Friday, March 19, 2010

power usage: first observations from PowerMeter

We've started getting data from the TED 5000 and Google PowerMeter. They display the same data, but in different ways. The TED 5000 web page gives more detailed info, but PowerMeter makes it easier to compare your current usage with past usage.

First, let's look at a fairly typical day's usage in PowerMeter:

In the wee hours of the morning, you can see a regular spike about every hour or so. That's the refrigerator coming on. Around 6:30AM you can see the radiant heat in the bathroom coming on, lights, the coffee maker, etc.

The other thing of note is the darker green band at the bottom. That's the "always on" power consumption I mentioned last time. It's only about 85 watts, but since it's always on, that adds up -- over 2kWH per day, which is more than 20% of the 9.7kWH per day we averaged last billing cycle. With our other source of info, the Kill-a-Watt, I've found about 25 of the 85 watts so far. Unfortunately nothing in that 25 is easy to get rid of, but I'll keep checking to find the other 60 and see what I can eliminate.

Now let's move to a less typical day -- laundry day:

Note that the scale has been stretched from 0-1.5kW up to 0-5kW. That's because running an electric dryer causes a huge increase in power consumption. You can see the dryer running for two loads, plus a little secondary run after each to get rid of the last bit of dampness. This is a big vote for line drying your clothes to save energy. It takes longer than just throwing everything in the dryer, but clearly can save a bunch of power consumption since the sun is free.

For more detail about power consumption, you can also view the TED 5000 web page for your device:

There's a live dashboard that shows your current power consumption, power used since midnight, etc. You can also view historical data. But the most useful is the graphing tab, which lets you see your energy consumption in near real-time, with more detail than the PowerMeter gadget shows. You can click on the graph to show the power consumption at any given time on the graph; that's how I determined the "always on" power was about 85 watts. The fourth tab allows you to set up load profiles when certain equipment comes on. My first trial with that wasn't very successful, but I'm going to try again to profile the refrigerator and some other appliances.

So we haven't saved any energy yet, but we've got a lot more data about how to go about doing that now. Some of it, like line drying clothes is even pretty easy to do (at least when the weather permits) -- no fancy gadgets required.

Monday, March 15, 2010

So I Forgot...

Today I finished insulating the attic. Or at least finished getting one layer down. If you've been following for any length of time, you may be surprised that I'm only now getting to that. When I bought the house, there was no insulation (except for a bit of Kimsul around the main vent stack). Over the years I put insulation in most of the attic, but about the time I was getting to the dining room and kitchen area was when we were deciding to build the addition and remodel the kitchen. So those parts of the house have sat without insulation in the attic, and well...I forgot about it.

On Wednesday we're having a home energy audit, and it occurred to me that I'd never finished insulating the attic. So after a late start (thank you, Daylight Saving Time), I went and measured to figure out how much more insulation I'd need then made a trip to Home Depot. Ideally there'd be R-30 or better everywhere, but the odd joist spacing means there are some gaps, and the design of the roof means it gets pinched (as well as divided oddly, since the rafters don't match the ceiling joists) at the edges. But now there's at least R-25 in most of it except an area I used up some R-19 in. My plan is to put a second layer across the whole attic (well, except the edges where it won't fit) cross-wise. The energy audit should be detailed enough to give me some idea of how much that will help. But regardless, it's nice to know there's finally insulation in the whole attic, after 16 years of living here.

Berkeley zoning board member admits flouting city building rules

Getting drawings and permits for your home improvement too expensive and onerous a process? Then just do what a zoning board member in Berkeley (just north of Oakland) did: don't. Ryan Lau, assistant to Berkeley City Councilman Darryl Moore, recently admitted breaking the law by tearing down his garage and building a new one without getting zoning clearance (from the board he sits on!) and pulling the required permits. Hopefully he'll have to pay the requisite increased fees that are normally charged when someone gets a permit after the fact, and face some other punishment, because of all the people who should have known better, someone sitting on the zoning board ranks right up near the top.

The story was first reported in The Berkeley Daily Planet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blast from the Past

Edis at work 4.5 years ago

This morning I had a blast from the past: Edis, who worked with me frequently while I was building the addition. He stopped by to say hello (we'd long since lost each other's numbers), and not surprisingly given the economy, see if I had or knew of any work for him. He's currently working part time at Target and doing some painting, but there isn't much of the latter work for him these days.

We talked for a while (his English is much better), and I showed him the kitchen (which I did after he worked with me). I told him that I'd ordered linoleum for the kitchen and dining room floor (yes, that's right -- after lots of hemming and or hawing, I finally decided to go with natural linoleum). I'll call him when it arrives, but if any of you in the Oakland/Berkeley area are looking for a hard worker with some basic carpentry skills, email me at designsinlight and I'll hook you up.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Habitat Build-A-Thon 2010

I'll be participating in Habitat for Humanity East Bay's annual Earth Day build-a-thon. It's not just a blitz build to kick start the construction of homes for deserving families, it's also Habitat East Bay's biggest fundraiser. Any amount you can contribute is appreciated! Or if you want to participate, check out the build-a-thon page.

Friday, March 05, 2010

I got the power!

Google PowerMeter widget

Actually, we got the Google PowerMeter. K is a technical writer for Google and we're now the proud owners of a TED5000 and using PowerMeter.

There was a control period where we weren't seeing the data, but now that's passed we'll be able to use the PowerMeter to figure out more of our electrical usage. We haven't had data long enough to get much yet, but one thing is clear already: we should try to reduce our "always on" power. It's not super high, but well, it's always on, so it adds up. I was trying to think of everything that contributes to that:
  • thermostat
  • water heater thermostat
  • various clocks
  • DSL modem
  • router
  • microwave (clock)
  • TV
  • cordless phones
  • assorted wall warts
The TV is EnergyStar rated so hopefully doesn't draw much when off, but it's probably non-zero. The water heater is a gas-fired on demand heater which has circuitry to decide when it needs to come on. In any event, between the PowerMeter and our Kill-A-Watt we should be able to figure out what's using power and cut back some.

Installing the TED5000 was fairly simple, but it does require opening your electrical service panel and attaching clamps over the main feed wires. It was a little tricky to get it to fit and still get the panel closed, but not too bad. Google and TED recommend hiring an electrician for the hookup, but given I've run most of the circuits in the house, I felt comfortable doing it myself.

TED dashboard

I'll be posting more as I figure things out. Much of it should be applicable to your electrical usage, too.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Thank You, Blood Donors!

Long-time readers may know I regularly donate blood platelets (I got back from the Red Cross a little while ago.) I'd just like to thank all of you out there who donate blood. My sister-in-law is recovering from open heart surgery to repair an aneurysm in her aorta. It was considerably more complex than a bypass, as they had to put her on a heart/lung machine and cool her body down. So she received numerous units of whole blood and platelets from donors like you.

If you don't donate blood but can, make an appointment at your local Red Cross to donate blood.

Thank you!