The Electricity Shortage: How We Can Help At Home
Those magical city lights: If you’ve been up in the hills at night, you know just how lovely Islamabad can look from above. (Disclaimer: This photo is not mine. Click here to go to the page from where I ripped it off.)
We human beings are terrible at conserving things. Water, forests, food, electricity – we are wasteful of all the things we most need to save. But that’s not something about ourselves we can’t change. And change it we ought, because the people of Pakistan are among those nations of the world that are all too familiar with the finite nature of all things on earth.
Just one of the most current examples of this is the electricity shortage in our country, and the resulting routine of loadshedding in our daily lives. Our government says that citizens must do all they can to conserve electricity. It neglects, as it always does, to apologize for not doing its own job – for it is the responsibility of the state to ensure its citizens have all the basic resources they need. Loadshedding aside, how frightening it is that in this day and age there are villages in Pakistan that do not have any electricity at all.
So yes, we are victims of really lousy administration. But even if we were not, we would still have our own civic duties to fulfill. We owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to the Earth, to do our part for electricity conservation. And there’s really no better time to start than now.
Now, I’ve developed some pretty bad habits, with regards to electricity consumption. But lately I’ve really been trying to mend my ways at home, and I’d like to share a few simple things on here for you to consider as well. Most are obvious, others are novel, but nearly all of them are things that need to be nurtured as habits – for a more energy-efficient lifestyle. Here they are:
1. Turn off the lights: The most obvious – and this is something my mother’s been telling us to do for centuries, to cut down on electricity bills – turn off the lights when you’re not in the room! A lot of us neglect to do this, even though it just takes the flick of a switch. Sure, darkened rooms are creepy, but what do you care? You’re not in it! (I’d also suggest learning to sleep in the dark, if you don’t do so already. Like my father says, “What were you, sleeping or playing night-time cricket? Your room’s lit like a stadium!”)
2. What’s your computer standing by for? I recently developed this criminal habit of leaving my computer on even when I wasn’t using it – it would stay running for days and days on end! What I didn’t realize was that keeping my computer on standby all the time accounted for 10% of the electricity bill. One of the simplest ways to save energy is to switch off your computer, or any other appliance, when you’re not using it.
3. How many environmental activists does it take to screw on a lightbulb? Replace all the lightbulbs in your home with energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). They’re a little more expensive than conventional bulbs, but they’re much more efficient, creating an equivalent light at a significantly lower wattage – a 25-watt CFL is as bright as a 100-watt regular bulb! As a result, CFLs can last 10 times as long and use 80% less energy. I read somewhere that if Pakistani households switch to energy-saving light bulbs, a total of 800 megawatts of electricity could be saved each year.
4. Hello, sunshine: No need for artificial lighting during the day, right? Pull apart your shades and switch open your blinds to let in that beautiful, beautiful sunlight during the day – and close them at night to reduce heat loss!
5. How much light is enough light? Dimmers are delightful little things. Who wants the bedside lamp blazing in your face when you’re curled up in bed reading a delicious new novel? Use a dimmer to turn the light down a few notches to suit your mood – you’ll feel better, and you’ll save electricity too. (Just a note: ordinary CFLs can’t be used with dimmers, but electrical companies are now making the sort of CFLs that can. You just have to check that it says so on the package.)
6. Load up your laundry: If your mum tells you off for all those clothes piling up in your room, here’s your explanation: you’re collecting lots of clothes to put in the washing machine in one go so you can save electricity! Fill up your washing machine with big laundry loads all in one go, for more efficient energy consumption, rather than just washing partial loads.
7. Sun-dry: Have you got a sunny backyard? Who needs a spin-dryer when you can treat your clothes to some wholesome sun? (You’ll be reducing your laundry’s energy use by about half and help cut greenhouse gases by about 3 kilograms for every load of washing.)
8. Buy the efficient stuff: Next time you’re out shopping for a new refrigerator or freezer, make sure you get the higher-efficiency one. It usually costs more, but the money you’ll save on electricity bills more than makes up for it. Also, select an appliance that is the right size for your needs – a 284-litre fridge will use 20% more energy than a 210-litre fridge, even if they both have the same energy rating.
9. Use alternatives: If you have a choice between natural gas and conventional electricity, go with gas, which is normally cheaper. Not only that, it also produces only one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions of electricity generation. But solar energy is the big thing in alternatives – solar water heaters are available in Pakistan now. And given what a fierce winter we’ve been having here in Islamabad, water heaters are running overtime. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you needed neither gas nor electricity, just the good old sun to give you hot water for free?
So those are just a few ways I know of with which you can conserve electricity at home. If all of us just change our habits a little and make smarter choices about the appliances we use in the house, we could make a huge difference. Each and every one of us counts.
If you have more ideas on saving electricity, share them here with us!