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Life On The Cat Farm - [Public] Energy wastage

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Previous Entry [Public] Energy wastage Jan. 24th, 2008 @ 08:00 am Next Entry
(Updated to include 9/20/07 statement.)

A few months back, fed up with a teenager who refuses to turn off lights, I decided to take matters into my own hands -- I replaced the bedroom and bathroom lights with compact fluorescents.

The drop in electric consumption was so dramatic, so immediately obvious, that I ran out and replaced all the bulbs in my entire house, almost. There are still a few I've not replaced, but they are almost never turned on. For those of you who've not made the switch yet, here's my electric bill for over a year. You can see the dramatic drop in kilowatt hours used.

I'm making this public so y'all can link it however far and wide you like, and I encourage you do to so. My average monthly savings is $47.00. That's just too much money for me to pass up.

Julie's Electric Bill

(Just to add a bit of explanation, the January bill has no appreciable savings in it, so it should be compared to the February bill. The March and April 2007 bills should be compared again the March and November 2006 bill. I'll update the photo from time to time on Photobucket, so the changes will continue to be visible as the summer approaches)
Current Location: back porch
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From:tuluum
Date:April 22nd, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
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WOW!!!
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From:furrycatherder
Date:April 23rd, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
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Yeah, that was my reaction.

I was actually measuring the current at the time I replaced the first few. The decline in current (and therefore, power) was just INSANE. Not to say I'm so skeptical about everything that I just didn't believe the "saves lots of money!" hype, but I was very skeptical that the savings was going to be that dramatic. And while I figured replacing the entire house was going to make a visible change, for it to be that large of a visible change was totally shocking.

The bulk of the energy saving comes from replacing about 23 bulbs (I replaced more than 23, but those 23 are on the majority of the time). At about $4 per bulb, when bought in larger than the 1 or 2 packs, that's less than $100. At $47 per month saved, plus an unknown amount I've saved on A/C -- the house is noticibly cooler without the incandescent bulbs -- those bulbs are paid for. The other 10 or so will be paid for next month, unless I go out and replace every other incandescent in the house, including flood lights and chandeliers. And even then, it'll take another two more months to pay for them.

Oh -- I did want to try and qualitify the A/C savings. Back when I was trying to figure out what power was costing me, I think I put it at something like 975 KWH for basic usage, since that's about the minimum and I often don't run heat or A/C in the fall or spring. For each degree above 70F, I think I figured I used about 25 KWH average on cooling and 4 KWH for heat (I have gas heat, so that's the energy to run the blower motor). Looking at February, March and April, I thick the "middle" point, where I switch between heat and A/C has moved up 2 or 3 degrees F. Meaning, I have to run the heat more, and the A/C less, when the average temperature is higher. If that's the case, I'll save another 50 to 75 KWH each month in the summer in reduced A/C usage just from reduced heating load caused by light bulbs. That agrees, somewhat, with what's known about A/C efficiency -- it takes less power to remove a watt of heat than to make it. So the loss of 350 KWH heat per month requires less than 375 KWH of electricity per month.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:April 23rd, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)
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Urph.

So the loss of 350 KWH heat per month requires less than 350 KWH of electricity per month to remove from the house with air conditioning.
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From:rachel_swirsky
Date:April 28th, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
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Heya,

Treading over here from Alas. Have friended, on account of being quite interested in what you have to say.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:April 28th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for stopping by!

My take on Global Warming is a bit different from that of many others. My thoughts are that we don't have the money to dig up enough fossil fuels to realize the worst of the scenarios. Rather, I think that pretty soon "energy" will become a much more class-related issue than it is today.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:June 8th, 2007 12:30 pm (UTC)
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Now that summer is arriving here in full-force, meaning, it's been over 90F here several days, and even made it past 95F, I think I have a clue about what summer consumption is going to go like.

For week days, when I'm not home and the A/C is doing it's programmable thermostat thing, average load is roughly 1,450 watts, or 35kWH per day. For weekend days, when I am home, and the A/C is being run considerably more, average load is roughly 1,750 watts, or 42kWH. Adding up those two for an average 30.43 day month, with 8.67 weekend days, yields (21.76 * 35) + (8.67 * 42) = 1126kWH.

