New gadget finally kills the power vampires in my home

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I’m back home. Thanks to everyone who helped while I was offline with family medical issues. There are larger challenges ahead but for now things are back to near normal. Thanks to everyone who left kind words in the announcements thread – I feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

One thing I always like to do on trips south is to visit Fry’s electronics. There, I can take in the full measure of what’s new in the electronics world. While there, I picked up a gadget that solves an ongoing problem in my home. This is worth a read if you want to save money on your power bill.

While some of my incendiary foes like Joe Romm would like to make you believe that I’m anti-everything (his favorite word is “anti-science” when describing anyone who doesn’t agree with him), those of you who read WUWT know that I’m proactively energy efficient. For example, earlier this year I wrote about installing super efficient LED recessed lighting in my home. I’ve yet to see Joe Romm write a single positive thing about what he is doing personally to practice what he preaches.

I recently went through a home energy audit related to my recent Smartmeter installation (which is another story all by itself) and one of the things I decided I needed to do something about was the growing number of vampire power suckers in my home. As we added more technology, the number of always on power sucking wall-warts (120vAC to 12Vdc power transformers) increased.

Until now, there wasn’t any really practical way of dealing with them all, so I thought I’d share this solution since I’m sure many of you have similar problems with vampire power.

First some background. Here’s a video on vampire power from iGo:

Defining the problem:

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has a whole website dedicated to standby power issues and offers this assessment:

An individual product draws relatively little standby power (see here for examples) but a typical American home has forty products constantly drawing power. Together these amount to almost 10% of residential electricity use.

That 10% for me is an issue, because on hot summer days when we need a/c the most, that standby power baseline adds to our allowed PG&E baseline use, and when we go over it, our electricity costs escalate rapidly. PG&E actually punishes residences who consume over the allowed 445 kwh baseline in tiers, such that by the time you exceed 200% of baseline, your cost per kwh is now at 40 cents per kWh, which is outrageous.

My July 2010 power bill detail - note the tiered rates penalizing for power use. My neighbors all had similar bills.

Unfortunately, PG&E is a monopoly, and the Public Utilities Commission in California actually approved this outrageous rate hike for over baseline use while simultaneously dropping the allowed residential baseline from 512 kWh/month to 445 kWh/month in the last year. It was a major blunder, and this is why Smartmeters have been getting such a bad rap. PG&E chose the worst possible time to start, in May. Combine new rates, smartmeter swaps, and summer temperatures and you get a PR disaster and people up in arms.

Here in the Sacramento valley, we have temperatures here that reach 110 degrees at times, requiring a/c use. My only option now with these new rates is to reduce energy use. Now that’s something I don’t mind doing, I’ve been proactive at it, but I must say I feel discriminated against compared to Californians who live on the more temperature coast, because I already live in an energy star rated newer (4 years) home. They don’t have a/c issues like we do in the central valley.

So in a nutshell, I’m hosed by my location and its summer climate. That’s why my July 2010 energy bill was $620.16 (electric, plus gas, plus loads of taxes and other taxes – like “public purpose programs”, part of which supports climate change research in California) last month for 2052 kWh of use. If it were at regular baseline rate the bill would be half that. So anything I can do to get closer to baseline will be helpful.

Measuring the problem:

I went around my home with an LCD meter called the Kill-a-Watt EZ and determined that I have 3 areas of significant vampire power use that could benefit from a makeover.

These can be ordered from Amazon for about $30 plus shipping and are dirt simple to use. They can show you instantly how much standby power is being drawn on any appliance or power strip. There’s also a graphing version and a power strip version.

While I had all sorts of spots all over the house, I identified three areas where phantom power was concentrated and working to kill the vampires would be a worthwhile effort.

  • My computer workstation where I manage WUWT and research
  • My wife’s computer workstation with central printer
  • Our entertainment center and TV (#1 draw)

All of these had a collection of wall-warts for network switches, speakers, USB hubs, amplifiers, and accessories. The main devices like the TV, DVD player, DVD reorder, satellite box, all had “instant on” features and drew a fair amount of  load and most of these were on 24/7. Just looking at them in infrared shows where that power was going:

So not only are they wasting electricity, they are dumping waste heat into the house 24/7, adding load to the air conditioning.

According to this interactive page at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, I had all the vampire family members. My own readings from the Kill-a-Watt meter were right in line with these:

What was the biggest surprise to me was how much standby power my set-top satellite receiver boxes were drawing. I have a newer model and older model from DirecTV. The older model was drawing 31 watts in standby! Again right in line with what LBL says:

You can see the LBL master list of appliance tests for standby power draw here.

Finding a solution:

One way to solve phantom power draw is with power strips. I already use these to corral wall-warts, and when we go on trips I make it a point to reach behind the computer, under the desk, and behind the TV to shut these off.

However, doing that every night is a bit of a pain, and often forgotten in my house. So, the little suckers live through the night and during the day when we aren’t home.

So while a switched power strip *does* solve the problem in principle, it doesn’t in practice due to access. The strips are all behind and/or below something.

I had been toying with the idea of making some sort of remote switch for my power strips so I could easily turn them off when I shut down my PC, or turn off the TV and go to bed. Fortunately, I found a solution at Fry’s yesterday that did just that.

A way cool plug-in gadget that kills power vampires:

I was really happy to find this power strip gadget at Fry’s:

Apparently this was introduced at CES in 2008, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. It pays to advertise I suppose.

In case it isn’t obvious, this  is a power strip with a wireless remote switch. The switch can be handled like a TV remote or wall mounted, making it easy to remember to kill the vampire when you turn out the lights to leave the room.

The remote has a range of 60 feet and can be set for 8 different channels so you can have multiple outlet strips in the home. Here’s some features:

Here’s the manual (PDF)

Installation was quick and easy for me, I just daisy chained from my existing power strip and chose which devices to plug in to “always on” and which to put into the “switched” outlets. See below:

Of course I had to make two wall-wart exceptions: answering machine and my home weather station (which has a data logger and automatically updates a web page). Now that I have it working and can easily kill off most of my office vampires, I’m planning on buying two more for the other locations that have heavy wall wart populations.

I highly recommend this product. Amazon.com has the best deal on the base model at $34.99 and there are other models which you can see here. There are also UK/European and Australian power outlet versions I’ve found.

While we might disagree on climate change, saving money by reducing energy use is something I think we can all agree on.


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207 thoughts on “New gadget finally kills the power vampires in my home

  1. Hey good to hear that things are going OK for you!!

    That’s a nice simple solution!! I wonder if anyone has built a model that has Australian / New Zealand connectors…… some research is about to happen!!

  2. Wow … some of us would like to see some breakdown of your electric bill too, like the charge for “Public Purpose Programs” .

    .

  3. In Australia we use 110V to tickle horses. Always surprises me you Americans think it is power.
        240V for Australia, where men are men and women… wal… they mostly just weep.
        I reckon you could get a lousy hundred ten out of a windmill on your own roof…

  4. I hate to be the one to ask but…..

    how much standby power does the new power strip itself draw?

    REPLY:Well if it drew more than it saved, it would be a recipe for product disaster. Since it’s been around from Jan 2008 at CES, so far no complaints in that area that I’ve found. With no plugs in, it does not register in the short term on my kill-a-watt meter, so I’ll have to say less that .1 kWh – Anthony

  5. Not any real need for change at the SF condo. Three people, four computers. All electric appliances. We normally are under baseline but it was a very cold August and the electric heaters got used a bit.

    Charges
    07/09/2010 - 07/31/2010
    Electric Charges $53.39
    Baseline Quantity 255.30000 Kwh
    Baseline Usage 255.30000 Kwh @ $0.11877
    101-130% of Baseline 76.59000 Kwh @ $0.13502
    131-200% of Baseline 43.77667 Kwh @ $0.29062
    Net Charges $53.39
    The net charges shown above include the following component(s).
    Please see definitions on Page 2 of the bill.
    Generation $22.14
    Transmission 4.08
    Distribution 17.62
    Public Purpose Programs 4.59
    Nuclear Decommissioning 0.10
    DWR Bond Charge 1.93
    Ongoing CTC 2.08
    Energy Cost Recovery Amount 0.85
    Taxes and Other
    Energy Commission Tax $0.08
    Charges
    08/01/2010 - 08/10/2010
    Electric Charges $23.20
    Baseline Quantity 111.00000 Kwh
    Baseline Usage 111.00000 Kwh @ $0.11877
    101-130% of Baseline 33.30000 Kwh @ $0.13502
    131-200% of Baseline 19.03333 Kwh @ $0.29062
    Net Charges $23.20
    The net charges shown above include the following component(s).
    Please see definitions on Page 2 of the bill.
    Generation $9.58
    Transmission 1.79
    Distribution 7.67
    Public Purpose Programs 2.00
    Nuclear Decommissioning 0.05
    DWR Bond Charge 0.84
    Ongoing CTC 0.90
    Energy Cost Recovery Amount 0.37
    Taxes and Other
    Energy Commission Tax $0.04

  6. A few years ago I read a blog of someone who did like you and measured the vampire power in his house. I didn’t want to measure the power, but I did count how many things were always on. It was around 35 which until I read this post I thought was a lot. I was surprised to see that 40 is typical. Guess we’re not so bad. I had no idea that vampire power amounted to nearly 10% of home power use. We haven’t done much about it other than buy a power strip that turns off some things in the entertainment area when the TV is turned off. I think there is definitely a use for those power strips since a bunch of the always on items are remote controlled and no one wants to have to get up to turn on something that has a remote.

  7. Roger Carr says:
    September 5, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    In Australia we use 110V to tickle horses. Always surprises me you Americans think it is power.
    240V for Australia, where men are men and women… wal… they mostly just weep.
    I reckon you could get a lousy hundred ten out of a windmill on your own roof…

    Heh….. half the volts…. double the current….. thicker wires…. more transmission loss…. twice as much copper required…..

  8. Anthony,

    This is a helpful and informative post.

    You are not the only one with skyrocketing electrical bills that result from these back gound electrical usage.

    Thanks and hope all is well.

  9. 100W, 24 Hrs = 2.4KW… * $0.12/KWHr = $0.28.8 per day … *28 = $8.06.4 / month.
    Excess heat is one thing, but the expense of a monitoring and control system, even with high priced kilowatts is marginal.

    A public utility friend of mine says that the biggest ‘theoretically recoverable’ loss is from heating water (even in the cold water pipes) and sending it down the drain during cold months.

  10. Tricklesaver essentially does the same thing without you having to hit a switch.

    http://www.tricklestar.com/

    Essentially it senses the current drop in the master plug (for example) your TV set when you turn it off and then cuts power to the stuff attached to the slave plug (amp, dvd etc) – obviously you’d want to put recording devices (PVR/VCR ect) on their own plug.

  11. After rewiring our older (we consider it “recycled”) home for solar power, we could easily determine the power consumption of our electrical appliances, etc, using the solar inverter. A note of interest to readers, we discovered in this older home that a few of the lights and plug-in receptacles were drawing inexplicably high levels of electricity. My husband replaced the suspect light fixtures and plug-ins and the problem was solved (E.g. from 30 watt draw with a CFL bulb to Zero). Because we are running a full-time solar system we unplug appliances when not in use, so I like this product a lot. I will be purchasing one for use with the computer and peripherals.

  12. Damned Skeptic says:

    “It was around 35 which until I read this post I thought was a lot. I was surprised to see that 40 is typical.”

    Ha. I’d be lucky to be able to count 40 actual things in my current place, let alone 40 plugged in things.

    ;)

  13. Made by Belkin I see, I have a little radio transmitter from them you plug into an MP3 player so you can listen to it over the car stereo or regular radio. It is a sturdy and useful device, if that is anything to go by I expect you’ll get many years use out of this one too.

  14. I think in a lot of places in the world nearly every outlet has it’s own switch. The first time I saw that (in Denmark), I was pretty shocked but it really makes sense. If the outlet has it’s own switch you really don’t need all these gizmos to stop the ‘power vampires’… unless of course you want the remote thingy. Not only that, certain appliances like George Foreman grills you have to unplug to turn off in the first place! With an outlet switch it’s be a cinch. I think it’s safer as well.

  15. For those with a power supply backup unit for their computer that has a data link (usually a USB connection) to their computer, some models have software that you can use to see how much power the unit is using. Plugging in an additional device will allow you to calculate how much power the device uses. No need to buy that Kill-a-Watt EZ device if you have a PSU with supported software.

  16. I bought one of those Kill-O-Watt meters two years ago but never used it.

    Thanks for your explanation on how it can help!

  17. Good to hear things are back to normal for now.

    And from this piece, the money line has got to be:

    …saving money by reducing energy use is something I think we can all agree on.

    My message for the greenie weenies: Don’t tell me to save the planet, tell me how I can save my poor wallet. Don’t send people off on a guilt trip, appeal to their self-interest.

  18. @ Andoman (September 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm), excellent point on the wall switches for outlets. We are planning to build a new home in the next few years and will definitely be incorporating this concept into the design. Turn off the light when you leave the room and you will also turn off power to all the electrical outlets.

  19. “I think in a lot of places in the world nearly every outlet has it’s own switch.”

    Since moving to North America, I’ve been continually surprised by how bad the power outlet design is for such a litigious part of the world; from a European background the idea of having to pull out a power cord while the power is still on just seems insane.

    Back on the standby front I was amazed when I checked out a few of our systems here with a power meter and discovered that, for example, our HTPC takes 24W when running and 6W when ‘powered off’. Is that all just for the sake of having a ‘soft’ power button?

  20. I was going to mention, in addition to the wall-warts which are always on, most houses have green led forests.
    Human eyes are most sensitive to green light, so sleep is highly disturbed.
    Turning the wall-warts off not only saves $$, but you sleep better.
    You all know about blue leds at night, don’t you?

  21. inversesquare:
    When I left the UK to live in the USA, I used to think like you do. As a member of both the IEE and IEEE, I can claim to understand the pros and cons of 115V vs. 230V.

    In the UK, the local distribution uses a 3-phase delta power (~420 Volts phase to phase). Each home has access to one leg of the delta supply and to neutral. This has the disadvantage of ensuring that one leg of each power socket is at 230 Volts and the neutral is not grounded at the home.

