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Tonight's installment is about getting started with empirical measurements of your electricity consumption.  And in the comments section, I'll post the results of a recent experiment.

E.C.S.T.A.S.Y.End Consumption, Save The Air & Sea, Y'all!

A support group and discussion forum for those who want to kick the habits of consumption that are damaging the world we live in.

Your ecological impacts consist of your inputs and your outputs: the energy & materials you consume, and the wastes (including CO2) you produce.   Paradoxically, in order to consume less and produce less waste, you'll need to buy a few things, such as specific types of tools, all of which are affordable on a working class budget.   In this series of contributions to the ECSTASY diaries I'm going to cover some of the tools and how they're used.  Y'all are eagerly encouraged to add to the list.

Tools that enable you to take measurements of your inputs and outputs are highly valuable.   In science, a fact is one thing and that only:  a measurement that's repeatable on demand.  This is why, for example, scientists say there are no solid "facts" about UFOs:  even the best reports by aircraft crews, backed up by radar blips, are unique observations, not repeatable on demand.  Something that is not repeatable may still be valuable in helping solve a puzzle, but it doesn't rise to the level of a fact as defined by science.

Measuring tools give you facts about your inputs and outputs.  Over time you can keep records and thereby track your ecological impacts with reasonable precision.  After that, you can make the choices that make the greatest difference.  Some of those choices are surprising, some are inconvenient but necessary, and some are remarkably easy.  Some will improve your quality of life in ways you don't expect.

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Here are a few important links:

  1. Annie Leonard's crucial movie, The Story of Stuff.

The Story of Stuff

  1. An invaluable tool for calculating the ecological footprint of your lifestyle, from the good folks atRedefining Progress.

If you have a resource that should be included in ECSTASY diaries, please include the link and a few words about it in the comments.

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Electricity consumption is a good place to start.  It's easy to measure with high precision, and surprisingly easy to reduce.  The basic measuring tool costs $20 - $40 depending on where you buy it.   You can find these for sale all over the internet, and occasionally at your local hardware store.

The manufacturer's website is here.  

The Kill-A-Watt

Kill-a-Watt is a little meter that plugs into an AC outlet, and has a socket on the front for plugging in a "load," such as an appliance, a light fixture, or whatever.   Pressing the gray button in the middle shows watts: the amount of power that a load is consuming moment-to-moment.  Pressing the purple button on the right shows KWH (kilowatt-hours) and time: the amount of power that a load has consumed over a period of time, from minutes to days.

Knowing the wattage of each appliance can help you reduce your "peak load," which will reduce the need for new power production.  If you're on the grid, peak load translates to new power plants (though we still have to replace all fossil fueled power plants with climate-clean generating capacity).  If you're on household solar, peak load translates to the number of PV (photovoltaic) panels you need, and the number of batteries you need to store the power.

Knowing the cumulative consumption in KWH helps you choose more efficient appliances and use them more efficiently.  Here you may be surprised to find that even low-wattage devices such as the chargers for cellphones and cordless phones, are sneaky energy hogs that add up to a significant part of your overall energy usage.

For example you make toast every morning, and your toaster uses 800 watts for five minutes.  Over a month that translates to 2,000 watt/hours, or 2 KWH.  For example your cellphone or cordless phone charger uses 2 watts but it's always plugged in.  Over a month that translates to 1,440 watt/hours, or 1.44 KWH.   That little charger uses almost as much power each month as the toaster.  (In contrast, an oldschool hardwired phone uses zero power when it's idle, and only 2.3 watts while you're talking; the power comes from the telco central office.)

A true story about fridges

I live in rental housing that comes with a fridge.  The fridge is a "vintage" 1970s energy hog, but I had no idea how big a hog it was until I measured it.

The AC outlets for most fridges are on the wall behind the fridge.  In order to make this accessible, I needed to plug a cheap power strip into this wall outlet, plug the Kill-a-Watt meter into the power strip, and then plug the fridge into the Kill-a-Watt meter.  The power strip and Kill-a-Watt meter sat on a counter while I ran the measurement.

A few things you need to know about refrigerators:

When the compressor is running it only uses from about 80 to 160 watts.  The more often it runs, and the longer it runs each time, the more energy the fridge uses.

When the kitchen is warm, the fridge uses more power over time, than when the kitchen is cool: this is because the ambient warmth in the room leaks into the fridge over time, and the fridge has to dump that heat back into the room again.  The worst places for your fridge are right next to your stove or oven, or where it will get direct sunlight, because these are all direct sources of heat on the fridge that it will have to dump back into the room to keep your food cold.

Keeping your fridge "full" is good because foods and liquids have more "thermal mass" than air.  Once they get cold, they store the cold, analogous to batteries storing electricity.  When you open the fridge door, cold air pours out on the floor, but the cold in your foods & beverages remains to help cool the room air that has gotten in.

