Powering Down: Toward a 90 kWh month

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In June 2010, my wife and I attempted to reduce our electrical usage to under 3 kWh a day (about enough power to light two incandescent light bulbs). Here's how we did it.

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  • This is cheating a little, because it’s comparing year-round consumption to June consumption
  • Reduce electricity or keep things more comfortable
  • 14% of USA average; 19% of Chicago average
  • Saved $150 so far this year; on track to save about $200
    Doesn’t include natural gas (hard to track, since gas prices changed a lot)
  • Powering Down: Toward a 90 kWh month

    1. 1. POWERING DOWN Toward a 90 kWh month
    2. 2. WHO ARE WE?  Will Emigh – number cruncher, analyst  Maggie Sullivan – mastermind, implementer  Greencouple.com
    3. 3. SIREN CONTEST  Southern Indiana Renewable Energy Network  Reduce 2010 usage compared to 2009  We already did a lot in 2009; could we do more?  Terminology: kW vs. Watt, kW vs. kWh
    4. 4. 2009 VS. 2010 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 2009 2010
    5. 5. OUR GOAL: 90 KWH A MONTH  For the environment, what matters is how much electricity you use  For comparison, it’s useful to look at usage per square foot 675 sq. feet 45 kWh 1350 sq. feet 90 kWh 2700 sq. feet 180 kWh
    6. 6. HOW MUCH IS 3 KWH?  2 60-Watt bulbs on for a day  A 20 year-old refrigerator in a day  One load of clothes in the dryer  A desktop computer and monitor on for a day
    7. 7. HOW DOES THAT COMPARE?  Based on average annual usage  Adjusted to our home size USA 520 kWh 100% Chicago 380 kWh 70% Us, 2009 258 kWh 50% Goal 90 kWh 20%
    8. 8. POP QUIZ!  How much electricity do these items use?  CFL  Laptop  Space heater  Dishwasher  Clothes dryer
    9. 9. CORRECT ANSWER: HOW WOULD I KNOW?  People overestimate low-usage items and underestimate high-usage items  Unless it’s Energy Star, you probably can’t tell in the store  A Kill-A-Watt can tell you for plug-in items
    10. 10. ACTUAL ANSWERS  “Public perceptions of energy consumption and savings” by Attari, DeKay, Davidson, de Bruin
    11. 11. ACTUAL ANSWERS  How much electricity do these items use?  CFL 12 Wh  Laptop 30 Wh  Space heater 900 Wh  Dishwasher 1200 Wh  Clothes dryer 6000 Wh
    12. 12. TOO MANY COOKS  There’s lots of advice out there  Not all of it applies to our climate, home, or lifestyle  Our rules:  Track usage  Try new things  Measure specifically when possible
    13. 13. HOW MIGHT WE DIFFER FROM YOU?  1350 sq ft house  Gas heat & stove (although furnace still uses a lot of power for the fan)  Work from home  No kids (but a dog)  No dishwasher  Good house orientation (windows across from each other, south-facing windows, etc.)
    14. 14. TRACKING (OVER 200 MEASUREMENTS) 0 5 10 15 20 25 1/2/10 2/2/10 3/2/10 4/2/10 5/2/10 6/2/10 7/2/10 8/2/10 9/2/10
    15. 15. TRACKING  I mark down current measurement, time, and comments every day after work  Can buy real-time monitors, but they tend to be expensive  Working with Ted Mendoza of Gengee to create an iPhone app to make it easier
    16. 16. MEASURING  Can’t tell what to focus on when you don’t know what’s working  Kill-A-Watt works for normal outlets  Larger items (water heater, furnace) can be estimated through tracking  We turned off our water heater while on vacation to see how the base load changed
    17. 17. HEATING/COOLING ARE THE BIGGEST CULPRITS  Freezer  Refrigerator  Hot tub/pool heater  A/C  Furnace  Water heater  Dryer  Stove/Oven
    18. 18. PRE-CHALLENGE, WHAT DID WE DO?  No impact on our quality of life  No major expenses  No major effort
    19. 19. LOW-POWER SETTING ON LAPTOPS  Desktop with monitor can draw 150 Watts  Laptop draws 30 Watts  Netbook draws 15 Watts  Hibernation is less than 1 Watt  Suspend uses effectively no energy  Over 2 kWh per day for desktop on continuously  Our average laptop usage: < 0.5 kWh
    20. 20. POWER STRIPS FOR ALMOST EVERYTHING  TV  Wii  DVD player  Toaster oven  Stereo  Cable box  Anything with a clock or a remote
    21. 21. LIGHTING: CFLS  Cheap (often free through deals – check with your utility company)  20% electrical usage compared to incandescents  Produce less waste heat  Reduced bulbs in fixtures (don’t need 4 bulbs in the bathroom at night)
