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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2010
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Make a big environmental impact through a tiny energy footprint

Most of you have probably heard the excitement and buzz around building and living in a tiny home. While most of us aren’t planning on moving into a tiny house anytime soon, we can apply tiny living concepts to our life to reduce our environmental impact and energy footprint in a big way.

While reading this article, imagine living in a tiny house with a water tank and a finite amount of electricity saved in a battery or natural gas available. How would living with finite resources impact your energy usage? Try to imagine living in a tiny home and turn saving energy into a fun game.

Typically, the largest energy hogs in a home come from heating and cooling, lighting and your washer/dryer. A few easy tips for saving costs in heating and cooling include getting a programmable thermostat to keep your home comfortable when you’re there and adjust when you aren’t or when you’re sleeping, installing low-flow fixtures or fixing water leaks to reduce water heating costs, or turning down your water heater a couple degrees. To save energy used in lighting, install CFLs or LEDs. If buying an energy efficient washing machine is out of the question, try washing in cold water. All your actions can add up to make a big difference. If you can believe it, you can save energy without changing any of your lifestyle patterns.

Think about all the unused appliances in your home that are plugged into the wall right now. Contrary to what you might think, these appliances are using power, even if they aren’t turned on or being used. These are called phantom loads. Before I tell you some of the common phantom loads and the energy wasted, write down or make a mental list of the phantom loads for your home and take a guess at how much power they are using and the yearly cost.

Here are a couple examples of how much power your common appliances draw when they are not actively being used:

Household appliance/Product

Average watts used

(Rounded to nearest

whole number)

Mobile phone charger (On, charged)


Clock / Radio


Computer display, LCD (On)


Power tool, cordless, ready, charged


Set-top box, DVR, on, no recording


Coffee maker


DVD player, off


Microwave, ready, door closed


Televisions, off



89 watts

Numbers based on measurements from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:

If you assume the above appliances are plugged in for 24 hours per day, that is 14,952 watt hours per week or 15 kW per week. Using the average price per kW hour in Wisconsin from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, at $0.11, that costs you around $86 dollars a year.

You don’t need to make any lifestyle changes to save this energy. A couple easy solutions are to unplug devices when you aren’t using (at least the big users) or utilize power strips where you have many culprits together, like in your office (computer, monitor, speakers, printer, etc.) or kitchen (coffee maker, toaster, microwave, etc.). Saving small amounts of energy can add up to make a difference and reduce your carbon footprint and your energy bill.

To read more about how to save energy and find resources to take the next step, check out The U.S. Department of Energy website:


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