The greater the enclosed space, the lower the ratio of surface area to volume.  This means a bigger fridge uses less energy per cubic foot of space cooled, than a smaller fridge.  Little "dorm room" cube fridges consume almost as much power as regular household-size fridges.   The most efficient arrangement of all is a heavily insulated cold room similar to a grocery store refrigerator with doors, in a communal kitchen shared by a number of households.

To measure the power consumption of a fridge, you need to leave the Kill-a-Watt meter running for a few days.  Three days at an average room temperature should be sufficient.

So back to the story:

I ran the test for three days each time, and repeated it a few times, writing down what I found.  For example the cumulative time on the Kill-a-Watt showed 84 hours, and the total power consumption over that time was about 13.42 KWH.

Taking out the calculator:  13.42 KWH divided by 84 hours = approx. 0.159 KWH per hour.  That doesn't sound like much, does it...?  But now we multiply:  0.159 times 24 = approx. 3.84 KWH/day, times 365 days = 1,400 KWH.   That fridge was using 1,400 KWH per year, or 1.4 megawatt-hours per year.   Yow.  Ouch!

A decent household fridge nowadays uses about 600 KWH.  Some ultra-efficient (and expensive) types advertise power consumption in the range of 200 KWH per year, but some of those get mixed reviews and in any case they're more expensive than I can afford.

As a result, I ended up building my own fridge/freezer system.  I'll talk about this in more detail in a subsequent diary.  The outcome was a system that uses 388 KWH per year.  That's not as efficient as the best units on the market, but it's darn good and it's what I could afford: it sliced a little over 1,000 KWH (a megawatt-hour) per year off my household electricity usage.   That is serious conservation with practically zero penalty to lifestyle.

What did I do with my old energy-hog fridge?  I can't remove it from the rental unit, so I just unplugged it and use it as a large kitchen cabinet, with something stuck in the doors to keep them open an inch or so for air circulation.  There it sits, doing something useful that consumes no power at all.  When I leave here I'll leave it and take the system I built with me.

You can do it too.  You don't need to build your own fridge/freezer system, but you do need to think about things you normally take for granted.  In the future we're facing, nothing can be taken for granted.

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ECSTASY diaries will appear most often on weekends, and at other times depending on the convenience of the diary author.  All diaries dealing with the problems of living in a Consumerist society are potential candidates.  If you think you've got something to contribute, please contact WarrenS and he'll schedule you in.

This is the third diary in the ECSTASY series.  The first was published on February 28: Introducing ECSTASY.
The second appeared on March 7 and showcased the writing and research of Julian Lee and Juliet Schor: Juliet and Julian: Two Voices of Sanity.  If the Force is with us, we will hear a week from next Sunday from RL Miller on the subject of Chickens.

Originally posted to G2geek on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:07 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm going to get one of those meters. (8+ / 0-)

    I've been thinking about it for a long time, but it's time for action.

    Thanks for the push.

    I cannot wait to hear about making your own refrigerator.  

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:10:05 PM PST

    •  so i have a dumb question... (4+ / 0-)

      I could open-source the fridge concept, but one of the components is something I can get that is almost impossible to find and for which there are no regular retail channels.  

      At what point is it legitimate to sell those components here, vs. at what point does that become improper commercialization of diaries?

      •  You're not "selling something here"... (7+ / 0-)

        ...if you say, "if you're interested in making your own fridge, you'll find X part very hard to locate.  I can help with that; let me know your email and I'll contact you" or words to that effect.

        Go for it.

        Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

        by WarrenS on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:18:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cool (heh:-) I'll do it. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, trashablanca, WarrenS

          Only problem is, I can't place orders for these things in onezies and twozies.  I should probably order 10 at a time.  

          The component is a digital thermostat that runs off the power supplied by the fridge.  It takes one for the fridge compartment, and one for the freezer compartment, thus two units per installation.  If I keep 10 in stock, that's five people on dKOS who want to order these.  

          Does that seem reasonable?

      •  I Have an Important Question (5+ / 0-)

        for myself.

        I need to be able to get a cubic foot or few down to fairly low humidity even in damp times of the year, for storage of some sensitive materials. That seems to be a refrigeration related problem.

        Consumer dehumidifiers are lucky to get a closet or small room near to 50% RH. I'd really like to have 25% or less.

        Surely there must be industrial needs for this kind of thing but I'm not having much luck searching.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:34:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  can you use a chemical drying (5+ / 0-)

          agent like dri-rite?

          You would probably need to seal your materials into a container with it.  Vacuum type containers (like this or this DIY version) would probably be best.  But then again, I'm in a university, so these types of things are sitting on a lab bench in nearly every lab.

          I have no idea of your resources/needs.  Just making (possibly crazy and useless) suggestions.

