Fight Vampires with OWLs

Got any vampires in your home you want to get rid of this Halloween ?

Probably.

Lately I’ve been using an OWL to fight vampires in my house, and bit by bit I’m winning.

Still with me ? No ?

The vampires in question are slowly draining electricity around my house, and take the earthly form of TVs on standby, mobile phone and electric toothbrush chargers, wi-fi equipment and computers . . . you get the idea.

The OWL is just a brand name of a home energy monitor – other brands of vampire combating energy monitor are available.

The idea is, of course, that if you can measure something, then you can have a go at managing it, and by making us aware of our electricity consumption in real-time, it makes us much more inclined to take simple steps to reduce it. For me at least this has definitely worked, I’ve become a bit energy obsessed – turning off lights, and removing things from standby at every opportunity.

The problem is that even though all our various appliances are getting more and more efficient, from our AAA rated fridge-freezers and dishwashers, to fan heaters and PCs, we’re also filling our lives with more and more gadgets, many of which we have a tendency to leave charging over night, even though they might only need a couple of hours. To be sure a mobile phone, and electric toothbrush, an ebook reader, a touch screen tablet and an mp3 player don’t use a lot of power individually, but when everyone in the country has or wants one of each, energy planners start to get worried !

In the short term the ‘solution’ is two fold: make gadgets (and their charging systems) as efficient as possible, and also nudge us towards reducing our energy consumption by turning things off as much as possible.

Electricity companies in the UK will shortly be rolling our smart meters similar to my OWL, providing real-time usage data both to the homeowner and the electricity company, so the homeowner can see that they’ve left something on, and get some immediate positive feedback for turning it off, and the electricity company can identify wider trends and patterns in consumption, and manage the grid more efficiently.

Wasting less electricity is great, and obviously saves us money, but in the longer term though, we need to move towards decoupling electricity supply from carbon and fossil fuels. ‘Decarbonising the grid’ is going to take many years to achieve, as we install renewable capacity to replace existing fossil fuel sources.

If you want your energy payments to help support this process, and also want to feel good about significantly reducing your household’s carbon footprint, you could switch your electricity supplier to a green one. We switched to Ecotricity a while ago, and for a while I did consider titling this post ‘Fight Wind Power Vampires with Smart OWLs’ . . . but a little bit too ridiculous don’t you think !

Photo by Martin SoulStealer, via Flickr