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While visiting my in-laws for the Thanksgiving holiday I came back to a nice surprise. Well, I had a good idea what it was going to be but it was still nice. My TED unit reported that I had only use 8 kW hours while I was away for Thursday.

Here is the breakdown as best I could manage.

  • Phantom Loads – 50 Watt /hour                                          600 Watt Hours
  • My DVR – 90 Watts for 2 hours                                          180 Watt Hours
  • Furnace Fan – 500 Watts for 6 hours                              3000 Watt Hours
  • Fish Tank Lights – 50 Watts for 10 hours                          500 Watt Hours
  • Fish Tank Heater 200 Watts for 2 Hours                          400 Watt Hours
  • Light on Timer 25 Watts for 8 Hours                                  200 Watt Hours
  • Refrigerator                                                                     2000 Watt Hours
  • Outside Lights – 45 Watt for 14 hours                                600 Watt Hours

Add this up and you are left with about 600 Watt Hours not accounted for. But the furnace could have run an hour longer I just don’t know. This is my best guess. One thing I noticed, is the fridge use about 25% of the total power. I would like a new one, so if I were to buy one I would hopefully get one that uses about half as much. The furnace uses about a third of the total energy. When I replace this I will look for the most efficient fan I can buy. I could move the fish tank to a sunny location. But that would mean I have to drain and clean it. That is a lot of work. Honestly, I may be done trying to reduce my load. I will have to look at a few minor things, then I can see how my utility bills look for the winter months. Maybe in the spring I can think about some solar options.

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This year I had my side of the family at my house for Thanksgiving. Now for some power usage background. For the last four weeks or more I have averaged 15 kW hours a day. This would be a little under 500 kW hours for the month. (This is very good!)

Enter Thanksgiving feast. It was a wonderful meal for the nine of us. What did the TED unit read at the end of the day? 30 kW hours. Basically, the cooking and extra people doubled my daily usage. Since we have an electric oven that ran for five hours, that pretty much explains the increase.  Well worth it in my book. If you think about it, the number of kW per person was less than normal. But then again, Thanksgiving only happens once a year. Twice for me because this Thursday I get to go the other side of the family for another wonderful meal! Yum. I think I will go make a turkey sandwich.

Like I said before , if I knew that fish tank was going to use so much electricity I would have never purchased it. But the kids and the cat like it, so it has to stay. Here is the current situation. The tank has two lights and a filter. When they are both on the combined total is 50 Watts. I run them for 10 hours. That equals 50 Watts x 10 hours, 500 Watt hours or 0.5 kW a day. I mean, that is only $2 a month. Now we all know this is not about the money. But, I can live with 500 Watt hours. What I can not live with is the tank heater. I have a 200 Watt heater. The fact that it is a 200 Watt heater means very little. How long it is on mean so much more.

Kill-a-watt to the rescue. After 12 hours, I had used 0.68 kW hours. WHAT! At that rate I would use almost 40 kW hours for the month. My refrigerator uses 60 kW hours a month! This will not do.

So what did I do. Well, I could not just turn it off. The fish may kick the bucket. So I researched the lowest livable temperature, which happens to be 68 degrees. That is better than the 73 degrees that is was set at before. The basement temp is around 65 right now. I hope that the heater will run very little since I have 50 Watts of possible extra heat from the lights and filter. I reset the kill-a-watt and will check back another day.

So I know, one of the best places to spend money is on improving the energy efficiency of your home. When I had the house built eight years ago, I was told the walls of the house were R-19. At the time, that sounded pretty good. Not that I plan on replacing my siding anytime soon, I just wanted to know what options I had to improve my R-value. Insulated Vinyl Siding is one such option. It costs about 30% more than regular vinyl siding. The benefit is greater impact resistance and the addition of R-4 to R-5 to the building walls. For me, this would be about a 20% increase insulation value. Since up to 40% of your home energy is lost thru your walls. 20% of 40% is 8%. This is why I would not be doing this until I needed to replace what I have. On the other hand, this “upgrade” does qualify for a federal tax credit of 30%. (for USA anyway) So now maybe a better time than I think.

What is 8% in my dollars? If I estimate $1500 for heating and cooling. 8% is $120. Not very much but we all know that utility bills will only go up. Since the regular and insulated siding cost about the same after tax credits. (No price quotes or concrete numbers, just the internet?) It would be a no brainer to install the better insulated product. Toolbase has a list of manufacturers if you are interested. They also have some helpful information.

This is with just about everything off. The only thing left are clocks and phantom loads from appliances.

DC00149

That is correct, 50 Watts! That is why I took a picture!

Think recycling plastics is enough. Well, think again. I guess a glass jar with a metal lid is the next best thing. Maybe someone will invent something that eats plastic. That could spawn another problem. Reducing consumption is the best solution.

Menard’s is having a sale on LED lights. So I got two more. I have two fixtures in my house that would be perfect for the new LED lights. One is in a closet and really acts as a night-light for my daughter. The other is over the kitchen sink that acts as a night-light for me. (Midnight snack or drink). I purchased an A15 and A19 bulb. I think the A15 is brighter but it actually has less LEDs inside.  Both fixtures are on for at least 12 hours a night. Sometimes longer. Let’s look at the math.

12 x (14 – 1.5) X 365 X 0.12 X 0.001 = $6.57

12 hours a day,

(Current wattage – new wattage),

365 days in a year,

$0.12 per kW hour,

convert watts to kilowatts,

And you get the total cost for the year. These bulbs should last 50,000 hours or five to ten times longer then the light they replace. CFLs can be found for less than a dollar now. But if the LED bulb lasts ten years and the CFL would have been replaced 5 times($5). The total saving would be $5 + (10 x $6.57) – $7 =   $63.70. Don’t forget I have two fixtures. That would be $127.40. These new LED lights should pay for themselves in a little over a year. That is good in my book.

Since I won’t actually get my bill for another week, this is an unofficial record. Depending on when they gather the reading, I will be very close to 600 kW hours. This is a nice improvement. From my previous rant we know that I have removed some vampire loads. I think this has helped reduce it to the current level. Additionally, the HVAC is not running but for maybe 30 minutes in the morning.

Unless I replace my fridge and dishwasher I don’t think it is going to get much lower. My current fridge is a 25 cu. ft. model. It has been averaging right at 2 kw Hours a day. With a new fridge I could knock that down to 1.5 kW hours a day. Sadly, if I got cold water fish I could save more. My 55 gallon aquarium heater uses more than 500 Watts. If I had understood energy usage more back then I  would have passed on it altogether.

600 kW hours is about 20 kW hours a day. I feel for a family of four with someone always home all the time, that this is a really good number. As always, I will continue to reduce my usage. I just have to think about what to do next? I maybe at the point of diminishing returns. But, then again I am not doing this for the money. I am doing this because I find it to be like a game. And who does not like to win!

 

So I was trying to calculate heating requirements for my house. I was using this site for a little reference. I have R-19 walls and had R-38 ceiling. I run the numbers and I kept getting about half the BTUs. I was racking my brain and then it hit me. What about the windows and doors. You mean to tell me that I need 100% more energy just because I have windows and doors. Not to mention any air leaks. The short answer. YES!!!

Well, that is humbling. I guess when I replace the windows and doors I will look at getting the best I can buy. Also installation is key too. A great window installed incorrectly is just as efficient as a cheap window that has been installed perfectly. Weather sealing and expanding foam can make a huge difference. (IMHO anyway)