Author Topic: Why does my electricity usage still suck??  (Read 7888 times)

Alex in Virginia

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Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« on: April 07, 2013, 04:21:09 PM »
Hi, guys...

I would appreciate any input on this quandary.

After having put into effect a shitload of electricity use reductions, my February kwh usage shows a 28% drop from a year ago.  But it still shows me burning up 29.3 kwh per day.  This I think is still quite sucky.  Please see if you have any ideas or answers after reading the following details.

Electricity Use Reductions Already Implemented
- all lightbulbs switched to cfl
- all electronics (except the video center) now completely switched off when not in use
- electric water heater placed on timer which lets the heater run just 1.5 hours per day
- a second refrigerator and a stand-alone freezer deactivated (just recently, so won't be reflected in kwh use until next month)
- all lights turned off for the night (used to leave a couple on so as not to stumble in the dark; switched to a couple of nightlights)
- oil furnace electric blower limited to running from 11pm to 7am (if triggered by thermostat)
- clothes washer now run once a week +/-
- dishwasher now run once a week or less (most dishwashing now by hand)

Items Not Involving Electricity Usage
- cook stove and clothes dryer are propane-fueled
- main heat source is an oil furnace

Major Electricity Use Suspects
- basement dehumidifier (runs on on/off sensor at around 60% humidity)
- second refrigerator and stand-alone freezer (but both deactivated within last 10 days)
- one electric space heater run at low in bedroom from 11pm to 7am (again, thermostat controlled)
- video center still left on standby (will put on on/off outlet strip this week)

Any ideas or observations?

Thanks!

Alex in Virginia

Another Reader

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2013, 04:33:25 PM »
The extra freezer and refrigerator are probably responsible for some of this.  The stand-alone heater probably uses 750 watts on the low setting.  Check the label or the manual.  Can you borrow a Kill-a-Watt device to measure the usage of the heater and everything else? 

innkeeper77

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2013, 04:43:09 PM »
On the video center on standby bit, it probably uses less than you think. My apartments video center setup only uses 3.4 watts on standby, and it isn't particularly energy efficient. If you have to spend money for a power strip, it is probably not worth it. If you have one lying about though, by all means go for it.

I got the 3.4 watt measurement from using a kill-a-watt, a device that goes between a plug and the wall and measures power used (over a period of time, in killowatt hours), or also instantaneous wattage, and other measurements. If you want to use one of these to determine appliance energy usage, some libraries lend these out, or you can purchase one for around $15. They are fun! and you might be able to use one plus some simple math to track down which of your devices are using all of the electricity.

This is my model ($15 shipped used) http://www.amazon.com/P3-International-P4400-Electricity-Monitor/dp/B00009MDBU - you can probably find one at a hardware store for less.

Of course, don't buy it if you will not use it! Otherwise of course you are out $15. But I have found they are great for educating those living with you on just how much running something costs.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2013, 04:52:47 PM by innkeeper77 »

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2013, 05:19:07 PM »
I'd take a look at your hot water heater and hot water use, as that's probably the bulk of your energy consumption. The timer is nice but most of your energy use comes from heating the cold water as it comes into the tank, not reheating the water. What's the temp at? Set the temperature on your heater so that the hottest you can get it at the shower head is the hottest you'd like it when showering.

How long do you spend showering or bathing? Switching to a lower-flo shower head can save a bunch. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00846E0F8/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1 Is a great low-flo showerhead that switches between 1 gpm and 1.5 gpm, both of which are much lower than the standard 2.5 gpm.

Your space heater probably is a big culprit. How cold does it actually get inside without it? Throw on an extra blanket or some socks when you sleep. If you really still need active heating an electric blanket is going to be way more efficient. I'd also look at your thermostat settings, as the blower will use around 700 watt or so when active.

No idea about the dehumidifier, but it could be a biggy. I'd try to turn it off unless you really need it.


