Introducing the Zero-Volt Challenge!

How to Quickly and Permanently Reduce Energy Use

The Zero-Volt Challenge is a fun activity for your family and/or as a school project. It raises awareness of specifically how energy is being consumed at home and can lead to future conservation discussions and efforts.

If this is a family project, consider adding this to your calendar as a quick annual carbon checkup. If this is a school project, consider holding a challenge to raise awareness about how much energy we waste mindlessly.

According to UNEP, in order to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C, we must drop our greenhouse gas emissions 7.6% each year between 2020 and 2030. Every step we take to decrease energy consumption helps!.

The Problem:

With so many household devices - both appliances and electronics - in use today, it's easy to lose track of how many are plugged in that aren't actually needed. Many modern devices use a surprising amount of standby power even when turned off - up to a whopping 25% of home energy usage could just go toward powering idle devices. Other devices, such as second refrigerators or freezers, can use a surprising amount of energy. And some unused devices may simply have been plugged in at some point in the past and forgotten. And, finally, if any light fixtures still have old incandescent bulbs, these use considerably more energy than LED bulbs.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint - Conserve Energy with the Zero-Volt Challenge!The Solution:

Quickly identify and minimize unneeded energy sources in three easy steps:

  1. Print Worksheet: Print one or more copies of the zero-volt worksheet (it may help to print one per family member)
  2. Reduce Your Electric Meter to Zero: Walk through your home and garage and turn off lights, unplug devices (if safe to unplug) - refrigerator last - and switch off heating/cooling equipment until your outside electric meter stops running. Check inside the back of kitchen cabinets for outlets used by nearby built-in appliances. List everything that is turned off or unplugged on the worksheets. Update the chart columns as you go to track additional opportunities to reduce energy use:

    • Smart Power Strip Needed: consider buying (used) smart power strips for frequently used devices that consume standby power so that they automatically power down when turned off. If available, consider buying used equipment.
    • Unplug It!: For less frequently used devices, consider only plugging them in when needed or using an outlet switch (i.e., extra TVs, unused entertainment electronics, guest room devices, computer accessories, small kitchen appliances, device chargers (which use energy even when not charging), garage equipment).
    • LED Bulb or Filter Needed: If you notice any incandescent bulbs in your light fixtures, make a note to switch these to LED. If it's an outdoor light or a frequently used closet light, switching to a motion and light sensitive bulb can cut energy use significantly. Also make a note of any needed filter replacements for your heater, air conditioner and/or air cleaner to improve efficiency.
    • Power Down When Asleep and Away: Flag any devices that can be powered down nightly and before heading out to avoid wasting energy on unneeded devices.
  3. Power Up Only What's Needed: Walk back through your home and garage, re-plugging and turning on only what's needed. Since the refrigerator is pulled out, take a moment to clean the refrigerator coils to boost efficiency.

This is a great time to check for water leaks: While you're at it, take a moment to turn off any running water and check the water meter to make sure it has stopped running. This is a quick way to find hidden leaks (the most common being a leaking toilet flapper).