    In the USA there is usually a transformer within 500 feet of the home. The power panel in each home has a 115 Volt leg and another 115 Volt leg in anti-phase, plus a neutral that is grounded at the house power meter.

    High power appliances such as cookers, heat pumps and tumbler dryers run off 230 Volts (leg to anti-leg) and everything else off 115 Volts (leg to neutral) . The main advantage of this system is that nothing in the system is at a higher potential than 115 Volts relative to ground. This simple safety advantage has saved countless lives compared to 230 Volt systems.

  22. Anthony, have you considered brushless 12v DC Split Air units with Solar? They’re supposedly extremely efficient. Some of them aren’t so expensive ~$1200, but they require 4/5 solar panels. There’s also Coolerado evaporative units. Perhaps neither would handle yours needs but just supplement.

    REPLY: Got links? – Anthony

  23. Electricity bills are becoming an insidiously popular place for dumping extraneous and unrelated fees — because the authorities know we have to pay them.

    In my former house, the electricity bill included an ‘ambulance levy’ — to support the operations of the public ambulance fleet.

    Laudable as an ambulance levy might be, I fear the worst — when politicians catch on to an irresistible wheeze like this, there’s no saying where it might end.

  24. Jeff Alberts says: Here’s some features:

    “In English that would be “Here are some features:” ;)”

    In American, that would be “Here’s some of it’s features.”

  25. After seeing some of the CA electric rates:
    Here’s to hydropower in the Great Pacific NW:
    My local Electric Utility:

    Monthly Service Charge: $40.00 per month
    Demand Charge: $2.70 per kW
    Kilowatt-hour Charge: $.0384 per kWh
    (demand charge is for timed highest peak usage)
    –OR–
    They have a new option to omit the Demand Charge if you pay $.08 per kWh.

  26. @ZT:

    It depends on your total energy consumption. I think we can assume that Anthony’s vampires aren’t using 10% of his total since his total is high due to air conditioning.

    My energy bill is about $50 per month on average. So, 10% of that would be $5 a month. Two units at $35 a pop equates to 14 months before the protectors pay for themselves.

    Or I can just unplug the surge protectors at night. Kind of a pain like Anthony states, but I’m reluctant to shell out $70 on two surge protectors.

  27. There’s an even cheaper gizmo around — I found a few as low as around $5, but they’re usually more like $10 — that would do the same job. It’s often sold to switch Christmas Tree lights on and off. Remote but not R/C. It’s a long cord with a male-and-female plug at one end and a toggle switch at the other. Plug in your power bar THROUGH the plug end, and put the switch end in a handy place.

    Flip the switch, and the power is cut off. Flip it again and it’s back on.

    A Google Shopping search for christmas tree switch cord finds a bunch for much less than $10 each, including many with foot switches.

  28. FOOTNOTE on low-cost home cooling; PROVIDED:
    [a]… You live in an area where relatively humidity is usually fairly low; i.e.:
    Do NOT try this in the southest U.S.; AND:
    [b]… You can spare a continuous trickle of water:

    I still like modern versions of old-fashioned swamp coolers:
    Simple; reliable; they still do the job; use less power than A/C.
    The one on our building keeps it cool even when it’s 95 degrees F. outside.

  29. ( Censored ) years ago, a common way to manage a computer and its accessories was a flat skinny switch box that you sat the monitor on top of. They seem to be out of fashion now, at least I haven’t seen any offered lately, but they still work just as well as they ever did. I still have several and find them quite useful in several places, not just for computer gear. Most of mine came from Radio Shack….

  30. I am amazed if not bemused: and probably ready to go into a home for the bewildered.

    A few watts well whats that? you buy your power by the kilowatt. And it ought to be fairly cheap. Here I pay flat rate at 10p, say 15 US cents, day or night per KWh and in any quantity I choose up to my maximum supply rating which is 30 kilowatts. I never get anywhere that: maybe 15 Kw max with the oven and hob working along with my electric ‘coal’ fires not to mention the aircon etc.

    So where is the problem?

    Kindest Regards

  31. In My Life and Hard Times (1933), James Thurber tells of his grandmother’s “groundless fears,” including “….the horrible suspicion that electricity was dripping invisibly all over the house….”.

    He illustrated it with a drawing of a woman staring anxiously at an empty socket in a chandelier.

  32. Another solution has been available for years – X10

    Get one wireless transmitter ($20 for 4) and several wireless receivers ($13). Don’t get receivers that work through electrical wires, your computer may cause them to fail. (I have a lot of these. Only the “wireless” relays are reliable.)

    Oh, and don’t turn off tube-type TV’s – it will shorten the life of the picture tube. The “normal” on/off switch keeps a small current on at all times so the tube will
    1 last longer
    2 turn on faster
    Unplugging the set will allow the filament to cool off .. very bad.

  33. I do wonder who has the better electrical system. Here is Australia we use 240 volt but the transformer can be blocks away. There are usually two powerline systems. The high voltage system and the 240 system that runs beneath. Double the wire.

    At my residence in the US the high line power was brought to the back of the house, dropped down to 240 through a transformer and then tied to the box. The power was split at the box and then into the house as 120 volt. Pretty safe. All the big wire was in the house and not on the transmission lines.

    There are switches on the outlets here in Oz but there are not many outlets. Hard to find more than one to a wall. So everyone uses a lot of power strips.

    But the 240volt system has caused problems. The most recent being the insulation program that managed to electrocute a few installers and burn a significant number of homes to the ground. ( word of caution….don’t install aluminum backed insulation near a 240volt ceiling connection.)

  34. Gnomish says:
    September 5, 2010 at 9:46 pm
    A public utility friend of mine says that the biggest ‘theoretically recoverable’ loss is from heating water (even in the cold water pipes) and sending it down the drain during cold months.

    In winter, we leave the bathwater to go cold before emptying it down the drain.

    Check the efficency of your fridge. We saved £10/month replacing an old one. We don’t have a freezer, preferring the fresh food we grow, and using simple preserving methods. We are blessed with deep cool cellars though, one of the reasons I bought my house, along with the south facing aspect.

    Heating is the expensive thing here rather than cooling, so I have fitted and efficient Morso woodburning stove and backboiler.

  35. Christopher Hanley says: (September 5, 2010 at 11:02 pm) In My Life and Hard Times (1933), James Thurber tells of his grandmother’s “groundless fears,” including “….the horrible suspicion that electricity was dripping invisibly all over the house….”.

    Add my great grandmother, Christopher.

  36. jorgekafkazar says:

    In American, that would be “Here’s some of it’s features.”

    A slight amendment: In American, that would be “Here’s some of its features.” As my English teacher drummed into my head half a century ago, with the apostrophe, “it’s” is identical to “it is”. Without the apostrophe, it’s the possessive.

  37. I am on oxegen 24/7 an my electric bill has gone from $ 107 to $172 in a month! it has been extremly hot but I am just curious as to how many watts my oxygen actually uses? I have portable tanks and can use that an would use less electric. I am interested in the item that you are using and am just needing some feedback!
    Thank you!
    Chris

  38. Pardon, but where does those vampire Watts go? Heating?
    As we have thermostated electrical heating, I guess some of the heating in winter is in fact “vampire heating” which thus doesn’t make a net contribution to heating costs. In summer though if it is warmer than say +22 ºC it is a loss and if it is so warm that I have to use the AC cooling, vampires produces excessive heat that I have to pay for getting rid of.
    That gadget of yours then makes some pay off in high summer.

  39. Great Anthony,

    I’m still doing exercise every night killing the energy suckers here at home. But sometimes I just don’t want to bend down, so your idea is great!

    I just love to go around catching these watts. Now that I think I’ve caught most of them, I’m moving into phase 2: getting them to get better used. I’ve started researching on how to use less power on my computer, disabling not needed hardware and establishing energy saving parameters. Vacuuming the computer seems to have had very good results in my case. I’ve also started researching how to put the food correctly in the fridge, after discovering there was peer-reviewed stuff on the issue… Very “cool”.

    Ecotretas

  40. I suspect that my DirectTV TiVo is a power hog. It runs 24/7. But if I shut it off, I miss the scheduled recordings. And it takes forever to boot up.

  41. A couple of observations.

    Putting two phases of 115v together does not give you 230 volts.
    The U.K. requires fuses in higher voltage output plug leads.
    The antipodes requires switches on all power outlets.
    There are very good technical reasons for using 230, 240 volts. i can only think that 110 – 115volt systems are handovers fronn days gone buy and it will cost too much to convert up.

    In Australia, the power companies were very careful measuring the loads on each phase for residential consumption. What has started to screw this up is the government allowing all those people with solar panel power being allowed to filter their dirty unbalanced power back into the mains systems.

    In Australia the utility suppliers no longer rely on the amount consumption of their product to fill their bills. There are all sorts of service charges. miscellaneous charges etc that add up to more than the consumption.

    Our water utilities charge you once for using the water and then again for flushing it down the drain. Then there are parks charges, one off service charges, meter reading charges, etc, etc, etc

  42. None of you noticed that while Anthony and I both live in Norcal, we had to heat our place this summer while Anthony needed to cool his.

  43. Anthony, good your back. But you guys in California are so behind the times, I’ve been using these devices (in Scotland) for nearly 2 years now. More for convenience than power saving though – in cold countries stand-by power is not an issue – as long as you have a well insulated house – the excess heat from standby devices just helps keep the house slightly warmer (so your central heating doesn’t need to come on so much). The other device I have is the power strip which detects when the main device (e.g TV or Desktop pc) is not on and cuts the power to all the peripherals. Another energy saving idea for you – I have just installed 4 new external lights with IR sensors (so they only come on when you walk past); but the IR sensors draw about 3W each, and are on 24/7 so if you have a few of these lights around the house/out buildings, this adds up.
    So I now plan to install an external Photovoltaic sensor upstream in the lighting circuit, hence the IR sensors will not be drawing power during daylight hours (which are very long in the summer months).

    For those in the UK, the standby power saving devices are available from Maplin:

    http://www.maplin.co.uk/Search.aspx?MenuNo=95171

  44. jorgekafkazar says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Jeff Alberts says: Here’s some features:

    “In English that would be “Here are some features:” ;)”

    In American, that would be “Here’s some of it’s features.”

    In English, that would be, “…its features.” :p

  45. For my TV setup i use a simple smart power strip (link to a similar product). It shuts off all the extra boxes (amp, media-pc, when the TV is on stand-by. So the TV still uses a little when it is on stand-by.

  46. gallopingcamel says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    inversesquare:
    When I left the UK to live in the USA, I used to think like you do. As a member of both the IEE and IEEE, I can claim to understand the pros and cons of 115V vs. 230V.

    In the UK, the local distribution uses a 3-phase delta power (~420 Volts phase to phase). Each home has access to one leg of the delta supply and to neutral. This has the disadvantage of ensuring that one leg of each power socket is at 230 Volts and the neutral is not grounded at the home.

    In the USA there is usually a transformer within 500 feet of the home. The power panel in each home has a 115 Volt leg and another 115 Volt leg in anti-phase, plus a neutral that is grounded at the house power meter.

    High power appliances such as cookers, heat pumps and tumbler dryers run off 230 Volts (leg to anti-leg) and everything else off 115 Volts (leg to neutral) . The main advantage of this system is that nothing in the system is at a higher potential than 115 Volts relative to ground. This simple safety advantage has saved countless lives compared to 230 Volt systems.

    =========================

    I hear you man:) I just have to deal with 3phase step down transformers a lot as part of my job and it’s a PITA. a) the transformer and b) the extra copper we have to load into trucks every week:) though I do get a lot of questions as to why the 100A 110V service has only a 63A breaker on it at the primary end….lol (we also have to deal with synchronous motors that are designed for 60Hz operation….. think musical instruments:) )

  47. In case no one else mentions it: Australia and I believe NZ have a switch on every power point by regulation. So it is easy to turn off the power at the socket unless the socket resides near the floor behind the desk and is somewhere in amongst a lot of wires.

  48. In the UK, one utility company – Southern Electric – provides free of charge a smart meter add on, that gives a read out of kW and Watts of power drawn as well as the cost per month. I now always unplug the TV and satellite box from the wall at night – it’s surprising how warm the satellite box actually gets. I am sceptical that a pc would actually draw power after it shuts down, even if still plugged into the wall.

  49. What a brilliantly informative post! I so need one of those babies. I’m constantly forgetting to switch off the PC at the socket (down low and under a desk of course), all my external hard drives with 12v adaptors, my wireless router, TV, freeview box (which I watch like once a month, if that!) etc, etc. I just never realised that these things added up to anything significant when on stand-by. Time to take some action.

  50. Welcome “home” Mr Watts! Now, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, that is one dabba-doozey of a film! Never watch it without a tear in my eye when Clarence gets his Angel First Class (AFC) wings!

    In the meantime, all you mining geologists out there keep digging for those dilithium crystals, we here in the UK need them fast! (The Government’s lost our originals).

  51. Nice article Anthony, but what piqued my interest was the mention of your “Smartmeter installation”. I got a kick out reading about PG&E’s self-inflicted PR injuries. I’d be real interested to read your take on the meters themselves. I’m on the other side of the equation, in that I’m the “meter reader” of the smart meters. It may be that my personal experience has tainted my view, but I’m not really seeing a value to these meters other than giving utilities an ability to come up with novel ways to include more charges and rates on the consumer’s bill……….well and eventually control your appliances much in the same manner you are today.

  52. At 40 cents/kWh, the cost of electricity off grid is close to that which could produce yourself using a reasonable diesel generator.

    Diesel fuel retails at (near enough) USD$1/kg. Diesel engines consume about 240g /kWh (small ones). Say 24c/kWh on fuel costs.

    A cheap (“consumable”) generator costs USD$1,200 for a 6kW unit. Assuming that it lasts a year of running it an average of 6 hours a day to supply an average of 3kW runs at about 18 cents a kWh on generator costs.

    If you get serious about using generating your own power, choose a larger, liquid-cooled unit. Liquid-cooling facilitates easily increasing the amount of energy harvested from the fuel burnt while generating electricity, by e.g. pre-heating hot water via a heat exchanger using the engine coolant. Nett efficiency can be greater than 50% without resorting to “high-tech”.

    In an area that needs more cooling than heating, one can drive the cooling units directly from the diesel engine, circumventing conversion losses. One can still use the engine’s cooling circuit to heat an insulated thermal reservoir of water for premises heating at night.