Not quite as impressive a drop as I'd have guessed it to be. Of course, the June statement is still two weeks away, and I'm really just making this post so I can say something between now and when that statement comes out. Oh, and for a total estimate of power savings, because I do so love to type :) , it does look as though my average monthly, year-round savings will be on the order of about 400kWH/month. Turning that into money, it's about $720 per year.

There is going to be a pretty serious problem come July's bill -- I'm in the process of getting 1,750 watts worth of solar photovoltaics installed on the roof. I'll be sure to report on net consumption and total production in the future so I can still report what gross consumption is.

I've not ruled out replacing the A/C compressor with a higher SEER unit. That would take a bite out of the 500kWH/month the A/C uses in the peak of the summer when things here head north of 100F.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:July 21st, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
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The higher SEER units require a completely new evaporator (the part inside the house) because the higher SEER units operate at two different speeds, so the inside unit has to be able to work at two different speeds as well.

The net is that replacing both the condensor and evaporator would cost $12,000. Yikes!
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From:furrycatherder
Date:July 11th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)
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Well, it wasn't the 1100+ kWH I thought it was going to be, and right now it's looking like it will be under 1000 kWH.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:July 15th, 2007 12:10 pm (UTC)

Solar power update

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July's bill may be the last of the unadulterated bills. Funding for the solar array will close on the 19th, and the Home Owners Association appears ready to approve the work sometime this week, perhaps as early as Monday. Since the electric bill is made based on usage up to about the 20th of each month, I should get a "complete" bill in July and one that includes some net metering in August.

As an aside, since the solar power project started as a way to avoid power outages, there have been about 5 outages lasting long enough to reset clocks or crash computers since I started this project.
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From:bagpiper45
Date:August 9th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
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These are awesome savings!When the data are lined up,like below,(assuming I didn't make any errors) the
before and after differences are striking! Keep doing what you're doing. In these four months alone you
saved 2219 KWH and $329! Nice work! It helps stem the tide against global warming and saves lots of bucks!
If you can post some of these numbers on Realclimate,where I'm also a poster(Lawrence Brown) you ought to
be able to convince many doubters about switching over. Thanks for posting them. Regards, Larry
(The columns line up on the draft but not on the preview?)

March April May June
--------------------------------------------
YR. KWH $ l KWH $ l KWH $ l KWH $
------------------------ -------------------
*06 975 141 l 1391 195 l1155 164 l 1697 257

#07 630 96 l 661 94 l 722 102 l 986 136
_______________________________________________
Diff-345 -45l -730 -101 -433 -62 -711 -121
_______________________________________________
* Using incandescent bulbs.
# Using compact fluorescents

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From:furrycatherder
Date:August 10th, 2007 02:39 pm (UTC)

Not so easy

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You can't make the comparision straight over, you have to compare by average high temperature. Still, the difference is very striking. One major difference is that we had a very wet and cool first half of the year.

I had thought I'd have the solar array up by August 21st, so I could start showing the savings from that. Unfortunately, with the wet weather has come a lot of work slippages for the contractor, so the work will not begin for another 10 days. That does mean that the September 21st bill will include almost an entire month of solar savings. It'll be interesting come October or November when I should set a completely new record low electric bill.

As regards the formatting, HTML is notoriously hard to format without using tables, and I don't believe LJ permits the <table> tags.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:August 23rd, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
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Quick note -- the new bill is in. Monthly average high was 93F, total kWH used was 1244, savings compared to 06/2006 when it was 93F for the average is 450 kWH. I'll update the photo on Photobucket and you'll see the change when I'm done. Oh -- the bill was $170, before the "customer appreciation" discount. So, that's $87 saved. In just one month.
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From:nesheekah
Date:September 4th, 2007 03:20 am (UTC)
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Hi, I don't know you from Eve, but I wanted to tell you how impressed I am with how you've handled the discussions over in WJ2. I'd post this there but I'm a known apikoros to them (as a woman studying for the rabbinate) and I've learned my lesson about expecting my views to be respected. You seem to have managed it. Thanks!
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From:furrycatherder
Date:September 21st, 2007 11:14 pm (UTC)
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1068 KWH, average high 91F. I'll update the photo later.

Also, because the solar stuff is up and running, I'm going to start a new post and blather about other things.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:October 4th, 2007 01:32 pm (UTC)

Time to say "Good-bye!"

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For the last quite a few months I've updated this post as I've gone from serious electrical piggyness down to something much more slim and trim, and without giving up anything in terms of "Quality of Life".

