Frugal Electricity (Misc)greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
I haven't got much to offer here, the standard turn off the lights sort of thing. But I was reading a post on another site and a woman wrote that she was paying 18 cent/kwh! That's got to hurt. So I've been thinking some on the topic and came up with a few crumbs.
Remember that TV's and stereos, plus anything else that has a remote control, are using a great deal of electricity because they're "almost on" all the time you think you've got them turned off. Somewhere I read that around 15% of the electricity in a home is wasted this way-seems too high to me, but still there's a waste occuring. I'm in the process of untangling all my electrical cords and getting them into power strips that can be turned off. By dumb luck, my VCR doesn't blink when the time isn't set, so it isn't a problem for me to shut it completely off and bother programing time/date only when I want to record something when I won't be around. An upside of the power strips is that they make life a great deal easier when thunder storms approach or when the power is being weird. I just have to grab a plug or two and I've got a whole bunch of stuff unplugged.
Some people have gone so far as to unplug virtually everything when it isn't being used and claim to see a reduction in their power bills because of the habit. I'd be interested to learn what the rest of you think about this idea. Since it is AC, the electricity is ebbing and flowing along all the wiring and I can't see why unplugging something like a lamp would have any effect. (But possibly people are avoiding plugging things back in and reducing their power consumption that way.)
Since many of us live in rural areas, our little libraries are likely to have older books on the shelves than the big city libraries. In any case, check for books on weatherizing and saving money on utilities-we've been through this before. The old books may not have the latest materials in their projects, or may call for things no longer produced, but new or old, they can give you some good ideas. Gerbil
-- Gerbil (email@example.com), September 21, 2000
Hi Gerbil. I was at my friends' house for the weekend of solar power installation. It is amazing all the sources of power leaks in a home. A flourescent light, plugged into a power strip with the strip turned off, gave off a faint glow, only noticable in pitch dark. We found quite a few power strips that "leaked" enough electricity to drain the batteries by morning. We found that if it is plugged in, it is draining the power.
-- Laura (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 22, 2000.
Electronics stay warm on purpose. Unplugging allows them to cool off inside, and you really should let them warm back up before you turn on. Remember it is really hard on the TV, VCR, Computer, etc. to be hot-cold-hot-cold. It will wear out allot sooner. Like a light bulb, uses less energy if left on than turned off and on all day. It's the turning on that blows them. I leave my computer on except for storms, then I park it. I just use a blank screen saver, and re-start in morning. Really hard on computer to unplug and plug in all the time, it will work much harder starting back up. I have a surge on the electrical meter. Goes between the ball and the box. It costs $6.00 a month, but everything in my house is covered under the warranty. Anything goes they replace it, period. If the storm is VERY bad with lightning, I unplug just the computer and phone lines, because I don't want to loose all my stuff, but the rest stays plugged in. What really zings your meter is the 220, dryer, well pump, range, water heater. Your oven on the stove for an hour is probably more than all the electronics all month. My electric is 40-50 a month year round, mostly the water heater and well pump. When you take a hot shower, you are zinging both the water heater and well pump! 2 x 220. I try to use the gas BBQ instead of the range in the summer. Our dryer is only used when clothes will freeze outside, and then it helps heat the house. We have wood heat and yes we are cold, but the winters are short here at least. I am looking for an outdoor wood stove, used, got to be warmer than this one we got here. My old house is so big, we sleep on the sofa in the winter cuz the bedroom is too cold! Firewood is free all over the place here, by the way.
-- Cindy in Ky (email@example.com), September 22, 2000.
We're on very limited solar with generator backup, and we leave NOTHING on. Even the tiny draw from a 12 volt light adds up. Our wall outlets have a switch for each outlet with an indicator light, so if we forget, the little red light is a reminder to turn off. We also check our meter frequently to make sure we're not dribbling away our battery reserve. Our poor children have a bad habit of going around their friends' houses turning things off.
-- Teresa (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 22, 2000.
Teresa I had to laugh as I do the same thing as your children.
