The EU Eco Design initiative has reached another milestone and the media are up in arms yet again. But my calculations show its not worth replacing what I’ve got… by a LONG way!
So we’ve had limits on the power of vacuum cleaners, now they are going after ovens, coffee makers and internet connected devices.
Now saving energy is no bad thing and there are some truly awful devices out there that are blatant energy wasters. But I still think the EU has got it wrong. And this applies to a LOT of ‘energy saving’ or ‘green’ initiatives… the basic fact of the time required for a return on investment!
So the article on the beeb says that the changes will save an average household £32 a year. In my case probably a bit more as I have 2 WiFi access points, 4 gigabit network switches, a 10/100 hub, 5 voip phones as well as a server running 24hrs a day.
So lets start with the stuff near my PC. Out comes my handy plugin power meter!
The Linksys Voip phone on my desk comes in at 5W. OK, that explains why it is nice and warm. At 8760hrs per year, that adds up to 43.8kWh a year. At current prices about £5 a year.
A quick web search shows that the best phones are about 2.5-3W. So if I replace it with a newer more power efficient model it will save me ~£2.50 a year but will cost me £60 in a new phone. A 24 year packback period! The phone will have gone in the bin long before it has reclaimed the outlay. Right, screw that!
Next, the Netgear 5 port gigabit switch behind my TV. It is one of their early white plastic switches and sucks about 12W. So maybe £12 a year to run. Netgear’s new 5 port switch is spec’d at 3.6W and TP Link also have some low power models. They retail for about £15-20. That would save me about £9 a year, so the payback now comes down to rather more sane 2 years. But why should I retire a perfectly good switch?
Next to the WiFi, a TP Link. The one nearest me sucks down about 10W, so £9 or so a year to run. The newer models claim 5-6W so about a halving in power. But at £35-40 to replace I’m looking at a 7-8 year payback. OK, we’re back to ‘screw that!’, plus its only 18 months old and replaced a linksys access point I’d had for about 10 years. (which is now in the garage and turned on when I want to use my laptop on the car)
If we go to the kitchen, I already have an A rated fan oven. (and it is back to that rating after replacing the very poorly designed sprung hinges and their mountings) A quick look results in no A+ or better ovens that would fit the space. And the 20-25% improvement that A to A+ brings would still have a huge payback period. Assuming I use it for 1 hour every day and the element is rated at 2.5kW, it works out at about £110 a year to run. (and this is a huge fudge figure as I know it cycles once it has reached temperature and averages ~500W) So saving £25-30 a year for the sake of spending £1000 on a new oven just does not make any sort of economic or even environmental sense!
So if I did replace every bit of electrical equipment I could in my house I would maybe save £100-150 a year on the electricity bill. However I’d be the best part of £2k out of pocket and have a pile of electrical equipment well within its usable lifetime to be recycled. How is that going to help?
Sure, replace your old scaled up 20 year old kettle with a new one or bin that ancient noisy vacuum for something with a much better designed air system. But going out replacing perfectly good and relatively new devices to ‘save energy’? Don’t bother! Wait until they die!
On a side note when I first started monitoring my household energy I discovered that my AV receiver was consuming 30W in standby! Yes, THIRTY watts! As it gets used a couple of hours a month it gets switched off at the wall. Its old but does what I want and sounds good so doesn’t need replacing.