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Meter Messenger #127 - DSIRE Energy Rebates
September 15, 2013

Issue #127
September-October 2013

Visit Home Energy

Table of Contents

DSIRE - A Wealth of Energy Saving Rebates

Measuring 240 Volt Loads

Automating Energy Savings

Ten Energy Saving Tips

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DSIRE - A Wealth of Energy Saving Rebates

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) is a comprehensive listing of all of the state and Federal rebates available for installing energy saving projects. Click here to visit the home page which displays an interactive map of the United States. Click on your state and you will be presented with a list ao available rebates from local utilities. There is also a U.S. flag colored button you can click on on see what energy savings and tax credits are available from the Federal government.

Search the lists to see if your energy saving project may qualify for a rebate. For example, Middle Tennessee Electric, our local utility, provides the following rebates for energy saving home improvement projects:

Rebates can cover up to 50% of installed cost, up to one time maximum of $500 for the following MTEMC recommended measures:

Windows (Replacement): $500
Storm Windows: $500
Duct Work: $500
Rehabilitation Work: $250
HVAC (Replacement): $250
Building Insulation: $500
Self-Installed Weatherization Measures: $250
Water Heater Insulation: $50
Air Sealing: $500
HVAC Tune-Up: $150

Clicking on the Federal rebates and credits we find that there is a Residential Energy Efficiency Tax credit that applies to water heaters, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, central air conditioners, building insulation, windows, roofs and circulating fans used in a qualifying furnace. The maximum tax credit is $500 for equipment installed in 2011, 2012 or 2013. Some restrictions apply and this tax credit goes away at the end of 2013 so be sure to apply this Fall if you want to take advantage of it.

There is a myriad of of rebates and tax incentives available to not only residential customers but commercial and industrial businnesses as well. Check out the DSIRE web site for all the details.

Measuring 240 Volt Loads

The easiest way to measure an electrical load is to use a plug-in meter such as P-3 International's Kill-a-Watt. This works well for single phase 120 volt loads but what about 240 volt loads? No one makes a simple plug-in meter for your clothes dryer or electric range. These bigger loads rely on split phase power where the black and red conductor each carry 120 volts for a total of 240 volts.

The best way to measure these loads is at the main breaker panel where the clothes dryer, hot water heater, electric range and central air conditioner each have a separate two-pole breaker. Central air units may have a second breaker for the air handler and auxiliary heat strip or have power routed to a separate sub-panel. The point is to locate the double pole breaker that serves the load you want to measure. Verify by shutting the breaker off and then confirming no power is running to the appliance.

You will need a multi-point or circuit level energy meter to monitor these loads. These types of energy monitors are designed to track more than a single load simultaneously. In fact, circuit level monitors can track up to every load in the service panel independently if configured to do so but all this data comes at a higher cost. We recommend not spending more that twice your monthly electric bill on an energy monitoring system so you will see a faster payback on your investment.

Be sure to follow all installation instructions for the energy monitor you purchase. If you are not comfortable with working inside the main electrical panel of your home please contact a licensed electrician to do the work for you.

If you decide to proceed, have a good flashlight handy before cutting power to your service panel at the main breaker. Start by installing voltage leads for the energy monitor to a separate double-pole breaker if there is space in the panel. If not, connect the leads to a double pole breaker that has the least amount of usage. However, we do not recommend connecting the voltage leads to the breaker that supplies power to the specific 240 volt load you are planning to measure as if may throw power readings off slightly.

Next, place a current transformer (CT) around each wire exiting the double pole breaker. If doughnut CT's are used, the wire will need to be disconnected from the breaker, threaded through the CT and reconnected. If split-core CT's are used, simply clamp one around the red wire and one around the black wire exiting the breaker. They can fit loosely but must be fully closed to work properly. If additional channels and CT's are available repeat the CT installation steps for each breaker to be measured.

It is also recommended to measure the power coming into the panel from the utility meter. This way, a total reading for the residence is obtained. Individual sub-metered loads will be a subset of this overall load. Most all multiple channel energy meters are designed to do this. Simply clamp the appropriately sized CT's around the two hot legs coming into the main breaker.

