State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Test Your Energy-Saving Savvy

How much energy does a laptop burn? Take Slate's quiz and find out.

What hogs more energy? A desktop computer or a laptop? Central air conditioning or an A/C unit? Take Slate’s energy quiz and find out.

The magazine collaborated with researchers at Columbia’s Earth Institute to come up with questions to test if readers know how much energy their household appliances are guzzling. The quiz was adapted from a study published last year that found Americans tend to overestimate the energy-savings from small behavioral changes—turning off the lights, for instance—and underestimate savings from buying energy-efficient cars and appliances.

Shahzeen Attari, an engineer at EIs Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, found that the largest group in her study, nearly 20 percent, thought that turning off the lights was the best way to save energy, though household lighting is a small part of most energy budgets. Very few cited buying decisions that experts say would cut U.S. energy consumption dramatically, such as higher-mileage cars (cited by only 2.8 percent), more efficient appliances (cited by 3.2 percent) or weatherizing homes (cited by 2.1 percent). Previous researchers have concluded that households could cut energy use some 30 percent by making such high-impact choices.

The Slate quiz is a shorter version of Attari’s study, asking readers to estimate the watts consumed by several common appliances. Readers are also asked to rate what transportation modes and recycling materials consume the most energy. Take the quiz before investing in your next computer, planning your next vacation and choosing between a six-pack that comes in bottles or cans. Answers are provided at the end.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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HVAC Raleigh Dave
12 years ago

This is such a great quiz! It is amazing how many air conditioning customers I have that have no idea about how much energy their old air conditioner uses. I am totally going to use this to help educate my customers that are only interested in fixing their old systems rather than replacing them with newer high efficiency systems. New systems seriously pay for themselves in less than a couple years based on the energy savings! Thanks for posting this quiz! It is great!