Posts Tagged ‘electricity’

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Paying for Power by the Hour

April 4, 2013

It must have been about 5 years ago that I signed us up for Ameren Illinois’s Power Smart Pricing.  Power Smart Pricing allows us to pay the going rate for electricity for that hour when we are using the power, rather than paying the going price for the day regardless of when we are using it.  In other words, some hours the price of power is lower than the daily price and some hours it is higher.  If I use electricity only during the high priced times and I pay the hourly rate then I’m going to be paying more than my neighbor.  But if I use electricity primarily during the low cost periods than I’m going to come in on the cheap side.

About 2 years ago I wrote about our annual power smart summary; well, it’s that time of the year again. 

The average Power Smart Pricing participant used 13,146 kWh, and saved $261.77; that was 35% of what they would have paid. Not too shoddy. I’ll admit, however, to feeling a bit smug. We used 5724 kWh over the course of the year, about 44% of the average participant’s usage.  The smallest amount was 282 kWh in April and the most was 946 in July.  Overall, we saved $259.35 over the retail price for a 79.7% savings.  Holy Toledo!  nearly 80% savings over what we would have paid at the typical rate!

Not only are we doing considerably better than the average program participant, we’re doing better than we did 2 years ago.  In 2010 we used 7191 kWh and saved only 18% – not bad, but nothing compared to 79%

Solar PanelsSo how are we doing it? We had Energy Star appliances and CFLs in 2010, plus we were very conscientious about  running the dishwasher, washing machine, and AC primarily at night.  The big difference is our solar panels.   The solar panels are generating power during the most expensive part of the day, and in the summer that can make a big difference.  Between careful consideration of when we use our energy-hungry appliances and generating electricity for our own use during the high priced hours, we are saving a pretty penny.

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Saving Money on Electricity

March 18, 2011

Our family takes part in a real-time pricing option offered by our utility. PSPblog-blueOrangeAs a customer enrolled in Power Smart Pricing the amount we pay for electricity varies hourly.  Generally customers pay one price regardless of when they are using the power.  With real-time pricing we pay the cost of the energy at the time we’re using it  – sometimes it is higher than the average price and sometimes lower, but with some knowledge we can save by using more electricity during nonpeak times and less when it’s at its priciest.

At this time of year there isn’t much variability, for instance, today the cost of power ranges from 1.8 cents per kWh to 3.9 cents.  In the summer, though, on a very hot and humid day, the price can vary from a few cents to 10 or 11 cents per kWh and during periods of high demand can spike over 13 cents per kWh.  When that is going to happen, I receive an e-mail from Power Smart Pricing warning of the high costs.  Last summer was relatively mild and never spiked over 13 cents, but the previous summer it happened numerous times.

Yesterday I received my annual report of our power usage and savings, as well as the average participant’s usage and savings.  In 2010  we used 7,191 kWh which cost us $668.03.  At the present standard rate that would have cost us $814.23, so we saved 18%.  Not too shoddy.

How do we compare to the average participant?  We rock!  Ms. Average Power Smart used 13,387 kWh, spent $1,278.30, which would have been $1,466.52, so saved 12.8%.  In July and August, Ms. Average Power Smart actually lost money, I assume by running the AC at peak times and paying the peak prices.

How did we do so well?  Do we have a tiny house in which we swelter in the summer and sit in the dark all winter?  No.  Our house has about 2400 square feet of living space – 11 rooms.  We did replace the windows in our 90+ year old house about 12 years ago but I am pretty sure air blows right through the walls.  In other words, there is room for greater efficiency. 

We have our share of vampire power eaters too.  We tried plugging the t.v. and computers into power strips to be shut off each night and found them to be more trouble than they were worth, especially the t.v. which would need several minutes to reset all the stations every time power was reestablished.  As for the computers, and I am not condoning this, I notice the kids leave their computer not only plugged in but turned on much of the time because it takes so long to boot up (it’s old and slow, much like their mother).  The only power strip that does get clicked on and off has the stereo and my laptop connected to it.  I’m pretty good about switching that off at night.  My point being, we aren’t a family of over-the-top energy conservers,we do our share of energy wasting.

So what are we doing right?  According to an energy usage tool on the utility website, most of our electricity goes to lights, appliances, and the cooling CFLsystem. 

