Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A tale of energy use woe!

Click on to enlarge graph
Nothing tells a story quite like a graph! These two scatter charts represent the first ten days in December 2013 versus the entire month last year. The y-axis shows kilowatt hours and the x-axis represents the average or 'mean temperatures' experienced from one day to the next. Below is a chart of the high and low temperatures this year compared to last year. We are currently 2 degrees below the average of 35F.

Click on to enlarge
Last year, I kept most of my house at about 66F while maintaining my bedroom at 72F. This year, I've used a Nest thermometer to set a schedule to raise the house to about 68F during the mid day hours and then to drop it back to 60F overnight. I used space heaters hooked to a thermostat to maintain the higher bedroom temperature.This has worked out well with the exception of the colder than normal temperatures in the early going of Dec 2013. At this time, I'm on track to hit about 2000 kWh's versus on 1400 for last year.

In a perfect month, most of the dots should center somewhere around the 35 degree mark as that is the historical average for my location in southwest Missouri. This year everything looks like it might be skewed to the left (colder).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Window treatments for winter savings!

Surprisingly, anywhere from “12% to as much 30% of a homes heating bill goes to make up for heat loss through windows”. So, if they are not properly insulted, they can have a major impact on the overall of heating cost of a dwelling over the winter months. But, what can the average homeowner do? Or, should I say, what are some cheap and simple things that can be done to improve the overall thermal envelope of a home? Why treat your windows, of course!

Single versus double paned windows

Most homes in my area have double paned windows. This means that the windows in your home actually consist of two panes of glass with an air space in between. This type of window significantly decreases the amount of heat loss as opposed to the single pane variety. (If your home has single pane windows, then stop right there and get them replaced ASAP! That will cure a lot of what ails your heating bill). To estimate your heating loss via your windows, please check out this site. The formula is pretty simple to us and it will give you a grass roots idea of whether or not you might want to go ahead and apply extra protection against heat loss. I came up with a figure of about $50 per month for my home. (Note that single pane windows have a multiplier effect of over two times the cost of what double pane windows would incur). Wow!

Drapes and blinds

It was somewhat surprising to me just how effective something like a simple set of blinds or drapes can be in helping to prevent heat loss! I've done a few simple experiments that have show a temperature differential of six to ten degrees difference in a window area just by using such simple covering. So, a rule of thumb would be that when cold weather threatens, just make sure to cover the windows! A simple and stupid way to make an improvement – I like that!

Another way to improve the thermal profile of a window are is to simply cover it with a layer of plastic. Companies like 3M sell easy to apply window kits that are inexpensive and really do make a difference! I've used these in the past an plan to do so again this year. With a little bit of practice, you
can do an average sized window in no time at all. And, that extra layer of sealed air space really does work. You'll be able to actually feel it come the next really cold day by simply hold your hand near a protected window versus an unprotected one. Best of all, your 'treatment' will not be noticeable to anyone driving by your home (see picture at right)!

If that's too expensive for you or if you have a really large glass surface to protect, like a sliding glass door, for instance, you can go put and purchase large sheets of plastic very cheaply. I purchased a 3 foot by 50 foot roll of 5 ml plastic sheet from a local hardware store at a cost of only about $8. That plastic and some duck tape are all that you need to form a thermal barrier that can save everyone some major bucks over the course of a long hard winter.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Things could be worse! You could be living in Britain!!

After grousing about the 7% recent hike in my electric bill, I came across this article....

Oct 2013 - UK energy companies certainly have an ability to step in it - all the way up to the knees. What makes it the more remarkable is the callous way in which they move from one crisis to the next.

All of which has obliged a hasty revision in the strategy for my meetings here.

The latest imbroglio involves a very unwelcome (and significant) spike in energy prices as the nation moves into the winter season.

The UK market is controlled by six dominant providers of electricity and heat: British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, SSE, and Scottish Power. And when one of them raises its rates, the rest are certain to follow.

That march is now underway. British Gas announced on Friday an average 9.2% increase, effective November 23. That followed a recent decision by SSE to hike rates an average of 8.2% beginning on November 15.

And right on cue, Npower yesterday became the third to hike prices, announcing an average increase of 11.1% to begin December 1.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Temperature study in October 2013

Last night (Oct 18), I endeavored to record various temperature readings with a mind to track energy use on a night where outdoor readings approached the upper thirties. For the experiment, I used a Meade wireless station that had two remote sensors; one placed outdoors and one placed in my living room. I was thereby able to record the temperatures of three areas; my bedroom where the master unit was, the outdoors and the living room on an hourly basis from 4:00 PM on Friday October the 18 to 9:00 AM the next morning. I was curious to see what amount of power would be required to keep my bedroom in the mid seventies via the deployment of a Delonghi space heater. During this experiment and even though my whole house Nest thermostat was set to a threshold heating of 68°F., the furnace never kicked in even though the readings in the living room were clearly below that level. I'm
guessing that the reason was due to the more isolated position of the hallway where the thermostat is located.

The base electrical use for my home with the various background devices in use is approximately 0.427 kWh. This figure includes two computers that run 24/7 in my bedroom and which do supply some residual heat as a result. The other main contributors are the water heater which cycled on and off three times (see graphic) and the refrigerator whose power consumption is too low to appear on the power graph due to the scale of time. So, as you can see, the average amount of electrical heat energy needed to keep my bedroom in the mid seventies was about .400 kWh which equates to about a dollar and change over a full day of heating (.4x24=9.6 kWh x 0.1149 cents per kWh = $1.10).

To put this mess into some sort perspective, my electrical use went from about 13 kWh for an average day with no auxiliary heat to about 21 kWh with it. (This extra heat was needed to offset a mean temperature of 49 degrees outdoors which is not too far distant from what I am hoping will be the mean temperature for a much warmer than normal November). I base this assumption on the fact that the average power consumption for the past two Novembers was 621 kWh or about 20.7 kWh of electrical use per day. So rather than the historical average temperature of 46.8°F (West Plains MO data), I am hoping for a few more mean degrees warmer. [Note: There are numerous flys in this ointment of my reasoning which I will address in a later posting].

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Let the fall heating games begin!

There comes that day, every fall, when I find myself forced to use axillary heat for the first time of the season. This year, that day came on the morning of the 16th of October when I awoke to an outside temperature of 46°F! Inside, my bedroom thermometer read 72.1°F and the house, in general was at 69.4°F. (I think the difference in temperatures is due to the fact that I have two computer towers in my room that run 24/7. They both generate a little heat and might account for the small difference).

So, now I guess I can expect my electrical use to go up a bit. I'm toying with the idea of setting the programmable thermostat to an 'on' setting as it has been off for the majority of the month. The last time I had needed AC was on September the 11th, so it had been some time for the change over to me needing heat instead of cooling. 

This year, I have a Delonghi space heater that worked great last autumn and winter and which I think saved me a few bucks on heating costs. Be sure and join me via this blog as I once again battle the evil electric coop and try to SAVE ENERGY ONE WATT AT A TIME!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Heating forecast for February 2013!

Right now, as we’re approaching the middle of February and I think I have a handle on what we all can expect heating-wise for this second month of the year.

According to the records from the National Weather Service, we are running about a full degree behind last year (West Plains data). My electric use (heating for my home is all electric) for last year was 1,145 kWh. This year my trending is about the same. However, over the next 10 days, the temperature trend will drop some, by about another three degrees on average, so I’m expecting the overall heating cost to ratchet up a bit for that period. All told, I’m going to estimated slightly higher bills than what we had last season for the southwestern section of Missouri. Say, about 5% or so. I'll also assume that my graphic above is about as clear as mud!