Author Topic: WTF - How am I using so much energy?  (Read 7530 times)

CanuckStache

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WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« on: October 16, 2013, 09:30:17 PM »
Hi all,

So I've been looking at my BC Hydro account (I'm in Victoria, BC right now) and live in a 867 sq ft condo built in 1991, and it looks like I'm averaging 15-20 kw/h per day.

My place is pretty air tight (new energy efficient windows, weather stripping, etc etc) but I haven't turned the heat on yet this season so that shouldn't really matter. I also have two skylights so I barely have the lights on either, except in the evenings.

Appliances: energy star rated washer/dryer combo, my fridge is from 2006, energy star electric range from 2010. Dishwasher is new as of 2009 (not sure if energy star) - I just vacummed out the coils on the fridge as I don't think that's been done before, and I can already hear the fridge running smoother, so hopefully that will help.

Electric hot water heater from 2006 (which could be the culprit?)

Two bathroom fans which were replaced in 2010 with energy star fans, and I put them on timer switches so they won't run all day (no more than 30 minutes).

Electric baseboard heating for each room on programmable thermostats - haven't turned them on yet this season.

TV is an older Plasma that I have on maybe 2 hours a day total, with a home theatre surround sound system. This will definitely use some energy but I can't see it using THAT much. All components are on a smart strip which completely powers everything off with the TV gets turned off.

All light bulbs are LEDs or CFL's.

I work from home and so does my GF, so we both have our laptops plugged in most of the day (both are macbook pro's).

Any ideas on where to look? My meter was recently changed to a "smart meter" and I'm not sure how to read it. I'm hoping my meter hasn't been mis-labelled with one of my neighbours.

According to the bc hydro website, "similar" properties in my neighbourhood use like 8 kw/h per day.

Help? I feel like I'm really on top of this stuff but don't see anything reflecting in my bills.

backyardfeast

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2013, 10:09:31 PM »
Hi!  We're just north of Victoria, and lived there for years!

We went on a crusade last fall to bring our hydro bills down below the rate rider of about 1300kwhrs/60 days in our electric-everything house.  It took a lot of effort (none of which feels like effort now that we're used to it), but we're down to daily use of about your range: 15-20kwhrs/day.  That's in an 1800 sq ft house, though, with an electric well and septic pump. :)

I would go to Canadian Tire or some such and pick up a meter (sometimes called kill-a-watt's, but that's not what ours is).  You plug your appliance into the meter, and plug that into the outlet, and it tells you what the power draw is.  The biggest sucks are usually heat, hot water (laundry, showers, dishwasher), clothes dryers, older fridges, older freezers...but those don't seem like the likely culprits in your case.

Working from home will make your draw higher that your neighbors.  You should be able to check the power draw from your laptops in the specs.  But remember that sometimes lighting, etc just add up.  Even a 13 watt CFL light, if it's on for 10 hours a day is going to make a dent.  We can also tell when we've baked something in the oven for a few hours, so there are habits like cooking at home that can bring your usage up compared to neighbours eating out or just microwaving ready-meals.  Trade-offs!

You don't mention laundry habits--do you use hot water to wash clothes or the clothes dryer?  Those are big draws.  But my money is on your tv.  Plasmas are a huge energy suck...ever notice the heat that comes off them?  From a quick google search, could draw as much as 500w in 2 hrs!

You should be able to log into your hydro account online and see your usage (no risk of the mislabeling!), including what the draw is throughout the day.  That might be useful to identify particular appliances or leaks.  We have fun looking to see what happens when we're home, away for the weekend, have houseguests, etc.  We are geeks. :)

Good luck!

My husband would also remind you that at .07/kwh, the difference between say 10kwhrs a day and 15 is... 35 cents.  But he's not as mustachian as me. :)

CanuckStache

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2013, 10:44:28 PM »
Thanks for all that!

The main source of lighting in the living / dining room (they're together, since it's a condo) were 3 x 75 watt halogens on a dimmer. I've now changed those to LED's about a week ago, but I feel like I'm not really seeing a difference in the energy usage.

Two showers a day between us, pretty short and with low flow shower heads. Dishwasher is run once (sometimes twice) a day on "light wash" setting, no heated dry.

I also always use cold water in the laundry machine.

I actually just looked back at my January bill and found there was 650ish kwh used...and nobody was in the house for that month.

