Posts Tagged ‘energy’


1978 musical – Seein’ the Light

October 9, 2011

Got 15 minutes?  Check out this industrial film from 1978 made for Allied Chemical.  It’s a pro energy-conservation bit.  It’s amazingly timely. (and I think I had her haircut in 1978).


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.


Dang Cold!

December 9, 2009

I tend to be a hold out for the calendar version of seasonal change (it isn’t winter until the Solstice) but even I must admit that it is now winter. 

We are experiencing the brutal aftermath of the winter storm that swept through the country yesterday and today.  Yesterday it rained; it was miserably chilly and damp and just rained and rained and rained.  This morning, when I awoke it was about 27 degrees and there was a dusting of snow, and the winds had picked up.  It was all down hill from there.

Now, at 4:30 it is 16 degrees with below freezing windchills.  If you walk face into the wind it takes your breath away.  I have the faucets dripping in the bathrooms to keep the pipes from freezing and am tempted to hole up in the laundry room because it is on the opposite side of the house from the wind and is relatively toasty.

I hope the bees are cozy.  I’ve checked on the hives with binoculars from the house and the top covers seem to still be on – that’s about all I can do for them at this point.

The llamas ventured out of the barn but stayed out of the wind.  We should have closed the doors on the north side last night for them.  I wonder if my husband has shut the water off to the hydrant by the barn?  It is very inconvenient to have it off, but not as inconvenient as broken pipes.

The furnace goes on and off, on and off.  It is set at 64 but it is still taking a lot of natural gas to keep the house there.  I’m glad the kids aren’t squawking about being cold.  The upstairs is warmer so one is there, and the family room also seems to stay warmer – despite 2.5 exterior walls.  The insulation is better there than in the rest of the house I guess.  That would be because I don’t believe there is any insulation in the walls of the rest of the house (it’s 90ish years old – insulation will come with new siding in about 5 years I reckon).

I learned a bit about furnaces today.  We had a recurring wet spot on the floor near the furnace.  At first I thought it was from water coming up from the ground through cracks in the cement floor, it has been so rainy this fall.  Then I was afraid it was from the furnace and coming out the bottom – that maybe the drain pipe was clogged – although water was dripping from the pipe quite steadily.  As I pondered the puddle a drop dripped from above.  The water was coming from the vent pipe. 

I did figure it was condensation running back down through the pipe from the opening.  I was afraid it was building up at the elbow and so full it was leaking from a seam.  But, no, the condensation is suppose to run back down through the vent pipe back to the furnace where it then goes into the drain pipe and down the floor drain.  The only reason it was dripping was that one connection hadn’t been glued when it had all been assembled 10 years ago.  

That’s all that is new from this winter not-so-wonderland (snow would make this much more bearable).  Now it is back to grading final papers.  If I burned them I could heat the house…



November 8, 2009

christmas tour sign

I love the holidays – from November 1 until January 2 I am in serious Holiday Mode.  So I wanted to post about the holidays, but I can’t quite decide which aspect to focus on – there are so many directions I can go – so this will be the preview post with others to follow.

I want to tell you about Thanksgiving and how we try to add a bit of greenness where we can.  [With an acknowledgement that overall we fail miserably at it.]

I want to tell you about my decorating plans and accomplishments.  My efforts to reduce energy consumption and rein in my desire to buy every cute snowman I see.

And I want to tell you about the gifts I’m planning – except that post will probably have to wait until after the gifts are given so as not to ruin any surprises.  Oh, and wrapping those gifts.  Don’t get excited, I’m not talking about anything terribly creative here (besides – what do you do with a bunch of cute handmade gift bags after the gifts are out of them?).

The overall theme for my holiday season this year seems to be heading toward quality over quantity – meaningful over money – and resource conservative over resource demanding.  I’ll try to expand on those themes – and in the process it may help me stay focused on them and less likely to revert to my less-green consumptive habits.

Oh and baking.  Holiday baking and sweet treat making – the kids and I hit the kitchen.  Can we do it in a relatively healthful manner? You be the judge.

Meanwhile, Retro Housewife Goes Green is devoting her posts to greening up the holidays – so take a peek over there.

So the holiday season has begun!  Let’s enjoy it.


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.