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Meter Messenger #125 - TED 5000 Rebate
May 15, 2013

Issue #125
May-June 2013

Visit Home Energy

Table of Contents

TED 5000 Manufacturer Offers $50 Rebate

The Pros and Cons of Smart Metering

Net-zero Homes

Ten Energy Saving Tips

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TED 5000 Manufacturer Offers $50 Rebate

Energy Inc. is offering a $50 rebate on the purchase of a TED 5000 energy monitoring system. Purchases need to be made between May 8, 2013 and June 8, 2013 to be eligible and the application for rebate must be postmarked before the end of June 2013. Click here for rebate details.

The TED 5000 can monitor up to four different loads including alternative energy generation. Energy data is fed through a gateway which contains a mini web server. TED's energy monitoring software, "Footprints" resides here and is available through any locally networked browser.

The "Footprints" display consists of nine panels which show power use like an automotive speedometer, usage since midnight, use to date, estimates for the month, etc. Data can be viewed in kilowatt-hours, dollars or carbon footprint and the green-yellow-red color coding can be scaled to match the usage. History tracks by hour, week, month and year and data can be exported.

Click here for more information about the TED 5000.

The Pros and Cons of Smart Metering

There are about 37 million smart meters deployed in the U.S. which a quarter of all the electric utility meters in this country. A smart meter transmits electrical usage data back to the utility continuously throughout the day via radio frequencies similar to those used by AM/FM and cellphone bands. Analog meters, on the other hand, have no transmitter and are read in person, generally once a month.

Proponents of smart meters claim they are necessary to advance the Smart Grid Initiative by providing real time data to the utility to assist them in managing demand, especially during peak periods. As energy monitoring technology is built into future appliances, smart meters will be able to communicate usage levels to the home owner as well as the utility. Some see this as a way to better manage home energy use while others see it as an invasion of privacy.

Looking at smart meters from an environmental standpoint, lots of meter reader truck miles and associated emissions can be eliminated by transmitting the data electronically. According to the Wall Street Journal, San Diego Gas and Electric claims to have cut its meter reader fleet mileage by over a half million miles. Opponents claim the energy to run the meters and the server farms to process the data add to the utility's carbon footprint. We need more numbers to determine which side wins on this point.

Smart meters are not cheap and utilities have made a major investment to deploy them. In fact, as taxpayers, each of us have already made an investment in smart meter deployment, too. Utilities have tapped into some of the $4.5 billion of 2009 stimulus money set aside to modernize the nation's power grid to accelerate smart meter roll-out.

One of the biggest objections to smart meters is that they transmit radio frequency radiation 24/7 which some say is considered unhealthy, similar to cell phone radiation. One thing to remember about radiation transmission is that its intensity decreases by the square of the distance from the source. This means that the radiation intensity at 20 feet from the source is only one fourth as strong as it is at 10 feet.

So, that being said, if your smart meter is mounted on the exterior of your bedroom wall close to where you sleep, RF radiation may be a consideration. If it is mounted on a garage wall, well away from any high occupancy rooms, it is unlikely to have much effect. The jury is still out on this as the true long range effects of RF radiation have not yet been proven or dis-proven.

Since there is genuine concern with regard to RF radiation effecting health with some customers, most utilities allow a choice for customers to opt-out of having a smart meter installed. However, some of these utilities will charge an additional service fee to keep the analog meter in place because of the added cost of sending a meter reader to the home owner's premisis every month. Most opt-out participants feel this is unfair because they are being charged extra for something that has not changed.

Over the next 20 years, utilities will invest over $2 trillion to upgrade the electrical distribution system in the U.S. This will include replacement of transmission lines, adding generation capacity and modernizing the technology used to distribute electricity efficiently. Smart meters will play a key role in providing accurate, detailed consumption information to drive this whole system so the pressure to adopt wide scale deployment will continue.

However, utilities need to remain cognizant of the health and privacy issues that are of real concern to many customers by continuing to offer an opt-out option. If RF radiation proves to be a legitimate, long term health hazard or private consumption information is grossly misused they will have a real problem in their hands.

Net-zero Homes

A net-zero home is an energy efficient dwelling that generates at least as much electricity as it uses over the course of the year. Solar panels usually provide the source of generated power but must be coupled with other ultra-efficient features built into the home in order to reach the net-zero target.