Remember, these conductors remain hot so any exposed metal on the line side of the main breaker will also be hot unless power has been shut off at the utility meter. Take extra care not to touch any metal surfaces on or around the main breaker when installing these CT's.

After these steps are completed, close up the electrical panel and turn the main breaker back on. Follow the manufacturer's instructions in configuring the gateway or computer interface for your energy monitor. The system should start logging data as soon as it is configured. Check back after a few hours to be sure everything is working properly and then let it run for a week or two to establish a base line. From that you should be able to determine how much energy is being used by the 240 volt appliance in question.

For more information on sub-metering 240 volt loads, please visit the submetering page on our web site.

Automating Energy Savings

Given the wide array of energy management technologies available today, there is something for everyone who wants to lower costs and save energy. It can be something as simple as an occupancy sensor or programmable thermostat or as complex as a fully integrated energy management module that works in conjunction with a home automation system.

Most people deal with busy schedules such that remembering to set the thermostat back, dim the lights or turn off electronic devices that draw phantom power often get overlooked. Even though only a few cents may be saved each day by doing this, doing it consistently starts to build real savings over months and years. That's the beauty of automation - consistency day in and day out, and you don't even have to think about it.

Programmable thermostats are the most effective energy saving device in the home, if programmed properly, because they control the largest energy user. Reducing the run time on a heat pump compressor motor or an auxiliary heat strip by a few minutes each day adds up quickly. All it takes is a couple of degrees programmed into the thermostat to make the difference.

Occupancy sensors and power strip timers are inexpensive ways to keep wasted energy from showing up on your power bill. Install dimmers and bump the illumination back 10 percent. You won't notice it. This not only saves energy but extends bulb life, as well.

At the more advanced level, home control companies such as Crestron, Savant, AMX, Vantage and Control4 have energy management modules that can be integrated with the system controllers. This allows you to program your lighting scenes for optimum levels of efficiency and turn off home entertainment amplifiers and devices when not in use. Some connect to security systems so when you enter your code as you leave the whole house automatically steps into its energy saving mode. Smart phones can be used to restore normal operations over the Internet if your return schedule varies.

And remember, as Lord Kelvin put it, "You cannot improve what you do not measure!" So, invest in an energy monitor to track your progress and document your savings.

Ten Energy Saving Tips

1. 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.

2. If building or remodeling be sure to use insulation contact (IC rated) recessed light fixtures. A lot of warm air can escape into a cold attic if there has to be an inch or two gap in the insulation around the fixtures. IC rated light fixtures also add a layer of fire protection.

3. High performance windows have a minimum of two panes with an evacuated space between them. In colder climates look for lower U-factor (insulation) ratings and in warmer climates look for lower SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient). In temperate climates that heat and cool look for low ratings on both.

4. If your family uses a lot of hot water consider installing a drain water heat recovery system. It extracts heat from water going down the drain uses it to preheat fresh water entering the hot water heater. Click here for more details.

5. Put cell phone and other portable electronic equipment chargers on a power strip. Once the units are charged shut off the power strip. It keeps chargers and cords from getting tangled or misplaced and stops the trickle of wasted power.

6. Verify you refrigerator's temperature by placing a thermometer in a glass of water in the fridge for 24 hours. Place the thermometer between frozen packages in the freezer for a more accurate reading and check it after 24 hours. Refrigerators should read 37-40 degrees F. and freezers 0-5 degrees F.

7. Consider installing solar lighting along your sidewalk or beside pathways in your yard. Low voltage solar lights are easy to install, safe and require no energy from the grid to operate.

8. Place a plug-in meter on your refrigerator or freezer. Check it after a week of normal family use. Compare this to a week when no one is home such as a family vacation. The difference is what it costs to open the door.

9. Clothes dryers that shut off with a moisture sensor are more energy efficient than those that just run out a timer. Look for this option next time you are shopping for a clothes dryer.

10. Check for drafts, worn weatherstripping and gaps under exterior doors throughout the winter season. Seal those gaps as soon as possible to lower discomfort from the cold and your electric bill.

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