Alex in Virginia

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2013, 07:09:22 PM »
I'd take a look at your hot water heater and hot water use, as that's probably the bulk of your energy consumption. The timer is nice but most of your energy use comes from heating the cold water as it comes into the tank, not reheating the water. What's the temp at? Set the temperature on your heater so that the hottest you can get it at the shower head is the hottest you'd like it when showering.

I recently checked the hot water heater temperature setting and found it to be 150 degrees.  I knocked it down to 125.

Quote
Your space heater probably is a big culprit. How cold does it actually get inside without it? Throw on an extra blanket or some socks when you sleep. If you really still need active heating an electric blanket is going to be way more efficient. I'd also look at your thermostat settings, as the blower will use around 700 watt or so when active.

I tried eliminating the space heater before and found that unacceptable.  However, I will try again now.  I've had the furnace thermostat set to turn on at 60 degrees.  That's as cold as I'll let the house go.

Quote
No idea about the dehumidifier, but it could be a biggy. I'd try to turn it off unless you really need it.

It's either the dehumidifier or a musty basement.  However, I've reset it now to a higher 70% humidity setting.

Thanks for all the ideas.

Alex in Virginia
« Last Edit: April 08, 2013, 08:12:48 PM by Alex in Virginia »

MooreBonds

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2013, 09:48:22 PM »
- all electronics (except the video center) now completely switched off when not in use
...
- video center still left on standby (will put on on/off outlet strip this week)

When you say all electronics are "completely switched off"...does that mean a power strip is turned off, or just that you turn them off? A receiver set-up can draw quite a bit of power when in 'standby' mode (i.e. 'turned off'). To completely kill the power draw, you have to put the receiver (and tvs, etc.) on a power strip and turn off the power strip. Not a huge amount of draw...but things add up quick!


- a second refrigerator and a stand-alone freezer deactivated (just recently, so won't be reflected in kwh use until next month)

Were these energy-star appliances? You'd be surprised how much power older/non-energy star appliances can consume. And on top of it, refrigerators/freezers are a relatively large amount of household energy consumption, even with energy star ratings.

- basement dehumidifier (runs on on/off sensor at around 60% humidity)
- one electric space heater run at low in bedroom from 11pm to 7am (again, thermostat controlled)

The dehumidifier can be a HUGE draw. It's basically an air conditioner that cools down the air to extract the water vapor.  Do you discharge your dryer vent into the basement, or is it vented outside? If your dryer vent dumps the wet hot air into your basement, you're making that dehumidifier run all the longer to get rid of all of that moisture from the dryer.

Also, do you have draintile around your basement to drain any groundwater that accumulates? If the draintile sump pump that pumps out the ground water isn't working, it might be leaving more groundwater around your foundation and basement slab....which might be allowing more moisture into your basement, and make your dehumidifier run more. Perhaps try asking your neighbors if they have dehumidifiers, and what their settings are on, and how long theirs run. I don't know what the humidity levels are in VA, but typically the winter months are drier, so your dehumidifier shouldn't really need to run (unless you have groundwater issues). Out here in Missouri, we get 90%-95% humidity in the summers, and my dehumidifier runs a hell of a lot to keep the level at about 60%...but it never runs in the winter (natural humidity levels are down around 45%-50% in the winter).

Also, is the dehumidifier blowing the dry air on any water sources (like a floor drain or other amount of water?) You don't want to cool down the moisture out of the air, only to blow the dry air across some water and rehumidify the air again.


The space heater you should be able to calculate the power draw on. Just multiply about how long it runs for, by how high of an element it has, and that's a fairly close guess.

I'd guess that between your dehumidifier, space heater, and 2nd refrigerator/freezer, that'll account for a bit of load.

clutchy

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2013, 10:00:49 PM »
I just checked our usage and we're between 6-8 kWh's per day during low usage periods.

Meaning we both work.  It doubles that on weekends when we're home.

Be aware we have gas heating and gas hot water heaters. 

Also umm... during the summer for one month we used 1299 kWh's.... that was bad.

the fixer

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2013, 11:02:53 AM »
how well insulated is your home? Any leaks in the door/window seals?

