Issue #115
September-October 2011

Visit Home Energy

Table of Contents

Previews of Coming Attractions - Home Energy Metering 2.0

eMonitor c-Series is Launching

Energy Efficient Trends in Home Theater

Ten Energy Saving Tips

Forward a Copy

Previews of Coming Attractions - Home Energy Metering 2.0
The entire Home Energy Metering web site is in the process of being rebuilt. The objectives are to reorganize and simplify site navigation to make it easier for you to find what you are looking for and build a solid framework for it to grow efficiently.

Since the changes will affect the fundamental structure of the site, the new site will be uploaded all at once in about a month from now. Here's a screen shot of what the new home page will look like:

Notice the yellow navigation bar in the left-hand column. It has been separated into three categories, namely Energy Monitoring, Energy Metering and Energy Saving Ideas. Energy Monitoring is all about products. It breaks energy monitors down into groups according to features and capabilities, shows software dashboards, product specifications and provides direct links to purchase energy monitors from reputable vendors.

The Energy Metering section is all about application. "How can I put my energy monitor to work maximize my energy savings?" is the main question we try to answer. Metering techniques and tools are presented along with suggestions on how to measure the different types of alternative energy that can be generated at home. We also provide instructions about how to build a simple Btu meter and offer a technical discussion on power quality.

The third section is all about Energy Saving Ideas. Here we delve into home lighting, hot water systems, programmable thermostats and heating and cooling of the home. There is also section on the various types of power strips and how they can be used effectively to reduce energy costs.

Gone will be the link lists that tended to vary from page to page. Expanded choices in the left-hand column will make navigation simpler and more consistent between pages. We will generally provide a couple of links at the end of each page for related content as not all pages will be listed in the left hand column.

The Site Map link along with other administrative links will be at the top and bottom of every page. All pages on the web site will be cataloged in an outline format on the Site Map so it will be easy to see where a product or concept is unpacked into greater detail. Each page that has a link on the left-hand navigation column will be so noted.

A new right-hand column has been added which will contain the latest updates to the site and any other newsworthy items we feel may be of interest to our visitors. Our "Meter of the Month" feature will also appear in this column. It will present a different energy monitor every month with the intent to give manufacturers and distributors a platform to showcase a new product, upgrade or special offer. Sign-ups for the Meter Messenger e-zine will also move here. The right hand column will load every time a page is visited except for a couple of the admin pages.

The One Stop Shop will be replaced with the Energy Monitor Store. Focus will narrow to provide you with the best possible selection of home energy monitors. Store fronts for other energy saving type products will be phased out as they have proven to be ineffective over time. Instead, if we feel an energy saving product has merit, we will link to it directly from where it is discussed in the site.

A commentary section will be added for anyone to post experiences or reviews, good or bad, about a home energy monitor system in the Dashboards section. Provided the input is objective and wording appropriate for public review we will post your commentary, and photos if provided, as an additional page on the site which others can view and post their own comments.

So, make sure is loaded inn your RSS reader and keep an eye out for a big announcement next month!

eMonitor c-Series is Launching
Powerhouse Dynamics, Inc., manufacturer of the eMonitor will be releasing a new product next month called the eMonitor c-Series. The c-Series will be capable of measuring 3-phase power at the circuit level and is geared more for the small commercial rather than residential market.

Large companies have used energy monitoring systems for years to monitor, manage and control their energy expense. Their power bills have been big enough to pay for these types of systems by saving just a few percent. Smaller businesses such as restaurants, health clubs and convenience stores do not use enough power to justify this large investment but still feel the pain of energy bills on their bottom line.

The eMonitor c-Series has been designed to fill the niche for businesses generating power bills in the $1,000 to $15,000 per month range. Building upon the circuit level measuring technology developed with the residential eMonitor, Powerhouse Dynamics offers the c-Series to small businesses at a very attractive price point when compared with larger systems. Plus, the system delivers circuit level monitoring, which many if its larger competitors do not.

Let's look at a hypothetical example of a restaurant owner that has a half dozen stores located in Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Northern Alabama. Since all eMonitor analysis is done on PowerHouse Dynamics' servers there is no software or software license to buy for each location. All of energy analytics are provided for a small subscription fee for each location and can be accessed by any networked computer or smart phone.

An eMonitor c-Series is installed in the electrical panel of each restaurant. Circuits are identified and loaded into the analytics account on line along with the square footage and other general information about each facility.

As data starts to accumulate, our restaurant owner can not only look at total energy cost by square foot, but can view cooling cost, lighting cost, refrigeration cost or any other circuit load they wish to compare by square foot or as a total. This is a great benchmarking tool to compare energy performance between stores.

Graphs and charts itemize the circuit-by-circuit usage and cost, monitor peak demand and can send email alerts if customer-defined boundaries are exceeded. An optional IP (Internet Protocol) controlled thermostat is available that works in conjunction with the eMonitor c-Series allowing our restaurant owner to adjust settings remotely for each store to balance comfort with cost.

