Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

June 22, 2012

My City is Smart: Yes ROI, Yes Energy Efficiency Saves

Category: Climate Change,Conservation,Policy – Tom Harrison – 10:08 am

Our excellent Mayor of Newton, MA, Setti Warren cares about our city. The way he cares most is by saving money. One way he saved money was through energy efficiency programs.

These programs are for the city itself, businesses, and residents

September 27, 2010

Mac Sleep Problems Resolved (and Explained)

Mac Won't SleepSay it isn’t so — my Macbook will not sleep! When I abandoned Windows for a Macbook, I hoped I would resolve a problem with not sleeping (entering sleep mode) that I have posted about before — my Windows XP Sleep and Hibernation posts continue to generate thousands of views, but alas, Snow Leopard, OS X doesn’t always sleep, either.

I have done a fair amount of research and think I understand why my macbook will not enter sleep mode, and how the OS X sleep process works. And importantly (and unlike Windows): what you can do to resolve the issue. The short answer is: there’s no built-in way to ensure your Mac goes to sleep automatically, but there’s a great bit of free software you can install, which in my tests works perfectly: PleaseSleep. (more…)

September 22, 2010

It’s Pointless To Save A Little

Category: Conservation,Household,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 4:26 pm

Update: 9/24/10: Measured TiVo standby and it saves only 1W. Phooey! I confirmed with TiVo support that “we don’t recommend turning it off and on repeatedly, but the system is designed to handle power outages, so it should be fine”. They also point out the newest model of TiVo are Energy Star compliant, standby does reduce power consumption and at idle, its around 20W, but honestly, that seems needlessly high to me.

TiVo energy useI want to put a timer switch on my TiVo because it uses 37 watts all the time (which is good compared to normal cable boxes, which TiVo replaces). But I only ever watch or record shows between noon and midnight — the TiVo is on half the time for no reason.

So I asked a question on the public support forum about whether turning the device on and off like this would hurt it.

I got a little helpful advice, but a flood of responses saying things like:

  • The energy used to make the timer would never be offset by the amount of energy you save
  • Don’t forget that the timer is an electrical device and consumes energy
  • It boggles my mind that people would waste their time on saving a few cents a day
  • The amount of energy you might save is tiny compared to X
  • Don’t forget how much money you spend buying all the things that help you save energy
  • It’s behavior like this that got us into all this trouble with mortgages and buying too much stuff

The first two items are potentially valid. (more…)

June 24, 2010

Why the Jevons Paradox Does Not Apply Today

Category: Climate Change,Conservation,Economics – Tom Harrison – 11:02 am

In a couple cases recently, I have heard people talking about how the Jevons Paradox will undermine efforts to use energy more efficiently — and it certainly seems like it would fit, but it doesn’t apply to our current energy problems for several reasons: conservation, and improved efficiency are still our best options.

Or, so started a post that I began writing a couple weeks ago. Then, in some sort of karmic mind-meld, Peter Troast at wrote a post about Jevons, with almost the same conclusion as I was going to draw. Yeah, right, I hear you say.

So anyhoo, I think this topic is important to the larger discussion of energy, especially renewable energy, so here’s a link to Peter’s post on energy efficiency, which already has a nice thread of comments and observations — take a look, it’s a good read — and, add your thoughts!

April 5, 2010

Cape Wind Attacked By Its Own Proponents

Category: Climate Change,Conservation,Policy,Technology – Tom Harrison – 10:32 pm

I am beginning to think Jane Fonda is going to reincarnate (sorry, is she still with us?) and create a sequel to The China Syndrome called The Cape Windrome or something. Today the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation recommended that Cape Wind not be approved. Because what, the waves of yesteryear are going to be different? Come on, let’s get a little real, please?

The single most infuriating example of how the United States is sometimes able to undermine even the simplest, most obvious options is being played out in the great saga of Cape Wind. A small array of wind turbines is planned for Cape Cod Bay, generating a substantial amount of power, efficiently, locally and cleanly. But it represents change, and change is bad. Right? (more…)

January 22, 2010

Results of my Energy Audit: Before and After Pictures

Category: Conservation,Energy Audit,Household,Save Fuel,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 10:31 pm

In the Spring of 2009 I hired energy auditor Flemming Lund to do an energy audit on our house — I posted pictures and the full report — it was pretty amazing. I had some work done this summer (air sealing and insulation), and did some more on my own this fall — mostly caulking and stuff. Then I asked Flemming to come back and re-do the test. I told him he would have endless fame, fortune and that I would continue to refer customers to him, so he graciously waived the re-audit fee (thanks Flemming!)