  53. Personally I resent having to count each watt of my power use because of government failure to allow the energy market to provide me with enough cheap power to use how I see fit. These extortion rates are nothing but electricity ration cards in another form. When they cut the cheap energy allowance again and then again “for our own good” are we supposed to meekly comply each time until we are living cold, mean little lives and wondering if we can afford an extra half hour of heating or television viewing? At what point are we no longer reducing waste but are suffering actual hardship because the government has priced cheap electricity use out of our reach?

    We should be raising hell against this kind of government mandated impoverishment of ordinary people, not accepting it as our duty to the planet or whatever other moral fiction the AGW crowd would create for the little people to live by. I want to save money as much as the next man on my power bill but NOT because the government has made it too expensive to live a comfortable life.

  54. Good post Anthony, and one that I will be following up in a big way.

    I work for a very large finance company, with tens of thousands of staff who work from home, I reckon I should be able to persuade my employer to provide one of these with the “home workers” installation kit, it will be a marginal cost comparitively, and it does what it says on the tin!

  55. Good to see that you are back and that things are improving. May it continue.
    In the UK smart meters are available from the power supplier but these have the facility to switch off your power should the power company think that you are using too much, for whatever reason. This is not a good idea and smacks of government control which is not the way of living in a free society.

  56. In New Zealand many years ago, I had my domestic power cut off by the local council of a small provincial city, a one-stop civic shop, by removing the pole fuse out at the street from my home for for being very late paying the mandatory annual licence fee for my dog, some twelve months after the death of the dog and notification of same to the local authority! Being on first-name terms with the then Mayor enabled me to get the matter sorted quickly, but the Mayor, also my lawyer, was initially quite annoyed by me interrupting a dinner party at his home, but quickly expedited the replacement of the pole fuse when he understood my problem.
    Local bodies everywhere have always been keen to extract maximum dollars for minimum services, but the most rapacious charge I was ever forced to make (in a different and rural area of New Zealand) was a ‘non-connection fee’ imposed for non-use of the public water reticulation system and using rainwater off my roof instead. This REALLY annoyed all of us residents as no public water reticulation was available in the area!

  57. Bigland says:
    September 6, 2010 at 12:33 am

    jorgekafkazar says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Jeff Alberts says: Here’s some features:

    “In English that would be “Here are some features:” ;)”

    In American, that would be “Here’s some of it’s features.”

    In English, that would be, “…its features.” :p

    And to finish the nit picking session, in either version of English it would still be “here are” as the subject of that particular clause is the plural “features”. Arrange the sentence so that the subject immediately follows the clause it’s connected to: “Here are some features of it.”

    Grammar is fun!

  58. Walter Schneider asked:

    “… how come you put no limit on exponential growth of the capabilities of AI and yet, you feel that there should be a limit to the growth of energy generating capacity?”

    I never said that. I expect we will solve many of the energy challenges we now face. And I suspect what supplants humanity will benefit from this.

  59. The only thing that boggled my mind was your energy price per unit. 11 $cents! Wow. I pay 6 $cents in france. Almost half. The earn the price of the gadget back would take me years and anyway i have an automatic energysaver. My wife has a thing about things running unattended, so if i turn my back for a moment she switches it (tv, radio, stereo, dvd, pc) off.

    Way better then a gadget, but admittedly more irritating since you can’t switch it off.

  60. I wonder how long it will be before they start charging you more and more for all the food you eat, water you drink, and power you use, etc., when you start living longer than the population average. This is a very bad precedent — the correct solution for California’s power problems is to build more power stations (and turn off all the streetlights overnight).

  61. Mr. Watts said:
    —————————————————————————————–
    My computer workstation where I manage WUWT and research
    My wife’s computer workstation with central printer
    —————————————————————————————–
    I think you could save a lot of power going laptops instead of workstations, laptops are made to save power – and with the battery’s included, you don’t really need a UPS
    My yearly power consumption is around 2400kwh ($ 800)

  62. ” Les Francis says:
    September 6, 2010 at 12:20 am
    Putting two phases of 115v together does not give you 230 volts.”

    Yes, it does, if the phase displacement is Pi/2 (=180°), which it is in the US. If you have 3-phase power as in Europe, displacement is Pi/3 (=120°), so 230V+230V=400V (one has to use the sine-functions, of course).

    A European coffee or raclette machine works fine on US 220V (and 60 Hz).

    I know of no statistic that proves that 120V is more or less secure than 230V. But when Europe changed from 110V to 220V about 50 years ago, people did not have as many appliances as today, so it could be done for a reasonable price. The US has missed that train, therefore they are stuck with their ridiculously thick dryer-cables, and their flimsy 110V-plugs.

  63. This has been addressed for, oh, over three decades or so, by assorted “home automation” devices. X10 is the one common system, and I forget the names of any others so I’ll talk about X10.

    Amazon “X10” search.

    Per original design these are not “wireless” systems but they do run their signals on your household wiring thus no extra wiring is needed. Now they have transceiver units that’ll take signals from a wireless RF remote and send them through the wiring.

    This is a mature, tested, accepted technology. Just get the heavier-duty 120V appliance module and plug your power strip in. [Ratings explanation: 15A maximum steady draw, 1/3HP motor max, or 500W incandescent lighting max since tungsten filaments have practically no resistance until they heat up and glow thus there’s a large initial current surge.] Then plug in a controller, you can put one in the room and one in your bedroom as well. There are many “channels” to use. Set modules and controllers to one of sixteen “home” settings, the module to one of sixteen “unit” settings… And you’re done. Appliance modules are on/off, the newest lamp modules can dim incandescents.

    Here is the X10.com Automation page (and I agree it’s a garish layout). There are many options these days, there is even PC-based control available (turn your houselights on and off in Idaho while in Hong Kong). Among the modules there are 220V units (15 and 20A) and relay-type units (low voltage switching).

    On the X10 site, you better click for the details of their “low-price guarantee”, then plan on buying from Amazon or elsewhere when available and cheaper. You’ll see why. Currently to do what your single $34.99 Belkin strip can do, will cost around that much with X10 equipment (appliance module, transceiver, RF remote), less for a fixed-position controller, and you need your own power strip. But to control another group of equipment, you won’t be paying another $34.99, more like $10 with shipping plus another power strip.

    Also X10, an industry standard, has been around for some time thus several companies have made and do make X10 equipment, Leviton for example. Back in the day, as I seem to recall, the local Radio Shack store was selling X10 gear across from the TRS-80’s.

  64. ” inversesquare says:
    September 6, 2010 at 1:06 am
    The main advantage of this system is that nothing in the system is at a higher potential than 115 Volts relative to ground. This simple safety advantage has saved countless lives compared to 230 Volt systems.”

    So that is why people all over the world are dropping like flies? Can you show us a statistic about that? Were there more electrocuted folks when Europe changed to 220V?
    (And they did not have the modern security devices then, that automatically shut off the power. And yes, 220V feel exactely like 110V.)

  65. “I suspect that my DirectTV TiVo is a power hog. It runs 24/7. But if I shut it off, I miss the scheduled recordings. And it takes forever to boot up.”

    The same thing applies in the UK with Sky TV boxes – I measured ours with a similar device and the standby consumption was little different to running mode. Now that analogue TV is being switched off in favour of digital the problem gets worse. All these devices have the tuners and most of the processors running 24/7 to check for updates, and as mentioned above, for timed recordings. So to switch these off every night is not very practical, and is undoubtedly why so few people do.

    As to the legion of small 12volt DC adaptors – I set up a separate system with a battery backup to power my shortwave and airband radios, which also keeps my telephone answering machine operational. I wonder if this might actually be more efficient than individual adaptors, as well as preventing mains surges, and covering for power cuts.

    I also turn off the wireless broadband router every night which saves power, and reduces the likelyhood of anyone trying to “hack” it. Before anyone mentions, it is well configured with security, but nothing is totally secure….

  66. FYI

    Handy rule of thumb: For every kilowatt consumed inside the home your air conditioner needs half a kilowatt to pump out the waste heat.

  67. Kill-a-watt is available from NewEgg for $19. Highly recommended.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Order=BESTMATCH&Description=killawatt&x=0&y=0

    I’d been looking for a power monitor for years, ever since Scientific American made a ridiculous claim about home computers using a huge percentage of the national power usage. The dopes counted up how many computers had been sold, multiplied by the average 300 watt power supply, and apparently figured even the obsolete ones were running.

    My computer runs 95 watts for surfing, and 130 watts when I’m 3d cruising Google Earth. Monitor runs 30 watts.

  68. One thing people haven’t mentioned here: The thermal cycling caused by repeatedly turning PSUs on and off can lead to early failure. Much like light bulbs, PSUs and high voltage circuits tend to fail when they are first switched on – due, amongst other things, to current inrush.

    Most of my electronics equipment is several years old and spares are no longer available. Each piece uses a different wall-wart – with different connector types, voltages and ratings. If one of those wall-warts goes pop it can be a MAJOR pain ITA finding a replacement – both in time and money.

    Something to bear in mind when you’re looking to save 10Watts of standby power ( < 0.2 cents per hour where I live).

  69. “………….PG&E actually punishes residences who consume over the allowed 445 kwh baseline in tiers…………”

    In this side of the world this happens also with water, the more you consume the more you pay per cubic meter.

    IMHO all this is against basic market principles. The more you buy an item from, say, a manufacturer a better price you get, this way employment and wealth may be generated.

  70. What???
    You managed to do all of that without the aid of a multi layered bureaucratic nightmare to “help” you??
    I have only a few vampires in my house and do try to zap them when I remember.

    My last electric bill was almost $50.00 and it was so high because I used the AC for 3 days.

  71. Leon:

    “My message for the greenie weenies: Don’t tell me to save the planet, tell me how I can save my poor wallet. Don’t send people off on a guilt trip, appeal to their self-interest.”

    And thats why they have the california policies and tried to pass cap and trade. Jack up the cost of energy so much that you’re forced to find alternatives.

  72. I recently took delivery of an electricity monitor ( manufactured under different names such as Owl, Electrisave, Cent-a-meter distributed in the UK under licence from
    Wireless Monitors Australia Pty by JJS Trading Limited)

    It’s a wireless affair that has a sender clipped over the live at your supply in and a receiver which will monitor all of your usage. This gives you the ability to shut down a single appliance or a whole room and see exactly what that part of your usage is costing you. Easily programmable with your costing data it will tell you to the penny what you are using at any point of the day and will record that information which can easily be transmitted to your PC and dissected with the help of software supplied.
    All in all a great Item. Except that mine did not work ( the devices would not pair and a young lady on the telephone informed me “Ah yes, we’ve had a batch of these with this fault. Send it back” and i await it’s return 3 weeks later.

    jorgekafkazar says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    In American, that would be “Here’s some of it’s features.”

    I’m afraid that even in American it would be “Here are some of its features.
    Despite your incorrect usage of ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ You still fail to address the fact that ‘some features’ is plural and therefore ‘here’s’ is not applicable.

    Not that it matters. The bastardization of the English language is a battle long lost ;)

  73. I also meant to start my last post with:
    Anthony, glad to hear that things are as back on track as can be expected. My continued good wishes for you”

    Which I have now fixed :)

  74. Going from memory, a long time ago “standby” was invoked because cost savings could be made in the design and manufacture of household electronics in that the cheaper components were not subjected to voltage jolts several times a day (and thus a reduced life) because people switched them between on and standby instead of between on and off.

    Indeed, my new satellite receiver has an option for setting it to automatically go on “standby” if the machine detects a lack of zapping. Or is this all about “instant-on”?

    Is there anybody reading this who has up-to-date information on whether this saving in costs is still a consideration in the houshold electronics field?

    Of course, if “standby” is still important in respect of the life of your gadgets, then the people who generated the bogey-man phrase of “vampire power” (can I say Moonbats here?) will have won again in keeping the general public in a state of fear.

    I know that the devices mentioned above ostensibly save money by cutting electricity consumption but does anybody know whether it costs more in the long run because the machines have a shorter life? I do not want to hear from people who change their gadgets everytime there is an updated feature, because obviously to them, the question of “life of the product” is irrelevant.

  75. Colonial says:
    September 5, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    jorgekafkazar says:

    In American, that would be “Here’s some of it’s features.”

    A slight amendment: In American, that would be “Here’s some of its features.” As my English teacher drummed into my head half a century ago, with the apostrophe, “it’s” is identical to “it is”. Without the apostrophe, it’s the possessive.

    Clearly you had an English teacher. If you had an American teacher you’re [sic] experience would have been different.

  76. Live in the upper midwest, thanks for showing your rate schedule. If anyone ever tried something like that around here…. You are spending your extra money and time on the wrong thing, you should be stockpiling ammo. There are some politicians in cailf trying to ram this crap down the throats of the rest of the country. Be very worried about the future of your state.

  77. “I went around my home with an LCD meter called the Kill-a-Watt EZ”
    ===================================================
    Anthony, glad you’re home, hope everything is going great!

    Biggest problem with KaW’s is people make the mistake of trying to read them too fast.

    Say you plug in the KaW, take one minute to untangle the cord from the appliance, plug in the cord, then read the KaW for one minute.

    You’ll get half the numbers you should.

    The KaW has been reading for two minutes, but the appliance was only plugged in for one minute. 1/2 the watts will show up

    Over a few hours, or over night, that lost one minute won’t matter.

  78. FYI, “instant-on” isn’t the only reason for standby power. Manufacturers learned long ago that keeping an electronics box warm eliminated several problems: thermal shock of warming up electronics and moisture are two. Electronics just last longer when you don’t constantly cycle the electronics cool and warm, and keep them dry.

    I’m curious if you considered the marginal cost of having to replace your expensive electronics sooner against the electricity cost savings of turning them on and off?

    It’s the same calculation that gorebull warmerers fail to consider when figuring how much CO2 they can save by turning off their electronics. It’s CO2 intensive to throw a broken box in a hole and have a whole new one built and shipped to you from Tiawan.

  79. blast that enter key.

    to continue :

    set top boxes, which belong to the cable company, are a different issue on the personal (but not global Co2) level. makes no sense to keep ’em on if you don’t have to pay to replace them.

    transformers for phone chargers etc, that draw power even when nothing is attached are another good target for elimination.

    But me, I’ll keep my expensive electronic toys nice and toasty, thanks.

