Saving electricity

June 22, 2011

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Some simple understandings quickly return when raising animals. When the weather is hot, animals move less, seek cool spots, drink more, eat less, lose weight and in the case of chickens, lay fewer eggs. Before air conditioning, humans also ate less during hot spells, were less active and often lost weight. Some of the weight loss can be attributed to higher activity levels in summer.

While air conditioning offers many benefits, it is responsible for the dramatic increase in electrical consumption on hot summer days. It also encourages young people to stay indoors and play with all the energy-consuming electronic gadgets available to them.

In our youth, we had to be reminded to take it easy on hot days and be sure to drink enough water. On hot evenings, we sat out on the front porch or lawn and often slept there. Inside, we turned off incandescent lights as they produced heat, shared the benefit of a fan or two in a selected room, and talked or listened to the radio for entertainment.

As a culture, we seldom address the possibility of using less electricity unless forced to by rising costs or the temporary loss of grid power. In the industrial world, we use as much electricity as we can afford to buy and seldom consider the immense size and inefficiency in current patterns of its generation, distribution and use. The distinction between its essential, efficient use and its inappropriate use is lost in the modern world.

With the loss of 9 million kilowatts of power generation, Japan will relearn the lessons of efficient electrical use this summer and for years to come. Electric fans could again become common household fixtures as they only consume about 30 watts in contrast to the 500 watts or more to power an air conditioner. A sharp increase in the demand for LEDs could dramatically cut electrical consumption for lighting. The daily hot water shower might give way to spot washing, a cold shower or a weekly one.

At this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, several presentations and displays will highlight electrical efficiency. Commonwealth Edison personnel will discuss their energy savings program. Art Meyers will demonstrate the role of solatubes in cutting lighting demand. Victor Zaderej will explain the exciting project he is involved in that allows LED lamps to be attached along a low-current carrying bar to provide extremely energy-efficient lighting where it is needed. Another approach to electrical generation and possible energy savings will be presented by Mitch Heldt, who will focus on using waste heat to produce electricity.

In response to their nuclear accident, Japan is intensifying efforts to move green innovation beyond the suppression of climate change and energy conservation and have it serve as the basis of a sustainable socioeconomic system.

While our nation’s commitment to a sustainable socioeconomic system is less than robust, the energy fair is one event dedicated to keeping that vision alive and growing. Attend the 10th Annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, Aug. 13-14, at Ogle County Fairgrounds; have a good time learning some new ideas and interacting with others committed to a clean energy future.

For additional information, visit illinoisrenew.org.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the June 22-28 issue

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