November 7, 2012

Take The Power Down Challenge

Power down for the planet, and community resilience
Energy intensive lifestyles demand for electricity is currently being met mostly by large scale, fossil fuel powered generation plants that produce large scale toxic byproducts, including climate change and more powerful storms.

Reducing individual power use can minimize the need for building new, expensive, and polluting generation plants. 

Maybe we need to think smaller. Small individual efforts and projects can add up to make revolutionary changes.

Anya Kamenetz recently wrote an article called "If You Had A Microgrid, You Wouldn't Be Waiting For The Power Company". In it she wonders why, post Sandy, we would bother to rebuild dependence on large utility companies and their fragile, centralized for-profit systems, when we could be building community resilience with small scale, on-site renewable energy projects.

Powering down makes it possible to get off the grid altogether, or at least reduce our dependence on this dying model of power generation. Alternatives like solar, wind, methane, micro hydro, and tidal systems can deliver renewable energy to a more efficient population.

Power Down Challenge

Almost 2 billion people live without electricity. Those of us that are fortunate enough to have the advantages of semi-reliable grid power, then, can obviously do some cutting back without perishing. Perhaps, some day, we can power down to the point we can live on 100% renewables.

Conserving energy is a winning strategy personally, nationally, and globally. It can be fun to do whether you are just starting out, are already practicing energy conservation, or are looking for more advanced methods.

Challenge yourself to cut power consumption with some of the following tips.

Just Starting To Power Down

  • Turn off all electrical devices when you are not using them
  • Turn off the lights when not needed, or when natural light will suffice. Daylight increases alertness and productivity
  • Look closely at ecolables (like ENERGY STAR) when shopping, and choose the most efficient items
  • Switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent or LED bulbs
  • Set your computer to energy saving mode in "sleep" or "hibernate"
  • Turn your thermostat down in winter, up in summer
  • Have a family conversation about energy conservation - have fun challenging each other to see who can use the least amount of electricity

Have Already Begun Powering Down

  • Use task lighting to avoid lighting large areas needlessly
  • Get rid of the hair dryer and other power-hungry, optional devices (I recently gave away my iron, and don't miss it)
  • Become familiar with your power bill - make comparisons of year over year monthly and annual changes
  • Take shorter showers, or fewer showers, or both
  • Use power during off-peak hours to save money while reducing stress on the grid
  • Sealing and insulating your home makes it more efficient, comfortable, and cost effective
  • Where appropriate, install motion detectors for lighting, or timers for lighting or fans
  • Turn off the TV, radio, computer, DVD player, sound system

Looking For More Radical Power Down Ideas

  • Use a real-time energy monitor in your home to learn more about your energy usage
  • Install a programmable thermostat
  • Consider if a tankless hot water system is right for your home
  • Move to a smaller home
  • Turn off the heat and/or air conditioning
  • Cook on a wood stove
  • Get an energy audit to find out how efficient your home is, and what upgrades are most beneficial
  • Take bucket baths
  • Install a solar panel, or solar hot water system, wood stove, or other sustainable energy project
  • Tell another person about taking the Power Down Challenge
  • Give away the TV, radio, computer, DVD player, sound system 
  • wash laundry by hand, hang on line to dry
  • Sit quietly, read a book, go for a walk, take a nap...

If you have made it this far in the post, you may be ready to accept the Power Down Challenge. It can be fun to break habits and routines, and see how little power you can live with.

How will you know how you are doing? Check your power bill - are you saving money, or paying more? Often you can access all your consumption data online so you can see your patterns change as a result of your conservation efforts.

Get ready for the micro-grids - coming to a pro-change, resilient neighbourhood near you soon.

Have a favourite energy-saving tip of your own? Please share in a comment below.


  1. Anonymous3/15/2015

    ... One pot cooking, cold showers, more cold meals, fever trips to the fridge, staying outdoors during daylight and following natural daylight cycles, doing laundry on lower temperatures, freezing food outdoors before putting in freezer, wearing heavier clothing indoors as well (I wear 3 layers), keeping a stack of blankets for sitting down, only heat the kitchen,...

    1. There are so many things that can be done, and your strategies illustrate that well. I recently discovered fireless cookers, and plan on testing it out with an old comforter in a camping cooler.

      These are excellent additions - thank you for adding them to the list.


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