Earth Hour Loses Effectiveness with More Efficient Lights, But Here’s What to Do to Help

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Earth Hour was conceived in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In just two years, the movement went to 50 million people in 2008 and is aiming for 1 billion people around the world tonight on Mar 28 2009, which is incredible and kudos to them for it! Mind you, there are not 50 billion people on this planet, and a lot of us don’t have lights to turn off, very sadly, so that growth rate is going to level off very quickly.

Earth Hour LogoHowever, with the fast adaptation rate by society of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or light bulbs and the soon to be even far more efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs), the impact of Earth Hour is going to be very “underachieving”, so to speak, and also lose its punch, unless they add other things to turn off in its message than just lights. The overall impact will still increase as more people participate, but imagine what Earth Hour could do if its message was changed to something like

Turn off your lights, electronics and appliances for an hour.

That still leaves 79 characters to Twitter something else, if you’re counting! That’s half a story for some like Arjun Basu who writes short stories in 140 character tweets! Or a six-word biography for some like me!

Seriously, though, the most common CFL I see is the 13W light bulb. Sure, there are plenty all over the house, but they are probably not on all at the same time so what you save is only a fraction of that. However, if you choose to spend your Earth Hour watching TV, like CNN that its Saturday morning host T.J. Holmes said this morning, you could be expending 10-40 times the energy of one of those CFLs! Check for your flat screen TV energy usage, or get an idea via CNET. I’m sure TJ meant well for his work and employer, but it’s the wrong thing to do for Earth Hour and what prompted me to go write this post.

We tend to use our electronics and appliances without thinking much of their power consumption because it’s not visible nor seem to be very much. However, that would be wrong. Your computer system is at least 10-15X the power consumer of CFLs. Other appliances vary but look at the list at the end of this post containing appliance and electronics power consumption and compare to the 13W for a CFL [list courtesy of OKSolar.com]. How much more power do you think you can save with a little extra effort to turn of some electronics and appliances as well as your light bulbs for Earth Hour?

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So this or next Earth Hour, go turn off your:

  • Computer system power bar (cause it uses one bulb’s equivalent energy when on, even if your computer system is turned off);
  • Fridge and/or freezer if you can unplug them (one hour off won’t spoil your food);
  • Air conditioning or heat (one hour won’t make much a difference in your home temperature if you dress right for it);
  • Anything else you can find or think of which isn’t too much of a hassle to turn on again after an hour. Challenge yourself as to what is not too much to turn off and reset in an hour.

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But what am I going to do for Earth Hour with everything turned off?

I do realize that recommending people just turn off all their lights, electronics and appliances for an hour is possibly more an idealistic than practical suggestion. In fact, Ariel Schwarz of Fast Company magazine had a bit of a warped article about how you should keep your lights ON for Earth Hour because it would send the wrong message to staunch non- or anti-environmentalists that going green means going back to living in caves. Rather, you can practice environmentalism all year without this symbolic gesture. Right point, but bad thinking for choosing the or option rather than the and option. You can do both. Symbolism is powerful, yes, but so is our social spirit to do things en masse and in my opinion, 1 billion people for something will have more impact than a little symbolism against something, even if that something supports your point of view. There are 1 billion people tell you you’re wrong.

But if you’re just thinking Earth Hour is about being stuck 1 hour in the dark, here are some ideas for enjoying your Earth Hour that might just be better than your general life routine for an hour otherwise.

