Plugged in
What you should know about saving electricity

Sarah Holland
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 04/99) - Electricity is everywhere.

Lights, appliances, computers, TVs, washers, dryers, stereos, it's out there.

All of these day-to-day extras add up to a lot of energy used and money spent every month, so it's wise to be cautious about how you treat electricity, and the Arctic Energy Alliance has some tips to help.

Something as simple as cleaning your light fixtures can conserve energy by increasing light levels. Using the lowest wattage light bulb for hallways, exteriors and multi-lamp units is a good idea, while 60 W bulb can be used in other areas.

Replacing incandescent lights altogether is becoming increasingly popular and although the alternative -- compact fluorescent bulbs -- is more expensive at the onset, the energy conserved will in turn save you money in the long run.

There are a number of energy-saving techniques you can practise in the kitchen too. Try to use a microwave instead of the oven whenever possible. An example of the differences between the two is that is takes about 10 to 15 times as much electricity to cook a baked potato in an oven as it does in a microwave.

Choosing pots that fit the element seems obvious, but you wouldn't believe the amount of energy lost by putting a small pot on a large element.

Just look at how much area the small pot doesn't cover -- that's energy going straight into the air to nowhere. Covering your pots while cooking is another good idea.

Although it may be a messy job, vacuuming the coils behind your refrigerator should be done regularly. Also, your fridge temperature should be at 3 C, while your freezer should be at minus 18 C. A thermometer put in the fridge can perform this task easily.

Is your refrigerator near a heat source like your oven? If so, just think of how much harder the fridge has to work when that oven heats up.

How are your seals? A simple test to check the seal on both your fridge and stove is to close the door onto a piece of paper and if it pulls out too easily, your seal is too loose and there's a good chance energy is being lost.

Another big energy user is your vehicle.

The Arctic Energy Alliance recommends using a power saver cord and timer with your block heater and using the heater sparingly. They say a car will start at minus 20 C as it would at 0 C. If the temperature is below minus 20 C, your car needs to be plugged in for a maximum of four hours. Other tips include not using a vehicle interior warmer and installing a Command Start whenever possible.

This list touches on some of the major electricity users in your home, but it's up to each of us to get informed and take action.