One of our biggest problems is remembering to turn lights off when we're not in a room. I suspect this is a critical factor in MMM getting his electric bill so low, since he says when vacationers stay in his house the bill goes way up. It's gotta have a lot to do with how you're using what you have, not just what's plugged in.

If you want to be stingy and not use a Kill-a-Watt, you could manually check your house's electric meter each day, but you have to be pretty rigorous with your methods to make sure you attribute a drop or rise in usage correctly. Take 5-10 measurements of the 24 difference on the meter for similar days (e.g. weekdays when you're not at home vs weekends when you are, similar high/low outdoor temperatures). For each dataset, take the average and standard deviation to establish a baseline usage pattern. Then, make a drastic change for a single day (e.g. no heat, no dehumidifier, no lights, no hot water usage) and measure the total house usage, and see how many standard deviations that day is away from the average.

Obviously a Kill-a-Watt is probably the better way to go here, but as a science geek I kinda like the above method :)

Faraday

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2013, 08:20:21 PM »
Alex;

I'm a "power warrior/worrier" too. I've hammered my all-electric home as much as I can and am still looking for ways to save. It's an interesting journey when you root out and eliminate electric energy waste. You learn much about yourself as well as the appliances and power you use.

I like everything you've done. You've pretty much worked "by the book" to lower your energy consumption and you've done a great job. Two comments:

- I think your turning down the water heater is going to reap you a good chunk of that 24Kwh, at least 10%, maybe more, it sounds like you live in a cold climate and heat loss from a water heater increases the warmer the water is kept.
- Turning off the fridge/freezer is great. Frost-free refrigerators and freezers have HEAT STRIPS in them that can trigger and run, causing high energy consumption.

Having to run an electric resistance heater is difficult: those things are heavy energy users. I have let my house get down below 60F just to avoid using electric resistance heating. Are you able to switch to an electric blanket and turn the heater off completely?

Does your power provider give you a way to go to a website and check your daily usage of power? If you are able to do that, you'll be able to quickly tell what things make a big difference and what things don't.

Please: let us know what kind of success you have with turning down the water heater and turning off the fridge/freezer.

MooreBonds

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2013, 08:26:10 PM »
- I think your turning down the water heater is going to reap you a good chunk of that 24Kwh, at least 10%, maybe more, it sounds like you live in a cold climate and heat loss from a water heater increases the warmer the water is kept.

One other fact I forgot to mention in my post is that in the winter when the public water supply is colder due to the winter, your electric usage will naturally go up since the water heater requires more energy to heat up the colder incoming water. So it will naturally drop as the weather outside warms up.

That's why I find the best way to track energy usage is to compare my utility bills to the prior month last year. Sure, the weather varies so the # of degree days isn't always the same, but it's a simple easy way.

Alex in Virginia

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2013, 05:21:58 AM »
Alex;

Having to run an electric resistance heater is difficult: those things are heavy energy users. I have let my house get down below 60F just to avoid using electric resistance heating. Are you able to switch to an electric blanket and turn the heater off completely?

Does your power provider give you a way to go to a website and check your daily usage of power? If you are able to do that, you'll be able to quickly tell what things make a big difference and what things don't.

Please: let us know what kind of success you have with turning down the water heater and turning off the fridge/freezer.

Mefla...

Thanks for the encouragement.

Winter's over, so working out an alternative to the electric resistance heater (assuming my oil-filled heater is one of those) will have to wait until next winter season.  But I'll remember the electric blanket idea you and others have brought up.

I'm waiting for my next electric bill to do a year-over-year usage comparison.  I'll update then, and also check to see if I can get daily usage info online.

Cheers!

Alex in Virginia

happy

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2013, 05:39:35 AM »
Good work, you are onto all the major areas.

I assume you don't use a clothes dryer?

Also the remaining fridge you are running....if it is old or very large with an ice dispenser, then it will be using more power than it should. See http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/refrigerators.html. I've had a meter on my fridge which I bought in 1995 and its using 3.3kwh/day. 


