Energy Diet

An Unbelievable Week of Learning

I went to Abu Dhabi Distribution Company for water and electricity and asked for my bills, and the staff were really helpful and got me everything from July 13, 2009 to January 11, 2011.

That was my first-time ever to visit that place. I started asking about reading our meter, as I really don’t know where it is. Because we live in a rented villa, I really never paid attention to this. I just paid the bill and didn’t pay attention to anything else. As for natural gas, that isn’t a factor, because I always cook with an electric cooker, because I believe it’s safer. But I found out that the electric cooker takes lots of energy.

Things I learned to do:

1. Get in the habit of switching lights off whenever leaving the room
2. Lower the air conditioner 1 or 2 degrees, or put it in automatic mode, where it will switch itself off when it’s cool. In the winter we have no problem with temperature, but in the summer, OMG. Lowering it down makes a real difference — 25% — and it’s unbelievable. My electricity bill increases in the summer time because of the AC, so we are only good for 3 to 4 months: December, January, February and most of March. After that, it really becomes hot and the AC is a great essential to us.
3. Turn off the water heater when it’s not in use. I learned something new here. Did you know if the water heater is on, and you go to take a shower, you might get an electric shock? It’s really scary, and made me think a thousand times before giving the kids a shower. Heating water takes energy so taking a quick shower will do rather than having a bath.
It was surprising to learn that leaving a TV or computer on standby overnight uses almost as much electricity as it does when it is switched on. So we have to turn it off and unplug, as well as using power strips (which by the way have plenty of it all over the house). I got new ones which separate each thing that’s plugged in.

I also learned something new, which is that if I am planning to buy a new appliance for the kitchen, these days they have an energy-saving ones, so I should look for it. As for the water, the first thing we are about to do is change all the shower heads to new ones that give the same feeling of pressure but use less water.

This week was unbelievable. I got to know so many simple things that we ignore, how much we are wasting. What a shame. It might be little things, but they really waste energy a lot than we could imagine. All the points I mentioned made me think of changing my behavior towards dealing with energy and definitely making changes.


  1. Dave Chameides
    January 31, 2011, 1:27 pm

    Great stuff. The first step towards making a difference is educating yourself on where these resources come from. I think a lot of us take it all for granted and realizing what goes into getting it to us is a good first step.

  2. Tom Sahagian
    January 31, 2011, 11:15 pm

    Hi Boudour — Sounds like you’re really getting into it!

    I had a few comments and questions:

    I assume when you say to lower the AC you mean to raise the setpoint of the thermostat to a higher temperature?

    I was puzzled about your water heater. If you can tell me a bit more about how it is set up I may be able to figure out why there is such a shock hazard — it really should not be this way. Maybe you can email me a photo, even.

    I’m also not certain it is a good idea to shut the water heater off — if the temperature in the tank (I’m assuming there is a tank) drops below about 115 degrees F, there is a risk of the presence of Legionella bacteria.

  3. clipton
    February 1, 2011, 1:13 pm

    Good observation about energy consumption from the TV even on standby. There is an interesting product called a smart strip.

    You would plug the TV into the blue outlet. Use the red outlet for modem, routers and anything that should not shut off when the TV is off. Use the white outlets for any supplemental audio or video appliances around the TV, such as a DVD player or video game station. Whatever is plugged into the blue outlet (TV) controls the white outlets. When the TV is turned off, the white outlets shut off and no longer consume electricity. Note that you only save electricity on what is plugged into the white outlets. There is an on/off switch that you can use at night or when leaving home for several days.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t done the research about how accessible smart strips are outside the U.S.

  4. Tom Sahagian
    February 2, 2011, 6:59 am

    Dude — this is why al gore invented the internet — they can order a smart strip from anywhere! Just make sure the plugs and voltage are the same.

    Just one caveat — if they have cable, and they keep the cable box off most of the time, it could interfere with the cable company’s daily system updates. One of my former students did a little experiment and concluded he need to leave the cable box on for about 4 or 5 hours overnight or it would lead to problems.

    This is a very common phenomenon — our systems are not set up with efficiency in mind, and so when we try to modify them, we often create more problems than we solve. It can give energy efficiency a bad name, which is the opposite of what we intend!

  5. Christina
    February 2, 2011, 12:55 pm

    This gets at my fear that when I’m turning off the power strip that has my modem and router attached to it, that I will somehow cause disruptions to my Internet service. This fear is totally unfounded so far, but Tom, your detail about the cable box is resurrecting my concerns!

  6. Tom Sahagian
    February 3, 2011, 5:52 pm

    It won’t disrupt your internet service, but it might have an effect on the modem or router itself. Luckily, they use very little energy, so you can probably leave them on.

    If you want to know how much electricty they use, get yourself a Kill-A-Watt and measure. I can lend you one if you want.

  7. Michele
    February 3, 2011, 6:41 pm

    Hi there. I have a question for Chad:
    I’ve been building for a while now and have been on the lookout for a product that I can install that gives a accurate readout of current (and past) electric consumption at circuit level. Maybe compatible with web or mac based software.
    Thanks and I have all ready ordered the powerstrips you mention in your comment above.

  8. Christina
    February 4, 2011, 11:28 am

    That’s good to know, Tom. Thanks!

  9. clipton
    February 4, 2011, 12:15 pm

    Hi Michele–
    Tom mentioned an interesting product called a Kill a Watt meter, which measures current electricity consumption. The moment it is plugged in it will measure cumulative consumption from that point forward of any appliance plugged into the Kill a Watt meter. I believe they cost ~$30. There is also The Energy Detective, which costs >$200 and provides very useful energy consumption details. See:

    As a follow up on the cable box discussion–
    For most families, I recommend plugging the cable box into the red outlet, which never turns off, because recording capabilities do not work when the cable box it turned off. Even if you do not use the recording function, the cable box needs several minutes or longer to reconnect with its surroundings when turned back on. This is frustrating for people who want to watch TV immediately.

  10. boudour
    Abu Dhabi,UAE
    April 6, 2011, 4:49 am

    All these info is amazing, I have been struggling to get some of these applicants, but unfortunately I couldn’t find them here, I found things from Tchibo store in Abu Dhabi that has applicants that works in the same concepts. The best part of it that I know they offset the CO2 emissions associated with each shipment made to other countries.

  11. boudour
    Abu Dhabi,UAE
    April 6, 2011, 5:46 am;jsessionid=59251BF142D4F62F9B78839838D76683.
    from here i got most of these things, solar lamps, lanterns used in earth hour, led lights, by using the ‘fridge polar bear’ that reminds you or your children to close the door promptly. and just now i noticed that i did buy the a multiple outlet strip, but did not understand what is it for exactly till i went to there web site. i found it 3 weeks a go , with the water first aid and shower head. i think its only a matter of finding the right place to shop from.