Issue #117
January-February 2012

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Table of Contents

eMonitor-4 Ready to Launch

LED Technology Advances

Renewable Energy Tax Credits

Ten Energy Saving Tips

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eMonitor-4 Ready to Launch

Powerhouse Dynamics, Inc., manufacturer of the eMonitor, will be releasing the new eMonitor-4 later this month. The "4" is a completely new hardware package based on the design of the eMonitor-C which serves commercial businesses. Gone is the transceiver-type enclosure that mounts outside of the electrical panel. It will be replaced with a much smaller base module that fits inside the panel.

This base module, shown under the pencil, will provide measurement for up to 14 circuits. If additional measurement is desired, 10-circuit expansion pods ("xPods") can be added as shown below the base module. Up to three xPods can be added per base module bring the total number of circuits measured to 44. The xPods also fit inside the electrical panel and are daisy-chained to the base using a short patch cord.

Electrical usage data by circuit data is transmitted from the base module to a gateway using wireless communications. The gateway, as shown above the base module, connects to the Internet through your home network using Wi-Fi. A single gateway can accept input from up to ten base modules so both main panels and sub-panels can be measured. The gateway should be located within 30 feet of each base module for best performance.

If this is not possible due to the size of the home or the proximity of the electrical panels, additional gateways can be used to get the information to the Analytics Engine on the Powerhouse Dynamics' servers. Once received, the energy data is processed and made available online to be viewed on your computer, tablet or smart phone. Update time is generally a minute or less.

No significant software changes are anticipated so the same circuit-by-circuit analysis and energy saving recommendations will continue to be available. Viewing the data will be very much the same as with the original eMonitor. However, internal storage within the gateway will increase from 24 hours to 14 days. This will prevent gaps in your data if network communications are lost for more than 24 hours.

The biggest change will be with the hardware installation. Base modules and xPods can now be nestled inside the main electrical panel rather than having to run all those CT leads from each circuit breaker wire to an external box. Installation will be much cleaner as there will not be any wires outside of the main electrical panel.

Robust wireless transmission of data to the gateway is another advantage. Some energy monitors use power line transfer technology to send measurement data to a gateway. This generally works OK provided the gateway can be plugged into an outlet served by the main panel but can be subject to electrical noise and distance. Additional noise filters may be need to correct the problem. With wireless - all that goes away provided the gateway located within reasonable proximity of the base module.

Powerhouse Dynamics' formal announcement about the availability of the eMonitor-4 should come around the end of this month after finalizing details with their online retailers. If you are interested in an eMonitor-4 please contact us. We'll let you know as soon as it becomes available online. As an authorized dealer for Powerhouse Dynamics, Inc., we can also provide the eMonitor-4, fully installed, to customers in the Middle Tennessee area.



LED Technology Advances

The market for energy saving LED (Light Emitting Diode) lamps is heating up as global revenues have grown from around $3 billion in 2008 to nearly $10 billion in 2011 according to the Wall Street Journal. LED's offer energy savings that far exceeds that of conventional incandescent bulbs and outperforms compact fluorescents (CFL's) while offering extremely long bulb life. However, penetration into the residential market has been slow due to the bulb's high price.

Although prices are declining, they still remain high when compared to a standard incandescent bulb. One of the reasons is that most LED's use four or more chips which require some units to use cooling fans to dissipate the heat. These chips are fabricated by applying a layer of gallium nitride to wafers of sapphire or silicon carbide. As current passing through these chips increases, their light emitting efficiency decreases. This is why we often see LED replacements appearing dimmer than their halogen counterparts.

A recent start-up company, Soraa, Inc. is taking a new approach to develop an LED bulb that competes well with the aesthetics of halogen bulbs while still delivering marked energy savings. Their approach is to develop an LED with fewer chips using higher quality materials. Soraa LED's employ a single chip constructed of a layer gallium nitride deposited on a gallium nitride wafer or GaN on GaN as it is referred to in the industry. Although the gallium nitride wafers are more expensive than sapphire or silicon carbide, Soraa claims the smaller chip size and fewer number of chips required per lamp will more than offset the increased cost of the GaN wafers.

