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I'm a fan of Earth2Tech.com and have been a subscriber for a long time now.  While goign through my reader Friday night I was struck by the post "Graphic: The Environmental Impact of Computing".  Being in the IT industry for almost 10yrs, this graphic really took me by surprise. 

It's funny, I work in the IT world by day and homesteading/renewable energy by night/weekend.. ok every free chance I can away from work.  So I have some mixed feelings about technology and computing.  I feel although the article and following graphic is interestingly gloom, computing and technology has many upsides and has helped the environment in many ways.  I for one used to commute daily and now work from home, used to get the paper daily and now read online (same for books, sales flyers etc...), used to get all my statements by mail which means paper, manufacturing, transportation etc.. now all done online.  I could go into more examples but you get the point.  I would love to see the source data behind the graph and also have the same company (InfoGraphicWorld.com) create the same type of graph with the benefits of computing/computers.  Wonder how they would compare?  What do you think... good or bad?  Check it out yourself:

T.E.D. The Energy Detective Review

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Courtesy of The Energy Detective

Courtesy of TheEnergyDetective.com

A while back I wrote a post called Help Reduce Electrical Bill Consumption.   That post focused on using electricity monitoring devices to help identify waste/phantom loads, reduce overall consumption and have a method to monitor daily electricity usage.  Since that article i bought the TED 1001 unit and have been using it for the past 6 months.  Here is a follow-up review and what I think of it.

Install instructions are very easy to follow and I had it wired within a half hour.  If you are not comfortable with opening up the electrical panel, please contact a licensed electrician.  The unit comes with a Transmitter and Gateway.  Follow their simple install instructions.  Paraphrasing the install: connect the MTU clip-ons to the electrical mains that feed the electricity to your electrical panel the wire the Transmitter (MTU) to the breaker and you're done.The MTU sends the data through the existing electrical wiring of the home.  The Gateway/receiver will receive the packets once a second through any electrical outlet in the home.  This was one of my favorite features cause I wanted the receiver to be flexible in location, but not have to fumble with batteries.  To me this is a great feature.

Once I had the receiver plugged in and receiving data, it took about 10mins using the instructions to configure for my utilities 2 tiered billing system.  Again the menu driven setup and instructions are very well detailed and easy to follow.

Next I installed Footprints data logging software and connected the Gateway to my computer via USB.  Software has 2 parts: TED Watcher and TED Viewer.  The TED Watcher is a low real-estate, neat little screen you can run on the desktop that simply displays the current kW or $$ or CO2 usage and does not interfere with desktop usage.  The TED Viewer is the visual interface used to display a live dashboard containing Present Readings, Real-Time KW Usage and Recordings (TED Footprints Screenshots).  I can describe them here, but pictures are worth a thousand words so check out the screenshots.

I would have to estimate that since installing our unit, we have reduced our overall energy consumption by at least 10% so far.  It's hard to gauge since we were heating with Heat pump and E.Furnace but now 100% wood so although our monthly power bills have gone down by a good sum, I don't have enough historical data to say how much was saved by monitoring TED, setting up the Load Profile and then making changes to drop phantom loads and use larger appliances more efficiently.

Courtesy of Greentelecomlive.com

Since I bought the 1001 unit, The Energy Detective has released the new 5000 series unit.  As much as I love my 1001 unit, I think I'm already going to upgrade to their 5000 Series which has all the same features of  my 1001 unit plus:

  • Works with Google PowerMeter
  • Realtime energy monitoring via Internet or mobile device, not just local computer like Footprints
  • Wireless PDA looking display with rechargeable batteries and charging cradle
  • Optional Wind/Solar package
  • Net-Metering capable
  • Can be used with Home Automation Systems

The options I love the most with the new unit is the wireless rechargeable display and the fact that the Gateway, when connected to your wireless router, is available through your favorite browser.  Right now I have a dedicated computer that is physically attached to my 1001 gateway, which is great, but it would be awesome to use any computer in the house or with a few firewall changes on my router, be able to view my stats from anywhere I have Internet access. 

In conclusion to this long post, I would recommend the TED to anyone, and I do to anyone who will listen.  You WILL save money just by being consious of your consumption and even more as you fine tune your usage.  Cost will depend on what model/options you want, the number of electrical panels you want to monitor and if you want the footprints display... worth every penny spent so far for me.  I'd be interested to hear from anyone else who is using TED or any other electrical monitoring product....cheers!


Help Reduce Electricity Bill Consumption

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In other articles I've discussed that the first step to becoming more energy efficient and planning for renewable energy system implementation is to know exactly what you are consuming.  Once you are able to fully understand your consumption habits, it's easy to "pick the low hanging fruit" and make some rather drastic changes that are better for the environment and your wallet.

In our home, we've made some changes to reduce our energy consumption and have seen some encouraging results.  Our second step is now to pin point exactly where our current reduced electric loads are coming from and to fine tune them before planning for a renewable energy system implementation.  This is where research on Smart Electricity Monitors came into play.  For us, it came down to 3 choices:

Kill A Watt from P3 International is a single plug monitor that you can use to monitor and bench mark each 110v outlet and do all the calculations manually.  Although the cheapest option, not really a candidate for what we wanted to achieve as there is not "total home consumption" real-time monitoring, history to run reports and trending and the biggest downfall being it could not monitor 220v large appliances.  We still may purchase a couple of these are they are very affordable, have great reviews and can give you "at the plug" readings.