          "The more the Democrats pursue the center... the further to the right the "center" moves." -fellow kossack vacantlook

          by Hopeful Skeptic on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:46:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  what about temperature? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, trashablanca, WarrenS

          Humidity is interrelated with temperature.  

          If you can store the whatever-it-is in a cold container, that's one possible solution.  A warm container is another.  

          There are applications such as firearms storage cabinets, that might be relevant here.  For firearms and other mechanisms that get hot in use, warm is preferable to cold.  

          As a generalization, what sort of stuff are you trying to store?  For example, paper, digital media, photographic media, analog audio media, mechanical devices, electronic devices, chemicals, biological materials, etc.   No need to reveal confidential information, all I'm looking for is the general category and whether there are any temperature restrictions.

  •  Apologies for the delay... (5+ / 0-)

    ...this was supposed to go up an hour ago, but a) my last field item took longer than planned, b) got back to desk and found a message with another client emergency that had to be dealt with.  

  •  I have a power consumption situation... (7+ / 0-)

    ...which is kind of interesting.  Because of my interest in getting us off the food grid, I'm growing lots and lots of our vegetables.

    Since the warm season hasn't really started yet, they're under grow-lights in my office and basement.

    Fortunately I get my power from 100% renewables, thanks to a deal our power company offers...but boy oh boy has my consumption spiked these past 2 months.  It'll be nice to get all my burgeoning tomato plants outside and soaking up the sun.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:27:18 PM PST

    •  what i would do is... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, trashablanca, WarrenS

      ....find a way to partition this, so you can keep track of how much is "residential" and how much is "agricultural."  More about which shortly.  

    •  partitioning power usage: (6+ / 0-)

      I think it's perfectly legit to separate one's purely residential power usage from any power usage that is part of a production process that normally occurs outside the home.

      In certain cases the IRS agrees: for example power consumption in a home office that is used only as a work space, is a deductible business expense.  (If you do this one, you really need a Kill-a-Watt and you need to be ready to document your methodology, about which more below.)

      As a "policy" matter, we want to reduce unnecessary transportation.   Any production process (within reason) that you can bring onto your land and/or into your home, shouldn't be counted as part of your consumption level in the home.   Otherwise we end up with the perverse paradox that home gardeners, telecommuters, and suchlike are effectively penalized.  

      Examples might be:

      A greenhouse:

      The lighting, water pumps, whatever else you use in there:  this is part of agriculture or horticulture.   Once the food is harvested and taken to the kitchen, the power consumption in the kitchen is residential.  There are no tax implications to this one.  

      A community freezer:

      If you and your friends go deer hunting, someone needs to store the large cuts of meat over the period of time when you're all using it up.  A similar case might obtain for fish, as an outcome of group fishing trips to a nearby lake or stream.  That freezer is replacing part of your need for the freezer in the meat department at your local grocery store, so it should count as a production process rather than a consumption process.

      As with the greenhouse, once the food is taken into your kitchen to eat, the fridge in your kitchen and your cooking equipment are all on the residential or consumption side.  

      Car as bus:

      In a rural area it might be a 50-mile drive to a town for various provisions.  Neighbors can get together to carpool or have one person do all the shopping for them.  (My tribe does this as standard procedure.)  The fuel used for that purpose should be divided by the number of participants.  

      So if your vehicle gets e.g. 25 miles per gallon, and there are members of four households going along (or you are shopping for four households), you have a 100-mile round trip, total of four gallons: each person's share of that is one gallon.  This results in a per-person fuel consumption equivalent to 100 miles per gallon on a moped.  

    •  now here's the piece for IRS: (4+ / 0-)

      Note, I am not a lawyer or financial consultant, check with your lawyer, tax preparer, or the IRS directly:

      You can get a legitimate tax deduction for home office expenses: square footage rental costs for the space used, and other costs including power consumption.  

      It's important to calculate these things conservatively, which is to say err on the side of a lower deduction than you might think is justified.  

      It's important to document your methods in case there is ever an issue about how you calculated your deductions.

      For power consumption, do this:

      A typical home office consists of a desk with a computer and a telephone.  If the phone is a dedicated landline, that bill is deductible.  If the phone is a VOIP phone provided by your employer, it will have an AC power adaptor.  If you have a dedicated broadband connection for the computer and VOIP phone, that's deductible also, so long as you aren't using the broadband for watching porn (in this instance "porn" is geek slang for any bandwidth-intensive media such as music and video, that are for personal use as opposed to work).  

      Get two power strips; one can be relatively cheap, the other should have a good surge protector.

      Plug the power strip with the surge protector into the wall.  Plug the Kill-a-Watt meter into that one.  This also makes it easier to position the Kill-a-Watt meter where it's easier to read, rather than stuck directly into a wall outlet where you have to get down on hands & knees to see it.  

      Plug the cheap power strip into the front of the Kill-a-Watt meter.   Now plug all your home office "stuff" into that power strip: the computer, the monitor, the printer, the broadband modem, router, the switch or hub, the VOIP phone's AC adaptor, and whatever lighting you use at your desk.

