Hidden Energy – The Energy Footprint of Everyday Objects

We all tend to want to ‘do the right’ thing and not stomp a massive footprint into our planet. But, there are so many unknowns when it comes to our impact. Do you know how much energy is consumed to bring a brand new bottle of glacier water to your lips? Or what it takes to keep your iPhone humming? There’s an almost invisible grid of energy being relinquished each day, from you, your family and your neighbors. We’re all culprits of energy consumption. Though, once we know more, we may be able to decrease our footprint and let go of energy-use guilt.

A few things you may not know about the ‘costs’ of hidden energy:

Bottled Water is full of H20 and, uh-oh

Okay, okay, we all love our alpine water from Canada, Alaska or Nepal, but as a consumer, it would be prudent to know what it takes to get it to our palates. How much energy is used to quench our thirst? By the time your delicious bottled hydrogen and oxygen mix makes it to your mouth, it has had a long travel full of energy use. Our bottled water habit has a huge environmental impact—think about how much energy it takes to make the plastic bottles, fill them and ship them all over the world. According to Live Science:

“An estimated total of the equivalent of 32 million to 54 million barrels of oil was required to generate the energy to produce the amount of bottled water consumed in the United States in 2007, according to the study, detailed in the January-March issue of the journal Environmental Research Letters.”

What can you do? You can get yourself an awesome, re-useable bottle, fill it with tap water (use a filter if need be, though we are spoiled with wonderful water in Colorado) and drink.

Your iPhone may be awesome, but she’s kinda’ greedy

If you were asked: What takes up more energy annually—your iphone or your fridge—how would you reply? Well, if you happen to have an Energy Star medium-sized fridge, the answer would be your phone. According to Mark Mills, the CEO of the Digital Power Group, “a medium-size refrigerator that qualifies for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star rating will use about 322 kW-h a year; the average iPhone uses about 361 kW-h a year once the wireless connections, data usages and battery charging are tallied up.” Whoa. And your phone doesn’t even keep your milk and cheese cool! Once your phone is charged, unplug it. Close apps you aren’t using, and turn your phone off completely when not in use.

Whether a Mac makes your world go ‘round, or your PC pleases you…both are hidden energy suckers

Did you know a typical desktop computer uses about 65 to 250 watts? That’s just the computer itself, add another 20-40 watts for an LCD monitor, or about 80 watts if you have an old-school 17" CRT. And who just has a computer? Most of us have related devices to put our machines to best use for us. For example, a cable modem uses 7 watts, a D-Link DI-604 router uses 4.5 watts, and a Motorola phone box for use with Vonage uses 2 watts while idle (3 when you’re actually on the phone).

To conserve some energy, using a laptop is a better bet. Most laptop computers use about 15-60 watts, which is far less than desktops. And, when your devices are in sleep mode, they use even less. The best way to reduce your use is to unplug devices when they aren’t in use. Or, plug them into a smart power strip.

As consumers become more aware, we can modify our behaviors to reduce our energy use. Now that you know the cost of hidden energy consumption, you can be even smarter with your smart phone.






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