I too have solar and nothing is left turned on. My lighting is all DC, using standard AC screw-in-bulb fixtures (much cheaper) with DC bulbs. (DC bulbs that will screw into standard AC fixtures are relatively inexpensive also, around $1 each.)There is also an adapter available that will fit into a standard fixture and then a automotive lamp will fit into it. Another savings of power. With DC lighting, you can have small reading lamp on and not have to run the inverter.
-- Marci (email@example.com), September 22, 2000.
one thing i have been doing is turning off the waterheater at the breaker box after the morning's dishes & showers are done. here in the Northwest we have hydroelectricity so it's not as expensive as in some parts, but when you're trying to live low every bit helps. i only full shower or bath thrice a week anyway. people in this country take way too many showers afraid of smellin natural. in the summer, swimming in my river keeps me clean enough! i want to install a microhydro generator into my small stream (can't touch the river, protected salmon stream. ) money money money.
-- Juno redleaf (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 24, 2000.
Old wiring can run up a bill. Or if someone has joined the wire together several times to make it reach. Every time you join the wire it causes a resistance, so more power is used. If you are running one of the old metal fans (window kind) they use almost 3 times as much as the cheep new ($10.00 a fan) plastic ones. Check to see how much the rating is on the box. Also it cost more to turn heat or air on and off instead of keeping a steady heat or cool in the house. It causes the appliances to run a lot harder to make up for turning them off for a few hours. An open fireplace lets more heat go up the chimney than out into the room, so try for an insert, or glass doors with a blower. If you are using a woodstove GET A BLOWER. The difference in heat is unbelievable. You go from one room heat to 4 or 5 rooms of heat. I put pots of coffee, tea, beans, soup, a slow cooking chicken, you name it on the woodstove to cook, it taste better, and the power company does not add to the cost of the cooking. I dry towels over a fold out rack indoors at night in the same room as the woodstove, but put in dryer for a few minutes on air to soften them up. (Not too close to stove). I use night-lights to run up and down the hall instead of always having to use the overhead lights. I keep my freezer full, because it cost a lot more to run a half full freezer than a full one, and if the power goes off it will hold longer. Insulate the hot water heater and its pipes. It will take a lot less power to hold heat, and turning down the temperature in it can save a bunch. To run something on a drop cord will cost more than running it directly to the plug, same principal as joining several pieces of wire together, more resistance, cost more to work. That is about all I can think of for right now.
-- Beth (NC) (email@example.com), September 24, 2000.
It takes me back to an old argument of which was more ex[ensive - leaving lights on and using more electricity to save on the cost of buying and landfilling the lightbulbs or vice versa. Turns out that for trips of 5 min or less, it's cheaper to leave them on. I wonder if there has ever been a study done showing the same for other electrical appliances, etc. Does using less elec and ending up buying (and throwing into a landfill) our stuff due to higher wear even out, ya think, or is there some point where one wins out over the other? Anybody?
-- Soni (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 25, 2000.
There is an electric timer that can be put on electric water heaters. My mother had one and it only heated the water part of the day. I dont remember just how it was set up, something like she would have hot water in the morning and again after 7 at night or something. I imagine you can set them up timed what ever works with your schedual. It seemed to save quite a bit. You just have to learn to work with the schedual. Seems that I looked at them at the local chain do-it center and they werent too expensive. Tami in WI
-- Tami Bowser (email@example.com), September 26, 2000.
Soni, I'm still trying to figure out if it is more environmentally sound to use wooden pencils or mechanical pencils. I've been working on the problem for a couple of decades now....
Everybody, some great ideas, and some interesting points! Thanks! Gerbil
-- Gerbil (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 26, 2000.
Gerbil - the real question is: which pencils have you been using to do your figuring! LOL
-- Soni (email@example.com), September 26, 2000.
Electricity has been a major topic around my house. My utility bill was $350 in December of 2000!! I got so mad at our Electric company that I decided to do something about my bill.
