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Same idea behind Earth day. The level of awareness generated is great. But what about the remaining 364 days?

I try to make everyday Earth Day or Earth Hour. So far I have been able to cut my electric usage by close to 30% and my gas usage by at least 40%. This reduction does not come from the action of one day or hour. But sadly, this is the only way to get the mass media to notice.

So will I turn off my lights? Yes, one hour for the cause is not hard to do. Will I continue to reduce my usage, every day. I enjoy hearing about how high peoples eclectic and gas bills are. Why, because I know that they could do something about it and choose convenience instead. They think I am crazy when I tell them what I have done to reduce my bills. It is not really that difficult. It just takes perseverance. For many, this just does not happen. Example, something like 80% of new years resolutions are broken by January 15th.


This past December killed the old battery. The system ran almost continuously for almost three years. Not bad, but why did the battery fail? First off, cloudy winters days left the battery very weak. Then you have the cold temperatures. A fully charged battery would go for about five nights. Winter can have cloudy day for ten or more in a row. During the month of December and January the light would be off for days at a time. So basically, I had a drained battery in the cold. Not a good idea. But SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) batteries don’t have a long lifespan anyway.

Now, from data in my area, a sunny winter day will give you about 80% or more power as a sunny summer day. The main reason is temperature. Cold sunny days produce more because heat degrades the solar cell output. This colder temperatures help to offset the fact that the sun is not above the horizon nearly as many hours in the winter. What kills the average solar insolation in Indiana is the clouds. If we did not have the cloud cover, we would have double the average insolation. (Maximum recorded December insolation from ’61 to ’90 was 3.7, almost a 50% increase over average)

My new battery is not a SLA. I can and will perform maintainance.  I purchased a trolling motor battery from Wal-mart. While not a true deep-cycle battery, neither was the price. The old battery was 22aH, now I have an 85aH. I should be able to go almost 20 days before the lights go out. I will need more days of full sun to recharge but I think this is a good trade-off. One sunny day yield two nights with lights. A light overcast would be about one half to one. In the summer I will over produce. But I have an inverter attached to the system so I can find ways to use that. Winter, I think I will turn the night light function down from 4 hours to two total hours. That should help with battery life too.

Alas, I don’t have TOU (Time-of-use) pricing. I still have cheap power but not TOU pricing. You may have it so if you do and have an electric water heater this tip may help save you some money.

I will use Duke energy from another state as an example. North Carolina sounds good. So I look at the rate schedules and I actually find a specific one just for water heater. I am going to post the TOU verbiage.

This service is solely for the purpose of water heating and will be provided from the Company’s 60 Hertz, single-phase residential service. This service will be controlled by the Company using a load control device, and submetered in the Customer’s water heater circuit. The Company shall have the right to interrupt service to the Customer’s water heater under this Schedule. All water heating controlled under this Schedule shall be served through a single submeter. The submetered service will be available at least six hours out of twenty-four hours.

What does this mean to us normal people? Well, most likely the six hours is going to be in the middle of the night. You are going to have to heat the entire days water at night. This could be a problem but all you need to do is turn the water heat up. Not a natural thing but there is a device that will help you not to burn yourself. It is called a tempering valve. Some call it a mixing valve because it mixes the very hot water from the tank with some incoming cold water. Usually they are set at 120 degrees but you can change the setting. The job of the tempering valve is to maintain the set temperature at its output regardless of the incoming hot or cold water temperature. So, if you wanted to, you could set the tank for 160 degrees. This would burn you instantly if not for the tempering valve.  50 gallons of 160 degree hot water mixed with 50 gallons of 60 degree cold water give you 100 gallons of 110 degree water. (shower water temperature) Now I have an 80 gallon tank so I could have 160 gallon of 110 degree water. That is a lot of hot water. And just so you know, the rate for this service is 4.23 cents per kW hour. The normal rate is 8.60 cents per kW hour. This amounts to a saving of over 50%. Since the little yellow tag says the water heater use over 4500 kW hour a year the total saving is about $200. Since a tempering valve costs just north of $100, you could see payback in under a year. This is a submetered utility controlled deal. That means you don’t have to do a whole lot. I am not for sure but it sounds like they come out and hook it up. Done.

