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Old 01-21-2011, 07:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Saving electricity at home.

Someone in another topic requested I share some insight into my $5 per month electricity bill.

The main thing is living in an RV. It is small. There is less air to heat or cool, less rooms to light, less space to put lots of appliances and gadgets. The bigger the living space, the bigger the bill is likely to be, all else being equal.
The RV refrigerator also helps because, (unlike most units made for homes) it is designed with efficiency in mind. It uses a totally different system to remove heat (no compressor), the coils vent directly to the roof, and there is lots of insulation and not a huge amount of internal space. It is possible to buy similar fridges for homes, but they tend to be expensive and hard to find. The last advantage is low ceilings. In addition to less air space for HVAC needs, this means the lights don't need to be as bright. Light diffuses with the square of the distance, which means ceilings that are twice as high need lights which are 4 times brighter to seem equally bright at ground level.
This allows me to use all LED lighting. I have white 12volt LEDs which I got online from superbrightleds dot com (I also retrofitted my truck and motorcycle lights with them all around). Rather expensive up front, but they only use 1 watt of power each, and should last a very long time.
There are finally commercially available LED bulbs for regular 120v systems (normal homes) but I have never seen one in use, so I can't say how well they work.

However, some of the things I do could apply to any home.

-If you have a choice, use gas appliances. Electricity is less efficient at heating than flame. Ovens and water heaters in particular. Exceptions include microwaves for food, electric kettles for hot water, and ceramic space heaters for heating a single room. These electric powered heaters are all more efficient than their alternatives.

-Tint your windows. This is very cheap, fairly easy, and depending on the type you get, easily removable. Buy a roll at the auto store, cut to fit, spray with soapy water, roll it on. Keeps heat out in summer, in in winter, and provides privacy without blocking the view.

-Put all phantom power draws (anything with a "wall worts" converter plug, anything with a remote, anything with a stand-by light, anything with a clock) on not just a power strip, but a timer. Set it so that it will automatically turn off, but only turn on manually. With the mechanical style, all you have to do is remove the green tab. Set the "off" timer for 30mins after bedtime. It will not only save power when you forget to shut everything down, it will also help keep you from losing track of time and staying up too late.

-Speaking of which - wake up no later than the sun rises. Why pay for lighting up the night when you can get free light by opening a window the next morning? When you sleep in, you are letting free sunlight go to waste, and paying for it again the next evening.

-Ignore "energystar" ratings. They only compare to other appliances of the same class. It would be like calling one SUV a high mileage vehicle just because it gets better mpg than another SUV. Look at the overall estimated energy use instead (on the same label, but in smaller print.) Most new everything uses more power than older things, even though there is more efficient technology in use, because everything is supersized. Try to downsize whenever practical.

-Do more by hand. Honestly, pre-rinsing dishes is almost as much work as just washing them by hand, which uses no electric. Manual can openers aren't that hard to use (I just use a swiss army knife). Never ever use a dryer. Again, sunlight is free. When it rains, you can dry clothes indoors. (I did this for the first time ever for my last load). It takes longer, and there are ropes all over your living room all night, but it gets done, and it's free. Use a corded phone. They don't need to be plugged in.

-Battery powered things almost always use much less power than their plug-in equivalents. Use a battery powered alarm clock, for example.

If you live in a house, you probably won't ever get down to the 40kWh I average per month, but by being conscious of what you plug in, for how long, and why, you can certainly get it well below the 920kWh that is the American average.


I'm sure there is a lot more that I haven't thought of.
Add your own tips of how to lower one's electric bill.

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A few months ago I returned home just as my neighbor pulled into his driveway. It was cold (around freezing) with some rain and sleet, and he yells to me: You rode your bike? In this weather?!?

So the other day we both returned home at the same time again, only now the weather is warm, sunny, with no wind. And I yell to him: You took the car? In this weather?!?
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Old 01-22-2011, 08:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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For heating small amounts of water for things such as washing dishes warm it by running a pot of water though the coffee maker instead of using it from the water heater and having to replace it with cold water that will lower the temperature of all the water in the water heater making it run more frequently. If you are on a public water system this also saves gallons on your water bill not having to let the water run until the hot water travels from the water heater to the fauset.

