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By Bryan Redemske

RISMEDIA, January 27, 2009-(MCT)-It’s like leaving the closet light on all day and all night, all year. When 12 months are up, you will have spent between $50 and $70 to keep that light burning.

That’s an undeniably wasteful way to blow 50 bucks, but that’s how much energy is lost in an average household every year. The culprit: electronics sitting idle. But still, $50 in the grand scheme of things?

“The problem you have isn’t the waste in an individual home, but rather the large number of homes,” Omaha Public Power District spokesman Mike Jones said. “Add it up over a long period of time — that’s where the problem is.”

The problem is more electricity being used, which leads to pollution. It forces the electrical grid to work a little harder than it needs to, all for energy that slowly seeps away.

Unlike a light bulb, which generally relies on a switch to provide power, most electronics and appliances are continually powered, even when they’re off. Think of the clock on your coffeepot or VCR. It’s off, but not all the way.

“In the last study I saw, the average home has 19 appliances that use standby power,” Jones said. “Instead of one computer, they have two. A TV in every room. It adds up.”

And as it adds up, there goes your 50 bucks.

To combat the rise of wasted energy, Jones advocates unplugging appliances and electronics that don’t get used much. That includes cell phone chargers, radios and other small electronics that don’t need to be constantly powered.

“The problem that comes into play is resetting the clock on some devices,” Jones said. “If you don’t mind doing that, it’s a good way to save.”

Devices like Kill A Watt can also help save money. Available for around $25 through a number of online retailers, the gadget measures power use in constant wattage and kilowatt hours.

“That’s something that, 10 years ago, you didn’t see a lot,” Jones said. “People are becoming more aware-more concerned-about how they’re using energy.”

Part of that concern involves replacing outdated technology. Older appliances suck down more power, mostly because of the way they were designed.

“Older devices often use smaller transformers, while the newer stuff uses solid-state technology,” Jones said. “It’s much more efficient.”

When purchasing new electronics or appliances, check for energy efficiency ratings. It’s a given that some things are going to use a lot of power when they’re in use, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep paying for it after switching it off.

Copyright © 2009, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.