Oh yes, I have it.
This afternoon, we started cooking dinner and I made the mistake of glancing at my TED 5000 display. It was reading 1,019 watts at the moment. What the…?
This wasn’t right. We had three lights on in the kitchen at about 35W each. The TV was on in the living room — nope, that’s only 180W. To confirm, I asked Carter to turn the TV off, checked the display, then on again. Yep, about 180W. The fridge was on — I had just gone to the market and opened the freezer and fridge sides so it was re-cooling. That’s around 200 Watts.
I checked downstairs to see if the dryer was on, or something else. Nope. Was the Smart Strip working (the kids had been playing on the Wii earlier, but I have it set up to turn everything off when the TV goes off.) Nope.
Fish tank? I had been suspicious of it for a while and had my Kill-A-Watt plugged in to the socket. But it’s 100W heater, when on, used 100W as advertised. The filter was just a few watts. The fish are safe … for now.
I checked upstairs. Carter’s computer hadn’t gone to sleep … but that couldn’t explain it. I put his computer to sleep. Hardly any change. Theresa’s computer was off, mine was asleep. What the…?
So I looked at the TED graphing, and here’s what I saw:
Between 3 and 4pm, we use between 300W and 500W. Carter starts watching CSI a little before 5 and Theresa start cooking (spinach lasagna, yum!) at around 5 — lights in the kitchen go on, turn on the stove and kitchen lights, fridge is on, the ice-maker went on (we had a Gin and Tonic for a cocktail) and started making the lasagna. Then, around 5:20 we turned on the oven, and finished everything else up. Lights out, fridge closed, and back to baseline plus the TV.
But that’s not what happened.
Now just to be clear, my family had this completely figured out yesterday when we baked a chicken. Again, I was surprised to see the TED reading so high. They all said “it’s the oven”!
I laughed. In my view, it wasn’t exactly a derisive laugh at all. Perhaps there was a paternalistic scorn (but hey, I am the father, so get to be paternalistic). They say “dismissive”. I say “laughing with you”. Whatever.
The point is: the stove uses gas. Sure, it’s got a clock and a digital display. They’re on all the time anyway. Ha!
Back to today, as I am walking around the house obsessively checking for things being turned on. I couldn’t figure it out. I thought the story here was that this real-time electrical display device, the TED 5000, had created in me what will eventually be diagnosed as a new psychological disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Excessive Consumption Detection Disorder (OCECDD). As I was writing, I was staring at the chart above (yes, obsessively). I asked, tentatively and without giving away anything, “So, Theresa, when did you turn on the oven?” — and she said “Around 5:30, I guess.”
And then I realized: it must me the gas oven using the electricity. Then, the stove timer went off — lasagna was done. I heard the beep when the oven went off (6:39pm). TV and my computer off (6:44pm). And through this, the TED meter dropped to around 500 Watts … and stayed there. It was the oven indeed.
Dinner was good. I was stunned. (Not that dinner was good, still obsessed with the recent finding regarding our gas stove.)
I did the dishes, and as I cleaned, I surreptitiously turned on the oven again. And yes, the TED jumped by over 300 Watts. Did I mention that it’s a gas stove? The label on the side says the oven uses 16,000 BTU/hr. Over to the handy, dandy Watt Converter to find that the oven burners, when on, use 4686 Watts (less than the dryer, to be sure). But it doesn’t mention that when the burner is on, the oven also uses 300 Watts of electricity, as well.
Carter found the answer, by Googling “Why does our gas oven use 300 Watts?” Google knew, and so did fieldlines.com. Our oven uses an electric glow bar igniter. When the gas burner is on, so is the electric current — enough to create a glowing light that ensures that if the gas flame blows out (perhaps due to a hurricane or tornado?) the gas flow will be re-lit by the igniter. Yeah, for a little less than 10% of the energy to cook the damned food, we have a little 300W glow bar on to make sure if the flame goes out, it will go on again.
We could light our whole house for 300 Watts. The New York Times wrote a story today about how we use so much electricity with our computers and TVs (quoting my friend Peter Troast, who, in addition to being a “home owner” is also the CEO of EnergyCircle.com, which they managed not to mention in the story) — why doesn’t the Times do an expose on glow bar igniters?
I want to know. What part of “Energy Star” decided that it was necessary and OK to have a 300 Watt thing running for hours at a time, doing nothing. NOTHING.
OK, so I guess I will not be diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Excessive Consumption Detection Disorder. No way! I think I’ll get “energy sleuth of the year” award for figuring this one out. I am a hero. My family are heroes (and I’m not saying that just so they’ll get over me laughing derisively at them when they suggested a gas stove could be responsible for using 300 Watts). And the evil, bad, wasteful people at Kenmore (actually Maytag, who re-branded the oven we have as Kenmore) should be ashamed.
It just goes to show: it’s not just the folks that showed up at town-hall meetings to yell at their Senator who are crazy. So are the people at Kenmore who decided it was fine to run a 300W electrical element whenever the gas stove is on.