Friday, September 19, 2008

eco:darkness falls

You're told incandescent bulbs are bad and waste energy. Our house only has them in the dining area as a sculptural feature. But cumulatively any kind of lighting adds up. We had our garden lights and house lights on:

and I noticed our consumption was an astronomical 3770 Watts. Start turning them off...
  • −300 Watts: garden lights (low voltage) off
  • −200W: garden pump off
  •  −30W: pump lights (low voltage) off
  • −200W: dim dining lights (evil incandescents) as low as possible
  • −200W: power off dining lights
  •  −30W: rear fluorescent lamp off
  • −200W: power off monster stereo
  • −470W: awesome second floor lights (halogen) off
  • −430W: living room lights (more halogen) off
  •  −60W: side light (halogen) off
  • −260W: dim downstairs lights (halogen track lights) as low as possible
  •  −40W: power off downstairs lights
  •  −80W: dim studio lights (halogen track lights) as low as possible
  •  −20W: power off studio lights
So to save energy, live in the dark.

I saw the Cellophane house at the MOMA "Home Delivery" show of prefab homes, which has all LED lighting. It's an... interesting space.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

eco: still leaking 300 Watts after lights out

We have an outside digital electrical meter (2nd and 3rd pictures in this post) that shows our home's instantaneous electrical consumption. I try to glance at it every time I leave or enter the house. Every home should have one, but it really should be inside your house staring you in the face, better yet a web site you can browse from anywhere. (Designers keep coming up with cute designs for things that show your consumption, but they won't work unless the gizmo can ask your house about your consumption.)

So I left the house in the evening and consumption was 640 Watts, I came back it was 530 Watts.
I turned off two fluorescent aquarium lights, and our consumption dropped to 330 Watts (which makes no sense, the aquarium lights are only about 20 W each), a minute later it jumped up to 460 Watts

I don't know what causes the huge variations of 130 Watts either way. The aquariums have heaters that cycle on and off; maybe our Toto toilet is heating its seat or water; our crappy awful overpriced noisy Sub-Zero refrigerator cycles on and off.

Worse, I don't know the big contributors to that residual constant 300W. The only obvious thing is two fluorescent lamps that we always leave on. Everything else is "off", including the monster hi-fi. So where's the rest of the electricity going? The electric meter doesn't say. Your breaker box should display consumption on each circuit, but it doesn't (this is a huge opportunity for Square D, Cutler Hammer, etc.!). You're forced to think:
  • burglar alarm is on
  • router and modem are on
  • Toto Washlet toilet ("I thought Asprey was a refined English jeweller until I got a Toto", but I digress) is on
  • three computers, a TV and DVD are in standby
  • 4 Velux skylights are watching for infra-red pulses
  • our broken over-engineered non-functional heating system is off and I've disconnected electricity to its domestic hot water tanks, but it has at least 5 electronic control sensors thinking what to do
  • a few power strips are off but have winking lights
  • digital clocks in the radio, coffee maker, oven, toaster...
  • garden light and pump controllers watching for X-10 signals to turn on
  • power supply and infrared remote sensor for electric blinds in living room
  • the solar photovoltaic system controller (1st picture in the same post) is monitoring our panels (ohhh the irony if the solar system wasted many Watts while the sun is down)
You may think 300 Watts is no big deal, but it's terrible. Two people pedaling bicycles hard can barely generate 300W. It adds up to 7.2 kiloWatt-hours a day for a dark house and nothing on, which is crazy when PG&E's baseline quantity (after which they charge you a higher rate) is 8.3 kW·h. I'm pretty committed to not wasting energy (I unplug my toothbrush base after it's charged), but I guess I have to unplug each one of those to see if it's the unexpected culprit, then decide how much time I want to spend plugging things in and out and reprogramming their digital clocks. I really wish USA had switched sockets like they do in Britain and Australia to make it easier to disconnect power.

The government's Energy Star program should mandate that every electrical device lists its standby consumption as well as its "on" consumption, and mandate that everything plugged in should consume less than 1 watt in standby or when its attached device is charged. Even at 1 Watt per device, a moderately wired house will burn 40+ Watts, 1 kW·h a day.

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