LIGHTS.  Lights are easy, we try to turn them off.  We aren’t obsessive; my husband turns off lights I’ve left on, I turn off lights he has left on, we both turn off lights the kids have left on (and maybe the kids turn off lights too although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happen). 

Oh, and 95% of our lights are CFLs.  I know, I know, they’re too blue, they come on too slow, they’re ugly.  I paid a few bucks more and  got lights with covers that make them look bulbish for fixtures where the light shows, such as the ceiling fan. I buy lights that emit soft white light(I first bought bright white – oh my, too harsh! they are now relegated to the basement and garage fixtures), and I rarely notice the light warm up period anymore, in fact, I think only some of the bulbs need to warm up. I can count a few lights in the house that are incandescent.  One is the fixture at the top of the stairs, it’s original to the house and the CFL’s shoulders just won’t fit in it.  Others are in the stove and refrigerator and CFLs can’t be used in those places; they don’t tolerate the extremes in temperature. 

APPLIANCES.  stove and fridgeAnother big energy user in our home are the appliances.  We redid the kitchen 5 years ago and along with that came all new kitchen appliances, energy star, of course.  It makes a difference, especially for the refrigerator.  (Want to know how much you could save by replacing your refrigerator?  There’s a calculator for that.)  When we were first talking to a consultant about solar panels and she was reviewing our electricity usage she asked if we had an energy star refrigerator, which we did, “Ah, that explains your low numbers.”

How we use the appliances matters also.  Obviously the refrigerator is on all the time, but we try to run the dishwasher and washing machines late at night, especially in the summertime when daytime prices are high.  In the summer I hardly ever use the dryer, hanging my clothes to dry instead (except socks and underwear, those get dried because all those individual pieces make me crazy!) [And of course, I only run full loads in the washer, or adjust the water level if I’m running a smaller load; and I use a cold water wash and rinse, again except for socks and underwear, and in this case towels and sheets too get warm or sometimes even hot water.  See, I’m not fanatical.]

AIR CONDITIONING. Finally, the AC.  OK, in the name of energy savings we probably tolerate higher heat than some, but I am not a glutton for punishment either. If it’s too warm at night for fans and open windows to cool things down (say, over 70 or very humid) then I use the AC.  I started using a system that I’ve not seen suggested elsewhere, but based on the energy use data, isn’t hurting us and maybe helps.  I crank that AC up (or is it down? –it’s on anyway) during the night with the thermostat set at 64 (it’s warmer upstairs).  The thermostat is programmed to reset to 75 at 6 a.m. so no AC during the day until the house warms up. But even on the hottest days it takes until well into the afternoon before the AC comes back on, sometimes it doesn’t come on at all. Here’s my logic:

  • I can’t sleep when I’m hot and it’s always hotter upstairs where the bedrooms are so the AC is going to be on anyway.
  • It’s easier to cool off a house when it is cooler outside rather than when its hotter.
  • prices are lower during the middle of the night so running the AC at night is cheaper than running it during the day.

This runs counter to most of the AC suggestions I’ve seen to set it at 78 and keep it there.  Occasionally I’ve seen advice to set the thermostat higher at night on the theory you’ll sleep through the warmer temps (whoever came up with that idea is clearly not a woman of a “certain age” with a quirky internal thermostat of her own).

SOLAR PANELS. Many of you know we have a solar panel system generating electricity for us now too.  They have been at work since December 11th and certainly didn’t generate a significant amount of electricity during the last part of 2010.  I need to save this year’s summary and compare it to next years for an idea of the photovoltaic contribution.  So far, mid-December to mid-March, not big solar months in this part of the world, we’ve generated about what our household uses in one month.  Even at this rate they will take a big bite out of our utility bill.

All in all we’re apparently doing pretty well on our electrical energy efficiency and with real-time pricing, even without the solar system, we’re saving money to boot.  You might check with your utility for a similar program.

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Solar System update–another milestone met

February 6, 2011

Given that it’s winter and the sun, when it’s out, is very low in the sky, it is encouraging to see that the solar panels are squeeze out some electricity.  And yesterday we hit my latest goal – 500 pounds of carbon that we did not put into the atmosphere!

feb 5 2011  - 1Here are the outputs displays from the two sets of panels.  Grand Total: 507.3 lbs!  We have saved the weight of our family in carbon emissions.  more carbon saved as of Feb 5, 2011

I don’t remember how much that is in kilowatt hours – a goodly number.  Next update I’ll provide that too.

