One Stop Shop Opens!

Issue #104, August 2010
Visit Home Energy

Table of Contents

One Stop Shop Opens!

Efficient Home Lighting

What is Micro-hydro?

Ten Energy Saving Tips

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One Stop Shop Opens!
Home Energy's purpose is to provide a practical information source and a product portal for home energy metering equipment and related energy saving devices. Thus far, focus has been primarily on building the practical information source for visitors to learn about how to meter their home and what to do with that metering information to reduce energy costs. There are a few links to help you find specific products but no organized store front - until now!

Visit the One Stop Shop. It is a collection of store fronts that contain a wide selection of home energy metering equipment and related energy saving devices. The first page of each store front contains products that we have hand picked from a broad spectrum of vendors. These products are chosen for their energy saving features, reliability, ease of use and/or reasonable cost.

Second and subsequent pages for each store front contain additional products that our network of vendors offer. These products are listed according to the keyword in the store front heading. The search feature on each page allows you to find related products simply by changing the search word. Use the Restore Orig. link to refresh the recommended product list. Once you find the product you are looking for, run another search by manufacturer and/or model number to find the best price.

As we sign on more vendors, product selection will grow from dozens to hundreds to thousands of metering and energy saving products you can access from a single location - thus the name One Stop Shop. The system we use is very flexible so we can make changes to our recommended products on the fly when vendors are running specials or introduce a new product.

Thus far we have up store fronts for energy monitors, plug-in meters, power strips, programmable thermostats, efficient lighting, and the micro-hydro-library. As the new store fronts come up, their links will become active so check back often.

Efficient Home Lighting
Home lighting can constitute 10 to 25 percent of your residential electrical bill depending upon the type of lighting used and the "light switching" habits of the members of your family. Good "light switching" habits can be reinforced by placing a home energy monitor display in a high traffic area of the home. Remember, incandescent lights should be shut off when leaving a room. Fluorescent tubes or compact fluorescent bulbs should be shut off if the room will remain vacant for more than 15 minutes. Enough said on habits...

Lets explore the different types of home lighting technologies to see where energy can be saved. Our new Incandescent Lighting Comparison page lays out an in-depth comparison between standard incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFL's) and LED floods that considers illumination levels (lumens), daily usage, bulb life, energy consumption and overall cost. The comparison shows how to do cost calculations over a ten year period so you can plug in numbers to analyze the lighting in your own home.

In a nutshell, we look at a home office with four recessed lighting fixtures, burning 65 watt incandescent bulbs for eight hours per day, five days per week or 2,000 hours per year. These bulbs have a 2,000 hour life expectancy and will need to be replaced once each year at a cost of $4.00 per bulb. They are rated at an illumination level of 600 lumens. This is the baseline to which other types of bulbs are compared. Since bulb life of compact fluorescents runs from 6,000 to 10,000 hours and LED's can last upwards of 30,000 hours we look at the total cost to illuminate the room for a ten year period using an energy cost of $0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

50 watt halogen bulbs, producing 575 lumens were selected for our first comparison. The bulb we chose was rated at a 5,000 hours at a cost of $6.50 each. An energy savings of 15 watts per bulb added up to $12.00 per year for the room. Combined energy savings and less frequent bulb replacements delivered a total savings of $150 over 10 years or an average of $15 per year.

Our next contender was a 15 watt compact fluorescent floodlight that produced 750 lumens for 10,000 hours at a cost of $8.00 each. Knowing 10,000 hours is a long time, we threw in three bulb replacements over ten years instead of two to stay on the safe side. A 50 watt energy reduction per bulb saves our home office $40.00 per year. Combined energy savings and lower bulb replacement costs saves us $464 over ten years or an average of $46.40 per year.

Our final comparison looked at a 9 watt LED floodlight with a 25,000 hour bulb life and a lumen rating slightly below the original baseline. These floodlights cost $55.00 each! Before you let that price run you off, let's look at the numbers. At 9 watts each, 56 watts of power are being saved when compared to the original 65 watt incandescent. Plus, in ten years, there are no bulb replacements. Over two years of bulb life remain at the end of ten years using our home office example. Total savings over ten years amounts to $388 or an average of $38.80 per year.

Before changing out every bulb in your home, here are a few caveats to consider...

1. Look closely at the actual run time of the bulbs in your calculations. Lights that are on for more than four hours per day are good candidates for upgrades. Don't bother with that hall closet light that isn't used more that 15 minutes per week.

2. Compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED lights cast a whiter, sharper light than incandescents. LED's project a narrower beam which may limit area lighting applications. Test the look with a couple of bulbs before committing to a big replacement project.

3. Fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs contain traces of mercury and will need to be disposed of properly when they do fail.