And here are the results. Well, actually, the results are on Energy Circle — they have real editors and a wider audience than little ol’ Five Percent, and it was Energy Circle that helped me find Flemming and learn about a lot of this stuff from the start.

I hope you’ll take a minute to pop over and read my story. Our savings from the whole process, from an energy audit, air sealing, insulation, and good old caulk are pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. (more…)

October 31, 2009

Google PowerMeter: New (Useful) Features, New Device

Category: Companies,Conservation,Save Electricity,Save Fuel,Technology – Tom Harrison – 3:09 pm

I expected nothing less of Google PowerMeter — week by week, it continues to improve. Now the graph displays my usage compared to expected use, and includes a visual and numeric accounting of my baseline, “Always On” usage compared to total usage. Here’s what my graph for today looks like:


Three Great Things

The expected usage gives you a nice target, and the comparison to others provides a helpful benchmark.

But the new “Always On” measure provides two very helpful bits of information.

First, the darker bar helps isolate the spikes above. For example, the most obvious repeating spike above is the refrigerator — it cycles on about once per hour and runs for perhaps 25 minutes each time, running at a bit over 200W — it’s easy to see that pattern. (more…)

October 14, 2009

Google PowerMeter Showed Me How and Why I Was Wrong

Category: Conservation,Household,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 10:11 pm

Google PowerMeter showed me I was wrong about something. Well, sort of.

Perhaps you have noticed: I am a little obsessive with my measurement of energy usage. Despite being an energy saving zealot, we still use our electric clothes dryer — perhaps as a rationalization, I had claimed that all those other people saying that we should use our dryer less had it all wrong. I said that this caused people to lose focus of the smaller items, especially the ones contributing to your “baseline” usage.

As I have pointed out, but said more nicely in a great article on PlotWatt’s blog, 100 watts, on all the time, costs about $100 per year for most people (more for us in the Northeast). Over the course of measuring electricity usage with several power monitors, I have reduced our baseline usage from about 700W to around 200W, which saves me a good deal more than $500/year in electricity bills. Finding the little energy vampires like my old Dell laptop which wouldn’t sleep on its own, to the old cable box (replaced with TiVo), to the 2 buttons on my “off” receiver, to the computer server in our hall closet — all eliminated, and all reduced our baseline. Success.

So was the dryer really that important? I have to say, it seems so now. Here is a series of screen captures from (actual) data from my TED 5000 now hooked up to Google PowerMeter, which I can see from my iGoogle home page.

What do you see? (more…)

September 24, 2009

I Believed I Was Conserving, Until I Looked at the Facts

Category: Conservation,Energy Audit,Household,Save Fuel – Tom Harrison – 4:12 pm

As I have often mentioned in these pages, we had an energy audit last Spring. The audit was a seminal moment in my understanding of our household energy usage.

Mission Accomplished! (Or Is It?)

I talk to a lot of people about their energy conservation measures. Naturally, not wanting to look uncaring, people talk about how they have changed and are going green. Perhaps a light bulb or two changed to CFL. Perhaps they a jacket on their water heater. Some weatherstripping on their door? A programmable thermostat?

These changes sound fine, and they may actually make a difference. But there are two ways that just making changes alone doesn’t really change things.

Perhaps your two CFL bulbs reduce your electrical use a little, but isn’t it important to know how much? (For example, the oft-repeated water heater jacket is of almost no value if you have a relatively newer one). So it’s possible that your changes haven’t improved anything. And the second way changes alone are bad: you may feel like you have “gone green” … mission accomplished.

So to my great chagrin, I realized recently that I had very little clue what my heating usage was, or for that matter what it should be. I had made lots of great changes. Mission accomplished? Not so fast. (more…)

June 14, 2009

Being “Used To” Our Lifestyle Makes Change Seem Difficult

Category: Conservation,Sustainability – Tom Harrison – 2:58 pm

This weekend I saw the TV show Wa$ted and the documentary Born Into Brothels — two entirely different shows, but I think I saw the heart of a problem we have: we have become accustomed to a way of living that will be difficult to part with.

Wa$ted is a TV show — they come into your house, find how you’re wasting energy, propose and install solutions, follow your progress for a month, give the first year’s annualized savings in cash. The episode I watched resulted in a modest reduction in energy consumption by the family, and several refusals to part ways with some of their things. Born Into Brothels is about a photographer living in Calcutta who realizes the plight of the children of sex workers, gives them cameras, knocks down numerous barriers to help get the kids raised out of abject poverty, and has both success and failure.

These are very different shows, but it helped me see that regardless of outcome, even when the result is positive, people are resistant to change. (more…)