Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reduction update: power

Our electricity meter was read on Tuesday, July 17, and I downloaded the stats and statement the next day. Our usage for the previous 32 days was 739 kWh, or 22.4 kWh/day -- half of what it was two years ago!

Two years ago, before I started being careful about our a/c (air conditioning) use in summer, our usage for this time period was 1510 kWh. Last year, when I was pretty serious and yet we had a very hot summer, we dropped it to 1245 kWh in our highest-use time period for the summer. Until we get the house better shaded and insulated, when it's sunny and hot we tend to use a/c very lightly during the day, and for night drop it to the highest setting at which people can readily fall asleep.

So 739 kWh is really, really great -- and yet aided by a halfway rainy, cloudy, semi-cool couple of weeks. I'm waiting for a totally blazingly hot month or so, to see how much improvement we've really gotten, with the addition of some little tower fans in the living/dining/kitchen area.

Interestingly, to me anyway, the new time-of-use meter says we used 697 kWh in non-peak hours, and a parsimonious 42 kWh in the peak hours of 1-7pm Mon-Fri, in which we get charged a higher rate. (Our bill was nice and low as a result.) I'm very happy about this, because it says I've been fairly successful in avoiding the peak hours. That meant no toaster, coffeemaker, or microwave oven then. Gotta use it before 1 pm, and eat different foods. We're eating more cold and room-temperature foods for lunch, which is great in a warm summer anyway. It's also helping me aim for light dinners with good appetizers.

This week we had a cooler day and night, so I turned off the a/c entirely, and at dusk opened the house for the night. It was pretty comfortable. Not cool like needing a sweater, but very nice. So, I've kept the a/c off, and opened up the house at dusk. We use the outdoor air to cool the house to 74F or so, rather than running the a/c at night to cool the house to 84F (upstairs). The house is a bit more humid this way, but this week it has been very nice. Love our fans.

The most uncomfortable time seems to be the evening and early night hours, because the house is at its warmest. It helps a lot to spend some of the middle evening outdoors, when the sun is low but it's not dark yet. Then at dusk I open the house up as the outside temp starts its slide down to the pre-dawn low. Nice. Also, I love hearing the outdoor noises rather than being insulated from all of that 24 hours a day all summer.

By the way, when we have guests for part of a hot day, if need be I put the a/c at 86F (top of the stairs, remember) and turn on the tower fans. That seems to be quite comfortable for everyone.

As for other electricity use:
- I'm staying steady with our careful use of the clothes washer (full loads, cold water), clothes dryer (not at all; hang everything to dry), and dishwasher (full loads, short cycle).
- The addition of little tower fans replaces some a/c, so that's a big plus. I bought one at a big box store for $20 last month, and rediscovered the other under my little-used loft desk; it was a handmedown from a friend many months ago.
- In the warmer house my laptop gets hot and uncomfortable to use after a while, so I find myself putting it to sleep and doing other things more, another plus.
- In the evening I have noticed that we are content in the living area with only one lamp lit (compact fluorescent), and the living room tower fan (and, often, our two laptops or one laptop and the TV).

- Get a smart power strip or two to plug the stereo and TV stuff into. These have several always-hot plugs (we need one for our DVR), and the rest of the plugs turn off with the power strip switch.
- Get two regular power strips. One for the microwave oven so I can keep it off when not in use. The other for the various chargers, again to keep off when not in use, and maybe for the clock radio I use for the radio in the kitchen.
- Buy reusable tinting film for some key windows to cut the light coming in. In addition to our two south-facing windows on the main floor, morning sunlight falls on the lower and upper windows in our dining area, facing NNE. The top windows are 9 feet up and have no coverings. This project will require me to reach out and find a friend or neighbor willing to lend us an indoor ladder.
- Clean under the refrigerator -- that's where the coils are that are supposed to be kept clean.
- Change the house air filter.

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