WE JUST BOUGHT AN energy-sucking electric fireplace because we needed to quickly patch a drafty kitchen extension while also getting an open plan clothes dryer for a washing load that has tripled in the past year. And as I await the first rendering of the electric bill, I know we've got to cut back other usage of electrical components in the house if we are to remain below the European average of 5,400 watts of power burned in the home. John-Paul Flintoff got me to thinking about these things as he used a manual typewriter to prepare a recent article for the Sunday TImes in the dark, "wearing two jumpers, a hat and a scarf and a pair of fingerless gloves". He got an added benefit--no spam, no unread blog items, no winking avatar to distract him. John-Paul is planning to throttle his digital life. "Out with the computer unless strictly necessary, in with the typewriter. Out with the Palm Pilot, in with the paper diary." The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology would smile at his efforts because experts there believe each of us on the planet must stick to energy consumption of precisely 2,000 watts if we want to keep earth hospitable for the next generation. In our home, we could keep the wall-hanging electric fire on full blow for the entire year and not use up 2000 watts--but those watts are meant to be a sum of all living, not just the burn at home.
Until I read John-Paul's article, I didn't know the typical Bangladeshi uses just 300W annually. Across Europe, the figure is about 5,400W. And in the US, it's 11,4000W.
So how to get down to a sustainable usage rate? The Swiss have taken the 2,000 Watt Society into the mainstream. Ideas from this group offer a creative approach to the future. It involves parking the batmobile, cycling to work, eating sushi, and hanging up the pilot's wings.
We turn off our heating--totally turn it off in the winter or summer--when we're comfortable. And then we forget to turn it on, resulting in big savings.
We turn off everything that has a red light glowing and that means no more daytime recharging of batteries.
We run our dishwasher and our washing machine at night when the peak load is off the electrical power grid.
We will chat with a specialist visiting a neighbour and probably commit to blowing insulation into the walls of the leakiest room in the house. This would dramatically reduce the need to run our electric fireplace. It makes a lot of sense to insulate walls and roofs than to improve the glazing on windows, even the leaky bay window in the photo.
Which reminds me that I have to fit a draft excluder under the front door. We're doing both sides of the door than the garage door as well.
John-Paul Flintoff -- "How Low Can You Go?" in the Sunday Times Magazine, 23 Nov 08.
Image from my photostream of the leakiest place to sit in the house.
Wikipedia -- "2000 Watt Society"
Amergin -- "Sustainable Energy at Tipperary Institute"