 

 

After a quick consultation with my husband we have decided that the next milestone to meet is 1730 lbs.  That is our estimation of the weight of the entire household, including pets  (4 llamas and 3 cats).  We aren’t counting the bees.

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Signs of Spring

March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010 – the first day of spring.  It is presently 39 degrees and that threatens to be the high for the day with a rain/snow mix expected later – but by Tuesday it will be back in the 50’s – so it really is spring.

cropped cardinal in a treeYesterday (when it was still officially winter but the high was in the upper 60s) I took some pictures of signs of spring around the property.

 

The cardinals have been out all winter – but I think this one was in search of a mate yesterday.  He was singing up a song.

  DSCF7511 DSCF7510

The llamas were enjoying the sunshine and the increasing amount of green grass – much preferred over dry hay.

 

 

 

assorted pollen

I, of course, spent some time with the bees.  There were plenty out on the porch, cleaning the porch, bringing out the dead (I watched two bees fly off with dead bees – I was surprised how far away they would take the body – further than I could see them), and bringing in pollen.  The pollen is in the pollen baskets on the sides of the bees back legs – they look like little yellow flotation devices.  Look carefully in this picture and you’ll see two types of pollen – a light yellow from the maple trees and a bright orange from the crocuses.  [You should be able to click on the picture to see it bigger.]

 

Here’s a maple branch in flower. maple flower

 

 

And crocuses.crocus

The daffodils are starting to bloom too.  DSCF7521

These are my early bloomers.  They start short but will grow while blooming.  

 

 

 

 

My friend at Nyack Backyard knows garliceverything that is coming up in her garden (or she fakes it well).  I know this is garlic – because I marked each clove I planted (note the orange flag). If I’m too slow to harvest the garlic mid-summer it is very hard for me to find the heads if I haven’t marked their location when I plant them.  

 

 

DSCF7518And finally, the surest sign of spring…  No, not huge moles, a project involving dirt. We (that would be my husband and an electrician friend) are running a new electric line out to the barn.

 

 

 

 

 

Has spring sprung for you yet?

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What’s been put up?

October 31, 2009

 

picklings

My friend over at Fessenden Farmstead had a piece on preserving fruits and vegetables, which made me think I hadn’t talked about what has been put up at our house.  I’ve been derelict on that because I’m not the putter-upper – my husband is (and I am ever so grateful). 

I suppose that isn’t totally true (it’s true that I’m grateful, not true that I’m not a putter-upper).  I am the runner of the dehydrator – and in fact, I intend to dry parsley today.  I am also the freezer of fruit.  This year it was only blackberries (wild) – it is also often peaches, but apparently peaches are biannual and this is their off year I guess (plus a frost came and killed the blossoms last spring… that couldn’t have helped). 

Peaches look fine frozen, but as soon as they thaw they start turning brown.  Last year I “solved” that problem with camouflage – I froze spiced peaches – the spices (heavy on the cinnamon – but I can’t remember what else) already colored the peaches brown so the discoloration wasn’t as off-putting this year when I used them (great in my oatmeal).  Next year I’m also intending to freeze in single serving sizes.  That should do the trick.

Berries are easy – wash, dry, freeze on a cookie sheet, dump in a container or bag.

I dry tomatoes – and have been enjoying them in many things already.  Salads and sautéed with onion and polenta being my two favorites.

My husband is the tomato freezer.  We stopped canning and went to freezing, primarily because I didn’t like the lemony taste of the tomatoes when they were canned.  I’m sure we could have adjusted his approach, but freezing is so darn easy (we won’t discuss the power usage of the freezer – although a full freezer is more efficient than a 1/2 empty one – and the tomatoes really help keep ours full).

My husband pickles also – and they are soo good.  Pickled green beans are to die for!  And pickled asparagus, and pickled banana peppers – – and pickled cucumbers too.  He most recently made green tomato relish – I haven’t had a chance to dip into that yet.  I made green tomato relish once in my single years – and my face got blotchy and puffy – the doctor said it was probably the steam off the green tomatoes causing an allergic reaction.  I now avoid the kitchen on green tomato cooking day.