  80. I’ll come out of lurk to say glad you’re back, and in Capra mode, I truly hope you are the luckiest guy on earth and that everything continues well for you and your dear ones. You remain in my thoughts and prayers, and welcome back!

  81. The Ill Tempered Klavier says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    ( Censored ) years ago, a common way to manage a computer and its accessories was a flat skinny switch box that you sat the monitor on top of. They seem to be out of fashion now, at least I haven’t seen any offered lately, but they still work just as well as they ever did.

    I’m staring at one as I write this — a Belkin, no less — and it does no longer seem to be available. I didn’t realize this, that I might have a collectible on hand. My computer has been hooked up, recently, to one of my ham radios, and now I’m thinking about how to power it during power outages. The radios all fail over to 12 VDC when the 120 AC to the power supply goes out. But not the computer. And besides the computer, are all the wall warts with the way things are configured here, at least half a dozen.

    So unlike Anthony, I’m thinking of how to keep them going 24/7, even when the power goes down. And it occurs to me to run everything through the Belkin “Surgemaster” under my monitor. I can run a couple of power strip/surge suppressors off of it to give me all the plugs I need. Then, if the power goes out, the one line to the Belkin is unplugged from the wall, and into a generator or inverter, and everything comes back on line.

    Being the kind of person who always likes to have a redundant setup, the only thing that disturbs me now is that I might not be able to find another one of these Belkin devices, or one like it.

  82. http://www.ledwholesalers.com/store/ lists a full range of LED lighting. I have no connection with them other than that of a customer. Some of their lighting is rated for 90V->240V AC input so that should be good for our overseas friends. Go with the SMD leds. The bulbs that are a million small normal leds eventually die by thermally stressing their connections to the circuit board. The Kill-a-watt is uber useful. Another useful article is the power strip that has a control outlet. It will only feed power to the other outlets when there is draw on that socket. I use it on my computer. Shut down the computer and it shuts down everything connected to the computer like the printer, both LCD displays, and so forth.

  83. Smart strips a good idea smart meters that the power company can monitor your personal usage at any time a really bad idea.

  84. Anthony,

    “PG&E is a monopoly, and the Public Utilities Commission in California actually approved this outrageous rate hike” (Approved or required? There is a difference. Steamboat Jack)

    “That’s why my July 2010 energy bill was $620.16”
    **********************************************************
    My condolences on your high energy bill. But…..

    Consider it a sort of “stupid tax”. It is a tax put in place by stupid people. And it is a penalty that you must pay if you stay in California. And don’t blame PG&E-they are just passing along taxes that are required by the politicians THAT YOU ELECTED.

    You as in the California electorate. The majority of those that vote.

    If the taxes were spent on something useful, you could excuse it. But they throw your money, the money that you have earned, away on doo-doo and there is no excuse.

    If you don’t like living under a grossly stupid regime, then move. I did. It’s called “voting with your feet”. As have many other Californians.

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t see any way of staying in California and changing things. And staying in California would just give those fools more resources (my tax dollars) to perpetuate their stupidity.

    We have room here in Texas for refugees. I am starting a half-way house to re-orient people that escape from California. If you want to escape, I can help you get acclimated here; just let me know.

    It’s too bad, though, that we get Californians that leave California because it is un-livable, then come here and want to change it to what they left.

    As they used to say in Oregon back in the early 60’s: “Don’t Californicate Oregon”. Too late for them. I just hope Texas is big enough that Californians can’t do here what they did in Oregon.

    Regards,

    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  85. Why don’t they make it programmable. I had a “Set-Back Thermostat” in my last house . . . we programmed it for weekdays & weekends and it controlled our central heating. Heat came on just before wakey time, turned down in the night etc. My little unit cost about $50 bucks at Home Depot and was a dead easy 5 minute installation – just swap out the old thermostat for the set-back device.

    So rather than have to remember to switch this or that, it should just happen.

  86. Even if the total for your entire hours is 200W, this amounts to a kWh every 5 hours, or 144kWh/month. Let’s assume you install switches and turn this draw off for 8 hours a night, this will cut the vampire consumption a third, saving your 48kWhs, or about $20/month at the highest rate.

    I mean it’s not chump change, but it’s marginally worth the inconvenience – and my cable box doesn’t like to be sans power. It forgets everything and has to re-download the cable guide.

  87. One theory has it that the number of lives lost due to 230 volt electrocutions is balanced by the number lost in fires caused by overheated wiring and socket connections in the high current draw 115 volt systems. One might attribute the early and effective setting up of the Underwriters Lab to the 115 volt system.
    Japan is an interesting case study for the 115/230 volt debate. Initially when electric lighting and appliances were introduced to Japan, each town purchased its own generating plant, way before talk of a grid. The company that repped AEG sold European 230 v 50 Hz plant, and the company that repped Westinghouse sold 115 volt 60 Hz. This patchwork was a nightmare when trying to centralize generation for economy of scale, and it was not until just before WW II that the government, or the military if there was a distinction at that time, grasped the nettle and set a standard. Of course it is not polite to tell half the population that they are wrong, so the compromise was to make the standard an even, neutral, 100 volts. That is why you will often see a 100 volt tap on some Japanese equipment transformer primaries. The 50/60 Hz question was harder to solve, and when I last looked, a while ago, the country was still fairly evenly divided. This gave their manufacturing industry a great start in exporting, as they were already making their products line frequency compatible, or at least available for both.
    When it came to setting TV standards, US and UK/European “experts” claimed that a 625/50 system would be incompatible with 60 Hz power, and a 525/60 incompatible with 50 Hz power, based on their own experience. The Japanese proved that if you made your TV set to a good engineering standard, keeping the power line fields where they belonged, there was no compatibility problem. Which gave them another “unfair” advantage when they started exporting to the rest of the world. Putting enough iron in the power transformers helped.

  88. Anthony, am glad you are back and hope your family medical issues were successfully resolved. You have motivated me to do an energy audit of my house.
    I would like to comment on 2 home energy issues not discusses above (unless it missed it in the comments). First: I didn’t see ceiling fans in the . I have 6 along with remote control modules. We do forget to turn them off when we go to bed. Second: I am fortunate enough to live in an area where heat pumps are effective. Last winter I found out the expensive way that if you set them more than 2 deg (?) warmer than the room temperature they automatically kick on the emergency heating strip. See page 4 of this .

  89. When measuring power draw with the kill-a watt, be sure to look at the “VA” (volts * amps) power, not the Watts. You pay for the VA. Check out the standby draw of a typical UPS in VA, I have one that shows about 15 Watts in standby, but about 80 VA. The power factor on modern electronics is horrible!

  90. Apparantly I screwed up the HTML tags. My previous should read
    Anthony, am glad you are back and hope your family medical issues were successfully resolved.
    I would like to comment on 2 home energy issues not discusses. First: I didn’t see ceiling fans in http://standby.lbl.gov/summary-chart.html. I have 6 along with remote control modules. We do forget to turn them off when we go to bed. Second: I am fortunate enough to live in an area where heat pumps are effective. Last winter I found out the expensive way that if you set them more than 2 deg (?) warmer than the room temperature they automatically kick on the emergency heating strip. See page 4 of http://www.sdge.com/documents/forms/heatpumps.pdf.

  91. $620 electric bill!!!! No wonder California is going down the toilet, but like they say, so goes California, so goes the country. I have a fit when our electric bill approaches $100!

    Wow! The extent some feel compelled to go in order to save a few dollars is mind boggling, but after reading Anthony’s electric bill, just WOW! It’s hard to believe we still live in America. Now energy is a political tool to force us to lower our standard of living to satisfy a small minority of environmental kooks bent on controlling our lives, not to mention money for politicians to waste.

    Geothermal is the way to go; that’s what we did. Total cost for heating/cooling/hot water? Under $500 per year in Northern Michigan.

  92. Anthony since you indicated you have a substantial A/C load, here are a few tips.
    Measure the attic temperature. Look and see if you have radiant barrier insulation installed. Here in SC one vendor indicated it had become a code requirement in California. If you don’t have it go get it! Vendors can install enough for the typical house for $3000. You can buy the material for $300 and do it yourself (it is pretty easy). You can expect a 20% decrease in A/C load just from this stuff. It also helps out in the winter as well. While you are at it check and see if you have a thermostatically controlled attic exhaust fan. The style here in SC is to use the Eave/Ridge vent system which doesn’t work real well. The last thing you might consider is a roof irrigation system. After a rain you will find that attic temps will fall 20 deg F or more. You can thermostatically control that if you are really ambitious. Just a few tips but the idea is to decrease the load on your A/C. You could also install Solar assisted DHW which will pay for itself in about 5 years.

  93. There’s another huge power-hog out there that isn’t very amenable (at least as yet) to individual saving measures: single-phase electric motors.

    In actual fact there’s no such thing. A mechanical crank is metastable — the slightest move off dead center produces a moment that makes it keep going. Your car engine’s crankshaft is an example. The electromagnetic equivalent is stable — a push off dead center produces a moment that returns it to center. An electric motor therefore requires at least two out-of-phase magnetic fields to turn at all.

    Motors that apparently run on single phase have internal means of creating the second phase. In old-fashioned DC motors it’s the commutator. “Brushless” DC motors are actually AC induction motors containing electronics that convert DC to polyphase AC. Small, cheap AC motors are “shaded pole”, in which a shorted winding produces the second phase. Larger motors use combinations of capacitors and inductance, usually special windings within the motor, to accomplish the same thing. All of those methods have something in common: they waste power. A shaded pole motor can dissipate as much as a third of its input power in heat generated by the shorted winding. Medium-sized motors have to have switches (“starters”) to provide an extreme phase shift at startup and change over to a lesser shift at speed, because running with full shift all the time would melt the motor but the amount of phase shift while running isn’t enough to start the load. Big motors have to be fed polyphase power from outside, because they can’t economically be built to dissipate the heat generated by the phase shifting mechanism; that effect becomes notable somewhere around half a horsepower/400W. Motors up to two HP/1500W with internal phase converters are available, but they are bigger, heavier, and more expensive than they need to be, both to dissipate the heat created by the phase shifter and because the phase shift mechanism uses capacitors rather than inductance, which is more efficient but bigger, bulkier, and more expensive, besides being notoriously a point of failure, as are the switches that shift from “start” to “run” mode.

    Another pernicious effect of “single phase” motors is feedback into the distribution system. The phase shifter is across the input lines, and its effect is to reduce the “power factor”, which is the voltage-current relationship. Reduced power factor makes everything draw more power than it should, even resistance heaters. The effect is magnified because induction motors are inherently synchronous, meaning that the feedback push from all of them adds rather than being distributed randomly. Factories and shops that use a lot of motors aren’t allowed to run on single-phase because of that effect, because the power-factor shift would affect everyone negatively.

    Go through your house and add up the power draw of all the small motors. Most of them are air-movers of one type or another, fridge fans and HVAC air distribution and condenser blowers (combined in window AC units), but washing machine and dryer motors are mostly shaded-pole because it’s cheap, and window AC units use shaded-pole compressor motors for the same reason. Roughly a quarter of that power, somewhere between a fifth and a third, is wasted in the motors’ internal phase shifters; you also pay for, but don’t get the use of, another 1-2% of your total bill because your meter actually measures current, and the power factor shift increases current draw without increasing actual power usage. The electric company isn’t cheating you with that, either, because the generating distribution system has to have expensive (and power-wasting) means of correcting the problem at their end. That effort is harder and more expensive than it might be here in the United States, because local distribution is “delta” rather than “wye”; the power-factor imbalance causes circulating current in the transformers, which wastes heat to the atmosphere before the energy can ever be used.

    A total changeover from internal-shift to polyphase-fed motors could save as much as a third of the total power used by motors; the estimates I’ve seen are that this would amount to between 5% and 10% of total power usage. Unfortunately the capital cost of the change would be enormous — it would mean rewiring every home and small office on the planet and replacing almost every motor-driven appliance, and just smelting the copper to do that would eat up all the energy savings in at least a five-year period.

    Modern electronics might come to the rescue. The fans in computers and electronic gear used to be shaded pole; they have almost all now gone to polyphase induction with transistor-based phase converters (the so-called “brushless DC” motor). Machine shops and other users of medium to large motors are rapidly changing over to electronic phase converters that rectify incoming single phase to DC and create a polyphase output; the conversion is more efficient than the motors’ internal phase converters, and as a bonus the converters can also vary the frequency, giving variable speed without complicated (and power-robbing) gears and belts. At present such converters are too expensive for use in most appliances, but I’ve already seen one high-end refrigerator that uses brushless-DC fan motors to meet “energy star” requirements, and one can hope that it is only a matter of time before advances in engineering and economies of scale bring those advantages to HVAC units, washing machines, and dryer blowers, all of which could benefit not only from the power saving in bulk polyphase generation but from the ability to run at variable speed without mechanical arrangements that cost money, rob power, and require maintenance.

    Regards,
    Ric

  94. Interesting find,

    I know of a builder in Washington State,who deliberately build in shut off switches in the walls where you would find the light switch.It would shut down any outlets in the house.

    He showed in a “Green” home he built in the Ellensburg area a few years ago. He was very aware of such low level power consumption,even when the units appear to be “off”.

    He showed me a meter showing the changes as he turned the units off totally.When he got all of the units off,the meter went to zero.

    Some builders are aware of it and are incorporating methods to zero the power leaks.

    I have been shutting off the power source to my two working computers,because all those shining little lights bugs me when I sleep.I like deep darkness where I then feel restful.

    We still have a long way to go because homes are still poorly designed to reduce energy loss and the absurd waste of street lighting where there are little traffic in them.

    What will it take to wake up America,to the solutions of saving money and increase their independence?

  95. If the “problem” is defined as incremental increases in power useage, why would California encourage illegal immigration?

    Each person who slips across the border uses many times what you, with your out-of-pocket expense, save. The State has supposed shortages of electricity, jobs, housing, water, schools, jails and freeways which it simultaneously exacerbates with its unacknowledged policies.

    All at your expense, and if you mention it, you’re a bad person.

  96. Paul ZZ says:
    September 6, 2010 at 4:38 am

    It may be worth going to the root of the problem – the Air Conditioning is using too much power, and having a go at this.

    http://mb-soft.com/solar/saving.html
    ____________________________________________________
    Looks interesting. Have you tried it?

