Okay let's face it, most of us are conscientious enough to flip the switch when we're done using our electrical appliances. But, there's more to saving energy than turning off the lights when you leave the room. Experts say we're wasting up to 10 percent of household power on "standby" loads. Now, that may sound like flight speak, but what they're saying is that clock radios, video displays, chargers, timers, and plug-ins of all varieties are using energy even when they're not "on". What to do? Other than shutting them down or unplugging the nasty culprits, you can look for Energy Star rated appliances for starters. In California, you have to— no way around it. The law there now states that no television or DVD player can have a standby demand of more than 3 watts. Granted, some are screaming for 1 watt maximums, but that debate can rage on while we all figure out if it's even possible. For now, push the debate to the floor—ask appliance salespeople what the standby load it, check around the house for how many appliances stand in wait for you, unplug where you can, shut off if possible, and stay current on the topic. New appliances are on the horizon—we just need to ask for them.
I like my morning routine, which includes a breakfast of oatmeal and tea. Five days a week you can count on me sitting down to this meal before heading out on the office commute. And on at least one of those days you can count on me turning around halfway, convinced that I’ve left one of the stove burners on. If you’re a family with small children, or if you suffer from the same cooktop amnesia that I do, you might want to consider a cooktop unit with “smart” technologies. Pan-sensing technology is one such feature that detects the presence of a pan—remove the pan and the burner shuts off; return the pan and the burner turns back on. Thermador, one company offering this technology in their cooktops, calls it "Zone Smart". Zone Smart cooktops can also sense the size of the pan and activate the appropriate heating elements, and they are offered in both gas and electric versions. Pan-sensing technologies will save you money by limiting activated elements to only what is necessary, and pan-detection features will ensure that you’ll never again be driving off to work in the morning wondering if you've left the cooktop on. Prices for smart cooktops vary (and I’ve only come across a couple companies offering such technology), but I’ve seen a 36” four-burner electric for $1400, and a 30” for $1200.