A well insulated, tightly sealed structure is key. Structural insulated panels (SIP's) are generally used because of the high insulation R-value they provide and their ability to create an air-tight seal when assembled. Triple pane windows positioned to capture the maximum amount of passive solar for the building's location are another crucial ingredient for the ultra-efficient home.

Geothermal, with its high SEER rating, is the preferred method of heating and cooling as it draws heat from deep in the ground during winter and expels heat into the ground during summer. The ground temperature remains around 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year once a depth of six to eight feet is reached. Outside air ventilation systems are often used in conjunction with geothermal to augment temperature control by circulating outside air when it is advantageous.

Home energy monitors are widely used in net-zero homes to track energy consumption as well as power generation. They provide the information home owners need to make adjustments in their equipment and daily habits to achieve that net-zero target by the end of the year. Tracking power generation also serves as a check and balance on power being send back to the grid for credit and, over time, can provide feedback as to how efficient generation equipment remains with extended use.

Green housing projects have been growing steadily over the past several years. In 2005, only two percent of new homes contained a high level of energy efficiency features. Today, in 2013, that figure has increased 10-fold to where 20 percent of new homes contain these features. Looking forward to 2016, 29-38% of new homes are projected to be built with these energy efficient features.

A well built, energy efficient home, will come at a 5-10% premium on the overall construction cost. Most buyers feel this added cost will be offset by the lower utility bills they will enjoy over the years. If you are considering this type of investment here are some questions to ask: What will be the average monthly savings on the utility bill? How many years do I plan to live in this house? What are the added costs to incorporate ultra- efficient measures into the home's construction? If I sell the home, can I recoup the added investment? Just because a home is built with lots of energy efficient features does not guarantee it will truly be a net-zero home. That's up to the homeowner. True net-zero is determined by how well they monitor and manage the energy used by each family member that resides there.

Ten Energy Saving Tips

1. Whenever purchasing an appliance that uses a high degree of energy (typically 220-240 volt) evaluate the life cycle cost to determine the best value. This should include ((Kilowatt-hours per Year x Energy Cost x Number of Years in Service) + Maintenance Cost + Purchase Price). The lowest number will be your best buy.

2. Building a new home this year? Consider geothermal for heating and cooling if you are in a climate that does not have extreme winters (i.e. sub-zero temps for days at a time). SEER ratings can reach into the lower thirties which is much more efficient than any compressor driven cooling system.

3. Here's a quick rule of thumb for sizing a cooling system for a home. Plan to install one ton (12,000 Btu) of cooling for every 500 square feet of living space. Add 10% for sunny rooms and 50% for the area of the kitchen. Your HVAC contractor will make the final determination but this will get you in the ballpark.

4. Whole house fans are more econimical to run than air conditioners. They draw cool air through the house and exhaust warm air out the attic. This is a viable option to air conditioning in northern climates where cooling systems only run a month or two out of the year.

5. If you use natural gas or LP for cooking on your stove check to see that the burner emits a blue flame through the full range of temperature settings. If excessive orange flame exists combustion is not efficient and fuel is being wasted. Be sure you are using the correct burner jets for your fuel. Check with your appliance manufacturer or gas utility if the problem persists.

6. If using alternative energy such as keep receptors clean and free from shadows by trimming trees and shrubs in the vicinity. The same is true for wind. Be sure smooth, steady air flow is reaching the rotor at all times. Distirbed air flow to the turbine rotor has the same effect as placing a solar panel in the shade.

7. Keep a watch for bathroom or range hood fans that get left on inadvertantly. A small 50 CFM bath fan can expell the entire conditioned air content of a 2500 square foot home in less than 8 hours leaving that much more work for your AC system to replenish.

8. Afternoon sun through westerly facing windows can add a lot of heat load to your central air system. Pull drapes on those windows during these hot summer afternoons to reduce AC run time.

9. Now that the warm weather is back, double check the cooling values on your programmable thermostat. Can you bump the temperature up a degree or two when you are home without causing too much discomfort? How about 3-4 degrees when you are away? Be sure to activate hold settings or vacation mode when you are traveling for more than a day.

10. If you have a pool, how many hours per day do you run your pump? If you use regular chemicals or a salt system 8-10 hours should be adequate provided you keep up with algeacide treatments. If you use a UV system, the pump will need to remain on most all of the time. If contemplating a pool purchase for your home keep this operating cost statistic in the back of your mind when choosing a purification system.

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