Letters to the Editor

SOUNDOFF:Eliminate Phantom Power for Halloween

By Maribeth Crandell

Halloween is a good time to evict the phantoms in your home or business. Don’t think you have phantoms? Look again. Tonight after everyone has left the room and all the lights are off, if you see a subtle green glow in the dark, believe me, you have phantoms.

You may not hear moaning or chains rattle but these little guys can suck your energy as a vampire sucks blood. They haunt our homes and offices drawing power from anyone who pays an electric bill. In fact, anything that uses a remote, a digital read out or has a tiny little light that stays on when the machine is turned off, is a phantom. Most of us have been living with them for years. First it was the TV remote. Then the computer, printer, fax, copy machine, stereo, radio, VCR or DVD player. Each takes just a little bit by themselves, but together, they’ll cost you.

Let’s just have a look at one machine that is commonly used at work or at home, the computer. A desktop computer that’s used during regular office hours and left on all the time can add between $50 and $80 a year on your power bill. If turned off at night, the cost drops closer to $5 annually. You could save $45-$75 a year for just that one piece of equipment. If you work in an office with several computers, multiply that by the number of computers used and you have some substantial savings. And that’s just one piece of office equipment. Add printers, copy and fax machines and the phantoms and potential savings add up!

At your office you might have a desk with a computer, printer, shredder and a couple of lamps all vying for position at the same outlet. At home there might be a TV, DVD player or VCR, and stereo in the same competition. To turn them all off at once and evict the phantoms at the same time visit your local hardware store and get a power strip. It’s like a magic wand to eliminate the phantom load. You plug it into the wall, plug everything else into the power strip and you only press one switch to turn them all off. No more power sucking phantoms stealing your energy while you sleep.

I recently tagged along as an energy auditor walked through three city buildings with Rich Tyhuis, a department head at Oak Harbor Public Works. Over the years Rich and his crew have taken steps to reduce the city’s energy use and power bills. There’s a new programmable thermostat at city hall. Florescent lights had been changed from T-12’s to more energy efficient T-8’s, or T-5’s. Occupancy sensors had been installed in some places that switch on when someone enters and turn off when someone leaves. The city has taken many steps toward better energy efficiency over the years. We also found several places we could make improvements. Rebates are available from Puget Sound Energy to support these improvements. We were told that if we couldn’t find a specific rebate to boost our efforts, we could work with them on a custom made grant. See the PSE website HYPERLINK "http://www.PSE.com" www.PSE.com for more information.

If you are associated with a school, check out the Cool School Challenge at HYPERLINK "http://www.CoolSchoolChallenge.org" www.CoolSchoolChallenge.org to find out how to conduct an energy audit at your school. There are curriculum guides that tie into the State’s Essential Academic Learning Requirements and up-coming workshops for teachers.

Last week Kelly Keilwitz, founder of Whidbey Sun and Wind, gave a presentation on renewable energy as part of our monthly Sustainable Living Seminar Series. The class had the best attendance of any seminar we’d offered all year. Clearly people are interested and in 2009 there will be more rebates and tax incentives to make it more affordable. Still the initial outlay is quite a chunk of change. Perhaps you have thousands of dollars to spend on an array of solar panels on your roof, or you have a large open field by your house that’s perfect for a wind turbine. Then by all means, go for the gold! Visit their office in Coupeville or on-line at HYPERLINK "http://www.whidbeysunandwind.com" www.whidbeysunandwind.com

On the other hand, if you’re like me, with a modest pay check and rising cost of living, take some small steps first. Cut you energy costs one switch at a time. This Halloween, evict the phantoms.

Maribeth Crandell is the environmental director for the city of Oak Harbor.

Community Events, April 2014

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