BlueMR2

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2013, 08:17:28 AM »
This is my model ($15 shipped used) http://www.amazon.com/P3-International-P4400-Electricity-Monitor/dp/B00009MDBU - you can probably find one at a hardware store for less.

Of course, don't buy it if you will not use it! Otherwise of course you are out $15. But I have found they are great for educating those living with you on just how much running something costs.

Also, if you've got any electronics nerd or electrician friends, odds are very good that they'll have a clamp-on ammeter (and splitter) that you could borrow.  I only know a couple people that have bought kill-a-watts, but a bunch of us already own ammeters for other electrical work and they can give you the same information.  :-)

the fixer

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2013, 02:54:44 PM »
I'm an electronics nerd, so I'm curious, how would I go about safely putting a multimeter in series with an appliance? It seems like I would need to destroy an extension cord to hook it up. Also, my multimeter's max rating is 10A unfused, so I'd probably want to put a similar-rated fuse in-line to protect it.

Enphuego

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2013, 03:28:08 PM »
It seems like you are being pretty watchful about your usage, so I'm going to guess that you have a device or three that are massively inefficient.  We've used similar tactics and are using 6 kWh per day for 2.  You aren't using 5 times our electricity because of your usage patterns, something is sucking down the power for you.  You should be aware that heating by electricity is quite expensive, you should run the numbers on how much it would cost you up front to heat using natural gas.

I'd pay the $20 for a kill-a-watt and figure out what it is that is sucking down your power.  My bet is on the dehumidifier - can you replace it with a fan that circulates in filtered outside air?


Enphuego

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #15 on: April 13, 2013, 03:29:08 PM »
I forgot to mention - I need a kill-a-watt too so I'll buy it off you for $10 when you are done with it.

Spork

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #16 on: April 13, 2013, 03:53:39 PM »
I'd pay the $20 for a kill-a-watt and figure out what it is that is sucking down your power.  My bet is on the dehumidifier - can you replace it with a fan that circulates in filtered outside air?

I love my K-a-w and I'd recommend them... but I'll make one warning:  It won't handle 240v applications.  If you want to fish around with your water heater or HVAC, you'll probably need an inductive watt meter.  (I'm sure you could hack one leg of the 120v at a time and make it work... but that's a little intrusive and destructive.)

Spork

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2013, 03:58:06 PM »
I'm an electronics nerd, so I'm curious, how would I go about safely putting a multimeter in series with an appliance? It seems like I would need to destroy an extension cord to hook it up. Also, my multimeter's max rating is 10A unfused, so I'd probably want to put a similar-rated fuse in-line to protect it.

The downside of using the multimeter...   while it works in a constant usage setting (like a light bulb) ... it doesn't work well in a setting where things cycle on and off (like a refrigerator) and doesn't work well in areas where things pull varying amounts of power (computers, televisions, etc).

The Kill-a-watt handles "usage over time".  You can put it in place for 2 or 3 days and get a sense of what normal average usage is for a given time period.

stinkindog

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2013, 07:14:22 AM »
If you haven't already, I would recommend wrapping the water heater in an insulating jacket.
If they are available in your area, try to get an energy audit. It is great for finding areas that need improvement and the blower door test is an excellent tool for finding the air leaks.
My electric consumption dropped dramatically when I shut off the furnace and central air and started using only my wood stove and a window ac unit. YMMV.

BlueMR2

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Re: Why does my electricity usage still suck??
« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2013, 09:13:13 AM »
I'm an electronics nerd, so I'm curious, how would I go about safely putting a multimeter in series with an appliance? It seems like I would need to destroy an extension cord to hook it up. Also, my multimeter's max rating is 10A unfused, so I'd probably want to put a similar-rated fuse in-line to protect it.

You don't.  Buy a clamp-on (inductive) ammeter.  Most of them come with the cable splitter too (to split the hot/neutral so you can get an accurate reading).