Posts Tagged ‘SmartMeter’

TV saves the day (??)

August 21, 2010

When my husband learned of my new energy-saving crusade there was just one word on his lips… television.

“Ours is so old,” he complained. “I’m sure it is eating up energy like nobody’s business. What we need is a shiny, new flat-screen TV… preferably 40 inches or larger.”

I was hesitant to agree. Our TV was a big old dinosaur, but I don’t want to encourage my family to spend more time in front of the idiot box, and wouldn’t that be the result of getting a new model?

Reluctantly, I agreed to accompany him to the electronics store, ‘just to look’ at new models. Of course we left the store with something that, while not the biggest and the best, was certainly closer to my husbands vision of a television befitting a man such as he.

In the store, I was gob smacked by his expertise. A keen interest in televisions, I have decided, comes as a standard feature of the y-chromosome. I have a Ph.D. in the sciences and I work for an energy efficiency company, I should be the expert, but here he was explaining to me the difference in energy consumption between the LED and plasma models and how the energy star rating works for televisions. Here’s what I learned…

  1. As a general rule, plasma televisions use more energy than their LCD counterparts.
  2. It is easy to be misled by TV manufacturers that boast about their energy efficiency, because they’re allowed to decide on the picture settings under which the energy use test is conducted. Of course they’re going to choose the dimmest setting as the testing mode. In reality you’re going to be watching your TV at a brighter setting.
  3. Bigger means higher energy consumption, in an approximately linear way. For example, a 32 inch LCD screen uses about half the energy the 52 inch version of the same television does, which is proportional to the area of the screen (614 square inches vs. 1,440 square inches).
  4. If you’re forgetful like me, you’ll want to buy a model that uses a very small amount of energy when turned off (stand-by mode). If you’re on top of things you’ll probably remember to unplug your electronics when they’re not in use.

If you read my last post on using my SmartMeter, you’ll know that my gas and electric company gave me the power to monitor my energy consumption on an hourly basis. By comparing the base load my house used on the nights before and after the new TV arrived I was able to figure out how much we’re saving with a new, more energy efficient TV.

Much to my husband’s delight, he was right… our old TV was an energy hog, even when it was turned off. We’ve reduced our base load by 50 Watts, which might not sound like a lot, but actually equates to about 35 kW-h each month, or close to $4/month. Not something that you’d run all the way to the bank screaming about, but sufficient excitement to warrant a good old-fashioned air punch, I think.

Be your own energy police

August 18, 2010

The energy police are here. That’s me, for precisely three days a month… the three days immediately following the receipt of my gas and electricity bill. I play the role of water police on a different three days of the month.

I think it is great to monitor and control your energy use, I just wish I was better at it. My problem is that I’m forgetful. Not forgetful in the sense that I leave the oven on and the dinner catches fire (although I wouldn’t put that past me either), but forgetful in the sense that an item of relatively low priority simply won’t get done if I’m not reminded of it frequently.

Don’t get me wrong, conserving energy should not be a low priority item, it’s just that my internal dialogue is so preoccupied with moment-to-moment problems that I forget about being good. Instead of thinking, “I should unplug the TV when I’m not using it,” I’m thinking, “Why aren’t my jogging shoes in the hallway closet? Who ate the last of the cereal and put the empty bag back in the box? Is there gas in the car? I’m probably going to be late for work again.”

Except for those three days after I get the bill, then a snapshot of my brain reveals a much more motivated consumer. Then I’m thinking, “I need to use the oven to roast a chicken for dinner, I should multi-task and make the brownies for my in-law’s potluck at the same time. Would that make the brownies taste like chicken? Who cares, I’m saving energy!”

Recently, my ‘27 days of forgetfulness followed by 3 days of frenzied energy saving’ model of living got a kick in the butt. PG&E, our energy company, installed SmartMeters on our gas and electric lines.

This is perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to my energy consumption habits. I found out that PG&E has an online tracking tool – a program that allows me to see our energy consumption by the hour with just a 24 hour lag time. I set the energy tracker log-on page as my homepage and now every time I launch my browser I check-up on how we’re doing and am reminded to be energy conscious, but more than that, for the first time I actually feel like I’m in control of my household energy use.

The number on my energy bill is no longer a mystery.

Of course, just looking at your SmartMeter won’t save you money any more than thumbing through Gourmet magazine will result in a delicious meal.  You need to take action with the simple tips I’ll discuss on this blog, and deeper recommendations you can review at GreenHomes America.

Now I keep a log of energy use and changes we make around the house, and correlate it to the changes I see on my SmartMeter energy tracker page. In the next few weeks I’ll be letting you in on the changes we’ve made both in our energy use habits and our energy-using hardware, and how they’ve affected our energy bill.

I’m hoping for great things. I’m hoping being more energy efficient will become a habit rather than something I have to think about. I’m hoping I’ll no longer freak out for 3 days a month and go into damage control mode, and thus,  to no longer have to sneak out of the room when I hear the words, “Who made these brownies? They taste kind of strange…”

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