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Five not-so-obvious ways to conserve electricity

Five not-so-obvious ways to conserve electricity

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Electricity is not just there anymore. Utilities and appliance have stepped up their efforts to transform the aging electrical grid into a an efficient and thoroughly digital smart grid. Smart appliances, meters and gadgets will empower you make smart decisions about the amount of electricity with little lifestyle sacrifice. Educate yourself now. by John Dodge

So you think you know most of the ways to save electricity: replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, shutting off appliances when not use, buying solar-powered lamps for outside lighting and insulating hot water pipes for starters. That's just the beginning or the low-hanging fruit as it were.

There's much more you can do. Here's a list of five handy ideas you might not have thought about to lower your bill and be good to the environment.

1) Appliances are a new ballgame. Every time you buy a new appliance, evaluate energy consumption using the EnergyGuide labels affixed to each machine. Appliances like dishwashers and the fridge consume at least a fifth of the energy you use, according to the Dept. of Energy (DOE). And generally buy ENERGY STAR appliances. DOE mandated in January, 2007 that washers and dryers use 21% less energy. DOE also rates appliance models based on their annual consumption of electricity, but sometimes the information is out of date. Another good source for appliance energy consumption is Consumer Reports Online which I highly recommend and whose annual $26 subscription fee is well worth the money.

Also, remember, solar panels and some water heaters are eligible for federal tax credits up to 30% of their cost.

2) Look around your house and check for digital appliances that are on, but not in use. Occasionally-used devices such as battery chargers, computer printers and FAX machines should be unplugged when not in use.  One easy way to accomplish this is to use power strips that can be switched on and off. Computers should be set to hibernate and when you away go on vacation, unplug the cable modems and wireless routers.

Even power strips are getting smarter!

3) The Dept of Energy has home energy audits that you can conduct yourself and address everything from lighting to plugging air leaks. You can also get a professional to do one.

4) Check your hot water system, faucets, toilets and shower heads for costly leaks and fix them. Also, do you need that scalding water temparature? ideally, hot water should be set between 110-120 degrees. And fix cold water leaks too. Water is a precious and scarce commodity in many parts of the world.

Compact fluorescents are but one way to conserve electricity.

At the same time, minimizing the length of your dryer vent will save energy (and reduce the chance of lint catching fire) as well frequently cleaning the lint filter after every use. Also, clean in and around the lint filter periodically.

5) Electricity is not just there anymore. Utilities and appliance have stepped up their efforts to transform the aging electrical grid into a an efficient and thoroughly digital smart grid.  Smart appliances, meters and gadgets will empower you make smart decisions about the amount of electricity with little lifestyle sacrifice. Educate yourself now by staying right here at SmartPlanet.com or investigating myriad of others sources about smart grid technology. And bug your utility about its smart meter and smart grid plans. If your not satisfied with it answers, choose another electricity supplier.

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure