New Year’s Resolutions

  • Eat Better
  • Exercise More
  • Save Money on Energy Bills

There is no better time than now to work on reducing your energy loads. Successfully reducing your energy loads means you will be spending less money on energy bills each month. To be able to reduce your energy loads you will need to understand how you are using energy in your home; understanding is the first step towards energy efficiency and long term savings.

For most homes we can group energy into either a heating and cooling load or an electrical load. The heating and cooling load can be directly related to your home’s building performance, how well insulated your home is and how efficient your heating and cooling systems are.

To test your home’s building performance you may wish to consider having an energy audit performed. An energy audit is an objective way to assess how much energy your home consumes so you can get a handle on what steps you will need to start taking to get on your way to becoming energy efficient. An auditor will be able to pinpoint areas where your home is losing energy such as leaky windows and door cracks. They will also be able to determine your home’s heating systems efficiencies.

An energy auditor will often perform a blower door test to measure the extent of the leaks in your building’s envelope. They may also use an infrared camera which reveals hard to detect areas of air infiltration or missing insulation. You will receive suggestions of where you can improve your home’s building performance. The less energy your home is leaking out and essentially wasting, the more savings you will see each month.

How you use electricity in your home is a little different. There may be, literally, hundreds of items using electricity in your home. If you find yourself in a state of distress after paying your electric bill each month you may want to start to rein in where that electricity is going out.

Typical Use of Electricity in Your Home

According to the US Department of Energy 20% of a typical U.S. home’s electrical bill is in their appliances and home electronics. Artificial lighting in a home can be responsible for almost 15% of a household’s electrical usage. Electric water heaters may be accountable for 25% of your electric bill. And finally heating and cooling systems are the greatest source of electrical usage in a home, over 50% of a monthly bill. Do you know how your bill breaks up?

Understanding how you are using energy or how you are using electricity in your home will allow you to find ways to reduce that usage. You may realize that there are simple steps you can take that give you big cost savings, such as replacing older appliances with more energy efficient ones. Appliances carry a rating on them so you can tell how much power it requires while on. To reduce your lighting needs make sure to let in natural light during the day.

Replace your incandescent lightbulbs with bulbs that have a lower amp rating. Fluorescent lighting, such as CFLs, uses 25-35% of the energy used compared to incandescent lamps to provide the same amount of illumination. Upgrading your water heater and heating and cooling systems, as well as supplementing with a renewable energy supply will work to add to your monthly savings.

Typical Electrical Consumption by End Use

Every home uses electricity differently. Below is a chart, which according to the Energy Information Administration, is what a typical US home using each month in energy for common electrical appliances.

Appliance Average kWhrs month
Lighting 78
TV 26
DVD player 10
Ceiling Fan 12
Laptop Computer 8
Desktop Computer 26
Clothes Dryer 89
Refrigerator 121
Dishwasher 42
Waterbed heater 86
Central AC 233
Room Unit AC 79
Water Heater 215
Ghost Loads 72

What are the ghost loads?

Your ghost loads are appliances that are using energy even when they are off. Common culprits of the ghost loads are your microwave, coffee maker, printer, clocks, and the DVD player. Although ghost loads only consume small amount of electricity, they are consuming those small amount 24 hours a day! The ghost loads in your house may be adding up to 100 watts or more a day of electricity you are paying for when you’re not even using it.

Finding out how you use electricity

TEDTo find out where your electricity is being used so to start to control that usage, you may be interested in the simple installation of an energy monitoring device. There are a number of energy monitors on the market today. The Energy Detective, or TED, is one of them. The Energy Detective can track and display your household’s electrical consumption in real time; it will also total your monthly consumption.

The system installs through a connection in your electric panel. The TED display monitor can be placed anywhere in the home, somewhere where the whole family will see it to get everyone involved in saving energy; you can even view its data online. The TED operates on the existing wires in your home. It connects to your main electrical panel to monitor specific electricity consumption from appliances, lights and other devices that consume electricity.

TEDs transmitting device, located in your circuit breaker panel, measures the amount of electricity coming into your home as you are using it and transmits data every second over your receiving unit. Your receiving unit can plug into any A/C outlet in your home. As you watch the meter you’ll know how much electricity is being used.

