Posts Tagged ‘electricity’

Fans Only Cool People… what?

July 17, 2014

My House - New Orleans - Kitchen 2010.jpg
In these hot summer months we love our fans of all kinds, desk fans, ceiling fans, clip on fans, the list goes on.  Naturally, if we are in a warm room we turn on the ceiling fan to help cool the room.  When we leave the room, we leave the fan on so it can continue cooling.  If it cools us, it will cool the room, right?  Wrong.  Fans have fooled us all.  The U.S. Department of Energy reminds us that fans cool people, not rooms.  How?  They create a wind chill effect by moving air over our skin.  As far as the room goes, the fan will actually create more heat in the room because of its motor.  Not only that, but by leaving it on, you are increasing your electric bill.  Sounds pretty counterproductive, doesn’t it?

You aren’t without options though.  Sure, cool off with a fan while you are in the room and turn it off when you leave.  That would be using fans efficiently.  Or, get an energy audit to see why that room is so warm in the first place.  This would help you to use your home more efficiently.

Feel free to share with your fellow homeowners, we can’t let anyone else get fooled by the fan.

Thanks for stopping by!


Picture Source:  “My House – New Orleans – Kitchen 2010” by Alex CastroFlickr: My House – New Orleans – 2010. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In home electric monitoring, Real Time Data and Age Old Adages

May 24, 2012

By U.S. Air Force photo by Edward Aspera Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

NYT reported last month that although there are some early adopters of monitors of electric use in our homes, it is predicted that more than half will have them in the next ten years.    Notable in the Times article is a quote from Dan Yates, CEO of Opower: “Simply making energy usage visible can have an impact”.   I can believe that; after all, “knowledge is power”, right?

Blending physics, and metaphor, with this age old adage (I can’t resist throwing in some physics), power implies transformation.  It is a function of using energy to do work.  My point is that energy monitors aren’t worth squat unless we change our behavior based on what they tell us.  In fact, since you plug them in, they use electricity, they don’t save it.

Local utilities are offering energy data with things like the green button which we’ve written about in the past. Changing light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs can make a big impact with electric loads.  When you use electricity—for A/C or to heat water for example—more efficient systems can make a difference; and so can improving the home in other ways.   The gains in insulating and air sealing, proper shading, and good windows can really make an impact on your energy usage as well as your comfort.

I wonder if the adage “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is relevant?  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to keep an eye on your electrical usage, but don’t get caught watching and not acting. Or maybe, “a fool and his money will soon part” fits too.



The Average American’s Energy Consumption

October 11, 2011

Interesting graphic from

Natural gas prices climb

March 23, 2011

The extended colder weather has pushed up natural gas prices—reflecting price rises we’re seeing at the gas pumps.  With some electricity generation shifting toward natural gas, we’ll continue to have demand pressure, even as more supplies are found.  Add to that, the fact that the pipes are only so big, and we can only squeeze so much natural gas through them.  This is part of the reason we saw natural gas shortages in several states this winter.  And it’s not going away.  Even with more supply of energy—gas, electricity, oil—we would still have an expensive distribution problem.  New electric lines, and bigger gas pipelines aren’t free.  The cost gets reflected in the energy bills we pay.  However, by increasing efficiency, we help solve both the supply and the distribution question.  Individually and collectively, we decide where our money gets spent.  To me, it just doesn’t make sense to burn it when there are so many other things we could be doing!  And that’s why energy-efficiency makes sense.  And cents.  And lots and lots of dollars.


Japanese Disasater Reminds of the Need to Be Prepared

March 13, 2011

Still awe stuck by images of the terrible earthquake/tsunami this week in Japan, I’m also amazed at how tens of thousands of people were likely saved from the initial onslaught be preparedness.  And staggered by the work still needed to avoid further calamity—people need water, food, shelter.

One thing is clear from the coverage of the devastation.  The Japanese were a lot more prepared than we would be for something of this magnitude. They have well-rehearsed emergency plans and supplies in place.  And despite the shaking, there were many modern building that stood because of stringent codes and practices.

It would be worth taking some time to think about how prepared you and your family are.  One place to start with be the Are You Ready? guide from FEMA.  []

I think one thing that the FEMA guide is weak on, though, and we’re weak on as a country, is the further complications due to weeks—or months—without power and water.  Do you have a way to get safe drinking water should you lose the public supply or power for your private well?  And how long wood you and your family and your home be OK without power?  In the middle of summer?  In the middle of winter? 

Energy-efficiency can play a big role in disaster preparedness.  Generally, the more efficient your home is, the more livable it remains if you are without power for extended periods.  Some homes can maintain temperatures in the 50s and 60s in subfreezing weather for months, even with no heat.  Others drop quickly—raising a variety of issues including freezing water pipes and difficult living conditions.  Some homes become unlivable in hot summer months without air-conditioning—while others can coast along well in the same heat.  If your utility bills are high, or your house is uncomfortable during normal circumstances, what happens when electricity or gas supplies get disrupted?  And what natural disasters can trigger blackouts or brownouts, a variety of other causes put us at risk.

This isn’t just speculation.  Many people have experienced severe winter weather without power for extended periods–it happens most years somewhere, and this year was no different.  In some parts of the country, cold temperatures and much higher than normal gas use caused some people’s homes to not have enough fuel to stay warm this winter.   Compound that with something like terrorism targeting our infrastructure, and things could get ugly fast.

I don’t think this stuff should rule our lives.  But we shouldn’t ignore, them either.  And doing things like making ourselves less dependent on energy supplies makes sense anyway, and we clearly ought to be doing better, don’t you think?


The Buzz About Electricity

July 31, 2008

As my home state of Vermont’s aging and ailing nuclear reactor is in the news a lot right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about where we get our electricity and what it means.  
I bet most people would be surprised to learn that the U.S. still gets more than 50% of its electricity from coal.  Yes, coal, the same stuff that you might imagine Oliver Twist scrounging around in the gutters for.  There’s a nice little film, Kilowatt Ours that has been quietly winning awards and acclaim.  The filmmaker, Jeff Barrie, shows us the results of our energy appetite, and he shows us how we can take steps, little steps and big steps, to start changing the equation.
Electricity has been in the news for other reasons.  Last week Al Gore challenged the U.S. to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.   And Texas oil tycoon and investor T. Boone Pickens—someone generally not taken as a treehugger—is setting out to  build the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas.   We’re going to be hearing a lot about electricity, and energy in general, in the coming year, including how it affects our security, our economy, and our environment.
As we do, remember that the least expensive and critical first step for us to take control of our energy future is efficiency and conservation.  The less energy we use, and the smarter we use it, the easier it is the meet our needs whether we’re talking about nuclear, wind, solar, or a bicycle power generator.  And we don’t have to wait for new exotic technology—we can start saving today.


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