We definitely cook at home. three times a day. That could be part of it. Though, I use the propane bbq quite a bit too....Hmmm.

I'm going to have to get a killawatt. I've been debating selling my TV on usedvictoria and using the money towards a newer, more energy efficient model. Depending on what the killawatt says, I may do that sooner rather than later.

The thing is I only live here maybe half the year, and rent it out as a vacation rental the rest of the year. Initially I figured maybe the renters were using more power than us, but now I'm seeing that might not be the case.

In addition to the killawatt meter, I'm going to call bc hydro and ask them to double check our buildings meters. I also saw some discrepancies in my account, such as one day it shows I used zero kwh and another shows as high as 50!

Anyways, keep the advice coming...hoping to gather more data over the next week with some of the more recent changes I've made.

Jamesqf

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2013, 10:55:21 PM »
What temperature do you have your hot water heater set at?  If it's high, that could use quite a bit extra electricity.  (I like to keep mine set at just a bit above a really hot shower: saves energy, and eliminates risk of accidental scalds if you bump the wrong faucet.)  Electric clothes dryers can also be a big draw.

If your utility & smart meter is like mine, you should be able to see a graph of daily use.  So can you leave the place for a day or two, after turning everything off?  If the graph doesn't show close to zero use during that period, you'll know that something is seriously wrong.

CanuckStache

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2013, 11:22:29 PM »
What temperature do you have your hot water heater set at?  If it's high, that could use quite a bit extra electricity.  (I like to keep mine set at just a bit above a really hot shower: saves energy, and eliminates risk of accidental scalds if you bump the wrong faucet.)  Electric clothes dryers can also be a big draw.

If your utility & smart meter is like mine, you should be able to see a graph of daily use.  So can you leave the place for a day or two, after turning everything off?  If the graph doesn't show close to zero use during that period, you'll know that something is seriously wrong.

Definitely something I need to look at. It's kind of a pain to access my hot water heater though, which is why I haven't gotten in there yet. Hopefully tomorrow.

In Canada it's recommended to keep the heater at 160 F. I know in the US just about every energy saving article says to turn it down to 120-130 but I'm hesitant to do that. The BC Hydro website recommends turning it down to no lower than 55 C, which I'll do if I can figure it out.

I'm sure a new hot water heater would be WAY more efficient but I can't imagine it's efficient enough to offset the cost of a brand new unit yet. I do have some basic pipe insulation around the pipes that are accessible (which admittedly isn't much).

I've read it is useful to drain the tank every so often to prevent sediment build up - That's something I might try and do, I'm just a little leery since I'm in a condo.


N

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2013, 11:50:29 PM »
there have been several cases of mislabeled meters in our condo building over the years. worth investigating.

daverobev

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2013, 09:04:10 AM »
Do you have a smart meter? If so, can you see an hour-by-hour usage chart? (From your electricity company, I mean).

We're using about 10kWh a day now, which includes a small dehumidifier, new fridge etc - and a very old hot water heater. I bumped it down 10 or 15 degrees a few months back. I reckon it has reduced our usage by a good few percent. But nothing like 50%.

See if you can go a month without that plasma TV. They use a kW all on their own, I think. Or, as others have said, see if you can get a kill-a-watt - your library may have them.

backyardfeast

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2013, 09:05:38 AM »
With those discrepancies month to month, it's definitely worth checking with hydro!  Zero one month is impossible, given the hot water heater, etc!  But tenants could definitely make a difference, between lots of tv watching and lots of hot water use...

Keep us posted!

CanuckStache

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2013, 09:19:55 AM »
Do you have a smart meter? If so, can you see an hour-by-hour usage chart? (From your electricity company, I mean).

We're using about 10kWh a day now, which includes a small dehumidifier, new fridge etc - and a very old hot water heater. I bumped it down 10 or 15 degrees a few months back. I reckon it has reduced our usage by a good few percent. But nothing like 50%.

See if you can go a month without that plasma TV. They use a kW all on their own, I think. Or, as others have said, see if you can get a kill-a-watt - your library may have them.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to see an hour by hour chart..It might be available (you'd think so) but I haven't seen it on the website. Just a daily report.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2013, 09:27:10 AM by CanuckStache »

CanuckStache

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2013, 10:59:59 AM »
Ok, found the hourly usage. Looks like yesterday it spiked at 9 AM and 9 PM - I'm thinking probably because we slept in a bit and weren't moving around until 9 (as in the coffee maker starts going, hot water kettle, showers, etc?). 9 PM could be because we often are chilling with an hour or so of TV around that time, and a cup or two of tea (and possibly have the dishwasher or laundry at that time going..not everyday but we generally do laundry in the evening).

