Monthly archive for August 2011

Monitoring Your Energy Usage

I am, by my nature, a very analytical person.  I like things that can be objectively quantified, measured, or categorized.  The other thing I know is that by simply measuring things, we become aware of them better, which means we use less.  Studies have shown that the simple act of tracking calories, will psychologically cut your intake in half in many cases.  So today I wanted to share some things on how to monitor your energy usage.  This will hopefully reduce your impact and help you get an idea of your biggest consuming appliances.  It will also be useful for those of you who are wanting to size up how many solar panels you’ll need.

The first one is the easiest and the cheapest, which means you are more likely to use it.  These will run you about $25.00 (for the 4600 version, they have a cheap 4400 for $18) and allow you to plug an appliance into it and then the Kill-a-Watt into the wall.  It will track your usage, allow you to input the cost per KW and will calculate the cost of running that item.  What is really useful is that it will track usage over time, then extrapolate how much it will cost you for a day, a week, a month or a year.  You will quickly come to realize that certain things take next to no power (cell phone costs me $2 a year), where as a computer could cost you $100 a year.  I really like this option because of its simplicity and ability to put the energy usage into dollar amounts;  The number one way to make someone an environmentalist…. have an effect on their wallet!



Next up is a the Black and Decker energy monitor.  What this does is monitors your whole house usage easily.  You place this sensor on your power box and it will display the usage on your monitoring device.  Simply place it in a place you look often to get a sense of your usage.  The only thing I don’t like about this one is that it isn’t able to provide info on what is using power, just that it is.  Things in your home click on and off all the time.  Your fridge compressor turns on and off, the water heater fires up, etc.  This unit is good to help you know what to expect when the bill does come, for that, it is great.  This will run you about $40.

Finally the best of both worlds, able to monitor the whole house, but also able to break down individual appliances.  It is also a lot more accurate, outputs to the web and has a host of analytical tools.  Basically a statistics nerd’s dream!  The system is called the energy detective (TED) and it ties into your electrical box using these clamp monitors to sense usage, then it is transmitted to a wireless router, which then can be monitored on a desktop monitor, your computer or even your iphone.  It is also scalable, allowing you to by more clamps and individually monitor certain systems.  The data is the outputed to a a dashboard on your computer that can even be viewed online from anywhere. This option really starts at $250 with an additional $60 per set of clamps.

16 Year Old Building A Tiny House

If 16 year old Austin Hay can build a Tiny House on a high schooler’s budget, I think it really shows the approachability of building this homes, from both a financial perspective and a construction ability one.  While still young, there is a lot of sensibility in what Austin has to say; with a pretty rational perspective on debt, environmental impact, and practicality, it puts many adults to shame.  Check out this video about Austin and his Tiny House.


Backyard Aquaponics

Recently I have been looking into aquaponics to start growing talapia in the planning phase of a larger urban agriculture project I am working on.  I found this great video tour of an automated system that is setup in a tiny greenhouse.  I found it interesting and thought I’d share.

Tumbleweed Gifford Tiny House

So I just got an email from Jay about his brand new house, The Gifford!  The house is designed to be under 120 square feet because many municipalities don’t require a permit for structure under that size.  The looks of this house are amazing!  Jay has done it again!  What is interesting about this house is that Jay has left the interior open to however you want to do it.  It is an interesting twist in his approach as Jay strikes me as a person who likes every detail to be planned out.  The house has the ability to outfitted with a sleeping loft or however else you see fit.  The fully built house will run you $13,999.  The one thing that jumped out at me is the cost of the window options, while I know good windows are a great investment and these look very nice, a 4 foot by 3 foot window for $900 window seems like a lot!


Alps Chalet

I found this rehabbed Swiss chalet that has taken an old rustic chalet that has been redone in a modern interior. The house was dismantled, a new foundation/basement was laid, a new base was added, then the original wood was reconstructed on top.  It is also has a solar array for power.



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