    I am always worried that this type of stuff is an expensive scam. I am in NC (62F ground temp) and our A/C bill is about $300 so it sure could be useful.

    My other big electric user is the well water to water our animals. Ponds are a possibility except for the wild life carried diseases -mosquitoes (Eastern Equine Encephalitis ), Opossums (Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis), or beaver (Giardiasis )
    Also at this point I hate to go to the trouble and expense of making ponds now only to have to fill them in as the farmers are being required to do in California. See: http://articles.sfgate.com/2009-07-13/news/17218619_1_food-safety-cookie-dough-food-borne.

    I am considering the other option, a wind mill, a large storage tank and gravity feed on one of my wells.

    I have to keep an eye on future regulations before I make any improvements and pray I do not have to rip it all out and do it over because of some %$#$ government inspector’s whim.

  97. I also believe in room power switch outlets. When the room switch is off, the lights and all the outlets in that room are turned off. Easy to install and no extra gadgets required. I live in a way old ranch house that when wired for electricity, there was only one switch that turned the entire room on and off, including all the plug ins (which were typically hanging from the light or at most, only one on the wall for everything).

  98. This tech has been around for a decade or more. It is called X10. A slicker solution is to buy some x10 outlets. http://www.activehomepro.com/accessories/pro/pao11_wa1_s.html and put a remote by your bed that you can turn everything off when you go to bed. Or even cooler buy this. http://www.x10.com/automation/firecracker.htm and use http://www.lickey.com/flipit/ to write a linux web interface for everything. You could then set up a schedule using crontab. I have done all of this and only takes a small amount of technical know how. One work of warning, the X10 does draw a very small current to work and will shorten the life of CFL bulbs.

  99. $68 in June and up to 90 in July. We use electric stove and bake very little in the summer. We also wash dishes but have an electric clothes dryer. We do not turn on a tv every month. Electric rates in the prairie seem lower.

  100. Glad you’re back Anthony. Hope things improve or go easier on you in future.

    These tech notes for energy saving are great!

    PS: The biggest problem people have with technology is keeping up with it.
    AND, and… the older people get the farther they seem to fall behind the pack.

  101. I bought a 3-outlet remote (RF) monitoring set from a gadget shop around the beginning of this year. There are 3 sensors that plug into outlets and a wireless display/counter. Very handy if you’re wondering how much it’s costing to watch TV, etc..

    The outlet meter into which I’ve plugged all my computers, etc. shows 1182 kWh consumed over 2860 hours. Very little of that is standby power. Quiescent, the stuff draws about 360W. I turn off the “desktop” computer if I’m away for more than a couple of days but the server and firewall are on all the time.

    OTOH, when I’m using the colour laser printer to print, it drinks heavily from the wire; drawing over 1 kW. But that’s for 30 seconds a day on average.

    The outlet meter into which I’ve plugged my TV, Hi-Fi, etc has recorded 195 kWh over 2883 hours. The standby power, when I’m not away for more than a couple of days, runs at 21 watts. There are about 20 devices plugged in, but only 8 draw “standby”. One is a network switch (always on) to slurp media from the net through the Digital TV PVR/STB, Blue-Ray DVD which shows AccuWeather (and other stuff), or the DAB receiver which can also play streaming media.

    Most of the equipment that I have in the house which has a “standby” mode consumes less than 3W on standby. Much of it consumes less than 1W.

    I waste more energy having to leave CFL lights on so that I can see what I’m doing when I walk into a room. When I had proper light bulbs, I’d switch on the light when I entered aroom, and switch the light off when I left. Now it seems that I leave the kitchen light on for 6 to 10 hours a day, instead of the hour or so that I actually need it.

    While renovating the bathroom, I put in a motion sensor and (now) LED lights, for both convenience and to save money on electricity. The motion sensor uses less than 1W. The LED lights had better last 10 years to pay for themselves.

  102. The US has missed that train, therefore they are stuck with their ridiculously thick dryer-cables, and their flimsy 110V-plugs.

    Um…no, we’re not. As stated elsewhere on this thread, US clothes dryers (and air conditioners, and cookstoves, and everything else that pulls a large amount of power) operate at 240V. Power in the US enters the home as two 120V lines, 180 degrees out of phase, and a neutral line which is tied to ground. The breaker box is designed to make it easy to send either 120V or 240V wherever you want it. Kind of like the best of both worlds.

    I just installed a 50A subpanel in my garage that includes a 240V breaker for an oven (for powder coating small automobile parts) and a host of 15A to 30A 12oV outlets. Very easy to do. Everything is current-limited at the breaker box (twice, for the subpanel…once at the subpanel and once at the main breaker box).

    The US power system may be different than in Europe and elsewhere, but it works extremely well.

  103. Smokey: VA are NOT watts when you talk about AC circuits. Has to do with power factor. If volts and amps are in phase, like DC, then yes. But usually not. So you draw more amps and VA’s (OK, VAs) And pay for it. Even if the power company tells you they charge for kWh’s.

    Here in southern CO, my electric bill runs about $45/mo. Of that $25 is Customer Service Charge, for the honor of being connected to the utility. $20/mo of actual electricity. I have a handful of these vampires, no where near 40. And hard to imaging much savings if I turned them off. $2/mo? Long payoff time.

    As for the 120/240 debate (there is no 115, 117, 110), 120 is less likely to kill you than 240. 480 will throw you across the room, 240 will not. 120 takes more copper. And, after my travels in France and the U.K., electricical safety codes on the east side of the pond are a joke. Which is not to say ours are a lot better. Conduit is the only sane way to wire a house. Romex is a disaster waiting to happen. Build a Colorado style house near Chicago and go to jail.

    My 8 year old desktop, router, network disk drive, and fairly new LCD monitor use about 80w according to my power monitor (and display on the UPS). A notebook would take less, but not near as much fun. Big displays are nice. Full size keyboards, separate numeric keypads. And a real mouse instead of that @#$% touchpad.

    I’ll pay the $20.

  104. Anthony,
    You and the good people of California are getting RIPPED OFF!
    My August bill came in at $465.07.
    $109.96 for the off-peak rate at $0.053/Kwh
    $79.06 for the mid-peak rate of $0.080/Kwh for anything over 2074.75 Kwh
    $76.61 for the on-peak rate of $0.099/Kwh for anything over 2074.75+988.31 Kwh

    Delivery charges: $89.26
    Regulatory charges: $26.64
    Debt retirement: $25.94
    HST tax: $53.50

    Non-electricity charges represent almost 40% of my electricity bill. But I pay less than half the rate of Californians. No wonder the State is bankrupt. You can’t afford your electricity bills!
    Come on up to Canada. You’ll freeze your a$$ off, but you’ll save money with every shiver!

  105. Steamboat Jack says:
    September 6, 2010 at 6:56 am
    ” get the Californians to move to Texas……………..”

    I think that, if you do the aritmetic, all the people in the world 6.7 billion [approx]could fit into Texas and have about 1000 square feet of space each.
    NO?
    Lots of room it seems. ;-)
    Texas is big

  106. a jones says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    “Here I pay flat rate at 10p, say 15 US cents, day or night per KWh and in any quantity I choose up to my maximum supply rating which is 30 kilowatts.”

    The UK doesn’t have the air conditioning loads the US has.

    As a result, in the US we have a number of power plants that only run a few months a year.
    Power plants cost the same to build and maintain whether they are running 24/7 or just a few days a year. Hence, many utilities have a ‘peak load’ surcharge that reflects the cost of building and maintaining ‘low utilization’ power plants.

  107. Alexej Buergin says:
    September 6, 2010 at 3:10 am
    ” inversesquare says:
    September 6, 2010 at 1:06 am
    The main advantage of this system is that nothing in the system is at a higher potential than 115 Volts relative to ground. This simple safety advantage has saved countless lives compared to 230 Volt systems.”

    So that is why people all over the world are dropping like flies? Can you show us a statistic about that? Were there more electrocuted folks when Europe changed to 220V?
    (And they did not have the modern security devices then, that automatically shut off the power. And yes, 220V feel exactely like 110V.)

    I think you’ll find that I didn’t say that….. It was someone else;)

  108. Brewster says:
    September 6, 2010 at 7:05 am

    When measuring power draw with the kill-a watt, be sure to look at the “VA” (volts * amps) power, not the Watts. You pay for the VA.

    I don’t believe that’s true, I think it is watts you pay for. Industrial users have more complicated rate scales with peak demand and power factor components.

    The spinning disk meters electromechanically multiply the instantaneous voltage and current, whereas “VA” (or “apparent power”) is computed by multiplying the RMS voltage by the RMS current. That’s important in things like UPSes, which is why they are rated by KVA. (RMS is root mean square – the square root of the average of the square of the voltage/current/whatever. RMS voltage makes sense since resistive loads draw current proportionate to the voltage, so watts = voltage² / resistance.

    AFAIK, power factor computations go back to phase angle offsets thanks to things like electric motors and other inductive loads. They feature points where the voltage is positive, but the current is negative. Solid state switching power supplies that try to extract a steady power wind up drawing more current in the low voltage part of the cycle, and less at the high voltage parts. A very different beast, but has some similar issues for power distribution and generation.

    There probably should be two separate definitions for power factor.

    Smokey says:
    September 6, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Ohm’s Law: Volts X Amps = Watts. So VA = Watts.

    No, Ohm’s Law is Amps X Resistance = Voltage. That’s the primary reason resistance is measured in ohms.

    Apparently no one ever was honored with a law for Volts X Amps = Watts, it’s generally just called the power equation. Perhaps I’ll start calling it Anthony’s Law.

  109. The off and standby energy usage of home electronics has been noticed by many governments around the world.

    For the USA there is the EPA’s Energy Star program and in the EU it is covered in the implementation directive for Energy using Products EuP 2005/32/EC under the framework directive for Ecodesign 2009/125/EC.

    The off and standby requirements for any device covered under EuP after 7 January 2010 (like those mentioned in this topic) in order to placed on the market in the EU:

    • Off Mode not to exceed 1.00W

    • Standby Mode not to exeed 1.00W or 2.00W if it provides a status/information or a reactivation function

    • After 2013 the values above get divided in half, those items only with a reactivation function and no status/information display goes down to 0.5W.

    Energy Star – http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=product_specs.pt_product_specs

    EuP – http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32008R1275:EN:NOT

    Ecodesign – http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:285:0010:0035:en:PDF

    Ecodesign Information – http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sustainable-business/ecodesign/

    To close the loop there is a story waiting to be written on how environmental concerns get translated into product development/design, and ultimately what is the cost to the consumer.

    How do products meet the ever changing product ecology requirements for items like RoHS, Reach, Ecodesign, EuP, EPEAT, WEEE, Battery, Packaging and other environmental voluntary and involuntary standards?

    Can we keep restricting materials/chemicals and still develop products? With the same safety levels?

    How can new businesses with innovated ideas get product to the market under the current product take regime?

  110. Looks something like our home, except our problem is a long, cold winter, with about 7 hours of daylight at the winter solstice. We have similar problem hubs AND provincial carbon tax, graded for basic and “over” use. Thanks for the tip, as we, too, look for and apply conservation measures with common sense.

  111. #
    #
    Inversesquare says:
    September 6, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Alexej Buergin says:
    September 6, 2010 at 3:10 am
    ” inversesquare says:
    September 6, 2010 at 1:06 am
    The main advantage of this system is that nothing in the system is at a higher potential than 115 Volts relative to ground. This simple safety advantage has saved countless lives compared to 230 Volt systems.”
    I think you’ll find that I didn’t say that….. It was someone else;)

    Sorry for that; one day we will have easy formatting that even I can use
    .

  112. ” Smokey says:
    September 6, 2010 at 7:13 am
    Brewster,
    Ohm’s Law: Volts X Amps = Watts. So VA = Watts.”

    The unit of Ohm’s law (R=U/I) are: Ohm=V/A; above is the definition of power. Ohm defines electrical resistance R.
    (U is the symbol most often used for voltage, I is current)

  113. Welcome back, hope all is good. Seems the vampire you really need to slay is your electricity provider.

  114. Alexej Buergin says:
    September 6, 2010 at 3:00 am

    ” Les Francis says:
    September 6, 2010 at 12:20 am
    Putting two phases of 115v together does not give you 230 volts.”

    Yes, it does, if the phase displacement is Pi/2 (=180°), which it is in the US. If you have 3-phase power as in Europe, displacement is Pi/3 (=120°), so 230V+230V=400V (one has to use the sine-functions, of course).

    Mathematically, two phase power would be 90° apart and a synchronous motor could be designed to take two phase power and produce constant torque, just like how a 3 phase motor produces constant torque.

    The US system is best described as 230V split-phase, so it’s easy to distribute 115V and 230V power around a house.

    On problem with little single phase motors is vibration – the circulating pumps on forced hot water heating systems have a cushioned mount to absorb the pulsating nature of the torque they generate.

    I’ve thought it would be interesting to design a residential system that supplied three phase power. Switching power supplies could take power off the top of the peaks, and non-switching supplies with full wave rectification would have a much easier job to regulate it to a DC voltage. Why keep such benefits to industrial users?

    gallopingcamel says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    High power appliances such as cookers, heat pumps and tumbler dryers run off 230 Volts (leg to anti-leg) and everything else off 115 Volts (leg to neutral) . The main advantage of this system is that nothing in the system is at a higher potential than 115 Volts relative to ground. This simple safety advantage has saved countless lives compared to 230 Volt systems.

    I’ve heard it claimed that 230 VAC 50 hz shocks tend to clamp down the heart muscle and let it “restart” whereas 115 VAC 60 hz shocks tend to induce fibrillation. I think defibrillators provide a 400 volt, high resistance pulse. All this is a bit moot, as current, not voltage; along with current path determine the response by the heart and skin resistance varies hugely with conditions.

    EEs are taught to keep one hand in a pocket when connecting injurious voltage sources. Current flow in a hand to hand shock is through the middle of the chest, not good!

    My guess is that the lives saved by 230 VAC 50 hz have indeed not been counted. :-)

  115. Anthony,
    I am glad to see you back and hope things are better for the medical issues your family is experiencing.