      While you're at work, all of this stuff is "on."  When you're done working for the day, it's "off."  

      Measure your power consumption separately for each of two days.  Let's say it all adds up to 120 watts and runs for 8 hours: that's 960 watt/hours, or 0.960 KWH.  

      Now count up the work days in that month:  for example 20 work days.  Multiply:  0.96 x 20 = 19.2.   That's 19.2 KWH.   You can legitimately deduct 19.2 KWH for that month.  If every month has 20 work days, that's  19.2 x 12 = 230.4 KWH for the year.   If you're only paying 15-cents / KWH, that's a whopping $34.60 of a tax deduction.    You'll have a separate deduction for the rent-equivalent of the square footage for your desk & chair (e.g. a 6' x 6' area, 36 square feet, at your prevailing local rental rate,let's say $1 / square foot, thus $36/month, or $432 / year).  

      For the sake of our own integrity we should never cheat on taxes, but we can certainly take all the legitimate deductions we have.  

      Meanwhile, let's say your residential power bill shows a monthly usage of 180 KWH.  Now you can deduct the 19.2 KWH for your home office, and discover that your consumption-level electricity usage is only 160.8 KWH for that month.

      Again, the point being to reward steps that are taken to reduce overall impact.  That 19.2 KWH you just used to run the computer and phone at a home office, probably saved you a good 20 gallons of gasoline that you might have spent driving to an office.  Is that cool or what?  


      One more thing:  when you file your taxes, you might be encouraged by your tax preparer to submit a doc that shows how you arrived at e.g. 230 KWH for the year.  

      In that case, what you say is:  you connected all of your home office electrical devices to a power strip connected to a Kill-a-Watt meter, and took a separate reading on each of two days, and then took the average of those readings and multiplied that by the number of work days in the year.  This plus copies of a typical month's electric bill, should be sufficient.   And best of all it might start a contagious meme at your local IRS office!  

    •  See if you can find LED grow lights (0+ / 0-)

      Also, a cold frame outside, or even a small greenhouse might help eliminate the need for grow lights, if you're at a low enough latitude.

  •  Ecstatic about ECSTACY! (7+ / 0-)

    Oh, and there's one very simple item that will cut down reams on your energy consumption:  a clothesline.

    It would also be a good idea to see what laws your municipality has regarding clotheslines.  If there's some draconian bullshit outlawing clothesline use - go talk to your city council about it.  I know Davis, California, a fairly hippie town, has one of those stupid laws, and given the population and the weather, there's no reason for that law not to have gotten off the books yesterday.

    To change the world, get the last word in a three-day old comment thread.

    by dirkster42 on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:27:46 PM PST

    •  YES YES YES! Clotheslines! (9+ / 0-)

      I'm going to do "laundry" as a separate diary but what the hey, may as well start here:

      An electric tumble-dryer uses about 2.4 KWH per load.  For a family of four, two loads each per week, that adds up to 20 KWH/week or 80 KWH/month.  

      So here is how we overthrow that law.

      California also has a law stating that solar energy installations override any local codes or HOA rules that might otherwise prohibit them.  

      A clothesline is a solar energy installation to the tune of 80 KWH/month for a family of four.  

      Do this.

      Get your local ecology group to get a lawyer letter from a lawyer specializing in this kind of stuff: building code issues from a sustainability perspective.  Get the lawyer's permission to use that lawyer letter for anyone in the group.

      The lawyer letter should be something along the following lines:  "I have advised my clients that State Law/Regulation XYZ, stating that (quote from law: solar installations override local codes) supersedes Local Regulation Q prohibiting clothes lines.  Therefore we are seeking relief from the City of Davis, in the form of appropriate permissions to erect residential clothes lines...."

      Then one person goes to the city code office with that lawyer letter and lets the code people know that they will be putting up a clothesline.  

      One of two things will happen:

      a) the code inspector will accept the lawyer letter and grant an approval, or

      b)  s/he won't.  

      If the approval is not forthcoming, then you can do one of two things:

      a)  sue the city for injunctive relief before erecting any clotheslines, or

      b)  tell the city you're going to do it anyway and they're welcome to come after you and fight it out in court (peaceful civil disobedience option).  

      Last but not least:

      If the city is cool about it and accepts the lawyer letter, don't make a big publicity hoot in the media; but do advise other ecology action groups around the state and build upon the victory.

      If the city is not cool about it, then immediately go viral in the media with the story: local newspapers, radio, local TV, whatever it takes.  Announce that a lawsuit will be filed if the city doesn't back down.   And then do it.  

      I'm willing to bet this will work.  And Davis is a darn good place for the first test case.  

      •  Nice - (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, G2geek, trashablanca, WarrenS

        I love the way you think strategically.  I never would have gotten that far ahead of the game.