It's a very significant spike though...

I just can't understand how 'similar nearby properties' are still using half that total amount.

Kazimieras

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2013, 11:16:33 AM »
Check out your local library, you may be able to borrow a "kill-a-watt" meter. You can plug this between your various appliances and determine what is causing the large draw. Also consider turning your freezer and fridge temperature down a bit, that may help a lot if it is currently cranked.

Jamesqf

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2013, 11:36:34 AM »
See if you can go a month without that plasma TV. They use a kW all on their own, I think.

I've heard similar, though I've never verified it.  From seeing friends switch out plasma for LCD/LED models, I can say the picture quality is considerably better, though.

daverobev

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2013, 12:24:34 PM »
The spike at 9/9 could be the hot water heater. It's not "always on" - it has a thermostat and when that gets too cold, it clicks on for a bit. It isn't unit-for-unit... as in, it could sit just above the click on temperature, then you wash your hands or something to drag it a smidge lower, then it will come on and get the water up a few degrees. So there can be big spikes, then nothing for hours if they are well insulated.

CanuckStache

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2013, 04:33:22 PM »
Ok, had a look at the meters while on the phone with BC Hydro and confirmed it's correct. Also, looked at my neighbours and realized....They're all about the same usage, with the exception of one (who's often travelling).

So - who knows? Maybe I'm doing pretty good considering the amount of time I'm at home. I'm 100% sure that an updated refridgerator and hot water tank would probably make a big difference, but not big enough to justify the cost of replacing them right now.

Based on all that, I'm thinking now I should get back to focusing on making some more money :)

lhamo

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2013, 05:41:24 PM »
You should definitely think about getting the hot water tank cleaned -- my sister had hers go bad a few years back and it turned out it was full of sediment.  Wasn't worth keeping at that point, but the guy who replaced it for her said it should be drained/cleaned at least once a year to keep at optimal performance.  It will heat the water much more slowly if there is a lot of sediment in the tank.

daverobev

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2013, 06:41:40 PM »
If you do a lot of laundry then that's probably it. I always line dry, but if you do 4-5 loads a week and tumble dry... plus dishwasher? That would take you to 15 from my 8-10 I would guess.

Your laptops use maybe 40W each average - so both of them on all day, 12 hours? - 1kWh.

Li

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2013, 11:45:45 AM »
Check that you really are paying for the right meter.  I have a condo in Ontario with Ontario Hydro and had massive bills for almost a year and couldn't figure out why.  We were away for a month and had everything off and came home to another big bill.  It turned out that we had been paying for our neighbour's bill and they had a hot tub!  The result was a nice credit and a more reasonable monthly bill.

CanuckStache

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2013, 05:29:33 PM »
I'm sure the plasma tv is a large contributor, especially since it's from maybe 2007 or 2008. I found a 'power saving' mode in the settings the other day and put it on maximum, which basically dims the screen. I adjusted my smart power strip setup to use my stereo as the trigger, since normally what I do is stream audio from the internet via my playstation, but that required leaving the TV on. Now with the stereo as the trigger, I can leave off the TV and still get the music going.

I was hoping to find new LED's for my range hood but the two that I've tried haven't worked properly. It's a range hood with two bulbs, each 40 watt A19. There's no 'dimmer' per se but there's a Low and High setting for brightness. The GF has a habit of leaving the range hood lights on frequently, so swapping those out would be good - but none of the LED's I've tried, even if labelled "dimmable" work properly.

Cloudy fall days like today don't help either..Using the lights and all that more than usual.

Oh, I also have a smart power strip for my office with my laptop as the "Master" - but it doesn't seem to register when I turn the computer off, maybe because of the low voltage going through the charger, when in sleep mode?

CanuckStache

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2013, 12:41:10 AM »
I feel like those are the ones I tried - though i think they were 60 watt equivalent. Might go back and try those 50 watt ones, though I think the home depot people are tired of me returning the wrong bulbs :)

happy

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Re: WTF - How am I using so much energy?
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2013, 01:05:47 AM »
I always find this website helpful.  I'm slowly whittling my power use down, buts its just bit by bit.

michaelbluejay.com/electricity/‎