    22. 22. HIGH IN THE SUMMER, LOW IN THE WINTER  Set thermostat to 78 in summer (75 during the hour we’re trying to get to sleep)  Set thermostat to 65 in winter (60 while asleep)  Check utility company for deals on programmable thermostats
    23. 23. POST-CHALLENGE, WHAT DID WE DO?  Made sacrifices  Didn’t worry about whether we could maintain long- term  Spent more money  Tried more things  Cut out tiny things just because we could  Charged laptop during business meetings  Stayed in the same room to reduce light use
    24. 24. NEW REFRIGERATOR  Old one (17 years) drew 2.6 kWh a day!  New Energy Star unit of same size uses 0.6 kWh a day  Cost $700 minus some rebates (check with your utility company)  Will pay for itself in about 10 years (less if rates go up)
    25. 25. NO A/C  Closed windows and blinds during the day, opened at night  Fans set up to encourage air replacement at night and ceiling fan  Cool water in fridge; ice pops in freezer  Occasional escapes to A/C (movie theater, etc.)  Got up to 82 in the house (prior to heat wave in July/August)
    26. 26. NO DRYER (LINE DRYING)  Our dryer uses 4-6 kWh per load!  No such thing as Energy Star dryer  Set up drying rack for underwear/socks  Used two lines that got good afternoon sun to dry everything else
    27. 27. CAMP SHOWER (WHOA!)  Our water heater uses about 1-2 kWh to reheat  We tried cold showers, but it was too cold!  Purchased a kit at Dick’s Sporting Goods  Black 5-gallon bag with spigot  Plastic privacy barriers that hang from a tree  Put a welcome mat underneath to keep feet cleaner  Put bag in the sun in the morning  Sometimes took bag inside to use, but it was unwieldy
    28. 28. SOLAR COOKING  Didn’t actually help much, since our stove is gas (but an electric stove draws 2.4 kW!)  Sometimes replaced slow cooker use, which is about 600 Wh for ours  Fun to put rice out in the morning and eat it at night
    29. 29. SMALL SOLAR CHARGER FOR PHONES  Take forever to charge  Phones (even smart phones) don’t draw much power  Not worth it unless camping or traveling
    30. 30. TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!  On-demand water heater  More efficient washer/dryer  Solar water heater  PV panels  Light-colored metal roof  Attic fan
    31. 31. SOLAR FURNACE!  Our winter electrical use is 1.5-2x summer  Furnace fan  Harder to heat water  Solar furnace fan uses 90 Watts  Produces hot air continuously on sunny days  Come visit on Sunday!
    32. 32. WE DID IT! June 2009 258 kWh 100% June 2010 71 kWh 28%
    33. 33. NOT SUSTAINABLE  We like taking showers in the morning  Line drying isn’t always convenient  Raining  Too many clothes  Can’t be around to put them out/bring them in  Sometimes it gets really hot!  Winter!
    34. 34. STILL, WE’RE DOING WELL June 71 28% July 111 42% August 157 60% September ~118 ~40%
    35. 35. REMEMBER THIS? 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 2009 2010
    36. 36. WHAT DO WE RECOMMEND?  Focus on things that are on a lot  Focus on things that draw a lot of power  Check out new technology  Energy Star refrigerators  Solar furnace/water heater/panel  Don’t worry too much about curtailment
    37. 37. REPLACE INCANDESCENT WITH CFLS  No reason not to at this point  Probably won’t save a lot, but the return on investment is high
    38. 38. HIBERNATE/SUSPEND COMPUTERS  Leaving a desktop on is worse than leaving a light on  Leaving a laptop on is worse than leaving a CFL on  Easy to change power settings  Easy to hibernate/suspend when not in use
    39. 39. REPLACE OLD APPLIANCES  Refrigerator  Greatest change in efficiency in the last 10 years  Water heater  Clothes dryer  Washing machine  Efficient ones cut down on dryer time as well
    40. 40. REMOVE EXTRANEOUS HEATERS/COOLERS  A fridge in the garage  A chest freezer  Even a tiny dorm fridge uses almost as much as a normal one!
    41. 41. SOLAR WATER HEATING  Makeshift (camp shower)  Cheap  Easy to setup  Professional  Can shower in the morning  Easier to shower inside
    42. 42. LINE DRY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE  Clothes dryers are TERRIBLE  Line dry in the summer  Line dry in the winter  If you have to use a clothes dryer  Make sure your washer is spinning most of the water out  Vent heated air into the home in winter
    43. 43. HOW MUCH ARE WE TALKING? Jan $56 $56 Feb $115 $46 Mar $56 $50 Apr $43 $45 May $42 $39 Jun $42 $25 Jul $43 $18 Aug $43 $23 Sept $49 $29 All $489 $331
    44. 44. QUESTIONS? www.greencouple.com

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