    I work in the appliance industry as an electrical engineer. Personally in my house we use the most efficient appliances possible. However, I am realistic in those choices especially as it relates to the control of power. I do not cycle power on most of my expensive systems that are on standby. The reason being is that cycling power can cause problems and shorten the lifetime of the product. Most of these modern systems use switch mode power supplies, which are highly capacitive when seen from the wall outlet. The inrush current in many of these systems can be in the 80A to 100A range. This is stressful both internally and at what ever is being used to control the circuit.

    If a circuit is designed to be in standby, cycling it will also cause a reduction in life. It is not uncommon for us to perform Accelerated Life Tests (ALT) by cycling power. Power cycling is the second greatest stressor in most applications next to temperature. Switching power supplies are very efficient and draw little power in standby.

    What I fear is that we will adopt a one size fits all solution for energy in this country. You are already experiencing it in California. Your climate is significantly different than what this system was obviously optimized for. Where I live in Iowa, we use both heating and cooling. According to the PDO, some years we have little need for cooling others are significantly more. However, we always need heat in the winter, and since heat is heat whether it is generated by a wall wart or natural gas flame, the balance must be the same. What you save in electricity you will make up for in natural gas. So my point is, what works in northern Minnesota, will not work in south Texas, no matter how many laws are passed. Congress cannot void the laws of thermodynamics.

    In my opinion the Smart Grid provides no value to the average homeowner. They will pay more for the meter, be charged more for energy because they cannot regulate their energy to fit the rules set by the energy company. The monopoly knows when people need energy, and will tailor the rules to keep their revenues flowing. I would not have a problem with this if they weren’t a government mandated monopoly. We cannot buy power from several different providers to give us the best deal, so these rates are set, and we eat the cost. The power company lowers costs by reducing the labor in reading the meters, and we pay higher prices according to their schedule.

    Also, the last thing I want is the power company controlling the appliances in my house. Having some goof at a central control center 500 miles away setting my thermostat, refrigerator set point, or deep freezer state is unacceptable. I will not loose a thousand dollars of food so that they can maximize their profits by not spinning up a generator or buying more expensive power on the grid.

    Much information can be derived from knowing energy consumption, especially if you can index it to time. If you believe that this system is not hackable, think again. Someone could easily predict when you are home by your power usage, either using it personally or selling it wholesale. While this information may be useful to a homeowner, it can be very detrimental if released and misused by someone malevolent. By knowing your power usage they can predict the number of good appliances available in your house. In addition they could dial back those appliances at will without you knowledge. I will not allow this to happen in my house, unfortunately most people will not have the technical understanding to prevent this from occurring.

    We cannot keep people’s medical, credit card, or personal information secure, what makes you think that a power company, with no experience in secure data networks will be better at it?

  116. Ric Werme:
    “EEs are taught to keep one hand in a pocket when connecting injurious voltage sources. Current flow in a hand to hand shock is through the middle of the chest, not good!”

    Current flow from hand to foot is far more dangerous but fortunately electricians rarely have their bare feet in contact with a conductor.

    I got my first radio controlled switch, one transmitter and two receivers, several years ago. This was more for laziness than economy; I could switch everything off with one push of a button rather than bending behind the computer then crawling around under the stairs to turn off the router, NAS, etc.
    They were quite expensive and must never have sold as I returned to the same shop a couple of weeks later where I found a binful going cheap so I bought two more.

    More recently British Gas gave my mother a remote switch and a meter. She had no use for them so I took them home and gave the meter a try.

    I found that my base load was 270 Watt! There have been some big changes since then.

  117. Ric Werme says:
    September 6, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Alexej Buergin says:
    September 6, 2010 at 3:00 am

    ” Les Francis says:
    September 6, 2010 at 12:20 am
    Putting two phases of 115v together does not give you 230 volts.”

    Yes, it does, if the phase displacement is Pi/2 (=180°), which it is in the US. If you have 3-phase power as in Europe, displacement is Pi/3 (=120°), so 230V+230V=400V (one has to use the sine-functions, of course).

    Mathematically, two phase power would be 90° apart and a synchronous motor could be designed to take two phase power and produce constant torque, just like how a 3 phase motor produces constant torque.

    The US system is best described as 230V split-phase, so it’s easy to distribute 115V and 230V power around a house.

    On problem with little single phase motors is vibration – the circulating pumps on forced hot water heating systems have a cushioned mount to absorb the pulsating nature of the torque they generate.

    I’ve thought it would be interesting to design a residential system that supplied three phase power. Switching power supplies could take power off the top of the peaks, and non-switching supplies with full wave rectification would have a much easier job to regulate it to a DC voltage. Why keep such benefits to industrial users?

    Whoaaaaaaa! 3 phase motors are not constant torque by any stretch of the imagination. The bulk of them are what is known as NEMA design B.
    DC motors are very close to constant torque machines. The use of vector drives allows one to fool the motor into thinking it is a DC motor thus approximating a constant (actually just more even torque) torque device.
    There is a system which can be used as 3 phase. 208/120 most 220 wired devices can be run on anything from 200 to 250V. 120V from phase to neutral works wonderfully as house current. You just have to pay attention to what you are doing when you install said system to avoid overloading one phase. But you would do that anyway.

  118. Actually in American it would be “Here’s some of its features” since ‘it’s’ is not the possessive but is the contraction for ‘it is’. If you substitute ‘it is’ for its contraction in the sentence you will see that it makes no sense.

    jorgekafkazar says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Jeff Alberts says: Here’s some features:

    “In English that would be “Here are some features:” ;)”

    In American, that would be “Here’s some of it’s features.”

  119. Wansbeck says:
    September 6, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Ric Werme:
    “EEs are taught to keep one hand in a pocket when connecting injurious voltage sources. Current flow in a hand to hand shock is through the middle of the chest, not good!”

    Current flow from hand to foot is far more dangerous but fortunately electricians rarely have their bare feet in contact with a conductor.

    When I was in college, we could afford both tuition and shoes. :-)

    On the other hand, err, foot, whenever I open up a computer or printer or other static-sensitive beast, I usually take my shoes off first to let any static drain away.

  120. Kill-a-watt?? Sounds like a nefarious plot by the warmers to do away with Anthony.

    Just kidding. Actually I bought one a year ago.

  121. inversesquare September 5, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Heh….. half the volts…. double the current….. thicker wires…. more transmission loss …. twice as much copper required…..

    Bzzzzt!

    Transmission loss is not a factor here; the last 100′ of distribution isn’t really a factor either, as the BIG appliances (A/C, electric heat, the electric stove) are run from the 240V circuit into the house … hams like myself have usually run a 240V circuit for the ‘big amp’ in the hamshack as well …

    .

  122. Ric Locke September 6, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Modern electronics might come to the rescue. The fans in computers and electronic gear used to be shaded pole;

    Not EVER that I recall in computers; I do recall a few shaded pole motors in some of the low-end Hewlett-Packard test equipment (notably their Nixie-tube readout counters), but nothing in the last 25 years in the way of a ‘PC’ …

    .

  123. Sounds great although a quick socket count here racked up 11 potential vampires, most of which we’re fairly good about turning off. I think we’ll just tighten up on the housekeeping a bit.

    With a name like this you’d think Joe Romm would jump at the chance to own several ‘Kill-a-Watts’ (sorry couldn’t resist).

  124. jerrysg says:

    “If you substitute ‘it is’ for its contraction in the sentence you will see that it makes no sense.”

    But it is correct grammar to say, “Shizzle my nizzle.” Which one makes less sense? ☺

  125. A caution about turning power off to a flat screen (LCD) TV or other devices that have a high intensity bulb such as a projector – Turn the unit off the normal way (via the switch on the unit) first, let the fan cool down the bulb AND stop, then you can off ALL the power at the wall or breaker. If you don’t follow that procedure, you’ll more than make up for any power (or CO2) savings in the price of new bulbs. You also want to immediately turn the power BACK-ON if you get a momentary power outage that “automatically” turns the TV power off, for the same reason. It happened 7 times one Saturday here in C. FL during T. storm.
    Killing the complete power to a computer to early can also wreak havoc with the OS if older than System 7, which seems to be better and the Mac OS I don’t think ever had that problem.

  126. Ric Locke September 6, 2010 at 7:23
    ..
    Motors that apparently run on single phase have internal means of creating the second phase. In old-fashioned DC motors it’s the commutator. “Brushless” DC motors are actually AC induction motors containing electronics that convert DC to polyphase AC. Small, cheap AC motors are “shaded pole”, in which a shorted winding produces the second phase.

    Hall effect devices; they can be used to sense rotor position and ‘change’ the applied field via solid-state switching or simply create two separate ‘phases’ … Brushless DC motors do not not simply re-create a shaded pole motor effect … they have come a lot further along than you’re describing here … some also available with soft-start capability, they won’t simply sit there ‘stalled’ drawing current should a locker-rotor condition exist … we incorporated a set of these in a product just this last year; I did the verification/checkout in regards to tach output and fan-speed control via application of PWM (pulse width modulation) to said 48V DC powered fans …

    .

  127. bill_m7 says:
    September 6, 2010 at 9:15 am

    ….Can we keep restricting materials/chemicals and still develop products? With the same safety levels?

    How can new businesses with innovated ideas get product to the market under the current product take regime?
    _____________________________________
    Governments are the biggest block to innovation. I was just reading about “Toshiba has developed a new class of micro size Nuclear Reactors that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks. The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by 6 feet…” http://www.nextenergynews.com/news1/next-energy-news-toshiba-micro-nuclear-12.17b.html

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Toshiba%27s_Home_Nuclear_Fusion_Reactor

    There is also the micro-reactor “On its home page, Hyperion gives additional details about these reactors and their safety. “Small enough to be transported on a ship, truck or train, Hyperion power modules are about the size of a “hot tub” — approximately 1.5 meters wide….. John Deal, the Hyperion CEO, says that such micro nuclear reactors should cost about $25 million each. In the U.S., where people spent more energy than in other parts of the world, such a reactor should be able to deliver power to only 10,000 households, for a cost of $2,500 per home.” http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/a-micro-nuclear-reactor-in-your-garden/1089

    At the cost of $2,500 per home, perhaps you should be talking to your neighbors, Anthony and ALL of us writing letters to our congressman…

    Toshiba Seeks U.S. Approval for Micro Reactor for Rural Power

    That micro-reactor could eventually have transportation possibilities depending on its size and weight. Nuclear powered ships and trains anyone???

  128. 2052 kWh of use in July? Holy cow, my electric use isn’t anywhere near that. I know you mentioned heavy A/C usage, but I’m guessing the real culprit is your 12-person jacuzzi and the home tanning bed! Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us. :)

    I’ve thought of looking into a kill-a-watt for a long time, but so far hadn’t decided it was worth it yet, based on the cost and the minimal impact to my electric usage. Thanks for the tips though — I’ll have to check it out. Kind of have an urge to run out to Fry’s today anyway . . .

    REPLY: No, it’s a/c, we have gas hot water. No jacuzzi, no waterbeds, but we do have an electric dryer…- A

  129. John Innes September 6, 2010 at 7:02 am

    When it came to setting TV standards, US and UK/European “experts” claimed that a 625/50 system would be incompatible with 60 Hz power, and a 525/60 incompatible with 50 Hz power, based on their own experience. The Japanese proved that if …

    Wind the calendar back about 50 or 60 years –

    At the moment you’re thinking in modern 21st century terms, not in light of what was available/used at the time (40’s): vacuum tube circuits, simple power supply circuits e.g. NO active voltage regulation in a consumer set (at best a choke input PS!) , and this means _no_ consideration of a 60 Hz ‘hum’ bar moving through the picture as a set ages just a little bit even …

    You do realize, too, don’t you , that as time marched on, the sweep rate _was_ required to be changed from 60 Hz to 59.94 Hz here in the US (NTSC standard), which is why impulse noise in a TV picture always seemed to ‘climb’ up a TV/CRT screen …

    .

  130. Mr Black September 6, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Personally I resent having to count each watt of my power use because of government failure to allow the energy market to provide me with enough cheap power to use how I see fit. …

    Hear! Hear!

    Could not have said it better … there are better things to apply that ‘mental horsepower’ towards than ‘navel gazing’ at every Watt of energy expended …

    The idiom “Penny wise and pound foolish” comes to mind.

    .

  131. Smokey says:
    September 6, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Brewster,

    Ohm’s Law: Volts X Amps = Watts. So VA = Watts.

    Brewster, are you gonna tell Smokey he doesn’t understand AC (alternating current)?

  132. jorgekafkazar says:
    September 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Jeff Alberts says: Here’s some features:

    “In English that would be “Here are some features:” ;)”

    In American, that would be “Here’s some of it’s features.”

    In Canadian, that would be “not all features on all models, and models with features are special order. Some features available at extra cost, eh?”

  133. Bernd Felsche September 6, 2010 at 1:46 am

    At 40 cents/kWh, the cost of electricity off grid is close to that which could produce yourself using a reasonable diesel generator.

    Diesel fuel retails at (near enough) USD$1/kg. Diesel engines consume about 240g /kWh (small ones). Say 24c/kWh on fuel costs.

    A cheap (“consumable”) generator costs USD$1,200 for a 6kW unit. Assuming that it lasts a year of running it an average of 6 hours a day to supply an average of 3kW runs at about 18 cents a kWh on generator costs.

    Ooooooh – now we’re in Lister, or, more appropriately Listeroid territory!

    What is a Listeroid? A diesel engine that could easily outlive you as applied in daily generator service …

    http://www.google.com/search?client=opera&rls=en&q=listeroid&sourceid=opera&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

    Basically, these are low-shaft-speed, high torque, large-flywheel mass prime movers that when coupled with a properly engineered generator head are able to start induction-motor loads that often requires a ‘hardware-store’ generator of 2 or 3 times the KW capacity … i.e., a 3 KW based Listeroid power source will rival your light-weight Chinese-made 6 KW genset insofar as starting capability on account of the large flywheel mass coupled to the generator head (whose ratings allow a 2x capability for motor starting) AND YET it will have the fuel-efficiency desired in a continuously-run genset …

    Full disclose: – I have no pecuniary involvement with Lister, Liseroids or accessories.
    .

  134. Here’s a hidden “power vampire” you likely haven’t heard about: your thermostat system(s).

    Your wall-mounted thermostat most likely is low-voltage. (There are some line voltage thermostats, used for electric baseboard heat and in-wall mounted heaters without their own thermostats.) So down at your furnace, for example, there is a power supply, likely an iron and copper transformer, supplying that voltage to your thermostat, waiting for it to switch on when it will also power a relay that turns the heating on.

