May: Light Switches

May was all about lights. First we did our research. Tomsguide has more than we ever wanted to know about light bulbs (pricing is US).

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/light-bulb-guide,review-1986.html

LEDs are vastly better than the alternatives, except they are more expensive. But they last forever, so it doesn’t matter unless you switch them all at once, like we did. They are the most efficient, longest lasting, and have none of the concerns about mercury (CFL) or damage to art work (halogen).

We replaced our most-used incandescents with LEDs. We didn’t replace all bulbs – this gets complicated. LEDs are not recommended for enclosed light fixtures, we couldn’t find replacement for every bulb size, and LEDs are weird with dimmers. We took the odd bulb sizes to the hardware store, and a wonderfully knowledgeable woman helped us work through the options for each. We bought 13 bulbs for $98.54. We’ll switch out halogens as they burn out over the next year. They’re more efficient than incandescents, but not nearly as good as LEDs, and short lived.

We decided to test our new LEDs using the electric meter on our house. We turned off everything but the lights, and recorded the meter disk spinning.

We couldn’t get our base consumption to zero without unplugging every device in the house, so we also measured ghost power consumption, and subtracted that number from our other measurements. As usual, our accuracy is not very. Mark liked this website for figuring out the calculations:

https://staff.washington.edu/corey/power.html

Our ghost power consumption was 122.3 watts. Incandescents to be changed consumed 559.8 W. LEDs in the same fixtures consumed 103.1 W, an 80% drop in consumption.

Mark made a video of our electricity meter running with the new LEDs compared to the old incandescents. Maureen laughs every time she watches what he did with it.

Press here for the video.

Between the LED lights, the drying rack, and the new freezer, we’re hoping for about a 20% drop in our electricity use.

Next month? It’s time to talk gardening.

 

 

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March : The Power We Use

In March we assessed electricity use in the house. This involved infinite detail which made Maureen’s head hurt (even before she wacked it and gave herself a mild concussion). Mark claimed to like this stuff, so he’s done the bulk of the assessment. Maureen suspects it made his head hurt, too.

Mark created a graph of the energy use of various devices. This is vaguely accurate, in a hand-wavy kind of way. It roughly fits what we’ve read elsewhere, that the biggest energy users are for heating and cooling. However, everything we’ve been able to directly test has come in at a different number than the estimates, so we know it’s not precise. About 6% of our power consumption is not accounted for.

ElectricalUseChart

Appliances marked with asterisks were measured using a Belkin Conserve Insight Model F7C005 ($50 on Amazon). This meter shows the current going through it (watts), but can also do a running average of consumption. The items we could not measure (wrong kind of plug, or difficult in some other way) are based on website estimates, some using the age of the appliance, with Mark guessing at yearly hours of use. Other includes the breadmaker, toaster, radios, iron, mower, xmas lights. Vampire power is power used by devices when they are plugged in but turned off.

Mark found these websites useful:

http://www.nspower.ca/en/home/for-my-home/save-energy/energy-calculator.aspx

http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/refrigerators.html

The first thing we discovered is to watch our assumptions. Over and over, what we expected is not what we found.

We’ll focus first on the biggest power suckers:

We’ll be switching to LED lights. We have mostly incandescent, as we hate the fluorescents we’ve tried, and were advised by several electricians to wait for LEDs. Now’s the time.

The furnace itself may be high efficiency, but the fan uses a lot of power. The insulating and sealing tasks that came up last month will help there.

A clothes dryer is a huge consumer of energy, and the best way to reduce that is not having a dryer. Hang up clothes outside. However, that sucks in the winter and is not recommended for people with pollen allergies (Maureen), because then you’re wearing pollen and sleeping with it. We bought a drying rack for indoors as a compromise. We couldn’t have done it with four people in the house or with kid laundry, and it’s tight in our back entry, but it’s working well for three adults. We were hoping for a 20% reduction in dryer use. In fact, it’s coming in closer to a third.

We suspect most of our appliances are not worth replacing right away. We plan to replace as needed, with more efficient models. We will look carefully at the freezer. It’s the oldest, and may be worth replacing now.

April will be all about examining each line on the chart, finding the best changes to make. Research research research. We’re delaying actual purchases in hopes the Alberta Government comes up with some financial support for carbon reduction by homeowners, so we can do more.