So the pantry is well stocked with the fruits (and veggies) of the garden.  All set for the Dark Days Challenge.  That’s the once a week meal made of SOLE food – sustainable, organic, local, and ethical. For more information you can click the badge in the side bar.  Sign up too!

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Not NO Impact – But REDUCED Impact

October 22, 2009

[I created a blog post on the No Impact Experiment social network today.  I have reposted it here:]

I have not been a model "no impact" person this week.  I had a sick child for the first 1/2 of the week and now she has given me her cold.  A virus can sap your will to have a life let alone your will to consciously change your life.  But still, I’ve made an effort. 

My trash creation is still low and I feel guilty about every piece I create.  However, I’ve noticed that one of my reactions to the admonition to reduce trash creation is to avoid throwing things away at all, including things that should be tossed.  So there are items laying around that I would otherwise toss but I’m waiting for the week to be over – I don’t think that’s the point – but it’s keeping my personal trash bag emptier.

Transportation Day was a loss.  I don’t have any real options that I can make on a permanent basis.  Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough.  When gas goes up to $5 a gallon I bet I’ll be trying.

Food Day.  My husband was out for the evening – and he’s usually the family chef.  So dinner was Market Day breadsticks and salad.  The good thing was the salad was fresh greens from a local hydroponic farm – so that gives me a point or two.

Today was energy day.  I was conscientious about turning out lights at work, I made sure that the power cord for my laptop, which is always plugged into an extension cord at home, was turned off while I was at work (I have a funky little switch where the cords connect – I got it years ago at a Big Lots and have never seen them again).  And we had dinner by candlelight.  There were more things I could have done though.  I could have been even more conscientious about classroom lights – I think I left some on after my 12:00 class.  And I could have been more thorough about plugged in appliances around the house.  We have many things plugged into power strips, but we aren’t always good about turning off the power strip.  On the other hand, the house temperature is set at 64 while people are home and at 58 during the day and night. 

Tomorrow is water conservation day.  It’s pouring outside.  It’s hard to worry about too little water when I’m wondering if the basement is wet.  Still, we’re pretty water conservative.  None of us run water while brushing out teeth.  I only heat the amount of water I need in the teapot, not a whole pot full.  We run full loads of wash and full loads in the dishwasher.  We have a rain barrel – which is full to the brim and we don’t have much to do with the water actually since we don’t water plants (and the garden is done for the season anyway).  I rather hate just emptying it onto the ground, but I’ll need to before it freezes. 

The next day is giving back day.  Hmmm, that will take some thought.  I’m rather overextended in the volunteer area as it is – – it may be a check writing day.

What I’m really looking forward to is my Eco-Sabbath – my time of minimal resource usage – my time to sit, preferably outdoors, and read a book. 

So, the short story is I’m putting some effort into this and it is paying off in small ways.  Certainly I am not as obsessed with the topic as some or as lackadaisical about it as others (hey I’m registered and blogging about it); I think I’m at the appropriate medium involvement that I can afford right now.  Conservation of mental and emotional resources is important too you know.

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Solar Update

August 11, 2009

Today we got our solar power report from Bauer Power.  The wind power report hasn’t been done yet but will be, but the solar report was a lot of fun to get.

source: http://bauerpower.com/page.php?page_id=49

The proposal suggests 18 39” x 58” panels on the garage roof – that would nearly cover the roof which is about 12’ x 30’ – and it would look so cool!

Based on our electrical usage over the past year, if we had had these solar panels we would have been able to generate 72% of our electricity – – and in April we would have actually made excess energy. 

I should mention that we are pretty energy efficient.  We are on a plan with our utility where we receive information each month about how our energy consumption compares to other homes our size in the area and we are always way lower.  The Bauer Power representative looked at our usage and asked if we have an Energy Star refrigerator, which we do; she said the refrigerator plays a big role in electricity usage. [So, if you don’t have an energy star fridge it might be worth the investment in energy savings.]

I’m looking forward to the wind power report.  I wonder how close to 100% of our electricity we could cover with a hybrid solar/wind system.  It may not be something we can swing financially at the moment (that garage rehab and roofing a large shed took a hunk of our liquidity).  But it is something that I hope we can do soon.  And who knows, maybe I’ll win the lottery.

My friend chuckled when I told her we might be purchasing a solar system.  She said she imagined my daughter sliding on Saturn’s rings. 

A galaxy is totally out of the question, but a solar system is a distinct possibility.