This past month I ran the air conditioning as much as ever, lights left on by teenager, computers running 24/7, and I did it with 290kWH less. Some of the fact that it was less of a savings is due to the solar panel installer using electricity, no doubt, and some of it could be due to staying up entirely too late all the time for work, or falling asleep on the sofa with the house lit up. Whatever the reason, it was a good month, and over the past 8 months I've saved over 2 mega-watt-hours, or something like 1.4 tons of CO2.

But now is time to say "Good-bye" to this post and enter into the strange new world of living with solar power. With 2100 watts worth of panels, and what looks to be something over 5 hours of insolation, those bills up above will be falling fast. How fast? The handy spreadsheet I've kept for the last 8 months on my PalmPilot projects that the 10/20 electric bill will be on the order of 800kWH. That might not seem like much of a savings, but we're still experiencing highs in the 90's and the solar panels will only get more efficient as the temperatures drop, to say nothing of the air conditioner -- 3kW load all by itself -- running a lot less.

Look for a new post to show up with the same old electric bill at the top, but next month with close to 300kWH of solar power production removed from my already slimmed down consumption. And so you have something to look forward to, plans are already being made for another 700 watts to be added to the array come March or April, just in time for next year's air conditioning season.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:January 25th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
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(Bumped because someone asked about solar power.)
From:0livine
Date:May 6th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)

carbon negative

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Hello furrycatherder.

I commend your site and your spirit. Your actions are quite admirable.

I followed you here from RealClimate where you made the statement about a month ago that your whole life was carbon negative. Although this may be true, most folks don’t realize that it takes a lot for us Americans to actually achieve a carbon negative state because so much of our taxes and product costs go into (hidden) carbon intensive activities.

Perhaps you have already seen this article because it came out after you made that statement.

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/footprint-tt0416.html

Keep up the good work!
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From:furrycatherder
Date:May 7th, 2008 12:58 pm (UTC)

Re: carbon negative

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Just to be clear -- I'm carbon negative on those things I directly control.

My goal wasn't, and isn't, to stamp out CO2 emissions, because I don't believe that's practical until we get rid of fossil fuel powered everything. It's to promote technological growth in areas that will lead to fossil fuels being abandoned.

Something is seriously wrong if a gasoline-to-electric car conversion can be done for about $10,000 and the only people doing it are hobbyists.
From:0livine
Date:May 8th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)

Re: carbon negative

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There is another thing to think about; just because you pay no electric bill does not necessarily mean that your electricity is carbon neutral/negative.

I don’t know how your utility administers net metering, but mine pays/charges more during peak hours (12p-6p weekdays for us). We try not to use as much electricity during those hours to stretch our dollar. We postpone things like dishwasher, laundry, etc to off peak hours. Because of this we tend to get paid more for the energy we generate than we pay for the energy we use. Subsequently our electricity is still net carbon positive even though we have not paid for electricity for a couple years (we use more than we make).

This may not effect you because of either different net metering rules or because of your usage habits (you mentioned A/C; it’s pretty hard to postpone A/C until evening sometimes).

Keep up the good work.
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From:furrycatherder
Date:May 10th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)

Re: carbon negative

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My electricity is 100% green. Not sure where they get the RECs or generation, but it's 100% green.

As for postponing A/C until evening, I'd look at the temperature responses for your house and see how the house, without any HVAC in use, behaves. You might find that if you run the temp down a few added degrees before peak time, that the temperature doesn't rise beyond comfort until after peak time. For example, I had a 5F rise from this morning until 6pm (81F to 86F). I use a thermometer in full-sun to capture thermal loading data and the thermometer registered 75F as the overnight low, and 110F as the mid-day high. The inside temperature is controlled by a programmable thermostat (not that it's turned on because we had a cold snap recently and I decided to leave it off), so I could have brought it back down before I was due to arrive home and avoid much power usage between noon and 6pm by letting the temperature rise.
From:0livine
Date:May 10th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)

Re: carbon negative

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Good to hear it about your green power.

I was giving you the benefit of the doubt concerning A/C. We don’t have any, but that’s no great claim because we usually only get a few days/yr over 100F and the air is dry. The house is tight and well insulated. As long as it drops below 65 at night I can usually keep it reasonably cool by closing it up in the daytime. I’ve added some awnings on the south side to reduce the solar gain.

Take care.
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