        •  All right, you two! (4+ / 0-)

          Get to work on this.  A pair of laundry diaries, stat!

          I am the straw boss of ECSTASY, and I will not take no for an answer.

          Actually I'm a mild-mannered wimp, but hey, everybody's a mensch on the intertubes.

          Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

          by WarrenS on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 08:00:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  thanks... (5+ / 0-)

          I've been thinking about this stuff since I was about 9 years old, so it comes naturally.

          However, the main thing is to just think outside the box.  Why do we do things a certain way?  How could we do things differently?  

          For example cancel the cable TV bill and go to the library once a week when you're in town.  Only borrow the books you can be sure of reading that week.  The following week return 'em and get two more.  You can even make a social occasion out of it.  For example invite a bunch of friends over for dinner & after-dinner reading.  Everyone bring their books, and y'all sit around in the living room quietly reading for an hour after dinner, and then talk about what you read.  Clearly this works best where people can visit without having to drive.  

    •  Would you be interested in doing.... (4+ / 0-)

      ...a clothesline diary for the ECSTASY series?

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:46:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Results of a recent experiment: (9+ / 0-)

    This is about the difference between doing nothing, and doing "various levels of something."

    For the last few years I've been doing things to wring out as much of my energy consumption as possible.   I'd managed to get it down to an average of about 120 - 150 KWH / month, with technology + effort.  

    Then came word that WalMart had cheap LED lighting.  OK, I'm no great fan of WalMart, but I decided to check 'em out.  LED bulbs in the price range of $5 - $7.  Compared to $40 elsewhere.  I bought $50 worth and put them in, and was prepared to live happily ever after in a slightly bluish glow.  

    This got my monthly usage down to 107 KWH.  Almost in the "under 100 club."  

    Then one by one, the cheap LED bulbs started dropping dead long before their expected lifespan.  Expletive!  Back to the CFLs, and back to about 130 KWH/month.

    For the last couple of months I've been running a test case of "what if I just don't pay attention to electricity usage?"  Leave lights on, let things run longer than normal, etc.  

    The results came in yesterday with my current electric bill: 206 KWH for the month (ouch!).  

    From this I end up with the following, in descending order of consumption level:

    1.  Baseline for comparison: typical single person in apartment, doing nothing in particular to conserve.  Average about 350 KWH/month.
    1.  "Technology alone."  All my clever tech fixes, but not paying attention to usage, and not making efforts to limit usage.  Leaving lights on etc.  This month: 206 KWH/month.  That's about a 40% reduction in usage compared to (1).
    1.  "Technology + effort."  All of my clever tech fixes plus being conscious of everything that's on and making the effort to limit usage wherever possible.  Average about 130 KWH/month.  That's about a 60% reduction compared to (1).  
    1.  Case 2 plus conversion to LED lighting:  Average about 107 KWH/month.  That's a 70% reduction compared to (1).  


    In summary:  

    The first 40% is EASY to achieve.  Practically no impact on lifestyle.

    The next 20% requires effort but isn't particularly difficult to achieve.  Minor impact on lifestyle, mostly a matter of being aware.

    The last 10% requires a substantial change in expectations of indoor lighting.  

    From which we can reasonably suggest:

    It should be possible to achieve 50% conservation with just a little effort.

    The 50% conservation level is what we in the USA need to achieve in order to reach a level of electricity consumption that is consistent with a sustainable ecological footprint.  

    We can do this.

    There's no good reason not to.  

  •  Heating vs cooling season (8+ / 0-)

    since 'waste' from appliances, etc. exists as emitted heat, looking solely at electrical consumption doesn't show the whole picture. in heatuing season, you harvest that waste, displacing whatever fuel you uase to heat the house.

    Things switch around in the summer, especially if you air condition.

    "Do your taxpayers a favor, and leave him alone." (My State Assembly Rep, Marc Pocan, to Denver's City Atty before 2008 DNC)

    by ben masel on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 08:01:48 PM PST

    •  Details? More info? How to do? (5+ / 0-)

      Please contact me about generating an ECSTASY diary?

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 08:04:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  YES! exactly. (4+ / 0-)

      For example, an indoor clothes line produces evaporative cooling.  So in the summer it will reduce the need for air conditioning, but in the winter it will increase the need for heating.

      By strict thermodynamics, the difference ought to be the equivalent of the minimum amount of dryer usage that would be needed to get the clothes dry.  For example if the dryer uses 2.4 KWH per load, then you're going to pick up roughly 2.4 KWH equivalent of added power consumption for heating the house.  But in the summer you're going to save 2.4 KWH that would normally have been used by air conditioning.  

      Each day that you use heat, is balanced by a day you use air conditioning: the excess at one end is canceled by the conservation at the other end.  

