Just in time for Earth Day and after 2 months of Kill-A-Watt'ing the electrical audit of our home is finally complete! There were many eye-opening findings which prompted me to make lots of changes, and the results on our electric bill have already been well worthwhile.
Here is an Open Document spreadsheet with all of my data (you can use OpenOffice
to read it):
Here is an OpenPDF version of it for you folks that are still using MS Office and can't work with Open Document formats:
Here is a list of the things I learned:
a) My old cabbage patch of server equipment was eating our lunch not just on electricity but on HVAC as well. The old units were consolidated onto one laptop which backs up pertinent data to one of the desktops for local redundancy. Net gain: 5.25kWh/day + 8F less heat upstairs
b) I've started using my laptop instead of my desktop for surfing, email and non-gaming entertainment as it uses just 12-16W while my desktop and its supporting equipment suck down 260W. We have also started shutting down the desktops when not in use. Net gain: ~10kWh/day
c) As soon as it warms up enough for things like caulking I'll be re-sealing every window, door. vent, attic access, etc. because heating and cooling takes so much energy. Even without being able to get a reading from the compressor (it's too cold... I couldn't get it to kick on - hehe) and even with the heat being produced by burning natural gas the HVAC system is still our largest electrical expenditure (the ventilation system sucks a ton of juice).
d) Our coffee maker uses more juice on two pots a day than the 32" LCD HDTV that gets turned on for a few hours every evening.
e) My pride and joy which I saved up for years for, the 50" plasma HDTV downstairs, is truly a luxury item. Not only did it cost a pretty penny up front but it is the largest non-infrastructure electricity user. Combined with its supporting equipment (AV receiver, subwoofer, HD-DVR satellite receiver, DVD player, power filter) it takes 600W to watch television, 610 to watch a DVD.
f) Our refrigerator works great, is the first one we've ever had that included an ice maker and filtered water dispenser and came with the home at purchase time, but it turns out it's one of the most inefficient models on the market. It is so inefficient that we'll basically pay for it again in electricity usage before it's retired/recycled.
g) The toaster oven uses the same amount of juice as the microwave.
h) The range light (part of the microwave - it's an under-cabinet mount) is the most inefficient bulb in the house now that everything other than appliances have been converted to CFLs. Despite covering less than 1m of visible space it sucks down 70W of juice. The refrigerator is close behind at 60W on the fridge side and 50W on the freezer side.
i) Thanks to CFLs, despite the microwave only being used for about 10 minutes per day it is sucking down more juice than the entirety of our general lighting in a 24-hour cycle.
j) Space heaters are evil little devices! They use just as much wattage as a hair dryer and some folks run them for 8-10 hours per day. You may as well just donate a percentage of your paycheck to your utility provider.
k) It takes juice to perform surge protection and power filtering. It never occurred to me but it does indeed require power to keep things like conditioning and load protection at the ready. All of the surge protectors in the house, despite being different brands and having different ratings, use about 1W constant while the power filter in our AV setup draws 10W constant.
l) Hair dryers, like all things heating and cooling, are so inefficient that despite being used for just 5 minutes per day it is taking more juice than a 24-hour cycle for our instant hot water recirculator. While my wife's flat iron is more efficient than the blow dryer it still uses more power in just 15 minutes than my laptop does in 4 hours.
m) DeWalt battery chargers use 2W even when there's no battery plugged in and they are showing no indicator lights.
n) Despite being another heating device "heating pads" are pretty doggone efficient. The larger one we have draws just 8W no matter which setting you have it on (it just draws longer to achieve higher temperatures for the higher settings). On this note it really is cheaper to use an electric blanket at night than it is to keep your entire home heated, even if your heat comes from natural gas (I never would have thought this).
o) Shredding paper doesn't take as much energy as I anticipated. I figured it'd be in the neighborhood with vacuum cleaners and blow dryers but ours uses just 77W when shredding 7 pages at once.
p) Glade Plug-Ins only cost about $0.50/year to operate despite running 24 hours a day for that time.
q) The Wii is an impressivley efficient computer! At 18W it uses less juice than my laptop-server. Too bad it's hooked to that 50" plasma and AV receiver.
r) Yes, CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights) are that much more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Despite costing over $300 to change out every bulb in and around the house they will pay for themselves in less than 6 months.
s) With rare exception fans are much more efficient than air conditioning. Our meter tall vertical fan uses 31W on medium and while sweeping 90 degrees. You can't even look at a window AC unit for that kind of power, and just the central air's thermostat uses 5W (the central ventilation fan uses 600W - ouch!).
t) Subwoofers designed for the home seem to be much more efficient than the ones made for cars. The last setup I had in a car had a 900W amplifier, but the one that's part of my surround sound system uses just 9W and will rattle every surface in the house if I let it. Maybe all of the ricers should get an inverter instead of an amp...
u) Despite being different brands and being purchased 4 years apart both of our vacuum cleaners pull exactly 1150W.
v) Analog AV equipment requires much less power. Our 15-year-old analog 27" television pulls 50W while our 32" LCD pulls 155, and our analog satellite receiver pulls 9W while the HD one pulls 19.
w) Satellite receivers run at full power even when in "standby" or "sleep" mode. As long as they are locked on to a satellite they are pulling 100% of their juice. This makes me mad... why does my HD-DVR need to pull 52W when I'm dead asleep? However, if you fully turn off the receiver then it will take up to 10 minutes to reacquire the satellite once you power it back up, which is quite inconvenient.
x) The Linksys WRT54G wireless router requires 4W out of the box but only 3W once you re-flash it to run on the Linux firmware, despite the Linux firmware offering 2 extra options over the default one.
y) The Kill-A-Watt
is a wonderful, useful, worthwhile device that paid for itself in the first month I got it.
z) As I learned from a fellow that runs the State Legislature's Environmental Protection unit for northern Nevada at Thursday's Green Summit in Reno, if everyone in my area would make the same changes that we have, which required very little investment and no sacrifice, then there would be no talk of building a new coal-burning electricity plant.
With all of the things I learned by reading, researching and measuring I was able to make both physical and mental changes throughout our home and family that have resulted in cutting our daily power usage by more than half (December's average was 43kWh/day while March's was 22kWh/day and I am expecting April's to be around 17kWh/day).
This puts the option of going with a grid-tied solar array within much closer reach as a 3kW system would run about $20k installed (before rebates, etc.) vs. the $38k needed for a 6kW system. I need to wait for warmer weather to see just how much juice the AC compressor draws and then calculate in the cost of converting the hot water and HVAC systems to 100% electricity to get a better idea of exactly how much solar energy we would need, but I'm tempted to wait until I see what my future PHEV will need every day as I'd rather pay off one home improvement loan than two.