You can turn off different appliances and see to see how the meter changes. Turn off all your appliances to find your ghost loads. We’ve been told a hundred times to turn off lights when exiting a room. This can be a fun learning experience for you and your family to understand how those lights being left on correlates with electricity being used. You can learn more about TED at www.theenergydetective.com.

Resolving to be Healthy

Each New Year is a time for reflecting upon the last year and we make resolutions to live better moving forward. Your New Year’s resolutions are a personal commitment to yourself. You have decided there is something you want to see changed within yourself, your lifestyle, or your behavior.

Resolving to be healthy is what a lot of us seek. We want to eat better, exercise more, or quit an unhealthy habit. Saving energy is also apart of living well and being healthy; not only are you saving money but you are helping to create a more sustainable community and environment to live in.

This New Years resolve to be healthy — to live a healthy lifestyle and build a healthy planet.

More Information. . .

Calculate your own energy loads

Use this formula to estimate how much electricity an appliance uses.

(Wattage x Hours used per day / 1000) = Daily kilowatt hours (kwhrs)

1kW = 1000 watts

100 watt bulb x 8 hours day = 800 watt hours

800 watt hours / 1000 = .8 kwhrs/day or 24 kwhrs/month

At $.16 a kwhr, one 100 watt bulb running 8 hours a day costs you $3.84 on your monthly bill.

You can try this with different appliances in your home. Each appliance should show a rating of volts, amps or watts. Voltage (V) is the potential of electrical flow in a unit, and most appliances in the US are rated at either 120V or 240V; your larger appliances being the latter.

The actual movement of electrical current is called the amperage or amp. The larger the amp rating on an appliance generally the more powerful that appliance is. The more amps a unit has, the more electricity it draws while on. A vacuum cleaner that runs at 12 amps, for example, generates more suction than one that is rated at 6 amps. To convert this to watts you can multiply volts x amps. A wattage or watt is the measurement of the actual work performed by electricity.

The 12 amp vacuum cleaner, rated at 120 volts would be rated at 1440 watts, because amps x V = watts. Now that we know the wattage you can find out how much that appliance adds to your electrical bill. Your vacuum cleaner is not running all the time, so let’s say you use your vacuum cleaner for ½ hour every other day.

1440 watts x .5 hrs = 720 watts / 1000 = .72 kwhrs/day

.72 kwhrs/day x 15 days = 10.8 kwhrs of electricity on your electric bill each month

At $.16 a watt 10.8 kwhrs = $1.78

Although the vacuum has a high wattage rating, because of its low usage it’s generally not the culprit behind a high electric bill. It does add to it however, a good point to keep in mind is that a lot of little things can add up quickly.

To calculate your refrigerators’ load use 8 hours a day as its running time. Although your refrigerator is plugged in all the time, it cycles on and off as needed to maintain its interior temperature. Dishwashers and clothes dryers are typically a home’s biggest appliance loads.

Let’s compare that 100 watt incandescent lightbulb we used earlier to a CFL lightbulb with the same light output. A 22 watt CFL is said to be comparable to a 100 watt incandescent. The 100 watt incandescent running at 8 hours a day was responsible for $3.84 of your total electrical bill. A 22 watt CFL would be:

22 watts x 8 hrs = 176 watt hrs

176 watt hrs / 1000 = .176 kwhrs

.176 kwhrs * 30 days = 5.28 kwhrs/month

At $.16 a kwhr, 5.28 kwhrs/month would equal $.85 a month on your electric bill. That’s $3 a month in savings, or $36 a year for changing just one light bulb!

What’s the difference between a watt and a watt hour?

A watt is a measurable unit of power. The watt is used to specify the rate at which electrical energy is dissipated. A watt hour is a unit of energy equivalent to one watt of power expended for one hour of time. The watt hour is commonly used in electrical applications. The terms power and energy often get confused. Power is the rate that energy is used. In general, energy is equivalent to power multiplied by time.

For example, if 100 watt light bulb in turned on for one hour, the energy used is 100 watt hours. The same 100 watt light bulb turned on for 3 hours, the energy used is 300 watt hours. To convert to kilowatt hours, divide by 1000.