Energy Home at The University of West Georgia

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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions & Glossary Terms

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I turn my computer off when not in use? Or is it okay to leave it turned on and let it go into "sleep mode" when not in use?

Although many computers are designed with energy saving components, completely turning off your computer (monitor & CPU) on nights and weekends can save approximately $20-40 annually. Savings vary depending on the PC model, the amount of time you can leave it off, and the cost of energy.

You should always enable your computer monitor's power-saving features, and never use screen savers if they keep your monitor running when you aren't using it.

Remember, it is very important that your computer's virus tables be up-to-date; that you run a complete virus scan at least once a week; and that you backup your data files. Please check with your IT support personnel to verify you can shutdown your computer without affecting these crucial activities.

Is it okay to use a space heater when I get cold?

Using personal space heaters defeats the purpose of the decision to save energy by lowering thermostats to 68 degrees during the winter months. Space heaters use electrical resistance heating elements, so they are expensive to operate.

They also warm only certain offices in a building. This rise in temperature can cause the HVAC system to attempt to cool down the entire building. This negatively affects your co-workers in other offices without space heaters.

So, space heaters will generally not be allowed (unless there are offices where it is not possible to maintain the temperature at 68 degrees without supplemental heating).

Is it okay to use a small fan in my office when temperatures rise this summer?

During summer months, the addition of personal fans will be discouraged as we enlist the help of everyone on campus in reducing our energy consumption. To run a 20-inch box fan 10-hours per day on medium speed over a 4-month period costs approximately $12 to operate. Although a $12 cost may not seem like a lot, when that amount is increased by the number of offices on campus, the cost becomes significant.

How much does it cost to operate coffee pots?

The annual cost to operate a 12-cup coffee maker is about $12, while the larger Bunn-type coffee machines cost about $23 annually.

Do flat screen monitors really use less energy?

When compared to a 19-inch "regular" computer monitor, a 17-inch flat screen uses 80 percent less electrical energy. So, yes flat screen monitors do offer a significant energy savings opportunity!

When I buy an appliance, should I look for the EnergyGuide label?

The federal government requires these yellow & black labels on most appliances. They provide the annual energy consumption and operating costs for the appliance, so you can look for the most efficient appliance to purchase.

Should I turn off fluorescent lights when leaving a room?

Yes, turn them off when leaving a room longer than 15-20 minutes. There are 2 common misconceptions about fluorescent lights. The following information clears up those misconceptions.

MISCONCEPTION #1: It takes more energy to start a fluorescent light than to run it, so leave the lights on all the time to save money on your electric bill.

REALITY:When you turn on a fluorescent lamp, there is a very brief jump in current when the ballast charges the cathodes and causes the lamp to start. This inrush of current can be many times greater than the normal operating current of the lamp. However, the spike of current draw normally lasts no longer than 1/10th of a second, and draws the equivalent of about 5 seconds of normal operation. So, if you turn your fluorescent lamp off and on more frequently than every 5 seconds, you will use more power than normal. So, normal switching of fluorescent lamps has very, very, very little effect on a power bill.

MISCONCEPTION #2: Turning fluorescent lamps off & on wears them out right away.

REALITY: Electric lights have a published rating for expected life. This rating is in the hundreds of hours for many incandescent lights, and in the thousands of hours for most fluorescents. Fluorescent lights have a life rating based on how many hours they are left on every time they are turned on. This is usually referred to as "burn time" and for fluorescent lights, the burn time is three hours.

Every time a fluorescent light is turned on, a tiny amount of the coating on the electrodes is burned off. Eventually, enough coating is burned off, and the lamp fails to start. Most full-size fluorescent lamps are rated to last 20,000 hours when left on for 3 hours every time they are turned on. This means that the lamp has roughly 6,667 starts available to use up (20,000/3 = 6,667). Source: Lighting Design Lab, sponsored by Northwest Energy Efficiency

Glossary of Commonly Used Terms

Green Energy - Green Energy products are goods and services that are environmentally friendly that use less energy while also producing less pollution.
Watt (W) - Basic unit of measure of electric power - the rate of doing electric work. For example, one horsepower is equal to 746 watts.
Watt-Hour (Wh) - Basic unit of measure for consumption of electric energy. For example, one watt-hour is a watt of electricity used for one hour.
Kilowatt (kW) - A kilowatt is equal to 1,000 Watts.
Kilowatt-Hour (kW) - A kilowatt-hour is 1,000 watt-hours.
Megawatt (MW) - 1,000 kilowatts or 1,000,000 watts
Megawatt-Hours (MWh) - 1,000 kilowatt-hours or 1,000,000 watt-hours
Load - Term that refers to the cumulative electric demand of a geographic area, such as a city. It is measured in megawatts.
Peak Load - The largest demand for electric energy from all the customers of an area during a specified time period (a year, month, etc.).