Author Topic: Electricity usage - making some progress thanks to great suggestions  (Read 4144 times)

red_pill

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Hi there.  This is my first post - hope Iíve done this correctly.

Believe it or not, until reading MMM I never even thought about our utilities bill and just accepted them as unavoidable.  Well, turns out thatís not the case (duh!) and Iíve been able to reduce my electricity consumption by 50% from last year (most of the saving were from switching our heat source from our heat pump to our natural gas furnace which I just found out is cheaper.  I know I know). 

Anyway, while Iíve made good progress I just canít seem to crack my ďbaseĒ burn rate of 0.5 kWh every hour.  Our electricity provider allows me to see my usage broken down by the hour, and even in the middle of the night when nothing is on Iím still burning 0.5 kWh.  Iíve done experiments where I unplugged everything (Iíd already addressed most of my vampire load) and it didnít even make a dent.  Of course, when the tv is on or laundry is being done we are higher than that, but it never seems to go below 0.5.   

So, my question is - is 0.5kwh every hour (so 12 kWh per day or 350 kWh per month) normal consumption for a freezer, fridge, modem, furnace fan, and standby power for a stove and microwave?   It seems high to me.  Our appliances are all less than 10 years old.  Do I have some big drain somewhere Iím not aware of?  It seems like the equivalent of five 100watt bulbs going 24/7 is excessive. I would really appreciate any advice.

UPDATE: I got a Kill A Watt meter from the library and I found some vampires, and I also discovered the thermostat was set incorrectly and the fan was running almost constantly.  My usage was down to 0.2 kwh per hour overnight.  This will translate into a $15/month savings approx.  Still conducting testing on the freezer to assess that consumption. 
« Last Edit: May 02, 2018, 09:37:31 PM by red_pill »

Optimiser

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2018, 05:45:07 PM »
See if your library checks out Kill A Watts. You won't be able to test your furnace fan, but you can test everything else that runs on 110v. You could also try switching off your breakers one by one and seeing which ones are responsible for the highest usage so you know where to start. http://ecorenovator.org/forum/ is a good resource too.

CCCA

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2018, 05:55:53 PM »
We are at around 300-400 watts on average (0.3-0.4 kwh/hr) and 180 watts as a baseline (we have a home energy meter).  Our big usage items are our HVAC, which has electric blowers, dishwasher, refrigerator, and random electronics (routers/TV/computers/phones).


I'd say 500 watts is not a great baseline and I would also second the use of the kilowatt to check for how much draw the items that you know about use.   I feel like our baseline is still on the moderately high side and I really should also take another look at the energy draws to get it down further.

Kyle Schuant

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2018, 06:01:59 PM »
Most items you have will have a label on them showing their current, voltage, and power use. It'll look something like this.


If it doesn't have power, then its consumption is voltage x current, eg 240V x 0.75A = 180W, or 0.18kWhr (180Whr) for each hour it's running. Check things like fridge and freezer and see what they add up to. Consider also if you have outside lights and the like.


If they add up to 500W or something close to it, then there's your 0.5kWhr/hr. Bear in mind that some of these things should not be drawing power constantly, for example a refrigerator is meant to hold the cool in (or the warmth out, technically), this is why if you leave the door open you'll hear its engine start. So then you get into things like checking the rubber sealing, and does the radiator behind it have enough room for air to circulate, and so on.


Of course if you have an electric hot water heater then there's 0.5kWhr all by itself.

nick663

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2018, 06:10:39 PM »
Seems high to me.  Our rate with phantom/always on electronics is 0.075 kw/h and it goes up to ~.2 when the sump pump/refrigerator cycle on.

When you say "furnace fan" you just mean it cycling on and off right?  I could see one of those using a decent amount of energy if it was always on.

daverobev

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2018, 07:15:06 PM »
Our 'middle of the night' is actually down to 0.03 kW for some hours.

Could your heat pump still be doing something? Do you have a dehumidifier? An exterior light or something? Sounds like something hard wired. Is there power in your garage?

Reynolds531

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2018, 07:41:18 PM »
Heat pump will have a defroster on the outside coil programmed to come on and stay warm when it's too cold outside.

Designed to keep it from icing up.

TheExplorer

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2018, 09:29:06 PM »
Hot water cylinder?

one piece at a time

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2018, 10:20:29 PM »
Electric heat tracing on pipes to stop them freezing in winter? Attic heater to stop condensation??

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2018, 11:16:22 PM »
I think I figured it partially out - the furnace fan is running even though the heat isnít on.  The fan just ran for 30 minutes blowing room temperature air.  My google-fu tells me thatís not normal.  It was hot here today (23 C / 73 F) so itís not the heat pump defrost.  I will turn the furnace off overnight and assess the impact.  But a furnace fan is I think around  300 Watts, so even if it ran for 30 min every hour thatís still not a full accounting of the suspected overage. I will run down some of the other suggestions provided.  Thank you all.

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2018, 11:19:33 PM »
Our 'middle of the night' is actually down to 0.03 kW for some hours.