  1. Snuggle up to your significant other for an hour in the dark if you have a significant somebody. I’m willing to bet you’ll be having Earth Hour on a much more regular basis than just once a year!
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  2. Tell ghost stories if you have family.
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  3. Do something with friends if you are on your own and don’t want to be alone.
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  4. Meditate if you are alone and don’t need to be with someone. Or just sit and think about something you need to think about in your life. Don’t tell me you’ve got nothing to think about in your life! Think about how to improve your environmental lifestyle, or fantasize or something like that if you are short on ideas!
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  5. Sleep! Most of us could use an extra hour of sleep… and you also power yourself down for an hour!
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  6. Party for an hour in the dark. Who says that’s not fun???
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  7. Listen to an MP3 player or radio if you really need some music. Slowing down the world and life isn’t a bad thing, you know! Like #1, you might just want to try it a little more often.
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  8. Talk to someone on the phone if you need to talk to someone and can’t do #3 to be with someone. That’s still a lot more Earth friendly than a plasma TV on. Use a land line if you have the choice over a cell and its charging.
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  9. Do nothing, to see how long an hour could be, thinking about how much you might be able to get done in that time, and appreciate the value of time again so you don’t waste hours in the future doing stupid things like watching TV or doing anything else of no value to you. I’m serious!
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If you are prepared enough, Tweet or change your Facebook status ahead of time to encourage something more than just turning off the lights!

And don’t forget you can practice environmentally friendly acts all year round, not just for Earth Hour!

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.1

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Typical Power Consumption

Air Conditioners

WATTS

ANNUAL kWT

One ton

1,900

3,078

Three-and-one-half-ton

6,500

10,530

Five-ton

9,200

14,904

Evaporation Coolers

4000CFM

400

1,150

Heater, Portable

1,500

630

Major & General Appliances

CD Player

85

85

Christmas Lights

800

130

Clock

2

17

Clothes Dryer

2,790

900

Computers

240

1,248

Dishwasher

1,201

363

Electric Blanket

177

147

Fan (Attic)

370

291

Fan (Ceiling or Circulating)

88

43

Fan (Furnace)

500

660

Fan (Rollaway)

171

138

Fan (Window)

200

170

Fish Tank

4

35

Floor Polisher

305

15

Freezer-Upright (18 cu. ft.)

Manual Defrost

540

1,250

Automatic Defrost

700

1,830

Hair Blow dryer

1,000

15.6

Hand Iron

1,100

60

Heat Lamp

250

13

Heating Pad

65

10

Humidifier

177

163

Jacuzzi/Spa Pump

1,300

2,100

Kiln

5,760

1,659

Lighting (Avg. Resd. Use)

1,200

Radio (Solid State)

15

18

Radio/Recorder (Solid State)

26

26

Range (with Oven)

12,200

750

Range (with self-cleaning)

12,200

775

Refrigerator-Freezer

16 cu. ft.

380

1,450

20 cu. ft.

420

1,950

Refrigerator-Freezer (frostless)

16 cu. ft.

600

2,150

20 cu. ft.

800

2,700

Sewing Machine

75

11

Shaver (none rechargeable)

15

0.5

Sun Lamp

279

16

Swimming Pool Pump Motor

2,000

8,780

Television Cable (TV) Box

23

50

Television, Color (Tube)

286

600

Television, Color (Solid state)

175

350

Television, B & W (Tube)

100

220

Television, B & W (Solid State)

45

100

Television, Screen (45″)

147

329

Television, Video Games

45

100

Toothbrush

1.1

1

Typewriter

52

1

Vacuum Cleaner

630

46

Video Tape Rec.

175

350

Washing Machine

512

103

Water Heater

2,475

4,219

water Heater (Quick-Recovery)

4,474

4,811

Waterbed Heater

450

1,460

Water Softener

1.5

19

Well Pump

2,238

1,894

Kitchen Appliances

Broiler

1,140

85

Can Opener

100

1

Carving Knife

92

8

Coffee Maker

1,200

140

Deep Fat Fryer

1,448

83

Food Blender

300

1

Food Mixer

127

2

Frying Pan

1,196

100

Garbage Disposal

445

7

Hot Plate

1,200

90

Microwave Oven

1,450

190

Roaster

1,333

60

Slow Cooker

200

144

Toaster

1,146

39

Toaster Oven

1,550

96

Trash Compactor

400

4

Waffle Iron

1,200

20

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