Circuit level monitoring can be used to alert our owner if a refrigerator or freezer ceases to cool properly. Depending upon the volume of inventory, becoming aware of a refrigeration problem in the nick-of-time can avoid having to replace all that premium food. One instance like this can pay for an entire c-Series installation.

In a recent conversation with Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development at PowerHouse Dymanics, he stated, "The good news we have sold all of our first production run - and - the bad news is we have sold all of our first production run." I believe this product has real potential in the small commercial market and it appears the marketplace feels likewise. We'll just have to wait a little while until inventory can be replenished - tentatively next month, according to Fiske.

We plan to keep an eye on this one...

Energy Efficient Trends in Home Theater

Home entertainment systems have come a long way from the days of a simple TV and a stereo. Today, many homes use a whole rack of electronic equipment to deliver entertainment and some even dedicate an entire room for a home theater. With high definition 1080p television on a large screen and powerful surround sound systems the home entertainment experience can rival that found in theaters.

However, it takes power to drive that equipment rack which typically holds one or two DVR's, a DVD/Blueray Player, a controller, a power conditioner, a digital amplifier, a media hard drive, a converter box and perhaps an old VCR. And that's just a basic system. Plus, you'll find a widescreen hi-def television or projector in one or more rooms in most homes nowadays.

What are home owners doing to keep these home entertainment energy costs in check?

To start with, due to their low energy footprint, LED projectors have taken of over the past several years. Besides consuming much less energy than a conventional projector lamp, the LED emits much less heat. This means that your air conditioner or heat pump does not have to generate quite as many cooling Btu's to move that heat outside during the warmer weather. Life expectancy of LED's is another plus as they can have a 20-fold advantage over conventional bulbs.

Another area that is drawing attention is management of vampire loads, particularly those produced by DVR's, digital amplifiers and controllers. These are electrical loads that continue 24/7 when the device is off or in idle mode. Due to the boot-up time required and the power draw in the off-mode just turning them on and off is not effective.

Timed or smart power strips have proven to be an effective countermeasure. A timed power strip can shut off all power to the system, or just specific components, say at 11:00 PM and turn it back on at 6:00 AM allowing enough time for the system to boot up before it is needed.

Smart power strips work a little differently but achieve the same energy saving effect. They turn off power to slave outlets when a device connected to a master outlet is powered down. A good application is a computer. When the computer is shut off, the smart strip senses it and cuts power to the printer and the sound system if a separate amplifier is being used. The same can be applied to various components in a home entertainment system.

Taking this to another level Panamax offers the BlueBolt power center that offers web-based scheduled conservation by outlet. You tell it when to power up or power down each outlet through a Web interface. A nifty idea but at an MSRP of $649 we still recommend using the the $20-$40 timed or smart power strips to get the job done. Pay back arrives much sooner.

Ten Energy Saving Tips

1. As we move into cooler weather, check the efficiency level of your furnace if it uses LP, natural gas or fuel oil. If that old manual lists it anywhere below 85% consider upgrading to a higher efficiency model. Visit the AFUE Rating discussion to calculate potential savings.

2. Check central air return filters and replace at least quarterly. Dust and residue buildup on the filter reduces airflow which requires the HVAC system to run longer to achieve the desired temperature.

3. If you have conventional radiators in a hydronic system be sure to bleed any trapped air by opening the bleeder petcock. Air pockets reduce the heating efficiency of the circulating water.

4. Boost the output of your radiator by placing heat resistant reflectors between the wall and the back of the radiator. Without them, heat that could be warming the room is absorbed by the wall.

5. As temperatures drop at night pull drapes to reduce thermal loss. Be sure to open the southern facing ones during the day to capture warmth from the low angle of the sun during the winter months.

6. Check weather stripping around all external doors and replace if torn or you can light through the crack. Check exterior wall outlets and switches on a windy day with a candle. If the flame flickers in front of the faceplate add some fiberglass insulation around the box or give its exterior a bead of expanding foam. Use caution with the faceplate removed as some wires inside the box will be hot.

7. If you have a set of pull-down attic steps consider building an insulated box to rest over them when retracted. Lots of heat will escape through the thin door cover over the winter season if it is not insulated.

8. For safety this winter, consider installing a carbon monoxide detector if your you use any type of fossil fuel in your furnace or hot water heater. Over the years, older furnace heat exchangers have the risk of developing corrosion pits or cracks that may allow emissions to pass through the flame/air circulation barrier. Improper ventilation can also be a cause. In a well sealed house this carbon monoxide can accumulate, undetectable to the human senses, but can be picked up by a CO detector.

9. Check your ducting to be sure it is well insulated in attics or crawl spaces. Low temperatures in these unconditioned areas can waste more than half of your heat energy if ducting remains uninsulated during the cold winter weather.

10. If you have tile or concrete floors exposed to south facing windows keep the bare masonry surfaces exposed to incoming sunlight. These types of materials can absorb heat from the sun and release it back into the room even after the sun sets.

Forward a Copy...

If you found the Meter Messenger helpful please consider forwarding this email to a friend who may be interested in reducing his or her home energy costs. They can subscribe to future issues directly at Home Energy if they wish.