Could your heat pump still be doing something? Do you have a dehumidifier? An exterior light or something? Sounds like something hard wired. Is there power in your garage?

No dehumidifier.  All exterior lights are on motion sensors and are LED bulbs anyway.  I have power in the garage but only the freezer and modem (our home internet and phone are through the cable company) are plugged in there.

BookLoverL

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2018, 02:17:24 AM »
The furnace fan sounds like a likely culprit. Also, I'm not sure how much electricity the stove and microwave use in standby mode, but is there a particular reason to keep them on standby rather than fully off the whole time? That could be a potential saving.

dragoncar

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2018, 03:18:27 AM »
Yes itís high, and could be the furnace fan.

If not, try figuring it out on a breaker by breaker level.  That way you can narrow it down by circuit. Your fridge will be fine without power for an hour although consumption will be higher afterwards

gooki

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2018, 04:30:57 AM »
Our overnight load is 120 watts per hour.

Do you have electric hot water?

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2018, 07:37:53 AM »
The furnace fan sounds like a likely culprit. Also, I'm not sure how much electricity the stove and microwave use in standby mode, but is there a particular reason to keep them on standby rather than fully off the whole time? That could be a potential saving.

They both have digital clocks on them.  I wouldnít think they use that much electricity.  I will have to identify that through process of elimination. Today is no furnace test day (I just woke up and the furnace fan is running but heat isnít on) I would have preferred to test it overnight but my wife didnít want the house to be cold when she got up. Lol.

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2018, 07:39:14 AM »
Our overnight load is 120 watts per hour.

Do you have electric hot water?

No - it is natural gas.  Appreciate the baseline info.  That sounds more reasonable than what Iím using.

nick663

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2018, 11:09:17 AM »
I think I figured it partially out - the furnace fan is running even though the heat isnít on.  The fan just ran for 30 minutes blowing room temperature air.  My google-fu tells me thatís not normal.  It was hot here today (23 C / 73 F) so itís not the heat pump defrost.  I will turn the furnace off overnight and assess the impact.  But a furnace fan is I think around  300 Watts, so even if it ran for 30 min every hour thatís still not a full accounting of the suspected overage. I will run down some of the other suggestions provided.  Thank you all.
What kind of thermostat do you have?  A basic programable one can be had cheap and should give better control of the furnace.

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2018, 11:25:29 AM »
See if your library checks out Kill A Watts. You won't be able to test your furnace fan, but you can test everything else that runs on 110v. You could also try switching off your breakers one by one and seeing which ones are responsible for the highest usage so you know where to start. http://ecorenovator.org/forum/ is a good resource too.

Awesome tip - it never occurred to me they would carry something like that.  I just asked and they have one - I have it reserved for next week! Thanks!

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2018, 11:31:56 AM »

What kind of thermostat do you have?  A basic programable one can be had cheap and should give better control of the furnace.
[/quote]

I only figured out a few weeks ago that my thermostat was programmable. And it was set to a constant balmy 21.5C (71F).  Yeah, thatís right.   The thermostat war of 2018 has begun against a worthy adversary- my wife. Itís a war of attrition. I have succeeded in getting a reduction to 20 C (68 F) through the night.  Now that we are into air conditioning season Iím afraid Iím the wimp on that front and sheís tougher. So we will see how that plays out.

But I donít think itís a matter of the thermostat control - the fan is running even when there is no heat on. It is just circulating air.  Google suggests it might be a limit switch issue. This exceeds my limited know how and I will have to call someone to come look at it.

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2018, 10:39:40 AM »
Okay, so I turned off the furnace yesterday at the switch and the usage went down to 0.3 kWh for the hours that it was off and nothing else was going on. So thereís the biggest problem I suspect. I have a furnace guy coming Monday.  Looking forward to seeing where the other 0.3 kWh is going - my money is on the fridge ice maker which always seems to be icing shut.  Will update results later next week after I get my (borrowed from the library!) Kill A Watt meter.

BlueMR2

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2018, 12:39:59 PM »
But I donít think itís a matter of the thermostat control - the fan is running even when there is no heat on. It is just circulating air.  Google suggests it might be a limit switch issue. This exceeds my limited know how and I will have to call someone to come look at it.

*If* you have one of the next generation super high efficiency furnaces with dynamic fan, this is normal for the fan to never stop.  However, it should be a very low amount of airflow and only draw perhaps 30-50w depending on house size.

I find it annoying, but leave it to its business as it does seem to help moisture issues.  However there is always the power switch right on the side of the furnace to shut ours off if I really wanted.

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2018, 02:09:25 PM »
But I donít think itís a matter of the thermostat control - the fan is running even when there is no heat on. It is just circulating air.  Google suggests it might be a limit switch issue. This exceeds my limited know how and I will have to call someone to come look at it.

*If* you have one of the next generation super high efficiency furnaces with dynamic fan, this is normal for the fan to never stop.  However, it should be a very low amount of airflow and only draw perhaps 30-50w depending on house size.

