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Get Schooled on Your Energy Usage

Your morning alarm buzzes. You turn on the light. Turn on the A/C (heat if it’s the winter months). Turn on the coffee maker. Open the fridge. Hop in the shower. Blow dry your hair. Open the garage door. Start the car and off to work. This is an average workday morning routine, done about five times a week for about 52 weeks; 260 times a year. Something that seems to be so commonly done, yet we never look at how much energy that one routine is costing us. Let’s do the math:

Appliance Energy in watts Time in hours Total kWh
Standard alarm clock 2 24 0.048
Standard light 60 1 0.06
Standard A/C 3500 1 3.5
Standard electric furnace 1800 1 1.8
Coffee Maker 800 0.25(15 min) 0.2
Refrigerator 180 24 4.32
Water heater 4000 1 4
Hair Dryer 1500 0.16(10min) 4
½ HP Garage Door 400 0.16(10min) 0.0667

Total Energy Consumption: 14.24 KWh/morning
Total Cost: 14.24 KWh*11.2¢/KWh = $1.60/morning

In a year: 14.24 KWh*260 = 3702.4 KWh/year
In a year: 3702.4 KWh/year* 11.2¢/KWh = $414.67/year

After a year, it turns out we’re all paying about $400 just to go to work[1]! With this in mind, the next question is, How can we avoid spending that money? Unfortunately, some routines must stay. There will always be the need to wake up and go to work, go to school, or go do errands. However, if we can keep the energy costs in mind, maybe that shower time will decrease, the lights will stay on less and that air conditioner won’t be turned on. If the financial reasons aren’t enough for you to want to save energy, think about the actual energy use. Where the energy comes from, how much are we using, and who creates this energy are important things to also consider aside from the financial aspect. A good way to think about energy production is to imagine a hamster running in its wheel, and every time that wheel spins a very small bit of energy is created. Think about how long that hamster would have to run in order for you just to keep your standard alarm clock running… Luckily, a young student with an eGauge was able to get a grasp on what a hamster can produce while it runs on its wheel. With a small motor hooked up to its wheel, this dwarf hamster was able to produce a maximum voltage of 0.150V. Hypothetically, if we say a standard of 0.050 Amps is generated by the small motor, then the hamster is able to produce 0.0075 Watts. Over the course of an hour, that’s 0.0000075 kWh. Not even close to being able to power your alarm clock at 0.048kWh. You would need 6399 more hamsters running at the same constant speed for 24 hours just for that 0.048 kilowatt hour.

Science ProjectScience Project Results by Local eGauge Student

Now imagine the experiment goes life-size; big hamster wheels with a big motors. All humans must now run for their power. How much power do you think you could you produce? How much energy? Think you could power your alarm clock continuously? What about your whole morning? Your whole life? Energy does not come from nothing, something must provide it, whether it’s coal, natural gas, nuclear, sun, wind, or human power. Our technology is coming close to giving the maximum amount of energy in the most efficient way, but until it is perfected, the more we conserve the less that has to be made (and of course, the less money that is spent). So next time you’re rushing in the morning and leave the kitchen light on for a wasteful 10 minutes, think of that as an hour you’ll spend making up that energy running on your hamster wheel.

Written By Alexandra M. Kaufhold Electrical Engineer & Marketing Designer at eGauge Systems

[1] http://energyusecalculator.com/