Jeff's Tips for Net Zero Electricity Use

Oct 28, 2008

New Belgium founder and brewer extraordinaire, Jeff Lebesch, has been working towards an electric net-zero home for several years. Recently, he presented his tips and findings to the world as part of his work with the Northern Colorado Renewable Energy Society.

The coolest part about Jeff’s findings is that they present real solutions that all of us can invest in, especially those who can’t necessarily put a large solar array on their homes.

When considering having a home that’s “off the grid” (or even “on the grid” but uses net zero electricity over a year’s time), we tend to think first of renewable energies, which is a great thing.  But remember one of the three R’s is reduce?

It turns out that reducing power load is the single best thing you can do – plus it’s the most cost-effective.

So. Before you install that giant solar array on your house, figure out what’s eating up all the power in your home first.  If you can lower your power consumption, you’ll have a lot less solar panels to install – and if you can’t install solar due to the cost, you’ve still made the best impact you can for the money you’ll spend, which helps everyone!

While you might be aware that clothes dryers and incandescent light bulbs are some of the most power-thirsty items in your home, you might not know that most of the power in your home is eaten by “always-on” electronic devices.  Wireless routers and modems, computers, and any items “waiting” for a remote control to turn them on (TVs, DVD players, etc) are some of the biggest offenders.  One of the worst?  The DVR.  Jeff found that his consumes the same amount of power whether on or off – and that it uses almost as much electricity as a refrigerator!

What can you do?  Change your light bulbs to CFLs, of course, and hang your clothes to dry when you can.  But just as important, unplug electronic devices when you are not using them.  You can also try to buy electronics which feature a low-power waiting state (some do).  Another help is installing wind-up switches on lights or “forgotten about” appliances, so they turn off automatically after a short period of time.

Later, after you’ve reduced your electric demand, install solar, if you can.  But, as Jeff said in his presentation, you’d make a better investment helping your neighbors to lower their energy use rather than installing your own solar.

Go and spread the good energy-saving word.

Read Jeff’s whole presentation (PDF, 4.5MB).