For the remainder on the population, you are going to have to buy a water heater timer. Like this one. It sells for no more than $70. The nice thing is that it is just like a programmable thermostat.

The time switches can be programmed for repeat daily scheduling, 5-day working week scheduling, weekend scheduling or any individual day scheduling. Timers can be scheduled for operation during the lowest time-of-day rates or to switch off the electric heater during period of utilities peak power usage. The time switch can be set to operate for up to 6 ON/OFF operations daily for a maximum of 42 on/off operations weekly.

Here is a good site all about water heater timers. You could cut your water heating by as much as 50%. Me, I think 25% maybe more realistic. Add that to TOU electric rates and then you could easily get over 50%. It is very easy to install and will pay for itself in less than a year. But, since I don’t have TOU billing, I will have to let someone else save money.

This has to be one of the best ideas yet. Compostable chip bags. I hope Frito Lay does this across all of there brands. I am not going to rehash all the technical stuff. You can read about it on there website. But I just think, won’t it will be great to be able to compost more house hold stuff. My goal is to reduce, reuse, or recycle more then I  throw away.

I still have my old gas water heater in the basement. It is out of the way but it is still down there. With summer coming up I was thinking about what to do with it. here is my idea. Strip it down to the bare tank, paint it black and place it in the sun. This would make some hot water for the kiddy pools and for washing “stuff” like the cars.

I think I will bury it half way into the backyard hill. No need to have the thing fully exposed. This will help to retain some of the heat at night too. I need to it lay vertically going up the hill. I can then use the drain valve on the bottom to receive the cold water and one of the two outlets on top for the hot water exit. The other I will just plug. I will need a check valve because the tank will be about fifteen feet above the house spigot.  This will prevent any back-flow.

I think this will be an interesting project. I best do it while the wife is away. She will ask too many questions for which I will have no good answer for. Like most of my projects. O’ and  I will need a thermal blanket of some kind for when I need the hot water earlier in the day. (cover at night)

If I decide to tinker with this idea I will post the results.

The 20 Gallon water heater is all hooked up. Wife has stop complaining about shower not hot enough. Mission accomplished. Almost. Now I have to tweak the new system for the best possible efficiency.

By my estimates, the big tank with the hot water heat pump, is sitting at 110 Degrees. I am going by the know on the heat pump so I think it will be close to that. The Small tank is sitting at 130 degrees. This was all done so that after I hooked the system up everything would work. That is to say, I would not get into trouble for messing around and still not have hot water. Now I have seen a drop in energy usage by the heat pump. After three days the average usage is 3.5kW hours a day. This is much better than 6kW hours a day that I had before. I know that I am using more electricity with the small tank. How much more? I do not know. After I get the new TED 5000 I can use the old TED 1000 just for the small electric tank. My guess would have to be about 4kW hours a day. So my total is up to 7.5 Kw hours a day just to heat water. That is a lot of electricity for hot water. But much better then the 13kW hours a day if I used only electric heating elements.

The Plan: Wait for now.

I think I need to better understand what I have with the new system. Then I can start making changes.

After I have some more data. I think the first thing I will do is lower the small tank by five degrees.

Then I may raise the big tank by five degrees. But, I do know that the heat pump efficiency decreases when the tank temperature increases. Personally, I think that when you approach 130 degrees tank temperature when an ambient temperature of only 60 degrees, you are getting close to only 100% efficient. Since I can not measure that at the moment, my educated guess will just have to do.

In the summer I hope to have the small tank and the large tank at the same temperature. (115 degrees) Then the small tank should never turn on unless the demand is very high.

So I purchased the TED 5000 with the display. Now I have to wait for it to ship. I have read some bad reviews but then again I have the TED 1000 and I am very pleased with it. I can not imagine the 5000 being worst then the 1000. I was able to get 10% off of the retail price. For as hot as the TED 500 is I thought that was good. That and I have waited for a few months now just to purchase it below retail.

It will be nice to check my usage with the computer again. Since the TED 1000 required the PC to be on all the time I have not recorded data for over 4 months. It seems silly to leave something on just to record how much electricity you are using.