Energy consumption…

Posted on: July 22, 2008

In the interest of staying green (and the less altruistic goal of saving money) me and S. often discuss how to lower our energy consumption. We’ve come up with some simple (and some not so simple) measures that have had a real impact on our electricity bill, and I thought I’d share some of them here…

I’d say we started seriously thinking about this about 18 months ago, when we were still living in a small apartment in Tokyo. Back then our main efforts where centered around turning off electrical devices when not in use, and try not to run the air conditioners more than necessary.

S. bought taps with individual buttons on them so that we could easily cut electricity from our TV/Audio/PlayStation/DVD/… when we were not using them, and this actually had quite an impact on our electricity bill. (Rather than just turning of the switch of the TV for example we would actually physically pull the plug so to speak.)

One problem with the apartment we lived in was the poor isolation that generally meant air conditioners barely had any effect unless you cranked them up and left them on constantly. S. solved this by simply enduring the hot summer days by sheer willpower…

After we moved to our new house in Chiba, we decided to try and take this thinking one step further. First of all the house is much bigger than our old place, so naturally it requires more energy to cool and heat, though the difference is levelled by the fact that this house has excellent isolation and actually keeps a rather comfy temperature year round…

The layout of the house also helps distribute the heat/cold from the air conditioners and so far we’ve never had more than one running at the same time. We also close the doors to all the rooms that we do not use during the day/night to keep the climate controlled area as small as possible.

Thanks to the isolation it is also possible to have the AC setting way up higher than at our old place. (before: 20-22c now: 28-29c) If we had the money we would like to invest in more energy efficient AC devices but they cost a bunch so that will be a project for the future.

As for lighting the new house came with a lot of pre-installed lights. Some are more difficult to change such as the built in spot lights that sit fixed in the wall/ceiling. All the rest though we’ve gotten rid of and replaced with smaller, less energy hungry armatures.

As an example, the living actually had ten light bulbs in all, and we are now down to three. Also we are replacing all the bulbs with energy efficient ones as the old ones break. The goal of course being to have them all replaced as soon as possible.

As for computers, I usually rely on having three machines running at the same time for work. I usually access them from outside when I am not actually in the home office. Three machines may seem like a lot, but that figure used to be six, before I turned three of them into virtual machines that now share the same hardware. Also, one of the remaining three have been replaced by an energy saving LAN-disk instead of having a full tower running just for disk/data management.

Finally the new house has a natural gas-powered engine, called EcoWill that generates electricity and then recycles the heat exhausted during the electricity generation to heat household water. It then recycles the heat generated by the heated water to re-create electricity.

[…]ECOWILL use the heat exhausted during electricity generation to heat household water. While able to supply 40 to 50% of the electricity for an average family of four, they can provide sufficient quantities of hot water. High power-generation efficiency and heat efficiency mean both systems are able to cut the amount of electricity required for heating water by 20%, contributing to reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

This one is a real gem. It is fully automated and works by analyzing the energy consumption of the house to build a schedule of peak hours and low consumption periods. It also gives suggestions on how to re-arrange everyday activities to make your everyday life more energy efficient. Best of all, it can be extended with a solar panel setup, which brings us to the next step in our Get-Off-The-Grid plan…

S. and I have been talking about investing in a solar panel setup, but it all comes down to the initial investment. Hopefully though we’ll be able to raise the money sometime in the near future and take another step towards a more energy efficient life…


5 Responses to "Energy consumption…"

Ello, great to hear you’ve squeezed some eco thinking into your Tokyo lifestyle! Some quick comments:

– What bulbs are you changing to? Consumer market LED:s have recently developed into feasible alternatives, both in terms of producing a decent white light and also coming in models that fit ordinary sockets. LED:s are immensely more efficient compared to flourescents.

– Save on water consumption by adding air to the water, done by a device mounted on the faucet. cheap and readily available.

– I really like this product: http://www.clasohlson.se/Product/Product.aspx?id=35439929 when it comes to controlling devices. Also, for this the proppskåp is an often forgotten resource, if you have switches rather than old proppar.

– The water heater you mention may be efficient, but if it runs on natural gas it hardly qualifies for the eco-prefix! Also, I wouldn’t like to have a carbon dioxide/monoxide-producing engine right next to my window all day long…. The solar panel add-on would of course change this. The current state of solar panels is that they’re in a bit of a flux state, as we are rapidly moving towards vastly more efficient panels. I’m not sure what the electricity grid looks like over there, but here in Sweden you can actually call the electricity company and ask them to replace your electricity consumption measurer thingy from one that only measures electricity delivered to you to one that actually measures both that and the electricity you add to the grid. After that, you can hook up your solar panel to any outlet in the apartment, and just let it feed to the grid. Pretty cool, and simple.

– SSD:s have gotten cheaper and cheaper, and are now a viable option for servers, cutting their power consumption by a lot.

– Many transformers for lighting equipment consume power even with the light turned off (as you probably know). I measured some common IKEA lamps at home, and found they used 3W of energy a piece when turned off, totalling in 15W ticking 24/7, totally unnecessary. Switching these off by an outlet switch makes a difference.

– I’ve been thinking about constructing wall mounted outlets with switches on them, since I haven’t been able to find any like that anywhere. I believe that should be standard for wall outlets where AV equipment is expected to reside.

Your thoughts on this?

Keep up the good work!

Sorry I wish I could write a longer reply but for now let me just say that the adding-air-to-water device we have installed and running on all our faucets. It not only saves water, it also makes it more tasty! :)

Let me get back with a longer reply tomorrow.. way to late here now :)

They should be shipping those in Japan by now, maybe in different colours and will probably fit perfect in the garden.



gooood this would be perfect for my super secret experiments … if I had any…. :)

I bet you can get it with hello-kitty branding :)


Outstanding page – Will come back again soon=)

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