Posts Tagged ‘refrigerator’


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.


A Slice of Life

August 9, 2009

I write a column every few weeks for my local weekly newspaper called A Slice of Life.  I had done this from 2001 to 2006 but stopped when life just got too hectic.  With the editor’s encouragement I’m now back at it.  I’m not sure that life is less hectic now, but maybe my priorities have shifted.  My first  essay back was about  the garage rehab and since then many people have commented on my “green” garage — so apparently I am being read.  The garage essay is all the same stuff I noted here first, so it seems too redundant to post here.  But I thought some might enjoy reading A Slice of Life piece now and again, especially if they are vaguely green.  Here’s the one that appeared in a recent Delavan Times.

Automobiles: The New Refrigerators

I’ve always enjoyed reading cars with a variety of bumper sticker messages on them. Bumper stickers were pretty popular back in the 60’s and 70’s when the stickers served the dual purpose of spreading the word and holding the car together. It seemed to fall out of vogue though in the 80’s and cars have been relatively clean ever since. But this may change. As of late I’ve noticed the first real bumper sticker alternative – car magnets.

I’ve always had a fondness for magnets. Their natural attraction and repelling properties seem somewhat magical. And the refrigerator has always served as a blank sheet on which all sorts of magnets could be stuck. Every paper that I thought I might want to look at again in the next six months was stuck under a magnet on the refrigerator, usually for well past its useful timeframe. Artwork made by the younger family members was posted for all to see until the edges curled and a new masterpiece took its place. Magnets with phone numbers and addresses of businesses and organizations were planted about. When the kids were little they spelled out their meager vocabularies with the letter magnets that every family with a preschooler is obliged to own.

We had other fun magnets too. We had some gear magnets that combined and turned and were very educational, even for Mom. We had magnetized words that you could use to compose pithy little poems. We had a magnet of the statue of David and assorted magnetized outfits for him. Sometimes he was dressed for the beach, or like Elvis or even Santa for that holiday feel. It may have been disordered but our refrigerator was always interesting.

A few years ago we replaced the refrigerator with an energy star, stainless steel model. It’s energy efficient, you can get filtered water or ice without opening the door, and it’s pretty. But one little thing was a surprise; magnets do not stick to stainless steel refrigerators. The good side of this is that our kitchen looks less cluttered. I like the clean, sleek look of the silver front. But I do miss our magnets and really didn’t have another place to create a magnetic wonderland, until now.

Now with the creation of the car magnet I can use my automobile to display an increasing number of messages.

I first noticed the magnets during the Presidential election. There were the usual bumper stickers of course, but, surprisingly, I have a real aversion to putting stickers on my car. I think I was once told that bumper stickers reduce the resale value of a vehicle. That would suggest that I actually sell my own cars and do so while they still have any life left in them, neither of which is true. I do like to show my support for specific candidates though, so during political seasons I tape the bumper sticker of my favorite candidate to the inside of the back window. But toward the end of the campaign season last fall car magnets for candidates began to appear. I have one proudly displayed still, while the bumper sticker/window display curled up and came off months ago.

Some candidates for smaller elections also have magnets. These are no bigger than a business card and are probably meant for the refrigerator. But if they have a plastic coating on them they work great on the car too.

Politics is not the only reason for car magnets. At a festival in support of eco-consciousness I found an assortment of green-leaning magnets. I now have car magnets proclaiming that I am an Organic Mom, suggesting that the reader Imagine Green, and to remind people to Buy Locally. I’ve put them on my husband’s car too (well, not the Mom magnet). I’m not sure if he likes them or just tolerates them, but they are still there.

I think we are seeing the beginning of a new trend, and I intend to be trendy. My cars will be distinctive, that’s for sure, and they’ll provide people at intersections with valuable reading material. It will be like the 60’s all over again, but let’s hope the magnets won’t be holding the cars together this time.