Cent-a-Meter was a close second as it is a home energy consumption model that is connected to your entrance electrical panel via CT clips and monitors real time electricity used.  It has a nice wireless receiver that you can bring around the house if you wish.  The cons of the product is it uses batteries for the sending unit and the receiver.  It provided the real-time data I was looking for but no software for archiving, trending etc...

T.E.D, The Energy Detective is the unit we actually purchased.  This unit has great reviews and bundled with the Footprints software, does everything I ever wanted and then some.  It does not require batteries, however it does use panel electricity to operate.  About .08cents a month according to the site.  It also comes with CT clips for easy installation and the receiver unit plugs into any wall outlet.  I purchased the additional software package Footprints so I can connect the receiver to a computer via USB and see a real-time dashboard chalk full of information including 13 month historic data retention. 

Stay tuned for a full product review on The Energy Detective once I receive and set it up to see if it stands up to it's claims on their website.  In the meantime check out this video review from Mavromatic which is very well done and detailed.

What electricity monitor do you have setup in your home?  Has it been of value?  Has it contributed to reducing your energy consumption?  Has it paid for itself?  Questions i'll be answering myself as well...

Courtesy of The Energy Detective

Courtesy of The Energy Detective

Energy Efficiency First

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So you are thinking of introducing some sort of Renewable Alternative Energy into your plans for a more Sustainable Living. Before you try to size your system you must begin with energy efficiency. Just as the government realized it is cheaper to invest in energy efficiency then energy creation, so will you as you run through your project.

More with less is the theme here, but do not think you have to revert back to oil lamps and cooking over campfire. There are lots of energy saving tips to make your home more energy efficient and best of all most governments in North America have millions of dollars in grants to help you reach your goals.  Once you know exactly what you are wasting energy on you will be happy and most likely make it your personal mission to reduce your energy consumption and monthly bill.

Here are a few examples:

  • Swapping out old light bulbs to CF (Compact Flurescent) will reduce energy consumption by 80%
  • Installing on-demand water heaters will reduce hot water energy consumption by approximately 50%
  • Turning down the thermostat and putting a water heater blanket will reduce your energy consumption by approximately 20%
  • Low-Flow shower heads and aerator faucets will reduct water consumption as well as energy consumption used to heat that water
  • Replace old appliances with Energy Efficient appliances
  • Get a leak test done in your house and follow the recommended remediation steps could save you up to 50% of your heating costs
  • Adding Solar Water Heating system can save you approximately 50% of the energy used for heating water
  • Install a home power meter like the cent-a-meter to precisely monitor your energy consumption and take action appropriately like reducing Phantom Electric Loads

These are just some of the examples of what you can do. A quick Google search on home energy efficiencies will give you more information then you can handle and as mentioned above, make some calls into your local and federal/state governements to see what programs they have available for energy efficient retrofits.

These action items can be done over a period of time and most are not that expensive to accomplish. Here is the list of items we've done or are planning to action by the end of the year:

  • Bought bulk CF bulbs on special and replaced in all fixtures. Some local government have give aways for CF bulbs to promote use, so be sure to check that possibility.
  • Installed a water heater blanket and foam insulated all hot water pipes
  • Installed low-flow shower heads
  • After having a Leak Test done, we've replaced all windows and doors. Needed to be done anyways with 25year old wooden frame windows
  • Installed foam gaskets in all electrical outlets to reduce draft
  • Installed child safely plugs in unused electrical outlets to further reduce draft

The Leak Test was an eye opener for us and the follow up report was great. It detailed what action items would give us the biggest bang for our buck, literally. We are expecting a nice grant for our energy efficient upgrades so far. Before we call them back to do a second test and submit our paperwork for the grant, we will also replace the attic door with a new efficient, insulated attic door.

Living on the East Coast of Canada we have long cold winters so every bit insulation and reduced heat loss helps and equates to electricity and dollars saved.  Over the winter we also plan on purchasing and installing the cent-a-meter home metering system.  This will allow us to monitor, identify and reduce energy consumption during the heavy heating season and give us good numbers to work with for planning our hybrid renewable energy system.

That's it for now... Keep it Green ;o)

Phantom Electrical Loads

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The fist step in planning a renewable energy system is to reduce the energy consumption. Phantom electrical loads account for approximately 6% of a homes electricity consumption. Phantom electrical loads can be easily reduced to save electricity, money and carbon footprint.

Take a look at the appliances you have plugged into your electrical outlets around your home. Appliances used throughout the home usually have on/off switches. What most people fail to realize is that even when you turn off these appliances, most will still draw energy. This energy draw is called a "phantom load" and needs to be taken into consideration to reduce energy consumption and planning a renewable energy system for implementation in your home.

Some devices are easy to recognize such as appliances with built in clocks, DVD players, televisions, coffee makers, etc... Others are not so obvious such as your door bell, electric charge razor, computers, etc... Appliances that can be operated with a remote-control is also consuming power around the clock. It has to stay in a ready state in order to be switched on by the remote control. The ready state consumes less electricity than when the device is turned on, but over a 24-hour period the energy consumption can be substantial. Multiply that by 365 days and you are looking at a nice electricity bill and wasted energy for "convenience".

The easiest way to reduce or eliminate phantom power draw is to plug these devices and appliances into power bars that include their own on/off switch, also called switchable outlets. When you turn off the device or appliance, turn off the power supply to the switchable outlet.

If you think this will be inconvenient or a pain, remeber the fact that you will be saving approximately 6% on your electricity bill. Do the calculation yourself and you'll be pleasently surprised. This the cost of grid energy going up and the up front capital cost of haressing your own renewable energy, every bit helps.

Move on energy savings coming soon... in the meantime keep it Green!