Phantom Electric Loads
Country: United States
Date: February 2008
Hello, I am an 8th grader in Laporte MN.
I am studying phantom electrical loads. I am trying
to figure out how much you can save on energy bills
a year just by unplugging the common household
items. Along with trying to figure how much coal or
carbon dioxide is being burned/produced per watt. I
have an electric meter that tells me watts but not
KWH. So I am wondering if you could help me with
how to calculate the amount of coal/carbon dioxide
is being put out per watt.
Unfortunately there are far too many unknowns to give you an answer to
your question. It is easy to figure out how many Kilowatt-hours you
are saving, but to figure out how much carbon dioxide is created, is
impossible without a lot more information.
If you can measure how many watts the appliances you are unplugging
use, using your wattmeter, then to get the number of KW-H you are
saving, simply multiply the number of watts they consume, by the
number of hours they remain unplugged, then divide by 1000 (there are
1000 watts in a Kilowatt).
But to know how much CO2 is saved from being emitted, you need to know
the efficiency of your power plant, and the exact composition of fuel
it is burning, among other things. The other thing needed is the to
know if the power station is even burning coal in the first place, or
is it nuclear or hydro powered, or even an on-demand gas turbine
system powered by natural gas? The calculation would be extremely
I assume your interest in carbon dioxide is because you have an
interest in the claims of global warming many claim is caused by the
greenhouse effect. Even this is a vastly more complex issue than many
believe. For example, the worst greenhouse gas is not even CO2.
Amazingly, water vapor is much worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon
dioxide is. In fact, the total warming caused by manmade emissions is
only a small fraction of the total natural greenhouse effect, most of
which is caused by water vapor in the atmosphere. Like your original
question, this is an issue with no simple answers.
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Update: June 2012