I find it annoying, but leave it to its business as it does seem to help moisture issues.  However there is always the power switch right on the side of the furnace to shut ours off if I really wanted.

I donít think it is.   It is 10 years old and has an energy efficiency guide rating of 92.1.   And when it is running it is a pretty strong airflow same as when the heat is blowing (just at room temperature).

BlueMR2

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2018, 07:13:56 PM »
I donít think it is.   It is 10 years old and has an energy efficiency guide rating of 92.1.   And when it is running it is a pretty strong airflow same as when the heat is blowing (just at room temperature).

Ah, OK.  Yeah, probably a stuck relay if you're getting the full airflow.  That happened to our old 92% efficiency HVAC unit one Summer back years ago.

bacchi

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2018, 08:17:04 PM »
Looking forward to seeing where the other 0.3 kWh is going - my money is on the fridge ice maker which always seems to be icing shut.  Will update results later next week after I get my (borrowed from the library!) Kill A Watt meter.

A fridge defroster is a resistive heater. If the ice maker is icing shut, the defroster could be malfunctioning and running all the time.

jeroly

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2018, 09:15:42 PM »
I switched to a Nest thermostat and have seen considerable reduction in my electricity bills. Not paying to heat or cool when nobody is home is a huge savings.

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - canít get it down.
« Reply #25 on: April 28, 2018, 11:00:19 PM »
Looking forward to seeing where the other 0.3 kWh is going - my money is on the fridge ice maker which always seems to be icing shut.  Will update results later next week after I get my (borrowed from the library!) Kill A Watt meter.

A fridge defroster is a resistive heater. If the ice maker is icing shut, the defroster could be malfunctioning and running all the time.

So we have had the fridge guy out half a dozen times for this problem (itís still on extended warranty that the previous homeowner had bought and transferred to us) and heís replaced the icemaker a few times but the problem keeps happening.  Your comment encouraged me to look into it myself.  Less than two minutes of YouTube showed that this ice issue is a common design flaw for Samsung fridges caused by air from the fridge leaking into the ice compartment and easily solved with a bead of silicone.  In five minutes I (hopefully) fixed an issue that has vexed us for a few years.  If nothing else, itís one step of the process of elimination to identify the potential defrost issue.  Thanks!!!   

red_pill

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Re: Electricity usage - making some progress thanks to great suggestions
« Reply #26 on: May 02, 2018, 10:00:23 PM »
I figured out the fan issue. The thermostat had a weird ďventĒ setting that was set to run almost constantly.  It wasnít linked to any humidity control function - it was just on for no good reason other than to circulate air.  I was able to change the setting to off, so now I donít have to shut the furnace off at the switch.  And I learned a few other things about my house.  First, what I thought was a HRV on the main floor was in fact just a regular bathroom fan vented directly outside  that was for some reason set on a timer and turned on randomly. Not associated to any sort of humidity control. Again, was able to turn that off.  Second, I learned that with my furnace fan not running all the time, the basement gets cold. Really cold.  But I learned that I can use that in the evening to cool the house off - just turn on the furnace fan for a few minutes and the temp dropped a few degrees on the main floor. Apparently according to YouTube I can open the attic hatch and vent out hot air. Havenít tried it yet.  Anyone know about doing that?

As for other consumption - I got the Blue Planet meter (same as a kill a watt) from the library and found some vampires I didnít know about.  My Monster power bar that my tv and stereo were plugged into was drawing 20W even tho it was ďoffĒ.  Changed that out for a normal power bar.   My wifeís coffee maker was drawing 15 W! Thatís 131 kWh per year just to sit on the counter with a little red light on.  Crazy, so we unplugged it. A Bluetooth speaker we have in the kitchen was drawing 10W.  Again, itís unplugged now.    The fridge is drawing about 76 W (averaged over a whole day) which is fairly consistent with its estimated energy rating of 640 kWh per year.  I will do a complete list when I get done my testing (doing freezer now) but my consumption yesterday was the lowest itís ever been at 10kwh for the whole day and down to 0.2 kWh per hour over night.  Big improvements, but I think I can squeeze a bit more out of it.

Appreciate everyoneís help on this!

dragoncar

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Re: Electricity usage - making some progress thanks to great suggestions
« Reply #27 on: May 03, 2018, 03:25:52 AM »
I learned that with my furnace fan not running all the time, the basement gets cold. Really cold.

So I guess that's why the furnace has that option -- to keep temperatures evenly distributed.    Not worth the cost IMO.

Quote
Apparently according to YouTube I can open the attic hatch and vent out hot air. Havenít tried it yet.  Anyone know about doing that?

I don't use my attic hatch, but have a whole house fan which is basically a fan-powered version of the same.  It works if you have cool nights and open all the windows.  Only thing I'd worry about is dust and spiders -- maybe put a screen on the hatch?  If you get serious about it, whole house fans are not that expensive, basically just a big-ass fan you install in the ceiling

 

Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!