Good home energy economics planning dictates an electric meter, other than the utility's, be used to track and monitor residential energy use. Electrical meter technology has been used in industrial plants and large commercial buildiings for years to help conserve electricity and reduce energy bills. The cost and complexity of these systems have kept them beyond the reach of most home owners. That is - until now!
Within the past several years a number of new, low cost electricity monitors have come on the market. These devices bring a variety of industrial grade features to the residential marketplace at a price that can be recovered within a couple of years through energy bill savings.
This new generation of electricity monitors can truly make a difference on your home energy economics. The data granularity of circuit level monitors is remarkable. It allows you to see a detailed history of kilowatt-hours and electricity cost for every circuit in your home. As a result you will find all sorts of opportunities to reduce energy costs.
Other types of electric meters include single point and multi-point monitors for measuring electricity for the whole house. Simple, low cost plug-in meters allow you to do energy spot checks on any appliance that has a 120 volt plug.Most whole house electric meter systems offer networking capabilities that allow you to monitor energy use and cost from any computer in your home. Mobile phone apps allow you monitor home energy from almost anywhere else. Data logging and tracking tools tell you how much energy each appliance has used over time. Some systems even offer suggestions on how to reduce this energy based on your usage profile.
Taking this one step further, some devices offer the option of remote control via the Internet. For example, install an IP (Internet Protocol) controlled programmable thermostat in your home. You not only monitor energy, but control it as well by adjusting the temperature remotely. Some utilities are using this smart meter tactic by offering incentives to customers who are willing to relinquish control during periods of high load.
Having this technology available to the home owner will help them to prepare for what lies ahead. Instability in the Mideast and a cloudy energy policy here in the U.S. coupled with a nagging recession all point toward future of uncertain energy economics. Speculators may drive fuel and natural gas prices back up. A political upheaval in a major oil producing country could disrupt the flow of oil to the U.S. affecting prices dramatically.
Anytime the price of oil is affected significantly we consumers feel it at the pump and in our electric bills. Most utilities pass their added fuel cost onto customers through fuel cost adjustments. These adjustment affect the price of every kilowatt-hour you use.
With such uncertainty about energy economics through out the world, doesn't it make sense to install an electricity monitor in your home? Remember, "Measurement Validates Conservation" so let's take a practical look at how to use the capabilities of an residential electric meter to your best advantage.
One of keys to getting your home energy economics in order is to develop an "Energy
Conservation Mind-set" or ECM. This is nothing more than reinforcing the
importance of conserving energy to other members of your family on a daily basis.
A great way to do this is to place the electric meter display in a prominent, high traffic area of your home such as the kitchen or a main hallway. Constant exposure to kilowatt-hours and energy expense nurtures the awareness of wasted energy. Everyone can see the immediate benefit of shutting off unused lights, taking shorter showers, pulling the drapes on a cold night or not adjusting the thermostat too often.
TED 5000 Display
A 2006 study by Florida Solar Energy Center on the Potential of Residential Energy Feedback Devices shows that a 10-15% reduction in energy use can be attributed to the immediate feedback of energy used. People respond to a device that gives them immediate feedback much more readily than to a piece of paper that just shows how much energy they used last month.
Deploying a healthy ECM at your home can be fun but may require a bit of investing into your energy economics plan. Simply reward good conservation practices. When kilowatt-hours are saved, do something special for the whole family.
Try a night out at a favorite restaurant if energy bills are reduced by 10%. Offer bigger rewards for more savings. Would your kids be motivated by a bonus in their allowance for energy saved? What kind of reward would your whole family enjoy?
To make this process easier, we have developed a home energy audit tool called the Power Panel Profiler. The Profiler is a comprehensive spreadsheet built around a standard 40-circuit, 200-amp panel which helps you to construct an accurate inventory of the electrical load on every circuit in your home. Circuit data rolls up into a total energy load for the residence.
The Power Panel Profiler is a free download when you subscribe to our on line newsletter, or ezine, called the Meter Messenger. The Messenger is published bi-monthly and you can sign up for it in the right hand column.As you build your inventory of electrical circuit loads we'll introduce you to the various metering techniques you can deploy with your home energy monitor or plug-in meter. These include single point metering, net metering, sub-metering, load profiling and placard analysis.
Working through this process you will come to know your family's usage patterns and will find areas to save. Energy savings adds up quickly when you make small changes to large loads. Use your electric monitoring system to measure the savings. Track the results monthly to be sure good practices remain in place and wasteful old habits do not return.
If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where you can take advantage of generating your own electricity, by all means do so. Evaluate the energy economics if installing such a system very carefully before proceeding. Quantify all the costs associated with the purchase and installation of a system and weigh them against the expected energy output to determine the pay back period.
If you will be selling excess power back to the grid or receiving credit on your electric bill, know your utility's tariff regarding distributed generation credits or have a signed agreement in hand before proceeding. You don't want to find out the utility will only pay you a fraction of what they charge you per kilowatt-hour - after the fact!
Put your home energy monitor system to work to track kilowatt-hours generated from alternative energy sources such as solar power panels, solar thermal, micro-hydro or wind power. Log these self generated kilowatt-hours as they offset the electricity delivered by the utility company. Compare this data to any distributed generation credits the utility applies to your bill. Results should differ by less than five percent.
Another benefit to measuring alternative power generation is to monitor your system's efficiency. Knowing the baseline of output for each season will give you an accurate picture of when you will recoup on your investment - the bottom line to any good energy economics plan. If the output starts to drop below the baseline, the system may need maintenance or certain components may need to be upgraded.
The final step to any good energy economics plan is to always keep improving it. Every home can benefit from applying energy saving ideas. Delve into ways you can save electricity with air conditioning, programmable thermostats, hot water systems and home lighting ideas. Another good source for saving electricity can be found at Green-Energy-Efficient-Homes.com.Remember to use your home energy monitor to measure the before and after conditions to determine the actual savings realized. Your electrical meter system acts as a speedometer and an odometer telling you how fast you are going and how far you've come. Energy is simply power used over time. Without measurement, you won't know which energy saving ideas will deliver the most bang for your buck!