Monday, July 9, 2007

Setting Priorities #1: Understand Your Electricity

The recent Live Earth concert series was an inspiring attempt to raise public awareness of global warming and help educate people about reducing their impact. The main problem is still these "save the planet" tips, which though full of our beloved factoids, do not actually help individuals understand where their carbon footprint really comes from.

Americans have become fixated on driving because we are so dependent on our cars and because of the evil “foreign oil.” You will get no argument from me about cutting our oil usage, for security and environmental reasons. But as far as global warming is concerned, coal-generated electricity is the bigger problem: coal pollutes much more per unit of energy than oil or natural gas. In 2006, more than 2.1 billion metric tons of emissions came from coal, or 36% of the total.

As a society, more of our emissions come from oil, but

for the average individual, the energy used in our homes is responsible for more than twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the energy used by our cars.

So first thing’s first: for Americans reducing electricity use should be the top priority, and to do that we need to understand the following:

1. where we use it
2. where we can cut it
3. where it comes from

Over the next few days, Green Factoids will take a look at our electricity use with the help of a handy device that every household should get: the “P3 International Kill-a-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor.” You simply plug your Kill-a-Watt into the outlet and plug your electric device into the Kill-a-watt to learn how many watts the device is drawing.

The device will also tell you the appliance’s kWh, volts, amps and other cool information.

Amazon currently sells the Kill-a-watt for about $23.

Thanks to our favorite blog, Michael Bluejay's Mr. Electricity, for recommending the Kill-a-watt.

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