I'm not sure how much this is going to help, but I'm getting ready to have a metal roof put on my house and am going to install aluminum radiant barrier between the existing roof and the new metal roof. I requested samples of radiant barrier from some suppliers before making this decision and one of them sent a sample about 8"X12" so I conducted my own experiment using it and a portable kerosene heater. I placed the barrier directly on the metal protective grill of the heater for a few minutes then put my hand near the barrier and could feel very little if any heat on that side of the barrier. Then I felt to see if the barrier was hot on the side away from the heater and I could place my hand directly on the barrier and left it there for a few minutes and felt very little if any heat coming through. After this I removed the barrier and even the side that was within 3" of the heater itself and had been exposed to the metal protective grill was even cool.

When spring gets here I also plan to build an incasement around my central a/c unit and cover it with radiant barrier to help keep the condensor cooler which should also help lower a/c costs.
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Old 01-22-2011, 09:04 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I didn't think of hot water in writing this, because I have a gas one, but certainly reducing hot water usage is a big one.
When my previous hot water heater died I went without hot water for several days, and I discovered that showers were the only time I really missed it.

I subsequently removed part of all hot water handles in the house except for in the shower.
They can still be turned, but the missing piece serves as a reminder to only use hot water if I really need it, which turns out to be pretty rarely.

Another thing I realized was how crazy it is to make the water hotter than we want it to be, and then cool it back down by mixing cold and hot together. It would be like flooring the gas pedal at all times, and then regulating speed by simultaneously stepping on the brake. Now I set the water heater at exactly the temperature where I can take a comfortable shower by turning on only the hot water tap and leaving the cold off.
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Originally Posted by Piwoslaw View Post
A few months ago I returned home just as my neighbor pulled into his driveway. It was cold (around freezing) with some rain and sleet, and he yells to me: You rode your bike? In this weather?!?

So the other day we both returned home at the same time again, only now the weather is warm, sunny, with no wind. And I yell to him: You took the car? In this weather?!?
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Old 01-22-2011, 09:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Radiant barriers don't work unless there is an air space on the reflective side. Most references I've read recommend at least a 3/4 inch air space. For a roof, it is recommended that the reflective side face down so that dirt doesn't settle on it and degrade the radiant barrier with time.

Check out this Florida Solar Energy Center publication for more info: FSEC-EN-15
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Old 01-22-2011, 09:24 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I only turn on my hot water heater when I want hot water, which is only when I want to take a shower. I also set the thermostat on the water heater for a comfortable temperature when I'm showering with just the hot water faucet turned on and no cold water turned on.
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Old 01-23-2011, 06:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sid View Post
Radiant barriers don't work unless there is an air space on the reflective side. Most references I've read recommend at least a 3/4 inch air space. For a roof, it is recommended that the reflective side face down so that dirt doesn't settle on it and degrade the radiant barrier with time.

Check out this Florida Solar Energy Center publication for more info: FSEC-EN-15
I'm getting a barrier that's reflective on both sides which will help in the winter by reflecting the heat back into the house and in the summer by reflecting heat away. I've talked with several contractors who sell/install radiant barrier and they have all told me the air space can be on either side of the barrier. I'm aware you need an air space so I'm going to put the barrier down, have perlins placed directly over the barrier which will give me approximately a 1" air space then have the metal roof attached to the perlins.

Here is the barrier I'm getting. The price is $116. per 1000 sf roll including shipping which was the best price I was able to find, most other companies were anywhere from $130-$150 + shipping for the same weight in case anyone else is interested in buying any.
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Old 01-23-2011, 07:20 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
I'm getting a barrier that's reflective on both sides which will help in the winter by reflecting the heat back into the house and in the summer by reflecting heat away.
I've thought about installing a radiant barrier but couldn't decide which way to put it.... Cold winters here! So both sides reflect kinda makes sense but... Why use it at all then? In the winter I'd want any heat to get down but in the summer I'd want the opposite. I suppose if it works off the temperature differential that could still work but is that how radiant heat works?

Last edited by mnmarcus; 01-23-2011 at 07:21 PM.. Reason: typo
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Old 01-23-2011, 07:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
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We need rotating walls- reflective on one side and flat black on the other- that get adjusted seasonally.
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Old 01-23-2011, 08:19 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Set it up for winter. In Buffalo, which is much milder than MN, there are about 15 times as many Heating Degree Days as Cooling Degree Days.

I like Frank's idea, too.

I don't plan to include radiant barriers in any of my designs (except in high-temperature gadgets), because I'd rather have a fiberglass batt than a radiant barrier and an air gap.
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Old 01-23-2011, 09:05 PM   #10 (permalink)
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We need rotating walls- reflective on one side and flat black on the other- that get adjusted seasonally.
Sounds like a deciduous tree.

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