Greening the geek house

Go downstairs and check out your power meter. It’s probably spinning frantically. Why? Because you’re blowing electricity out of your home theatre set-up and home office like a fiend. Don’t worry: I’m doing it to. We all are. It’s the cost of staying online and entertained these days and, sometimes when I’m in the basement, I kind of get a twinge of embarrassment that the woman who lived here before me, a woman who died at 92, used so little electricity that ConEd called me after we moved in asking me if there was anything wrong.

As a homeowner, I’m acutely aware of wasted energy. I feel it in my utility bills, mostly, and that’s one great way to gauge your usage. Another way is to go around the house with the P3 P4400 Kill A Watt electricity meter. I just ordered one in hopes of assessing what mess of electronics is causing my bills to be so high.

But we all know what it is, right? It’s all of the junk that leeches phantom power while we sleep. The TiVo, the XBox, the Blu-Ray player, the Fleshlight charger. That’s why my next purchase is the Belkin Conserve power supply with remote control. To shut down all the junk you don’t use, simply press the little magnetic button. Another tip? Unplug your junk when it’s done charging. Seriously. Your PSP doesn’t need any more juice.

Going further afield, I’ve done some research into getting solar panels on my roof. While Brooklyn isn’t known as the sun capital of the world, many solar panel experts believe that almost any home can benefit from a little sky juice. I checked out Sharp’s solar calculator and found that installing panels on my home would cost about $15,000 and net 73% savings. While this is a little expensive, it could potentially save me quite a bit in the summer months when our roof gets lots of direct sunshine. I found a $9,999 solution as well, but your best bet is to find an installer. Solar Home offers a free assessment, which I’ve just signed up for.

Finally, we can talk about food. We ‘merican’s eat crap and we geeks eat even worse crap. I’ll admit it: if I had my druthers I’d eat Doritos and drink Rolling Rock all day long. But this stuff requires gasoline and packaging and makes a huge mess. How about fairly farm fresh produce and a nice homebrew?

I currently make my own wine and beer with kits from Northern Brewer and Mr. Beer, respectively. Why? Because it makes great booze, you recycle your bottles, and you don’t have to buy Fraunch Wine (c) from Francia and have it shipped over in a messy plane or boat.

We also try to hit the farmer’s market as much as we can and buy lots of vegetables. Clearly you’re not going to pull me away from my bacon, but I got some ramps and baby potatoes today that are going to taste great and won’t have been shipped from California by truck. We’re efficient infrastructure hackers, aren’t we? Why can’t we treat this like a programming problem?

This advice is mainly home-based, clearly, but we all gotta sleep somewhere and by making things a bit more efficient we can keep from burning up the planet that holds most of our data centers.