I originally thought I would put in photovoltaic system complete with panels to make my own electricity. After calculating a cost of $21,000, I decided to refinance the home! I was that disturbed about our power problem! I got a loan for the home improvements (new roof, skylights) and other needed repairs. That was in January of 2001. I thought I could conserve and see how much I could cut my usage. After many books, articles, and endless surfing on the internet I bought a few things to make a real change in my electricity usage. I bought a Watts Up meter which measures the watts a certain appliance uses. A few appliances (coffee maker, electric timers for lights, electric doorbell, rice cooker.) I no longer use, because they waste more electricity than I am willing to pay. I now boil water and pour it into a filter that goes into a carafe that keeps the coffee hotter than the old coffee maker! The coffee maker doesn't burn electricity until noon just warming coffee. I don't use the six light timers that used three watts each. I got a new nostalgic manual brass doorbell. It has a loud distinctive sound. I replaced all 32 lights in my house with florescent bulbs! I also put my TV, VCR, stereo, cordless phone, electric toothbrush, computer, printer, etc. on power cords. If I want to use an appliance I flip the switch on the power cord and turn it on by hand or the remote. I unplugged the cord on the gas stove. The clock on the stove was hard to read anyway. Now to light a burner I use a BBQ lighter when I turn the knob. To start the gas for the oven I plug the cord in then after it is light I pull it out again. I bough a manual knob type microwave that doesn't have a clock. I got a set of three pressure cookers (Kuhn-Rikon). The pressure cooker uses hardly any gas. My cooking times are shorter. I never knew you could cook black beans in ten minutes, or coconut rice with ginger in three minutes. After making quite a few new recipes out of my new pressure cooker cookbook I lost ten pounds and am eating healthier. My four year old Maytag gas dryer uses more electricity than the washer. I now hang the clothes outside in the sun. Drying this way takes about an hour longer, but what's the rush here in San Diego. It is a little work, but by doing these small things I dropped our utility bill to $36 a month!! And there are three adults in my house! I rent out two rooms to college students. I dropped our kWh per month from 954 kWh (Dec 2000) to 115 kWh( April 2001). That is a reduction of 88 %!! I also installed a new AquaStar 125 BS on-demand hot water heater that is very efficient. It has dropped our gas bill in half! Next month I am making my old round hot water heater into a batch hot water heater!. I will put it up on the roof and paint it black and let the sun heat all our water. Then the new heater will be used as a backup heater when we have more than one day of cloudy weather in San Diego. Maybe that's twenty days a year! I installed a new Agua Helix shower head that I found on the internet that uses half a gallon of water a minute instead of the usual 2.5 gallons a minute. I can take a ten minute shower and only use five gallons of water. Anyway, back to the photovoltaic system I wanted. After five months of conserving, my new photovaltaic system cost will be about $9,000. I saved over $12,000 for conserving! All during the research time, I invested the money. I got a few Roth IRA's and put some in money market accounts. I also put some in stocks. With the money I saved on my original PV system cost I bought forty acres of high desert land ten miles outside of Kingman, Arizona! I plan to build a house on it in the future. I put on a new 25 year shingles (Shasta White) roof. I put in four skylights also. Now when you go to the bathroom, kitchen or garage you don't have turn on a light in the daytime. I installed a whole house fan in the attic. Now in hot weather (when the outside temperature in colder than inside the house), the fan is used to cool the house. That is usually around six at night.
My little electric problem has grown into a fantastic eye opener. In one month I will finally get my photovaltaic system installed. My utility bill will be less than $20 a month after the PV system is installed. The house looks better and is cooler in the summer. I am eating better and lost weight. I now longer dread the utility bill coming in the mail. I have money invested that would have taken a lot more time otherwise. With the way the rental market is, rents are higher. In two months I will raise the rent $75 a room and include the utilities. Since the utilities were about $50 a month before I started to conserve I am able to include that into the rent. So my income will increase by $125 per room. My mortgage payments are only $200 more a month with the refinancing. So I actually will make $50 more a month. I rent out two rooms now, but pretty soon I can move to the basement. I am putting in a small bathroom. Add the extra rent for a third room ($550) and my income will increase to $600 a month . Maybe we should all get mad at the utility companies!! It will change your life! It sure changed my life! I may quit my job and move to Arizona and rent out this green environmentally conscious house to college students full time. If I rented out that fourth room I would make about what I make working at Albertson's 24 hours a week. So I could afford quitting my job! So if you get mad at your Electric company like I did, just say " Thanks" like I do.
By Pete Holtzen
-- Pete Holtzen (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 14, 2001.