Author Topic: Electric Energy Audit?  (Read 7155 times)

EmJay7

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Electric Energy Audit?
« on: May 28, 2013, 05:10:24 PM »
Our household electric bill drives me insane-- our local coop has incredibly high rates and I'm not sure where to begin on cutting our costs.  Our energy use is pretty average when you look at the national stats for our small rural house and northern climate (about 400-450 kwh per month, with an electric stove and water heater), but I hate paying this bill and feel wasteful. (Note: we're not interested in efficiency related to heating or cooling -- our wood heat and no AC are working fine for us.)

How do I go about cutting costs or determining where we're using the most energy? I've already done the following:
-- Lots of general energy efficiency: turn off lights, use CFLs, line dry clothes most of the time (next to the wood furnace in the winter, outside in the summer), run full dishwasher loads, crockpot meals, etc etc
-- Used a Kill-o-watt meter to find out how much our appliances use. This is very limited in giving us useful info, since the largest things are wired in (well and septic pumps, pressure tank for the well, hot water heater, dishwasher) or have the the large plugs (stove, electric dryer).
-- Our appliances are fairly new and efficient. We'll continue to use them until they break, but then replace them with more efficient ones.
-- Accounted for seasonal differences. This is mainly having a wood furnace and more lights running in the winter and a dehumidifier in our basement in the summer (we bought an energy star one last summer, but it's still a hog!). There's relatively low variation across seasons, even with the wood furnace in the winter, so that leads me to think that it's our larger appliances and/or general use patterns.


It seems like the remaining option is to start turning off breakers one by one (or turning them all of and and turning them back on one by one) and reading the meter to get a better sense for how much energy our big appliances are using. Any tips for the best way to do this and get good data?

What are some other things we might be missing or should do? I'm really looking for things that will have a big impact. Thanks!


factminder

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2013, 08:11:51 AM »
.... EmJay7  .... found this articles recently. Will it save you energy, maybe, maybe not?

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Spork

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2013, 09:51:08 AM »
You could use (borrow if you can) one of these on your 240v appliances.
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Heather

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2013, 11:32:52 AM »
Looks like it measures current, but will it integrate (for instance to amp*hours)? 
I'd buy one if I could use it to figure out how much power my hot water heater is using per day.


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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2013, 12:42:38 PM »
watt = amp volt
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EmJay7

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 04:56:49 AM »
Quote
You could use (borrow if you can) one of these on your 240v appliances.

Wow! So you just clamp it on a wire and it reads the current (in amps) that's passing through the wire?

So then, I'd just have to figure out which appliances are 120 or 240 amps or whatever, which I could read off of the label, or guess by the size of the appliance (e.g., most large wired in appliances will be in the 220/240 range)-- right?

Heather

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2013, 05:23:24 AM »
If the meter won't integrate over time, it will just tell you how much the appliance uses when it's on. 
If you don' t know the percentage of time it's on, you still won't know how much it is costing you per day yet.   You could stay beside it all day and night and read the meter every few minutes, then integrate yourself, but you'd probably want to do it for a few days, summer and winter, to average it all out.   

Spork

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2013, 07:28:09 AM »
Quote
You could use (borrow if you can) one of these on your 240v appliances.

Wow! So you just clamp it on a wire and it reads the current (in amps) that's passing through the wire?

So then, I'd just have to figure out which appliances are 120 or 240 amps or whatever, which I could read off of the label, or guess by the size of the appliance (e.g., most large wired in appliances will be in the 220/240 range)-- right?

Yes, they should have a label...  You can also generally tell by either the circuit breaker or the wiring itself.  240v has 2 hot legs.  (In other words, it is just 2 120v circuits tied together.)  At the panel, you'll see exactly that: 2 breakers tied together.  The wiring will have 2 hots -- either 2 black wires or a black and a red.  (There are other cases where you might have more than one hot... but if you're looking at a stove and it has 2 hots -- it's likely 240v.)
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strider3700

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2013, 12:37:13 AM »
not the cheapest route  and I freely admit I'm an energy geek  but I love my TED http://www.amazon.com/Energy-Inc-5000-C-TED-Detective/dp/B003C12U3E/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1370067823&sr=1-2&keywords=TED

looking at the minute by minute chart for the last two days I can clearly see the spikes where the water heater has turned on.  As well since it draws the same current whenever it's on it was easy to identify as a load profile  so the software tells me it's ran for .58 hours today 1.6 hours yesterday and 1.4 the day before.    I can go back a month checking this if I want.     Because I chart this info  I know that my HW tank runs on average 92 minutes a day using 6.9kwh/day and costs me $0.59 per day or $215 per year.   I track all of this because   I intend to add solar hot water  so payback period is something that I want to work out.

You probably don't even need to know the current used by the hotwater tank to get a decent estimate on it's power usage.   Read the label,  it'll be 3,000 - 5,000 watts depending on it's size.   After that you just need to know when it's running.  Before I got my TED I used a cheap through hole current sensor and an arduino to record when it was running. It was identical in runtime average but was a little high on actual power used as the tank actually used about 5% less then on the label.