4. Some CFL's and LED's are dimmable and some are not. Be sure to select the proper type for your lighting circuit.

5. Expect LED pricing to drop over the next few years as CFL pricing has done recently. A new LED technology that replaces the sapphire (precious stone) raw material with silicon (sand) is emerging.

Our bottom line recommendation: replace high usage incandescents with CFL's now, provided aesthetics can be met. As those bulbs and others are retired, replace them with LED's as prices drop. Check out our efficient lighting choices.

What Is Micro-Hydro?
When we talk about alternative energy, wind and solar tend to come to mind immediately. But, when was the last time you had a conversation about micro-hydro? Micro-hydro refers to the small scale generation of electricity from falling water. It is practical in hilly or mountainous areas where a portion of stream water can be routed through a turbine powered generator and returned at a lower point in the stream. Systems can be set up on the grid or off-grid.

Our Micro-Hydro Turbines page diagrams a typical micro-hydro system and shows you how to calculate energy output based on the volume of water, the distance it falls and the diameter, length and type of pipe used. Output from the generator can be used to charge batteries, typical on smaller systems, or provide power to an inverter that converts it to AC for immediate use in appliances.

Remote cabins in off-grid areas can have lights and basic refrigeration with a small micro-hydro system but generally not any heating of cooling. These deficiencies are offset by the fact that wood is often plentiful in these remote areas and higher altitudes negate the need for much cooling. Larger systems can support heating and cooling systems but require a significant increase in the head (height of water drop) and volume of water required to power them.

Although micro-hydro applications are somewhat limited by geography, they are a viable source of electric power generation when these conditions can be met. Initial investment cost can be one to two orders of magnitude less than that of comparable wind or solar systems. Streams run 24/7 so energy is produced around the clock - not just when the wind blows or the sun shines. If stream flow drops off in summer months, a combined solar/micro-hydro system may make sense in off-grid applications as the longer days in summer increase solar output.

Metering micro-hydro is important in both grid and off-grid installations. Monitoring output when on the grid gives you a check-and-balance to ensure generated kilowatt-hours are properly credited on your electric bill. Off-grid monitoring provides immediate feedback on the generation capacity so loads can be managed accordingly.

To many, micro-hydro may seem like an obscure, impractical option. However, there is a lot of interest in the subject as our Micro-Hydro Turbines page remains in the top 5 most visited pages on the Home Energy website month after month. If you are interested in learning more, check out our Micro-hydro book selection.

Ten Energy Saving Tips
1. Be wary of energy saving devices that claim to cut your energy bill by 20 to 30%. These are generally power factor correction devices touting energy savings based on no load conditions. Power factor correction will affect your bill only if you are charged for Kilo-Volt Ampere Hours (KVA) or penalized for KVA Reactive (KVAR) hours which is quite rare. Most all residential accounts bill for kilowatt-hours only. Check our Power Factor page for further clarification.

2. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL's) use significantly less energy (approximately 1/4) than standard incandescent bulbs. A 10 watt CFL produces the same illumination as a 40 watt incandescent. 15 watt CFL's replace 60 watt incandescents, 20-25 watt CFL's replace 100 watt incandescents and 32 watt CFL's replace 150 watt incandescents.

3. Dust off your refrigerator coils so the compressor doesn't have to work as hard to stay cool. Shop-vacs work well for this. A good way to remember when to do it is when you reset your clocks for daylight savings time. Replace return air filters (at least this often) and check smoke alarm batteries as well.

4. Having trouble getting other members of your family to turn off lights when not in use. Install an occupancy or motion sensor light switch in hallways or other locations where lights are frequently left on. The lights will automatically turn on when someone enters the room and turn off after they leave. Shut off delays can be preset.

5. Use your home energy monitor track the energy saving ideas your kids act upon. Take the savings from your electric bill and use a portion to bump up their allowance - after the energy is actually saved.

6. Close doors and vents to those rooms in your house that are not used frequently. Less conditioned space means less energy consumption.

7. When checking food in the oven, look through the window instead of opening the door. A 20-30 degree temperature loss occurs whenever the door is opened, even if just briefly.

8. Dimmer switches for residential lighting not only reduce energy consumption but extend bulb life as well.

9. Whenever you take a vacation for more than three days shut off the breaker to your hot water heater and shut off the water valve to your house. It takes more energy to keep 40 gallons of water warm for four days than it does to reheat it. Shutting off water can save a hardwood floor or carpet if the plastic water line to the refrigerator ice maker happens to rupture while you are away.

10. Do not oversize your water heater or add a second one unless you really need it. Remember, the more gallons of hot water stored, the more kilowatt-hours needed to maintain temperature.

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