Feedback from architectural designers who have been testing the Soraa LED claim that while they don't quite match the brightness of a halogen bulb yet, their performance clearly exceeds that of other LED bulbs currently on the market. Another advantage due to their smaller size is that their light beams tend to emit from more of a single point which avoids multiple shadows ofen found in competitor models. If Soraa, Inc. can deliver a brighter, more aesthetically pleasing light and reduce cost at the same time they may be onto something.

For more information about how LED energy savings stacks up against other lighting technologies please check out our Efficient Home Lighting Ideas or Incandescent Lighting Comparison page.



Renewable Energy Tax Credits

As April 15th looms just 60 days out many of us will find ourselves writing yet another check to the tax man. Although those liabilities are based on how we closed out 2011, is there anything we can do during this year to make things a litle easier next year?

Absolutely, especially when it comes to improving energy efficiency for your home or small business. Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org. There is a button with the US flag on it that provides a summary of Federal incentives as well as a map of the entire country for state incentives. Simply click on your state to see what types of energy tax credits are available locally.

Many of these incentives are tax credits, not just deductions. That means you can take them directly off of your tax bill instead of apply them as a deduction to your adjusted gross income. For example, federal tax credits of up to 30% will be available for the following residential renewable energy systems will be through 2016:

Maximum Incentive:

  • Solar-electric systems placed in service before 1/1/2009: $2,000
  • Solar-electric systems placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
  • Solar water heaters placed in service before 1/1/2009: $2,000
  • Solar water heaters placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
  • Wind turbines placed in service in 2008: $4,000
  • Wind turbines placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
  • Geothermal heat pumps placed in service in 2008: $2,000
  • Geothermal heat pumps placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
  • Fuel cells: $500 per 0.5 kW
State and local utilities may offer additional incentives. Click on your state to find out what is available and don't forget to add an energy monitor to keep track of the energy savings on your new system.



Ten Energy Saving Tips

1. Having trouble keeping the house warm this winter. Check your central air ducting to be sure it is insulated. Duct work passing through uninsulated spaces such as the attic or crawl space can loose up to 60 percent of its heat.

2. If you have a heat pump do not set the temperature back at night by more than a couple of degrees. Most systems will energize the emergency heat strips if the thermostat requests a temperature increase of three or more degrees. These resistant heat strips will draw 3 to 10 times more power than the heat pump compressor quickly negating the savings of the lower over night temperature settings.

3. Keep south facing windows clean and free of obstructions during the day to maximize passive solar heat gain. Pull drapes at night to minimize heat loss, especially if windows are large.

4. If available in your area, consider converting to natural gas heat if you have not already done so. Recent discoveries of large domestic natural gas reserves are keeping prices near ten year lows. The glut in supply should keep prices down well into the future.

5. Check weatherstripping around doors periodically. Continued use can break the seals down causing heating bills to increase. Most weather stripping can be replaced with matching rolls or strips from your local home center.

6. Cold air can creep into your home through a variety paths; recessed lighting fixtures, sill plates, the attic entrance, door frames, electrical outlets and plumbing cutouts to name a few. Test for drafts on a windy day by tracing suspect areas with a candle. Any abnormal flicker on the flame will indicate a source of cold air entering the home. (Be careful not to catch the curtains on fire as you do this test.)

7. If you use a home office or confine your most activity to a single room during the day, consider lowering your thermostat and using a small space heater to keep your immediate proximity comfortable. Less Btu's are expended by heating a small area that a large one even if an inefficient resistive electric heater is used.

8. Close that fireplace damper first thing in the morning after using it the night before to keep the cold air from plummeting down the chimney. Run your hand just over the top of the ashes to be sure that no heat is still being generated. If you close the damper too soon your house will smell like a campfire before long.

9. Check the ceiling of your crawl space. Is it insulated? If not, consider doing so as significant radiant heat loss can occur through the first floor. If your bedroom is on the lower level, that barefoot walk to the bathroom first thing in the morning will be a bit more pleasant.

10. Warm air rises. In rooms with high ceilings keep ceiling fans circulating that warm air back down into the inhabited space near the thermostat. Personal comfort increases and furnace run time decreases.



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