    Do you have separate central heating and cooling systems? Each has its own power supply. Have you “zoned” your heating, perhaps while trying to save money, letting you set different temperatures for different areas? For two zones, you likely have three supplies, one for each thermostat plus the controller back at the furnace, possibly more. Also, a furnace that maintains a standby temperature, like for a hot water (hydronic) system, also uses power just monitoring that temperature.

    Is winter approaching and you are done using your central air conditioning? Turn off the breaker. Summer approaching, done with using the central heating, turn off that breaker.

    BTW, do you have mixers on your water lines? Those are the “anti-scalding” devices that mix cold water into your hot water to keep you (the idiotic water-user) from accidentally using too much heat, aka automatic mixing valves, likely set around 120°F. These days they may be required where you live. If your furnace is your water heater (“domestic hot water coil” built into your hydronic furnace) there normally is only one thermostat controlling the furnace, set to the temperature of the water circulated for heat, thus you may have a whole-house mixer. Mixers may be point-of-use ones such as for your shower, added to the plumbing or even part of the valve(s) as with some shower faucets.

    Thus you may be paying to heat water hotter than you are actually using it. With a domestic hot water coil, check the setting of your furnace for non-house-heating months and set it to what you need for just water heating, which is good to do with or without mixers. If you have mixers, consider if you really need hotter water at certain locations, like the kitchen sink, and if not then set the water temperature below the mixer setting.

    In concept, I like the idea of plumbing a house with only cold-water lines until you get to an “area of use” like the kitchen or a bathroom, and at one you use a tank-less “instantaneous” water heater. Too bad the buggers cost so much, and non-electric ones have additional hookups needed like fuel lines and exhaust venting, thus possibly negating any savings over the expected life of the units versus traditional central water heating.

  135. A gadget like that with a timer on it would be even better. Plug your cell phone into the strip, push the on button, and it turns off ofter a preset time.

  136. Does your A/C route the evaporator condensate back to the outside condenser for additional cooling? I saw somewhere that this can improve A/C efficiency by up to 10%.

    I didn’t want to punch a hole in my garage brick (no windows) for an air conditioner and modified a 13,500 BTU window unit with a condenser jacket for water cooling with the water dumped outside through a garden hose hole in the brick. The unit has a delta of 26-28 deg F with less than 1GPM usage. Of course it helps that I am on a well with a water softener and don’t have separate water utility rates.

    Unfortunately it is really difficult to get overall large efficiency improvements without major changes in the house (extra insulation, better windows, good attic ventilation, etc.) which can be expensive if contracted.

    Probably the best way to dramatically improve this kind of situation is to move to an area where the cost of living, including electric/gas rates is way less.

  137. And Doc you may want to consider moving to here, where there is NO personal income tax and here is what our electric bill for the last 12 months:
    Sep 3335kWh $411.54
    Oct 2678 329.81
    Nov 3133 386.40
    Dec 2168 266.34
    Jan 4248 516.89
    Feb 4151 505.00
    Mar 3869 470.46
    Apr 3567 433.50
    May 3147 382.04
    Jun 4066 494.61
    Jul 3524 428.22
    Aug 4282 521.06
    That’s TOTAL, including taxes.
    Of course, it is a 4,000+ Sq. Ft (not counting the garage & under-the-roof lanai) all electric (except for the two LP instant hot water heaters and 6 burner BBQ) house with 18,000 Gal in-ground heated pool and separate 330 Gal SPA. You can no doubt pick out the spring/fall like months out of the list because even though the house is insulated to the nth degree and I designed it to take max advantage of the natural ground temp of 70 degrees here in C. FL, we still need the A/C when it’s hot like right now, 91, or cold when the fronts come through in the winter, you know like 30 degrees…. or when we’re not here for a couple of weeks as we do turn all but essentials off and I am going to get a couple of those remote units to make it easier.

  138. Mods, if I may, a couple of related, but as of yet unmentioned items that I think are important to any discussion involving the topic at hand (household AC Mains power and safety, efficiency, including power distribution efficiency) –

    1) Arc flash circuit breakers – protective devices that act as more than just fuses in protecting personnel and equipment from hazards involving the “AC Mains”:

    “Arc flash – Electrical fires in homes … more than 40,000 times each year … U.S. alone. A significant portion of these fires result from unintended electrical arcs in a circuit that standard circuit breakers are unable to detect. Arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) detects arcing faults and opens the circuit to stop the flow of electricity.”

    http://www.arcadvisor.com/afci.html

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=opera&hs=Vo2&rls=en&q=arc+flash+circuit+breakers&aq=f&aqi=g1&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

    2) Power factor correction as it applies to power supplies (PSUs) – which are a different kettle of fish than simple VARs (Volt-Amps Reactive) as applied to inductive (motor) loads:

    PFC – A Little Old-School Knowledge – Part I – http://electronicdesign.com/article/power/pfc_a_little_old_school_knowledge.aspx

    APP NOTE – UNDERSTANDING POWER FACTOR – http://www.thierry-lequeu.fr/data/AN824.pdf

    .

  139. Forgot to mention that putting an extra layer of duct facing on the “outside” of metal ducting and double wrapping attic ducting would also help as I’ve seen 2-4 degree temp increases from the evaporator to the longer duct outlets and gaining most of this back would normally amount to to 10-15% efficiency gain for a 18-20 deg delta unit. This is also a relatively inexpensive fix.

  140. The answer, Anthony, is that by saving money by removing unnecessary energy use you are simply increasing Joe Romm’s energy use by causing him to go into yet more infantile rages about your attitude to climate change.

    Nobody wins in those sorts of situations.

  141. I think the solution is actually simpler. Now that you’ve installed a smart meter just wait for PG&E to turn off everything for you :-)

  142. You guys are nibbling around the edges. This thread has been like watching Obama recommend that a good way of increasing your fuel economy is to check your tire pressure.

    I have been amazed to read this entire thread and to see that only Steamboat Jack, who suggested voting with your feet, and Mr Black, who wrote,
    “We should be raising hell against this kind of government mandated impoverishment of ordinary people, not accepting it as our duty to the planet or whatever other moral fiction the AGW crowd would create for the little people to live by. I want to save money as much as the next man on my power bill but NOT because the government has made it too expensive to live a comfortable life.” even hinted at the real problem.

    The real problem is renewable-power mandates.

    The greenies love them, because they get built into the power bill, so everyone has to pay. Electric utilities love them because their cost is embedded in the rate base, so that a markup is incorporated into the tariff used to calculate consumers’ power bills.

    The ‘renewable power’ lobby loves them, because they disguise the true cost of ‘green power.’

    I hate them, because they ruin once-pristine windy vistas, and kill thousands of birds in the process, doing so at obscenely high cost.

    Every wind generator and every solar generating facility increases your power bill because of the purchase mandates that require utilities to purchase the power at the inflated rates necessary to make the wind and solar facilities profitable, not to mention the tax preferences and other subsidies involved in their construction.

    I pay Puget Sound Energy $.085544 per kwh, plus and minus nickels and dimes, for my power. Puget’s production costs, for other than renewables, haven’t increased very much since the time when I paid them about $.06 per kwh. the difference is renewable mandates, plus a little inflation.

    If you continue to vote for politicians who are cheerleaders and advocates for renewable power, your bills are going to increase, and you will be responsible for that increase, which occurs as a result of your actions.

    No amount of tinkering with incidental loads in your house is going to make a tinker’s damn worth of difference.

    It’s going to get worse. The renewable guys are promoting the idea of “feed-through tariffs”, a scheme used to promote investments in solar and wind power by individuals, in which you will have not a smart meter, but two meters. One meter will measure the power used by you, and the other will measure power generated by you, for which you will be paid an exhorbitant, mandated price.

    The way this is sold is to argue that peaking power is sold at the spot price, which is very high, so that the market will turn to renewable sources, which generate power for a subsidized, but less than spot price. In this way, adherents are able to argue that the use of renewable actually lower the cost of electrical power for everyone.

    Their claim is based on the false premise of the very high true cost of peaking (Usually natural gas fired turbine) electrical power.

    If you don’t start to vote against politicians who will shaft you with renewable mandates, you have only yourself to blame. I’d suggest that you hold your inflated power bill up next your face as you look in the mirror, while you say, “It’s your fault, dummy.”

    If any site on the web is more rational than this about climate issues, I have yet to find it. I’m surprised that commenters here have not been more aware of the true cost of climatological and environmental claptrap, and more aware of the cost of government intervention in what should be free markets.

  143. D. O. says “The real problem is renewable-power mandates.”
    It’s worse than you know. CA mandates buying renewable peak power, which comes from British Columbia. BC says it’s Hydro power, but no one can say what it is, once it’s in the grid.
    It may even be conventional power bought from Washington. Thus, our bureaucrats let them launder power that’s illegal for us to buy directly.
    Bring on the tar, feathers and pitchforks.

  144. I’m on the board of a condominium association that has mandated exterior lighting, the use of which is intended to illuminate house numbers at night, mostly for the use of visitors and emergency responders. We originally specified 50PAR30 lamps for the purpose in the installed downlights that illuminate house numbers, but we have have subsequently replaced those, as they fail, with 11-watt, Edison-base CF lamps. Since the lamps are on all night, the energy saving is considerable. I would argue that this is a reasonable use of energy-saving techniques.

  145. Some of you people are scaring the heck out of me.
    The HIGHEST electric bill I have had in the last 12 months is $165.42 USD.
    That was for July and I am air conditioning 3750 sqft.

  146. David Onkels September 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    You guys are nibbling around the edges. This thread has been like watching Obama recommend that a good way of increasing your fuel economy is to check your tire pressure.

    I have been amazed to read this entire thread and to see that only Steamboat Jack, who suggested voting with your feet, and Mr Black, who wrote, “We should be raising hell against this kind of government mandated impoverishment of ordinary people …

    In your haste to excoriate the bulk of us did you overlook this fine post by Gail which begins: “Governments are the biggest block to innovation.“?

    .

  147. Anthony, and others contemplating reducing electric bills due to California’s tiered rates system.

    You could consider converting the home to a time-of-use plan for electric service, then installing a cooling system that runs at night on off-peak power, produces and stores chilled water, then runs only a small pump and a circulation fan during the day. link to Southern California Edison’s TOU plans:

    http://www.sce.com/CustomerService/rates/residential/special-time-of-use.htm

    PG&E’s offering: see E-6, E-7, and E-9 at http://www.pge.com/tariffs/ERS.SHTML

    Note that E-9 is a Residential Time-of-Use Service for Low Emission Vehicle Customers, for which an electric vehicle may qualify.

    There are several commercially available water chilling systems for residential use; an internet search for the keywords “residential water chilling system” should turn up several.

    These systems are much like conventional air conditioners, but instead of producing cold air they produce chilled water. The chilled water is stored in dedicated insulated tanks. When home A/C is required, a small water circulation pump sends chilled water through a heat exchanger, the home’s air circulation fan starts, and cold air is blown through the house. This does not completely eliminate electrical usage during the day, or on-peak hours, but it reduces the electric load considerably. As an aside, USC (University of Southern California) installed an industrial-scale system to do exactly this, with the storage tank located under an athletics field. It was huge. These things work.

    Another pretty good idea is to add more insulation to attics, and roof vents. I have never trusted any government agency to decide what is best for me and my home, including their Energy Star ratings.

    I also cut my home’s energy use, especially air conditioning, by installing trellises on the southern and western exterior walls, then planting a climbing vine. I used Morning Glory vines, because they grow quickly, plus produce a dense foliage and pretty flowers. The trellises were about a foot away from the wall. The impact on the A/C and electric bill was dramatic. The vines can be removed easily when the weather becomes cooler, and it is advantageous to have sunshine beating on the walls.

    If there are any windows exposed to afternoon sun, consider installing awnings, or special reflective screens.

    Going through the attic with a large roll of duct tape is also good, with the goal of taping every joint in the air ducting system. It is amazing how many air leaks exist in those systems. Checking that there are no leaks where the air duct enters each room also is a good idea. Sometimes builders cut corners, and the cold air reaches the room but part of it leaks back into the attic. This is based, of course, on a central A/C cooling system with an attic-mounted evaporator/fan system with air distribution ducts also in the attic.

    Eliminating air leaks to the outside also reduces the A/C load. There are many products on the market to seal small crevices.

    Finally, and I’ll stop here, one should keep the air filters to the air circulation fan as clean as possible. These should be checked at least once each month, and replaced with new filters if of the disposable type, and cleaned and re-installed if of the re-useable type.

  148. Coming from the UK I love the unswitched outlets, in England one of my family would switch off AND unplug the bloody thing (kettle etc) given that the UK outlets were double pole switches this was plain foolishness, iritating when you plug in the kettle, switch it on and it never boils????, what about the microwave? I was pleased to read the LED light bit, CFLs are a crock, I cannot find the study that actually measured the average real world consumption of incadesent, cfl and quartz halogen/dimmer, the last being the cheapest in both consumption and longevity/initial cost.

  149. My apologies to Gail, the only other exception to the navel-gazing here about the real costs of power. I continue to excoriate the rest of you.

    I’m amazed that micro-nuclear hasn’t received more attention. Given that Toshiba, a giant corporation, is one of the players, I might ask why they haven’t lobbied and marketed more effectively.

  150. Chris Edwards,
    ” I was pleased to read the LED light bit, CFLs are a crock, I cannot find the study that actually measured the average real world consumption of incadesent, cfl and quartz halogen/dimmer, the last being the cheapest in both consumption and longevity/initial cost.”

    In my association, we decided that CFL, Edison base lamps were the best for lamps that would be illuminated all night.

    In my own home, I use mostly halogen lamps dimmed by fade-on, fade-off dimmers that I purchased at considerable cost. Replacing those with CFL lamps, not controllable by the dimmers I have installed, would be unacceptable. I don’t like the quality of light supplied by CF lamps.

  151. Eric Anderson,
    “2052 kWh of use in July? Holy cow, my electric use isn’t anywhere near that. I know you mentioned heavy A/C usage, but I’m guessing the real culprit is your 12-person jacuzzi and the home tanning bed! Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us. ”

    My usage in August, with no A/C, was 360 kwh. I live in 1445 square feet, and our mild climate doesn’t require A/C. I leave one computer on all the time, because I have VOIP, which allows me to avoid $35 per month charges for home telephone service from the regulated utility. Life is about tradeoffs, rather than solutions, isn’t it?

