Summer of setsuden

By Jessica Ocheltree

The big buzzword for Tokyoites this summer has been "setsuden," or conservation of electricity. With the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant impeding electricity production, shortfalls have been expected in these high-demand summer months.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is now predicting capacity will reach 56.2 million kWh by the end of August, but that still falls short of the peak summer demand of 60 million kWh last year. In order to avoid the necessity of rolling blackouts, everyone needs to pitch in to reduce consumption.

Many businesses and organizations have helped out by implementing summer flextime schedules and relaxing their dress codes, but private households also need to do their part to bring down demand. Here are some relatively painless tips for lowering consumption at home.

The biggest drain on power is the air conditioner, which accounts for over a quarter of home appliance electricity usage. You don’t have to sweat through the entire summer without ever turning on the air, though. The environment ministry estimates that raising the temperature on your air-conditioning unit just one degree results in about 13% less energy consumption. They also say you can increase efficiency by cleaning the filter every two weeks and refraining from placing things on or around outdoor units. Putting up lace curtains or bamboo screens to keep out direct sunlight and closing the curtains when you are not at home also helps to keep inside temperatures down.

The second most important thing you can do is unplug, unplug, unplug! According to the ministry, about 6% of household electricity is used by appliances that are plugged in, but not in use. Unplug anything you don’t use regularly, and invest in a power strip for appliances that you do use a lot. Japan’s much-loved toilet technology is a big culprit here. Although it is certainly nice to have a heated seat and a warm water bidet whenever you go to the bathroom, simply unplugging your Washlet will cut your household energy consumption by a surprising 3.9%.

Speaking of the bathroom, hot water heating for bathing is another major energy user. Taking short showers with cooler water and refraining from baths will bring your consumption down here. Or better yet, head down to the local sento and use their hot water. If you do take a bath, keep in mind that the water can be reused when doing laundry.

Even if your company didn’t switch over to summer hours, you might want to consider getting up and going to bed earlier. Not only do you get to take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the morning, but you’ll also cut down on the amount of time you need artificial light. Of course, even night owls can cut usage by switching to lower wattage bulbs and cleaning light fixtures regularly, and families can reduce power consumption at night by gathering in one room as much as possible.

There are a few kilowatts to be shaved in the kitchen, as well. Naturally, keeping the refrigerator door closed as much as possible will help, but so will keeping it well stocked. A near empty fridge is just wasting power keeping a few things cool, but a well-stocked fridge has a mass that’s easier to cool. Just be sure you don’t overload it and restrict air circulation. Letting leftovers cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge also helps keep the icebox icy and cleaning the dust off the coils in the back will up efficiency. Cooks should also refrain from using the oven, which gobbles up electricity and heats the house. Microwave and stove-top cooking are far more eco-friendly.

So there you are, Tokyo. Follow these tips and you’ll have reduced your energy consumption by more than 20 percent without even breaking a sweat.

This story originally appeared in Metropolis (

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No mention of TVs and computers? Seems like keeping them off is a good way to curb electricity usage.

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Surprisingly, most businesses and ordinary people are complying. There are tje few businesses that keep their doors wide open letting the cool air out, but i must say, other than that, people are really coming together.

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Summer is almost over. Why this story now?

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The "setsuden" campaign officially continues until Sept 22.

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I don't understand why naruhodo1 finds it surprising that most folk are doing their bit. Tepco played it wily by first staging rolling blackouts, then telling people 'either cut consumption, or the blackouts - unscheduled this time- will be back'. I think they (Tepco) expected that a few midsummer blackouts would convince people of the continuing need for nuclear energy; instead a commendable level of restraint has demonstrated that we can do with less electricity, and we can do without nuclear.

We've reduced our consumption without making too many drastic changes - turn the thermostat up a little bit, turn the brightness on the computer screen down a little bit, be a bit anal about switching off unneeded lights. Minimal effort when you think about the folk still making do in school gyms and the workers putting their lives on the line to bring Daiichi under control.

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Is it to much to hope that the summer of setsuden is followed by the winter of Dan'netsu (insulation)?

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Pity it took a natural disaster for Japan to save power, if you look at my previous comments I was complaining about Japan's light pollution for years.

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Squidbert - a valiant ambition, but sadly to be thwarted. You can bet every penny you'll ever earn that the same people who were so steadfast in their insistence to save energy will suddenly decide that anything less than 28 degrees is too cold to work in once winter comes around. Setsuden can go hang - spinsters must be kept nice and toasty at all times.

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I'd like to get rid of my fax, but occasionally still receive messages. I suppose in the quiescent mode it doesn't consume much power. I keep my photocopier unplugged except when I use it. Takes about 10 seconds to warm up. The computer modem and Wi-Fi hub stay on 24/7 -- can't be helped, disconnecting them is too much of a hassle.

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Apparently some just didn't get the message:

(Thanks to LivingInJapan for mentioning this on another thread.)

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Ivan, you said it!

When I first arrived in Japan, there was a consistent year-round indoor temperature of about 21 degrees.

These days, we have to endure "Cool" Biz in the summer but winter has the samugari not doing their part in the least; they've got things turned up to 25 or 26!

It;s pure torture. I'd fell much better about enduring heat in the summer if others were willing to endure some cold in the winter. But they're doing the exact opposite!

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