Posts Tagged Energy

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.

$100 Million Class Action Filed Against LEED

Many of us are aware of the green industry standard called LEED, basically it is a set of guideline that aim to help buildings be more efficient and eco-friendly.  Even though there are many who have jumped on board, there has been a dull roar in the background for quite some time now; People saying that this standard is not stringent enough, misses the mark completely, etc.

Well just a few days ago Henry Gifford filled a class action against the US Green Building Council.

A lawyer put in plain language when she said:

The allegations are essentially fraud and false advertising, an anti-trust claim and a RICO claim thrown in for good measure. His theory is that the USGBC has falsely claimed that its rating system makes buildings save energy, and that building owners have spent more money to have their buildings certified, that professionals have gotten worthless professional credentials and people in general have been duped into thinking LEED has meaning.

She goes on further saying this case has merit, but the plaintiff might not be the best suited for this case.  Gifford, a noted environmentalist, shared his reasoning behind his decision to file stating that he was afraid that if someone within the green community didn’t stand up and provide a check and balance, outsiders – possibly from big oil, “drill baby, drill” camp – could use this as ammo to discredit green initiatives, especially efforts to live more responsibly.

Full article: here

EU No Longer Selling 100w Light Bulbs

Apparently today the EU is banning the production of 100w light bulbs.  While I rather like this idea, it has been met with much opposition for various reasons.  However, there was quote by EU commission which was rather startling about how effective this change will be.    lightbulb-idea

The EU Commission projects the ban on the energy-inefficient bulbs will save about 40 terawatt hours of energy in the EU per year — enough to meet the energy demands of a small country.

Ya folks that is Terawatts.  Just to kind of wrap your head around that, the typical home today uses about 26 kilowatts a day.  There are a thousand watts in a kilowatt, a thousand kilowatts in a megawatt, and a thousand megawatts in a gigawatt and a 1000 gigawatts in a terawatt, in the end a terawatt is 1,000,000,000,000 watts!  (thanks for the correction Grant 🙂  ) Times that by forty and it is seriously astounding!  Treehugger wrote this article about how people are hoarding these bulbs and its their point counter point against these bulbs.

Reprinted: Treehugger Loyd Alter 9/09

1) Compact Fluorescents have Mercury in them, and that’s bad for the environment

Mercury is bad stuff when it gets into the environment, but the main source of environmental mercury is from coal burning power plants. As Pablo showed in Should I Worry About Deadly Mercury In My CFLs?,

Over 5 years (the life of a CFL) it may be responsible for 2.4mg of smokestack mercury emissions, so a total of 6.4mg of mercury over the life of the bulb. By comparison the incandescent bulb is responsible for almost 10mg of mercury emissions over 5 years. But CFLs can be recycled to recapture the mercury. Smokestack emissions can not be recaptured after they enter the atmosphere.

2) If you break a bulb you will need to call a Hazmat Team to clean it up.

The two to five milligrams of mercury (smaller than the nib on a ballpoint pen) will evaporate quickly; open the windows and ventilate the room. See Ask TreeHugger: Is Mercury from a Broken CFL Dangerous?

3) Incandescents put out useful heat in some parts of the country.

Electricity is a very expensive way to heat, and the bulbs are not putting out the heat where you need it. Even if this were not the case, it is only true for half the year. More: Study Shows Incandescent Bulbs Are Warm and Toasty

4) I don’t like the quality of the light.

The Energy Saving Trust in the UK set up a sort of Pepsi challenge to see if people really could tell them apart. Smart Planet reports “Although 70 per cent of the 761 shoppers that were asked to step inside the booths thought they could spot the difference, 53 per cent got it wrong or admitted they couldn’t see any difference. A whopping 64 per cent of the guinea pigs said they preferred the light in booth A, which was in fact the energy-saving lightbulb.Last Post Ever on Compact Fluorescents, It’s Settled

5) I am waiting for LEDs.

So am I. But right now most have lousy colour balance, are not bright enough and are still very expensive. They have a long way to go before they will be competitive. Meanwhile, if you wait five years for them, you will have paid a lot for electricity, contributed a lot of CO2 and added 3.6 milligrams of mercury to the environment.

6. They give me headaches.

Um, join the line and stock up on incandescents, and hope that LEDs are available before you run out. Or, try different brands; some people react differently to different types.