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
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December 13, 2010

LED Light Bulbs to Replace CFL or Standard? Not There Yet.

Category: Economics,Household,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 5:59 am

LED Lighting, Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Surprisingly Close To Incandescent

I have written about LED lighting before, saying “Not there yet” — my most recent checkup was about 18 months ago.

There’s some progress, but we’re still not quite there. Home Depot is selling a Philips LED light bulb: same brightness as a 60W incandescent bulb (in other words, dim), same shape as standard A19 bulb, same color temperature and color rendering index, and dimmable, uses 12W, and lasts for 25,000 hours — Cost: $40.

A comparable CFL, (although not dimmable) costs about $1.50 and uses 13W and lasts 8,000 hours.

A comparable incandescent costs around $1 and uses 60W and lasts about 1,000 hours.

Some math. Compared to incandescent:

  • CFL and LED both use about 1/5th as much electricity
  • LED lasts 25x longer, CFL lasts 8x longer

So let’s think about lifetime cost. (more…)

Why Is My Refrigerator Running When It’s Colder Outside?

Category: Economics,Household – Tom Harrison – 12:02 am

Steam Heat

Baby Its Warm Outside

Last week, it was colder outside than the temperature inside my fridge and freezer … but the fridge kept running — why can’t it use the cold air from outside? And while I am asking questions, why do I need a humidifier in winter while exhausting that nice, hot, humid air from our showers outside with a fan? Or, that nice hot humid air from the dryer — big plumes of hot air into the icy cold? It smells nice, too.

Our homes and their appliances are dumb as stumps. Or, is it us?

To be sure, the bathroom exhaust fan is not a simple problem — there are indeed times when that which is being exhausted is, um, best left outside.

But the clothes dryer — if you put in a dryer sheet, you’re sending nice smelling, warm, humid air outside (and, by blowing air outside through one hole, it is replaced by sucking in cold, dry, outside air through some other leak or hole). The fridge is even more perverse: 20°F outside, and the motor is running? Huh?

Afraid To Be Too Smart

Of course the reason for these inefficiencies is simply that adding smarts to appliances increases complexity, and that increases cost. (more…)

December 6, 2010

Step 2: Insulate, Step 1: Stop Drafts

Category: Energy Audit,Household,Save Fuel – Tom Harrison – 1:38 pm

Failed attempt to seal my whole house fan

My First Attempt: Failure (Blue = Bad)

A while back, I had an energy audit and found that my house leaked like a sieve — a condition that left our efforts to insulate, replace windows, replace the gas burner and so on all waiting for me to wake up and smell the … fresh outdoor air.

The audit pointed out where the drafts were. We sealed. We caulked. We foamed. We had all of the identified problems addressed, mostly. And then (as a favor) our energy auditor returned and did a re-test, and found places we had missed. By “we” I mean “I’.

Holey Hole, Batman!

Insulated and Sealed Better Second Time

B&D Thermal Leak Detector: 62 Degrees

The whole house fan was one big remaining hole that I proudly asserted having fixed for $20 — I had built a box out of insulating foam board. I had put a nice cover over the fan, box corners sealed with duct tape, and made a nice seal between the cover and the floor. But the follow-up blower-door test showed: it was still a big hole in the house. By that winter, I knew — I could put my hand up and feel the cool air tumbling down from the attic. For another $8 I fixed the rest of the problem this fall. (more…)

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…)

August 14, 2010

Electricity Demand-side Management: A Better Use for Monitoring

Category: Economics,Save Electricity,Technology – Tom Harrison – 4:33 pm

Demand for electricity is highest on hot days in the summer, mainly because people, and businesses turn on their air conditioners. Increased demand is pretty easy to predict using a weather forecast.

When you turn on your AC, some generator, somewhere has to work a tiny bit harder — it happens almost instantly and automatically. All of this is entirely invisible to you.

But, in the aggregate, when lots of people turn on their AC and this happens at scale, three things can occur:

  • The generator (power plant) revs a little higher and produces more power, unless it’s at it’s capacity, then
  • The power plant operator ramps up one of the “operating reserve” plants, unless they have already put all the spares online, in which case
  • There’s a brown-out, or black-out

But actually there’s another option: consumers of power could just use less. But how do we know to use less — it’s invisible.

And, would we do anything is we know we were getting to the edge of capacity? What’s interesting is that some customers agree to unplug voluntarily. This link is to a story in the New York Times. It doesn’t surprise me that (some) people are willing to adjust their behavior without monetary incentives. What I found remarkable is how primitive the system for communicating the need is:

On the afternoon before an anticipated surge in demand, e-mails, faxes and phone calls go out alerting those who had already agreed that it is time for them to unplug.

So what if there were a way to automatically inform people of peak events? What if people that turned off appliances did get some economic benefit? (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 EnergyCircle.com 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!

March 3, 2010

Working from Home: Green and Productive

Category: Companies,Cool Sites,Observations,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:56 am

Energy Circle

My new home

After five years of talking about energy conservation, and all the things we have done in our house, I am now proud to report that I am officially … working the talk — I have joined Energy Circle LLC.

Energy Circle helps home owners learn how to make an energy efficient house, sells home efficiency products, and now, we’re creating a set of tools and services to help home energy efficiency professionals find customers (and home owners find them).

Now I am now working at a company with an unabashedly green mission — this is important to me. Of course this isn’t the first time I have written about Energy Circle — we have been collaborating since last Spring, and then I did some consulting last year until that was pretty much all I was doing. I am the Chief Technology Officer, and working to make a top notch website, with expanding services and capabilities, reliable, easy to find, and with a strong brand. I hope you’ll check out Energy Circle — I joined not because it was another job, but because I completely believe the mission, and know that good people are out to “do well by doing good”.

Working From Home Is Efficient

But, the company is too far away from my home to commute — so I don’t. I work from home most of the time, and I have to say, working from home is almost always a good thing. It’s very efficient.

Commuting Footprint

Obviously my commuting footprint is as small as possible (although for several years I commuted to my old job on my bike, at least when the weather didn’t suck, and I drove my Prius the short distance when it did). But there are many other benefits of working from home, and a few things I am beginning to learn. (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…)

January 18, 2010

Guest Post: 10 Simple Ways to Conserve Energy at Home

Category: Energy Audit,Household,Save Electricity,Save Fuel,Tips – Tom Harrison – 11:50 am

A Beginner’s Guide to Home Energy Conservation

by Marcy Tate
 
Energy conservation is not only good for the planet, it’s also good for your pocket. It’s pretty simple to conserve energy at home and you’ll notice the savings right away. Still, changing your energy habits isn’t easy for every homeowner. Start by picking a few energy conservation techniques and gradually add a few more each month. As you go along, remind yourself how much of a help your efforts are for the planet and how much lower your utility bills will be. That should give you the inspiration to turn your energy conservation habits into a way of life. The tips below do not involve high investments. 
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