January 2001 – As the winter rolls on, the residents of the West Coast, and specifically California, find themselves still locked in what has to be one of the worst energy crunches in years. According to Greg Lefevre, the CNN San Francisco Bureau Chief, “the current California power crisis is far from over.” Lefevre says, “The California Independent System Operator which controls the state’s power grid, expected 32,000 megawatts of electricity use. That’s more than the state can produce.” One megawatt of power is enough to power about one thousand homes for a single day. That’s a lot of power, and we at X10 think we have a way to keep that number down.

As the west coast begins to feel the crunch, several options are being tried, including offering rate breaks to residents and companies who voluntarily conserve energy by allowing themselves to have their electricity shut off for short periods of time during certain days. While the breaks are nice, it does cause some great inconveniences for some.

Part of what has contributed to the energy crisis is the substantial population growth out west in Oregon, California, and Washington states. Population growth means more homes, more office buildings, and in short, more electricity, and more demands on the resources. The states have seen “tremendous growth in the last ten years,” Lefevre says. “Add to that a drier winter that has reduced water availability for hydroelectric plants that provide Washington and Oregon with electricity.”

California is currently importing electricity from its two northern neighbors, Washington and Oregon, during the day, and at night California is sending electricity back. That helps them conserve the water behind their dams. But the worst is still not over.

The ISO says there will be no additional generation coming on line for at least five more days. This means that California is now in a stage three alert.

A Stage 1 means that reserves have dropped below 7 percent. A Stage 2 means that reserves have dropped below 5 percent, and the Stage 3 is called when reserves drop below 2 to 1½ percent.

This stage three alert was to take place on Tuesday night, but by Wednesday morning, officials said that they would still be in the same predicament because of the colder temperatures. So the ISO fully expects to declare another Stage 3 emergency on Wednesday morning. A stage 3 emergency means that California is using more than 98 percent of the state’s generating capacity. Again, according to Lefevre, “any additional surge in use in either the north or the south would drive the state over the limit and force rolling blackouts.

Needless to say, with all this strain on our natural resources, it’s definitely time to consider conservation on a personal, as well as a business level. We here at X10 did some research, and we’ve come up with several ways that each one of us could help out and help ease the stress on the power problem. This will not only help in the current energy crisis, but it will also help keep those electric bills down.

First lets start off with lighting.

1. Fluorescent light bulbs use 75 percent les energy than incandescent, and they last ten times longer. So the first thing you want to do is run through your house, and change some of the light bulbs.
2. Also, keep lights on a timer. That allows you to use them only when you really need them. Thanks to ActiveHome, and the ActiveHome Lamp Modules this can be a very inexpensive modification.
3. Use devices like dimmers, motion detectors, occupancy sensors, photocells and timers to provide light only when you need it. And for this task, there is a plethora of tools for you. The PowerHouse Outdoor Motion Detector, which can turn on lights and appliances, or start ActiveHome macros. Or the EagleEye indoor Motion Detector which will even give you a time delay, so that the lights turn off immediately after you walk out of the room, or several minutes later.
4. Keep your appliances plugged into timers. ActiveHome has great macros that not only act as timers, but just in case you need to control anything from work or wherever you may be, you can log on to the internet using XRay Vision, and take care of things at home simply by going on line.
5. A computer monitor uses 60 watts of power. One thing you can do here is set the energy saving feature on your computer so that it will shut down your monitor if you’re gone for more than ten minutes. This feature is found in Properties/Screensaver if you’re using a Windows® system. From there you can change the monitor settings.
6. Recycling papers reduces water use by 60 percent, and energy by 70 percent. Not to mention the fact that it cuts pollution in half.
7. Keeping the doors and windows locked up tight, and keeping the curtains closed or covering the windows with something like plastic, helps keep the warm air indoors, rather than letting it escape under the door or out the windows.

Of course there are many more ways to save energy than the ones mention here, but these are a good place to start. If you want more information, you can contact your local electric company, and they will be happy to provide you with energy saving tips. Especially now in the throws of our long hard winter.

If we all do even a little bit, it will make a great difference in the availability of our resources. With all these products here at X10, keeping those electric bills down should be the easiest thing you do this winter.