Rural

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2013, 03:36:57 AM »
not the cheapest route  and I freely admit I'm an energy geek  but I love my TED http://www.amazon.com/Energy-Inc-5000-C-TED-Detective/dp/B003C12U3E/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1370067823&sr=1-2&keywords=TED
Quote
  I track all of this because   I intend to add solar hot water  so payback period is something that I want to work out.

Thanks. It's not the cheapest route, true but this would be much more helpful than a Kil-a-Watt in figuring out what we'd have to change to get fully off-grid. Or partially, depending on what it says...

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2013, 07:06:15 AM »
My electric company gives away something very similar to that TED device.  It didn't have the fancy software you mention.  But I was able to hack a reasonable facsimile: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/share-your-badassity/home-made-power-monitor/msg72103/
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extole

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2013, 08:44:36 AM »
Small thing, but I'd skip the CFLs and invest in the newest generation of LED bulbs instead (brand name ones though - Cree, Philips etc). They edge out CFLs in every way - except of course for being a slightly steeper initial investment.

daverobev

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2013, 09:03:58 AM »
Do you have on/off peak times?

Can you turn the water heater down a few degrees C? How often do you shower? How long do you shower - try getting a shower timer, they come in 3 or 5 minute variants usually. How often do you have a bath?!

Do you have a separate freezer, can you turn your fridge/freezer down (I mean.. up!). How do you boil water - how much do you boil (ie, half a kettle for 1 cup?).

If you have a microwave with a clock on - turn the whole thing off except for the 25 minutes a month you actually use it :)

Can you wash clothes on a colder setting/wash clothes less frequently?
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gonzy

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2013, 07:04:42 PM »
One of the biggest issues I've found is a dirty heat exchanger on the refrigerator mine had accumulated so much dust the fridge was running almost constantly. I also changed the outside light which is on all night to led from cfl. 

Greg

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2013, 05:04:52 PM »
400-450 kwh is not that bad actually.  You may find additional savings by putting your water heater on a timer, so that it's off most of the day and night, but on just before you get up until you leave for the day, and the same in the evening.  Assuming you work elsewhere.  An insulation blanket around your water heater is also a good idea, as is super-insulating your pipes if they're accessible (like under the house) with R-10 pipe insulation.  It's 2" thick.

Your stove and fridge will be other areas you can save a little, by turning off the heat before you're done cooking and that sort of thing.  Make sure your fridge's coils are clean, dust or vacuum regularly.  Make sure there's room for air to circulate inside, follow the manufacturer's directions on that.

Make sure your dryer duct is clean, it's all about air flow.  Consider hanging more to dry (when possible).  Your well and septic loads are momentary and probably not very high.

When I switched to CFL bulbs throughout my home, my electric bill went down about 25%.  So there's that.

factminder

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2013, 08:26:41 PM »
3 Mts. ago i installed a TED5000

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EmJay7

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2013, 04:39:59 AM »
Thanks, this is all really helpful!

How would I calculate a rate of return on a TED5000? For instance, I'd have to save $50 a year to make a $250 investment pay off? Plus the information would be handy for prioritizing appliance replacements. Although, it looks like we'd have to get a bigger version of the TEB because we have 3 electrical panels in our weirdly wired house (upstairs, downstairs, and garage).

Are water heater timers worth the cost? It seems like a good solution for us since we're both at work most of the day, but I got mixed messages when I read into it. Thanks again!

strider3700

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2013, 11:16:00 AM »
turning your hot water tank down is going to net a far larger savings then putting it on a timer unless you have peak billing periods that you can take advantage of.

Greg

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2013, 03:30:52 PM »
Quote
turning your hot water tank down is going to net a far larger savings then putting it on a timer unless you have peak billing periods that you can take advantage of.

Good point.  On a related topic, our hot water is set (electronic control) to 120F.  I've been to many homes where the temp is set to 140F which is not only dangerous (scalding hazard for kids and old folks) but wasteful if you mix it back to a cooler temp when in use.  The only drawback is that you could run out of hot water sooner.

BlueMR2

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #19 on: June 06, 2013, 04:16:15 PM »
The only drawback is that you could run out of hot water sooner.

When I moved in, I was able to keep mine 2 notches (none of which are labeled with an actual temperature) below the "normal" notch (which is about 2/3 of the way on the hot side between "vacation" and "full hot".  When my wife moved in, then we had to bump it up another notch as we kept running out of hot water.

Our local gas company was giving away low flow showerheads this morning, so she stopped by and picked one up.  I'm hoping she'll find it acceptable and then I can drop that hot water heater back down a notch...

strider3700

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2013, 04:17:17 PM »
legionaires disease is the reason it's at 140F on most tanks.   technically you should keep it at 140 then use a tempering valve to mix cold and lower the temp coming out of the tank to a safe temp.

I'm not worried about the disease and keep my tank at 108 as that's hot enough for my wife and won't scald my kids.

