Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Leaky sliding glass door experiment!

Note that the average temperature was 31.2 degrees!
In a never ending effort to save a watt here and there, inevitably I run into situations involving winter weather and how to get through them in a warm fashion. Warm, that is, as in not breaking the bank!

Since I'd recently moved to a single bedroom condo and had shed myself of a much larger stick built home, I was hoping the move would also translate into some energy savings. although, I'll admit that the presence of two large sliding glass doors gave me some pause. I knew from experience that the large expanse of glass could translate into huge amounts of heat loss. Not only because of the glass, but also because the seals around them are notoriously leaky, a fact that was born out when I checked them in the fall. I could actually feel air flowing in around the base of each!

As fall moved into winter, I elected to try and seal the base of one of the two doors with good old duck tape. Surprisingly, that worked to some extent! I also purchased a 3M film package large enough to cover one of the doors, figuring that if it worked, I could then go forth and cover the other door. But, before doing that, I wanted to establish a baseline of sorts to see just how large the thermal gradient was between the windows and the rest of the living area they were located in.

I placed two temperature sensors by the base of each door and then situated another towards the back of the living room. All three were wireless and so I was able to monitor the readings from a warmer location. For this test, the furnace was set down to 61F on a night where the high and the low was about 32 degrees.

The results of this impromptu experiment, are shown in the graphic at the start of this post. As I expected, the two glass door areas were definite heat sinks coming in at a steady 50 degrees when the outdoor temps were just at the freezing mark. Interestingly, however, the loss oh heat from the total area was very slow and as a result my furnace never kicked on during the test period. As a result, I was able to survive the night in some comfort (aka my bedroom with a space heater) for just 30 kWh's of power used.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A great cooking combination!

Every once in a while, even a slow person like myself stumbles on something that works a lot better than what was working for them before!

Since I began using a Duxtop induction stove top along with a Calphalon 10” stainless steel frying pan and Le Creuset two quart round Dutch oven, I've been a happy camper! Between these three kitchen items, I've been able to make most of my meals without having to resort to using the stove top at all!

I got hooked on the induction cooking concept when I learned that not only was the temperature control very precise, it was also extremely efficient power wise. How efficient? Well the previous month I used only 5.0 kWh or about sixty one cents worth of power to make almost all my meals. Between the Duxtop and the microwave, which used about 5.5 kWh's, my total for cooking for the month came to just $1.26!

That was last month and I had not answered my need to cook 'oven type stuff', deferring instead to visit fast food emporiums. So, this month, I added another great watt killer device known as a Breville convection oven to round out my occasional need for baked, roasted or seared food. As of December the 8th, and after baking numerous chickens, baked potatoes and cookies, I've used a mere 3.27 kWh's or about forty cents! If I were to trend these three appliances out; my total electric cost, for a whole month, would come to 23.6 kWh's! That's a minuscule $2.89 for the entire month and we're talking three course meals, each and every day!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Nice Wx in early December racks up home energy savings!

Sure! It's only barely the first week into December 2015, but that's OK. I'll take whatever 'Global warming' old Mother Nature decides to throw my way...

The graph of electric energy use above is a little deceptive. Last year I was in a much larger stick built home which currently I'm living in a one bedroom condominium. Having stated that, the savings have been rather impressive this year! At the time of this post (December 8), the National Weather Service was calling for mild conditions to continue into the near term. As I am located in SW Missouri near the Arkansas border, this is really good news. For us, most winter cold spells with precipitation translates to some form of ice!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

And so the winter cool down begins!

As we pass by the portal of time that is called December the 1st, we can almost see the sun arcing lower in the southwestern skies each day as that day becomes a little shorter. Many species of birds and animals know that it's time to head south into warmer climes for the next three months while winter rages around the northern hemisphere. Us humans, well, we aren't so smart all the time!

So, come December, many of us are stuck with dealing with whatever the coming winter deals out. And, it generally gets colder and colder and colder. But, that's not always the case. December 2014, for instance, was one of the better early winter months that I can remember! For one thing the month was 4.4 degrees above normal. And, while the nighttime temperatures did get down to the 30's on a regular basis, there were only nine days where we say the 20's and they were the high 20's at that! Rainfall, and most definitely snowfalls were few and far between. Actually we did get 2.8 inches of rain and zero inches of snow! That put us 2 inches down for the month, but it really wasn't a big deal as we more than made up for it in the months that followed. Electrically, my home used a whopping 500 less kWh's when compared to the year before! And, those savings really helped me out!

So, for me it's all about the average temperatures and exactly where they go. December typically sees a monthly average for the highs and lows at about 35ºF, down where I live in southwest Missouri. Then, January slams in at an average of 33 degrees with February moderating only a bit up to 28! Heating my humble adobe, at an average outside temperature of 33ºF, translates to an electric bill of about 1200-1800 kWh's. At 13 cents per kilowatt hour that amounts to $156 to $234! Let me tell you, getting hit, in that manner, for each of those three months really mounts up for a person living on a fixed income as I do.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Whoa Nellie! Lot's of energy savings for Nov 2015!

With the furnace at idle, I was running my condo at about 15-16 kWh's a day!

