Unplug this blog!

See the human-powered shower, then clean up your act

The human-powered shower begins.

Posted by Rob Klovance

Are you still having trouble giving up that long shower each day, or even every second day? Still not convinced that a low-flow showerhead is worth the cost and the bother?

Well, you may want to reconsider after watching a fabulous, funny episode from the BBC's Bang Goes The Theory that demonstrates how much energy a shower uses.

The episode on the "human-powered shower", available on YouTube, demonstrates how many cyclists going all out it takes to power a guy's shower.

The video underlines the energy requirements of daily life that we take for granted. And while it may cost each one of us in B.C. a few dollars a month in electricity or gas costs to take showers, we can easily cut those energy costs in half by switching to a low-flow showerhead and/or taking shorter showers.

On their own, showering or leaving a light on don't add up to great costs, but if you start adding up all your energy use over the course of a day, it becomes clear that the little things count.

That point became obvious to a couple Team Power Smart members in Powell River, who switched to energy-efficient CFLs, chose ENERGY STAR® appliances and changed their behaviour a little. As of a couple months ago, they had cut their BC Hydro electricity bill by 21%.

XBox vs. Wii, and other power comparisons

A blogger out of the U.S., Michael Bluejay, is a true believer in electricity conservation and has spent countless hours putting together helpful content and tools. His 'How much energy stuff uses' tool is a whole lot of fun. While he lists energy rate options across the U.S. only, as British Columbians we can select the lowest rate (7 cents per kilowatt hour) to approximate our affordable rate here in B.C.

Bluejay's engine produces some interesting comparisons. He calculates that, based on an average uses of three hours a day, every day, an XBox 360 costs us $14.40 per year to operate, while a Nintento Wii – for the same amount of time – would be just $1.44. The Wii certainly is a leader in energy-efficiency, a fact supported by a 2008 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council that concluded that, at the time, video game consoles sucked a collective 16 billion kilowatt hours a year, "roughly the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego."

Bluejay's engine calculates that an average laptop, also used three hours per day, would use $3.48 over the course of a year. An electric oven, used an hour a day at 350 degrees, adds up to $52 a year.

You may want to use the Bluejay site for electronic device comparisons, but you'll get more accurate results for appliance and lighting costs by using bchydro.com's calculators. If you've been wondering what a refrigerator upgrade might get you, for example, consider that a medium fridge/freezer (11-18 cubic feet) that's more than 10 years old will cost about $62 a year, compared to about $39 a year for a newer model.

Still shopping for a new TV? Check out Blaine Kyllo's look at energy-efficient backlit-LED TVs on bchydro.com, and also see the TV energy use overview CNET put together in November. It includes an in-depth look at which factors you can control while purchasing and also while setting up your TV to ensure you're minimizing your TV energy use. Just keep in mind that the cost calculations are based on the higher average-across-the-U.S. electricity rates.

About that pasta...

And just in case you were wondering whether the pasta box recommendation on the amount of required boiled water is correct, check out the "Do you need all that water to boil pasta?" story that was on the New York Times website earlier this year. It's enough to convince me that perhaps I can use a smaller pot the next time I make my special fettucine Roberto.

Rob Klovance is managing editor of bchydro.com. His fettucine sauce is a variation on "alfredo" that utilizes an escargot spice to add some extra zip to the sauce.