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #21 on: June 06, 2013, 07:08:01 PM »
This is sort of tangential... but what is the suggested temperature for washing dishes?  I assume there is a "safe vs nonsafe" temperature for dishwater/rinsing.  The reason I ask is that I'm on an inline water heater.  120 seems "about right" for dish water and I really don't add a lot of cold for showering. 
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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2013, 08:15:56 AM »
If washing using a machine, 120F should work fine.  We're also on an on-demand heater and it's set to 120F.  In this way I can use just the hot tap and it's just below the scalding threshold.  Our dishwasher like most I think, has a heating element, so it probably doesn't matter for a machine.

Some "official" handwashing guidelines here:
http://nfsmi-web01.nfsmi.olemiss.edu/documentlibraryfiles/PDF/20091123115056.pdf

Keep in mind, once your dishes are done being washed either by hand or by machine, and cool to room temp, germs are everywhere so I wouldn't worry too much about that aspect.  The goal is to get them clean not sterile.

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2013, 08:39:53 AM »
Yeah, I was referring to hand washing... Our dishwasher has an element as well.

Thanks... that's more or less what I was thinking.  I do sometimes crank it to full on volcanic meltdown (as high as it will go) when we're doing things like wine making, etc.

I'm pretty sure I could lower it some for showers and be fine.  My problem would be remembering to put it back to 120 afterwards.
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Rural

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2013, 09:41:32 AM »
You know, for winemaking, I would sterilize as for canning by boiling in a large pot, not just washing.

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #25 on: June 07, 2013, 09:46:33 AM »
We bop ours up to 140F for sheets (helps kill dust mites) and I assure you if you forgot to bop it back down again you'd hear about it.  Our control pad is right next to our laundry.

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #26 on: June 07, 2013, 09:48:24 AM »
You know, for winemaking, I would sterilize as for canning by boiling in a large pot, not just washing.

This is really just for cleaning....  we then sterilize with sulfites.  I may be naive -- but I think in wine making is much more tolerant than canning.  My understanding is that you're really mostly trying to kill the wild strains of yeasts (for flavor) than for avoiding bacteria.

If you look at old recipes, they're something like:  "Put juice and sugar in open container and cover with burlap to keep bugs out.  Wait."
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Rural

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #27 on: June 07, 2013, 12:00:26 PM »
You know, for winemaking, I would sterilize as for canning by boiling in a large pot, not just washing.

This is really just for cleaning....  we then sterilize with sulfites.  I may be naive -- but I think in wine making is much more tolerant than canning.  My understanding is that you're really mostly trying to kill the wild strains of yeasts (for flavor) than for avoiding bacteria.

If you look at old recipes, they're something like:  "Put juice and sugar in open container and cover with burlap to keep bugs out.  Wait."

Well, you're right about the old recipes, and I've drunk wine made that way and lived to tell (actually, it was quite good dandelion wine). I'm probably just being hypersensive because while I do can, I haven't yet tackled wine.

stubby

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #28 on: June 26, 2013, 07:25:46 PM »
Small thing, but I'd skip the CFLs and invest in the newest generation of LED bulbs instead (brand name ones though - Cree, Philips etc). They edge out CFLs in every way - except of course for being a slightly steeper initial investment.


Switching to energy efficient lights is a great idea but I would add a counterpoint to the above.

LED bulbs are about $25 where CFLs are only about $5. Even with LEDs being more efficient, in some applications, it doesn't make monetary sense to switch to LED bulbs.

LEDs as spot lights have no equal - they're directional and energy efficient (6W LED replaces a 50W halogen, 4W LED replaces a 35W halogen). I use these in my livingroom and kitchen, the two rooms where lights are on the most. At four hours use per day, they break even in 3 years.

In my bathroom, since the lights aren't on for even an hour a day, break even on LED bulbs would be so far into the future it doesn't make financial sense to go with LED versus CFL.

Pro-tip: use lighter shades of paint to reflect more light and go with low power CFL bulbs where you're currently using incandescent.

I put 4-Watt CFLs in the hallway fixtures today. (equivalent to 20Watt incandescent) Coincidentally, I also painted the hall an off white, covering up the chocolate brown left by the last tenant that necessitated 60-Watt equivalent bulbs (13W CFL) just to see properly.

Quality LED's are quickly falling, Cree has bulbs in Home Depot now, a 40 watt equivalent for $10 http://www.homedepot.com/p/Cree-6-Watt-40W-A19-Warm-White-2700K-Dimmable-LED-Light-Bulb-1-Pack-BA19-04527OMF-12DE26-1U110/203991778#.UcuTbb9hO2w  and a 60 watt equivalent for $13 http://www.homedepot.com/p/Cree-9-5-Watt-60W-A19-Warm-White-2700K-Dimmable-LED-Light-Bulb-1-Pack-BA19-08027OMF-12DE26-1U110/203991774#.UcuTaL9hO2w.

CFL's really don't last as well with rapid on off cycles which often happen in bathrooms and closets, we've had several die in 4-6 months and the LED's seem to hold up better to that. Plus I think they look far better than the CFL's.

MoneyLifeandMore

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Re: Electric Energy Audit?
« Reply #29 on: July 08, 2013, 05:29:24 PM »
Sometimes utility companies will do free energy audits and they'll help you come up with ideas to save on your electric bill. I bet they aren't used to people trying to save as much as you are, but they still may have some useful suggestions.
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