Looking back at last November, I can distinctly remember how it was we got clobbered with frigid weather right in the middle part of the month. On the morning of the 14th, it was only 16 degrees above zero! This year, however, the month of November has been a dream as you can see on the graph of power used! The question is, when will the other shoe finally drop?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Some winter considerations for condo dwellers!

Forsyth MO. - Recently, I moved to a condo having forsaken the stick built life. My building is a three story affair supporting 15 units, (some of which are unoccupied during the winter season). I purchased a top floor corner unit which had a number of good selling points. For one thing the kitchen has a window that looks out – something that was important to me for some vague reason. It also has both a spacious front area and balcony that overlooks a pool with a river in the distance. Above me is an attic space that should provide good insulation, but, I have three walls that face the outdoors. So, I have to see how that shakes out. Following are a few of the things I like to do to get ready to get through the really cold spells we get from late December on into March!

Space heaters!

As I am single and living alone, my tenancy during the winter months are to ensconce myself into my office/bedroom where I can write, watch TV and sleep the cold days away. My infrequent ventures out of that space are mainly to raid the fridge in the kitchen. So, one of my strategies was to invest in a couple of small space heaters that contained thermostats to properly heat that space while retarding my electric furnace stat downwards to a cool setting of 64ºF. Past experience had shown me some pretty amazing savings by following that type of scheme.

Windows and sliding glass doors!

In my current location, I have two windows (bedroom and kitchen), a front door and two large sliding glass door the run the length of the outdoor balcony. Of these,my largest concern was the sliding glass doors that looked to be dual pane and which were covered by vertical blinds. These could prove to be a big transmitter of heat and would bear close watching. 3M makes a very good window film that past use, by myself, proved to be valuable in adding another layer of dead airspace where needed and at an affordable cost! These films are easy to install when two people are around and more of a challenge for just one.

My front door appeared to be good to go as I checked the clearances around the top and base for excessive air flow. If needed a simple towel can be used to help seal out the weather on any really cold days. As this area also has a storm door, I plan to check to make sure there are no excessive gaps – If I find any, I'll make sure to seal them properly.


One area that sometimes avoids detection are the locations under sinks where the pipes enter the walls. Any gaps you find can allow for a lot of the heat you paid for to easily escape. To that end, I plan to inspect them and then apply some foam gap filler available online at Amazon, if needed.


Even though I found my furnace cooling fins to be somewhat clogged with dust, I could ignore that face as it used resistive heating elements to warm the house in the wintertime. By keeping my thermostat set low, I hope to keep the use to a minimum.

Well, those are the main area I plan to inspect and repair for this fall. As we move closer to the start of winter, I hope to update this post from time to time.

Update: November 24, 2015 - I've ordered some 3M film, enough to cover one of the sliding glass doors. When that gets installed, I plan to set up an experiment using three temperature sensors so that I might quantify how much (or how little) it helped. I'll post a link here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New digs in condo and AC reading!

After a week of moving, I was able to install a Total Energy Detective unit that monitors my electrical use real time. I wanted to get a quick handle on what I could expect in the way of power use for the news digs.

It took my AC 25 minutes to drop the ambient temperature by 1.57 degrees in the condo. The power used was about 1.5 kWh. Not the best performance I've seen, but I am in the hottest portion of the year. I also plan to block the two large west facing sliding glass window more effectively in the afternoon hours when the sun is beating down.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Living life at 20 kWh a day!

Forsyth MO - Man, if it weren't for those cold winter night and hot summer days, I'd be doing real good from the standpoint of electrical use. My electric bill for January 2015 will come in at about $200 (1800 kWh's used) and boy, I've been looking for some fresh ideas to try and cut into that!

In some of the milder months of the year, like April and May for instance, my furnace is (thankfully) silent all day long. On those types of days, the average power use per is somewhere between 13 and 20 kWh. This would translate in to 30 x 17 = 510 kWh which would translate to a $70 bill! Very livable. In the graph, you can also see that some of the wintertime cost saving efforts I've made have paid off! Sadly, January 2015, however was a real bitch with many nights dropping down in to the 20's! It's those really cold temperatures that force my heat pump to use resistive heating as they just don't work very well at temperatures below 30°F. In the summertime, I've generally been able to cope pretty well using fans and the results of that effort are also apparent in the graph.
Now this is what I'm talking about!

So, the challenge will be to come up with ways to maximize my energy savings for four months out of the average year, without giving up too much in the way of creature comforts. I've discounted on-grid solar energy systems as still being way too expensive. In order to lower my yearly electric bill an average of 30% using one system I looked at, I'd have to pony up about 7K. Last year I ball parked my use at about 14,000 kWh. Let's say that translates to about $1600. So, were I to save 30% each year that would be about $480, which means my break even point would be 14 years from now! I don't think so.

Another way to save some money is to replace energy inefficient appliances with those that are more efficient. This I've done over time and it shows. Of course, some years the gains have been offset by the constant rise in rates charged by my electric coop. In the last two years, Empire Electric (my electric supplier) has raised their rates by 13% or about 6.5 percent a year. (That's about a month's worth of use every year and it makes it tough to achieve any significant gains). Still, like a man swimming upstream, I'm losing less ground than others around me who are doing nothing but going with the flow!

As time goes on, I hope to post more entries at this site when inspiration strikes me from out of the blue!