reduction from last year's April consumption. Happily, our standard of living didn’t drop by 25 percent because we had to wait five seconds for the idiot box to glow and vibrate with the sounds of reruns or somber reports about global warming. All we had plugged in were a DVD, a CD, a TV, a phone charger, two computer chargers, and a printer. Yet these alone were wasting 2 kWh per day.
The reduction in our house tallied with one study that found that the average Northern California home has 67 watts of standby capacity, with the highest at 169 watts. This means that if you're at the high end of standby use, you could waste 4 kilowatts in just a day. That would cost anywhere from $90 to $370 per year or even more, depending on electricity prices where you live. So make sure your house isn't lurking with vampire-like gadgets.