      More later in the laundry diary:-)

  •  One of the SMHRB guests hosts (6+ / 0-)

    MillyWatt told us about theTED 5000 -- The Energy Detective. in a post a month or so ago, and explained how it helped her in her new house.  Similar type of device to the Kill O Watt, but displays graphs of usage over any time for the whole house.

    don't always believe what you think...

    by claude on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 08:25:09 PM PST

  •  Experience with "whole house" energy monitoring (5+ / 0-)

    I started with a Kill-a-Watt and was hooked on the idea of gathering energy usage data.  I have "graduated" to a whole house energy monitoring system called TED, "The Energy Detective".  I talked about my early experiences a bit on Saturday Morning Home Repair Blog (SMHRB) a couple of weeks ago. TED has already saved us a bundle. We have diagnosed several big energy users that have not been functioning properly. I wonder how much electricity waste is caused by appliances not working correctly and how else (beside monitoring the power) one would ever know?

    Well-behaved women rarely make history - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

    by Milly Watt on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 09:08:34 PM PST

    •  TED will also capture... (4+ / 0-)

      ....things such as overhead lights, electric oven, electric stove, and the clothes dryer, that you can't plug into a Kill-a-Watt.  

    •  Awesome! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, G2geek, WarrenS, RosyFinch

      Something we will be looking into as we turn the corner on our house. We still have some bleeding to stem before we can gear towards long term efficiency.

      We did drop our heating bills 25% in the Wisconsin winter when we set our thermostat to 55-60degrees. Hint: we wear sweater and warm socks, pretty radical.

      "Cynicism is a sorry wisdom." - Barack Obama

      by BlueGenes on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 10:13:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the difference a bit of moving around makes: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, WarrenS, RosyFinch

        If you get cold inside, moving around even a little will warm you up quite well.  

        Sitting still reduces metabolic level in a manner analogous to sleep; your body produces less heat, so you feel colder.  

        Long underwear and a knit cap, and sometimes even a scarf, can be useful indoors at lower temps when not moving around much e.g. working at your desk.  

        For reading or watching TV or listening to music: a blanket on the couch is plenty cozy; all the better if you have someone to get cozy with.  Each human body radiates the heat equivalent of a 60-watt light bulb.  

        Dogs & cats sleeping on top of your bed covers are a nice symbiosis for keeping mutually warm at night.   However you need to be very certain that your critter has no ticks, and pretty certain that they don't have fleas, otherwise you could get a nasty disease or two.  Flea-borne diseases in particular can cause  long-term disability; see also Stranded Wind's diaries about Lyme disease.  

        •  Clean dry sox (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, G2geek, WarrenS

          Put on a pair of clean dry socks to sleep in on cold nights

          "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." [Ray Bradbury]

          by RosyFinch on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 10:58:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes. feet and cooling. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, WarrenS

            Feet are a major input/output device for temperature:-)  If your feet are hot, you're hot; if your feet are cold, you're cold.  This because they've got lots of nice blood vessels and so they act like radiators or heat pumps.

            Socks work well in the winter; or more blankets on the bed.  I've done the blankets thing, including a down comforter.  Holy cow, nice and cozy even when the room is at something like 55 Fahrenheit.  

            For cooling:  It's a stereotype of careless or lazy people to sleep with their feet sticking out from under the covers.  But it turns out that's actually a very smart way to stay cool while sleeping in the summer.  Also a rapid cool down is a quick route to sleep: even in the winter, if I stick my feet out, my body cools down quickly and I get very sleepy very quickly.   Works almost every time.  

    •  Can you write again on this subject... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...for a future ECSTASY diary?  Please?

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 05:33:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hi y'all -- a couple of points to support (8+ / 0-)

    but not really add to this fine diary.  

    I had a 1985 apartment sized fridge given last rites in 1995, again in 2000, and yet again in 2006 -- let's just say it was the Rasputin of fridges.  In 2008 I replaced it with a much larger fridge, chosen specifically for its Energy Star rating.  My household energy bill immediately dropped 20%.  The fridge is the only household appliance that runs 24/7, and thus it's the second largest household power consumer after the incandescent lightbulb.

    My local library will soon have Kill A Watt available for checkout.  I've put off buying one, simply because it's a one-hit-wonder device, but a library checkout (or pooling one among neighbors) is a great way to get more people to try it.

    And on 3/21, I'll have a diary up on good lays cute chicks with big tails backyard chickens.

    I've never claimed to be a leader of the DK eco community

    by RLMiller on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 09:16:13 PM PST

  •  Interesting series, thanks! (7+ / 0-)

    I've been away from DK a while, busy with local projects, missed the earlier posts in this series but will take a look when time permits.

    We used to use a device similar to the kill-a-watt, called a "centameter" -- it doesn't measure individual appliances, just whole household use at any instant. There are two parts: the meter/transmitter has a clamp that sits in the meter box, and the display unit sits somewhere convenient inside. No wires needed, and they run off a few batteries. But we've learned all we can from it and I've been meaning to give it away.

    Another useful thing for me is that we buy our electricity from an online retailer, and get access to graphs of our use updated daily. E.g. here's the past few months - it shows use at each of the three rates we pay: night 9pm-7am is cheapest, weekdays 7am-9pm most expensive, weekend days in between.

    Handily shows the spikes which happen to be mostly major cooking days - Dec 25th, a birthday, friends visit etc.

    We keep our use around 6000 - 6500 kWh/year for a family of four, in a house with no non-electric energy source. Our previous place was more efficient (under 5000 kWh/year) but the move still substantially reduced our emissions, as it got us close enough to common destinations (I bike to work, kids walk to school, shops walkable etc) that we got rid of the family car altogether.

    Looking forward to more diaries in this series.

    •  6,000 / 4 = (6+ / 0-)

      That's 1,500 KWH per person per year, or 125 KWH/person/month.

      At 6,500:  that's 135.4 KWH/person/month.

      At 5,000:  104.1 KWH/person/month.

      And getting rid of the car:  Priceless!

      •  Lucky to have low heating/cooling needs (5+ / 0-)

        It's pretty temperate year-round here (New Zealand) -- well, a bit cold in winter but we manage. If someone puts the heater on and sits inside in a t-shirt in winter, they'll get a growl from me. If the heater's on full, everyone better be in sweaters and a blanket.

        Also the generation mix is mostly renewables in our region so any trade that increases electricity use but decreases gasoline use is going to be good for emissions - and the wallet. We have lower gasoline taxes than say much of Europe, but higher than USA - pump price is around US $5 a gallon here.

        •  ah, New Zealand... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, Plan9, WarrenS

          ...where the dial phones were UK type 746 with the dials numbered backward (like Norway) compared to the rest of the world.  

          And where instead of a dog sleeping on top of your blankets, you could have a nice fluffy sheep:-)

          How did you manage mostly renewables on the island?

          What I found is:

          Growth in generating capacity has been mostly natural gas, geothermal, and coal, in that order.  


          The installed generating capacity of New Zealand (all sources) as of December 2007 was 9,133 megawatts (MW).[2] In 2008, the total electricity generated was 42,246 GWh, with 52.3 % of electricity came from hydro power, 23.7 % from natural gas, 9.4% from geothermal, 10.5% from coal, 2.5% wind, and 1.6% from other sources, including biogas, waste heat, and wood.[2] (See graph for more information.)

          Three nuclear reactors could replace all the coal and natural gas.    

          On the other hand, according to the Wikipedia article, you have potentially 3.6 GW of geothermal and excellent wind resource.  Wind is synergistic with hydro, so the combination of wind and geothermal could replace the fossil fuels entirely.  That makes NZ one of the rare places that really doesn't need to use nuclear fission.  

          •  It's effectively two markets rather than one (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, G2geek, WarrenS, RosyFinch

            with the two main islands connected by a HVDC link. The South Island (where I live) is around 98% hydro, 2% wind and is a large net exporter to the North Island but transmission does flow the other way in unusually dry winters, windy nights, etc. The North Island has all the fossil fuel stations and also some hydro, geothermal and wind.

            You can see a snapshot of power generation at any time here:
   and click on any of the four main regions to see generation by island and source e.g. right it looks like this:

            •  holy cow, we need that here! (4+ / 0-)

              We need something whereby you can put in a zip code and see what the empirical local power mix is, moment-to-moment or updated regularly multiple times a day.  

              Any chance of exporting that to the US?

              •  But wait there's more (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RunawayRose, mataliandy, G2geek

                I agree it would be great if (by their own initiative, or by govt mandating more transparency in information) regular people not in electricity industry (like me) can get such information online. What's available now probably varies a lot by region - e.g. has some interesting live data.

                Actually in NZ there's another site that complements the one I mentioned: at (the web site of COMIT) has year-by-year comparisons of usage in the "Demand" link, and graphs of inflows & hydro lake storage in the "Hydrology" link. The demand graph makes it appear kiwis are being extravagant with electricity in 2010 compared to 2009, but it's mostly an effect of the largest single user that consumes more than 10% of total national generation (the aluminium smelter) having a reduced capacity for much of 2009.

    •  Do you have a link (5+ / 0-)

      to that online retailer?

      My roommate and I are trying to figure out a smart way of minimizing our electrical use and having data like this would help immensely.

      "Cynicism is a sorry wisdom." - Barack Obama

      by BlueGenes on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 10:02:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  speaking of cooking... (4+ / 0-)

    ...I measured the power consumption of the Panasonic bread-baker:

    0.38 KWH per loaf.   Probably less than 1/3 of what an oven would use for the same purpose, because the unit only has to heat up a loaf-sized enclosure.

  •  Regarding any new or older fridge (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, G2geek, WarrenS, RosyFinch

    When the freezer isn't full, I freeze half gallon water bottles.  When I need the room in the freezer, I squeeze 'em in the fridge and leave them there until they melt, and then remove only when I need the room, or put 'em back into the freezer.

    This really helps in the little fridge at work, too.  I've done my best energy conservation at work and I don't even foot the bill.

    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." John Lennon

    by trashablanca on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 09:57:07 PM PST

    •  the way that works is... (4+ / 0-)

      You use some extra power to freeze the water, but then save back roughly the same amount on the refrigeration side when the frozen water helps keep the fridge cool.

      The net efficiency gain occurs by increasing the amount of thermal mass in the fridge, since the fridge door is opened much more than the freezer door.  

      Best bet is to cycle them back to the freezer from the fridge, because then the freezer only has to accomplish the phase change from near-freezing back to solid water again, rather than down from room temp to solid water.  

      NOTE:  Water that's cycled back & forth may not remain indefinitely safe to drink ; consider it the same as water that's been kept in the fridge for the entire time.  

  •  Thanks for the diary G2Geek (5+ / 0-)

    You just reminded me that many years ago, I made a little extension cord that allowed me to separate the two wires so that I could check my usage with a clamp-on ammeter. I should probably dig it up again and check all the things I have plugged in now.

    Oh, and please forgive the off-topic pedantry. I'm a big proponent of the metric system, so I like to remind people that the symbols for kilo and hours should be lowercase k and h respectively. I went as far as emailing Versus TV (formerly OLN) every year during the Tour de France for the last several years to plead with them to change their symbol for kilometers per hour from KPH to km/h. And, yay, last year they finally did. Again, sorry. Whether you write KWH or kWh doesn't really matter when it comes to the quality of this diary.

    •  Oops (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, G2geek, WarrenS

      To be even more precise, there should be a space or a dot between the kW and the h (kW h). But now I'm just being ridiculous... :-)

    •  interesting! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, McMeier, WarrenS

      Separate the wires and use a clamp-on ammeter: very interesting.  I was going to do something like that for low-wattage devices that don't even register on the Kill-a-Watt, which appears to be sensitive down to 1 watt.

      For example small AC/DC converters.

      For example: I have a small electromechanical telephone switch that can provide rudimentary service for ten rotary telephones.  When it's idle it registers 0 on the Kill-a-Watt, which suggests it's using a fraction of a watt of AC power.  OK, what fraction?   This machine was built in 1970 and uses technology dating back to the early 1900s, and it's more energy-efficient than a modern microprocessor-controlled switch to perform a basic version of the same task.  Hmm!  So, how much current is actually flowing when that thing is idle?  

      I wanted to take an extension cord, separate the two wires, cut one of them, and connect it to terminals that could be connected to an AC ammeter.  Then I could find out.  Same as with other ultra-low-wattage devices.  

      I haven't gotten around to doing the measurement yet, but knowing how is half the battle.


      About KWH.  Pressing the shift key for one letter in the middle of three practically guarantees errors.  I suppose I could train myself.  kWh.  kWh.  kWh.  Sooner or later it becomes second nature, like mindfulness meditation or something.  

      I use Celsius for climate change and other scientific measurements, and both metric and English when building physical "stuff", depending on what works best for each situation.  So my sense of measurement is "mongrelized" as with my ethnicity and religion/philosophy.  

      Interesting that you got a television broadcaster to use the correct means of noting speed.  

  •  Great diary. I took the footprint test. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, G2geek, WarrenS, RosyFinch

    Not super bad, carbon and goods and services footprints about half of the national average, food and housing about average. The house was close to 100 years old when my wife bought it around 12 years ago, and she insulated it to within an inch of its life, put in better windows, etc. However the walls are a lost cause for that due to age and construction. At least we retreat to the basement in summer and don't A/C the place. And although there is a winter here, it's not half as cold as Idaho was.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 10:33:05 PM PST

    •  retreat to the basement: say more. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, WarrenS, billmosby

      Italians in some parts of the US have "summer kitchens" in their basements, to be able to cook where it's cool, and let the heat escape through a basement window rather than heating up the house quite so much.  

      What does your family do about that?

      Re. insulation:  good for you; I've done some insulating back in the day, and getting fiberglass under my skin (even with protective gear on) is a highly annoying experience.  So ten points to you for doing the whole house.  

      •  Oh, nothing so grand as that. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, WarrenS

        We still use the ground floor for cooking, etc. But I do my online tutoring from a basement study anyway, we just sleep in the basement bedroom in summer. It doesn't get so hot on the ground floor that a short trip "upstairs" for a meal or shower or whatever is a problem. We have plenty of shade trees, though, and they help. She had the insulation put in; I have done it myself in days gone by. Scratchy business!

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Thu Mar 11, 2010 at 05:55:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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