  152. Jim (Sep 6, 12:20 pm)

    Thanks for the followup comments. I could (unfortunately?) write about 600 pages on the various diesel options, their pros and cons. I read “too much” and then “think too much”.

    The starting load, especially for inductive loads starting pumps (as in A/C compressors) is always a difficult problem. It’s one of the first electrical engineering things that mechanical engineers were (are?) taught. A large flywheel (turning at perhaps several times crank speed) on the generator helps.

    Modern power electronics provide more options for dealing with the starting loads. e.g. Brushless DC generation and solid-state A/C synthesis, drawing surge currents from the engine’s starter battery. Not as cheap and simple as a flywheel, but much lighter and more compact.

    My example illustrated that the electricity provider must be completely clueless and expect their customers to be even more ignorant and helpless; if they expect the customer to pay the company at a rate higher than than what the customer can easily produce by themselves.

    A combined heat-and-power system, with perhaps a direct-drive a/c compressor is a bigger investment, but the cost of “electricity” to “DIY” is then potentially less than the 29 cents a kWh being charged for the amounts in the second step above “base”.

    If the customer also has an off-grid PV solar system with their own storage batteries, then that can be integrated as well, utilising the batteries to supply all electrical power at periods of low demand and using the generator to charge the batteries when there isn’t enough sun. That increases overall generator efficiency as it spends less time running with very low loads. Engine efficiency tends to be poor when the load is below about 20% of maximum rated.

  153. I’m curious about how many of you who are investing thousands to save nickels have smart phones with data plans that obligate you to spend a hundred or so a month for fancy communications.

    It’s all about choices, again.

    I read Anthony’s post about how much money he spent to replace incandescant can lights with LED trims, and I had to laugh at his waste of money. I saw no consideration of an alaysis of the reduction in operating cost in return for his investment, especially considering that the new trims were installed in place of incandescant sources that would be little used in the summer.

    It’s nice to be an early adopter, if that gives you pleasure, but most of the “energy savings” claims are laughable.

    I used LED sources for undercabinet lighting in a recent kitchen remodel, both because they were cheap and easy to install, but because they will almost free to operate, and are physically inconsequential. They’re tiny and easy to conceal. Mostly, they were very, very, inexpensive. I used a transformer (from a discarded inkjet printer) I had lying around to power them.

  154. Jim —

    I’m showing my age, I suppose. When I first started getting into computers and electronics back in the late Sixties (!), electronic equipment normally came in “relay racks” two feet wide by two and a half deep by anything up to seven feet tall, cooled by small fans more or less identical to the condenser fan in a fridge, i.e. 5-15W shaded pole motors. Later, commercially available one-piece “muffin” fans became popular, but they were still 110V shaded-pole motors. Those were used up until about the mid-eighties, when DC fans began encroaching on their territory, but big racks of electronics still sometimes have “fan trays” made with those things. I don’t know of any desktop PC that used AC fans after about the TRS-80 era; the IBM-descended and Apple PCs used brush-motor DC fans until brushless DC fans started getting cheap sometime around 1990 or so.

    No, brushless DC motors don’t work on the shaded-pole principle. As I said, they use electronics to create polyphase AC and run on that. The Hall sensors you describe are used for timing; they drive the pass transistors that control the current to each motor phase. Because they change phase based on rotor position rather than frequency, their speed can be varied by varying the current to them, either by changing the voltage or PWM techniques — I’ve used both — just like a brush motor. That doesn’t change the fact that the magnetic circuit inside the motor is polyphase (though not induction, like the motors most people think of as “AC”).

    Regards,
    Ric

  155. It’s the AMPS that will hurt you, not the voltage. Circuit breakers will trip on excessive amps. If you want to protect against shocks, install ONE GFCI receptacle at the beginning of each circuit and it will protect all the receptacles on that circuit.

    As to 120V vs 240V, I don’t know that one is really safer than the other. 240V devices require half as many AMPS as 120V, but these devices usually require a lot more power thus upping the AMPS anyways. But for the same wattage, a 240V circuit is safer as it will require half as many AMPS. This also means that your wires will handle more devices and more wattage.

    One thing I did find is that common grounds are sometimes used to service two circuits on different phases. If only one circuit is in use, then you’ll get the normal 120V potential on the neutral wire. But if both circuits are in use with the same wattage, then you’ll have 0V on the neutral. So more using more devices can actually be safer with this arrangement.

    In any case, fewer amps means safer environment.

    BTW, how many devices are you using on the same circuit? Do you have a 20A or 15A circuit? Overloaded circuits will draw a LOT more power too. You may want to check the AMPs you’re drawing on a single circuit and maybe install another circuit or try to put some devices on a different existing circuit. Something many people don’t know is that breakers will rarely trip on overloaded circuits. You can go over the rated AMPS on a circuit breaker with relative ease. They usually flip with sudden changes. But just plugging in a lot of crap will cause gradual use and won’t flip your circuit breaker causing your wires to expend way more power than needed, above and beyond the draw from the devices connected to it.

  156. Harry Bergeron ,
    You’re correct. The operator is free to cook the numbers and shaft you for power they purchase from elsewhere.

    The answer is to create a free market for power. The experience with Enron has interefered with this concept, but one should remember that, when Enron was in business, power was still regulated in California, and the actions of regulators in California exacerbated the problem.

  157. I’m curious: Why does ‘energy’ alone of the services we purchase, occupy a special place deserving of stupidly uneconomic investments in the pursuit of the avoidance of its purchase?

    We produce “energy” pretty efficiently, and it makes our lives more comfortable while enriching us in many ways. I understand the desire to use “energy” efficently, but I don’t understand the slavish enthusiasm for protocols that would waste money in the pursuit of the use of less “energy.”

  158. David Onkels says:
    September 6, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I’m curious about how many of you who are investing thousands to save nickels have smart phones with data plans that obligate you to spend a hundred or so a month for fancy communications. …

    I would tread lightly here sport; you don’t know us, you don’t know our history, you don’t know our backgrounds, you don’t know what we’ve seen or where we’ve been … likely as not, we have tread on the same ground ahead of you more than just once … collectively anyway … shoot, on second thought, we have designed, built, invented, constructed and erected some, no, most if not all of the ‘ground’ you’re currently ‘using’ …

    .

  159. Roger Carr September 5, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Here in Michigan USA our power is 250 volts at 60Hz
    mine on a volt meter is 247vac, that is the truth don’t be fooled by
    old folk speak I.E. 110v is not right and has not been for oh 80years or so.
    back in the day of the late 1800s the voltage was 108v 50 cycles.
    We can’t get it into the old duffs heads that times have changed!
    Now, a brown out is 118vac if it gets any worse they shut it down! (black out)

    Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    September 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    energy bill was $620.16

    omg! that’s the same as 3 months cost in winter here.

    That is what I thought too! I have electric heat also!

    Just bought two more LED light bulbs for those places where the lights are on 24/7

    for 35$ would it not be cheaper just wire a switch to the outlet? or use a on/off outlet timer? Christmas time has lots to choose from.

    we only would gain from June through August here as all used power is heat for the house so turning off a light or a VCR or DVR will cause the base board heat to come on more.

    Tim

  160. addendum, for lights and small things voltage is split at the circuit panel from 250v ac to 125v ac, all large items ie stove, dryer , heat, A.C. ,jacuzzi, hot tub, water heater etc all are 250v ac

  161. Robert C says:
    September 5, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    “….Oh, and don’t turn off tube-type TV’s – it will shorten the life of the picture tube. The “normal” on/off switch keeps a small current on at all times so the tube will
    1 last longer
    2 turn on faster
    Unplugging the set will allow the filament to cool off .. very bad.”

    Robert, it seems that you never yet used a watt meter like KILL A WATT.

    Buy or borrow one! Use it and be prepared for a BIG surprise. It is probably true that turning power for your TV off and on will shorten the life of the CRT. However, about eight years ago I used KILL A WATT to measure what our CRT TV consumed when it was off. I found that there was no difference in consumption. It used 300 W on or off. The only thing that was being shut off when the TV power switch was on Off was the high-voltage supply for the CRT. To kill all the power to the CRT (advisable when you go to sleep or leave the house), I had to switch off the power outlet or unplug the TV.

    The power costs for our CRT display on the computer were much the same.

    I now have only LCD devices for TVs and computers. That not only cuts power consumption in half for all display devices, but it saved me so much on power consumption that I consider it a waste of my time to worry about doing better than I did.

    Anthony’s advice for saving on air conditioning if power consumption is reduced is good for where air conditioning is a must. In areas where in addition to a power bill there is also a heating bill, or where part of the power bill covers heating, power used and waste-heat produced by non-heating devices (e. g.: incandescent light) is not necessarily wasted. The waste heat of those devices cuts back on the cost of heating (an important consideration in areas where homes are being heated for nine months of the year or more).

    How much you save depends on what it costs to heat your home. Eliminating incandescent lights and replacing them with fluorescent lights will most likely drive up your heating costs by a substantial amount, for the same reason that it will reduce air-conditioning costs.

  162. David Onkels says:
    September 6, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I’m on the board of a condominium association that has mandated exterior lighting, the use of which is intended to illuminate house numbers at night, mostly for the use of visitors and emergency responders. We originally specified 50PAR30

    why not use 1 watt LED bulbs instead of 11w mercury vapor lights?

  163. “Smokey says:
    September 6, 2010 at 10:03 am
    Watts = E x I [voltage X current]. It is derived from Ohm’s Law:
    http://www.csgnetwork.com/ohmslaw2.html

    Smokey, why don’t you read what it says at the site you mention?

    With Q charge, W work, E potential difference, I current, P power, R resistance, t time:

    Power is DEFINED (in mechanics) by P=W/t
    Potential difference (Voltage) is DEFINED by E=W/Q

    Thus P=EQ/t=EI

    Resistance is DEFINED by R=E/I
    Ohm’s law says resistance is more or less constant provided certain physical conditions (especially the temperature) do nor alter
    Thus P=EI=RI^2=E^2/R

    Concerning the units of measurement (in this case even Americans use the International System):
    The Ampere is DEFINED as a base unit by the SI
    The Watt is defined in mechanics (Joule/second)
    Thus the Volt is Watt/Ampere (or Watt=Volt*Ampere)
    The Ohm is defined as Volt/Ampere (the SI being coherent, meaning no conversion factors)

  164. Every safety group I know says that plugging multi-outlet cords into multi-outlet cords is a big no-no. Not allowed anywhere that I’ve worked that had regular safety inspections.

  165. ” Larry Geiger says:
    September 7, 2010 at 6:16 am
    Every safety group I know says that plugging multi-outlet cords into multi-outlet cords is a big no-no. Not allowed anywhere that I’ve worked that had regular safety inspections.”

    Why is that a problem? If the current gets too big, the fuse will pop.

  166. Jim,
    Where I come from, arguments such as yours, which boil down to, “I’m intelligent and educated, while you are ignorant and stupid,” don’t fly. Why don’t you attempt to refute my argument?

    Tim L,
    “why not use 1 watt LED bulbs instead of 11w mercury vapor lights?”

    We don’t do that because we’re careful with the members’ money. It takes a 6-watt, or, really, a 10-watt LED lamp to replace that 11-watt CFL lamp, in order to approximate the light output. The LED lamp will usualy have a rated life of, perhaps, 20,000 or 30,000 hours (Certainly not the 50,000 hours you see commonly stated), and will cost $36 or so, although the cost is coming down. The CFL lamp presently costs about $2, although they are occasionally available free from the local power company. They have a rated life of 10,000 hours, which is conservative in our experience. Lamp replacement is done on a volunteer basis by members.

    LED lamps show great potential, but are not presently economically feasible for our application.

  167. The specs didn’t list anything other than a 15 amp limit. I expected a lower limit for the switched outlets. Can this thing really electronically switch 15 amps at that price point? Nice find. I wonder how long it will last.

  168. I did some calculations and found some interesting results:

    In some parts of the country, the electricity is tiered. That is, you pay very little per KWh for the Baseline amount, but as you go beyond that amount, the rate per KWh gets higher and higher.

    In my house, we rarely go above tier 2, so I had no idea what the price was at the upper levels. However, when I saw this bill, it became clear that the higher levels can be very expensive.

    Tier 1 (Baseline) = 11.877 cents per KWh
    Tier 2 = 13.502 cents per KWh
    Tier 3 = 29.062 cents per KWh
    Tier 4 = 40.029 cents per KWh
    Tier 5 = 40.029 cents per KWh

    In my case, very little of my energy goes into Tier 2, so the cost saving from solar would be minimal. However, in the case of this person’s bill, the usage goes into the highest tier and the any solar electric would have a major drop on the bill.

    If I use the current average for a large installed array of $7.60 per watt and we’ll assume he gets an average of 5.5 peak solar hours per day (2007.5 per year). One watt would produce 2.007 KWh per year. Because it would reduce at the higher end or 40.029 cents per KWh, that comes to a savings of 2.007 x 40.029 cents per KWh = about 80 cents savings per year.

    http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/pubs/redbook/

    $7.60 (per installed watt) / $0.80 savings per year = about 9.5 years to payback. Figure that the life of the system would be around 25 to 30 years. In this person’s case, going solar would prove to be cost effective.

    The catch here is that I’m only seeing the summertime bill. IF this person is below Tier 4 in the other months, this will not produce as quick a savings.

    Bob Diaz

  169. Glad to see things are stable Anthony. Your site was in good hands while you were gone.

    I accidentally purchased a power strip by SurgeMaster which is made for taming the little transformers. It has one master plug with three slave plugs, and one pass-through plug. When the master device is off, the slaves go off, too. It was hilarious when I had an electric fan plugged into a slave socket, and a recharging unit in the master.

    On Off On Off (repeat)

    I will happily add more of these strips, but I don’t get too excited about it. We do need a term, similar to “loglo” (from Neil Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”), that denotes the glow of various LED devices throughout the house. Excluding clocks and appliances with displays that are always on, I can come up with well over 40 LEDs on things around the first floor of the house.

    I’m a musician, so I have tons of gear with LED status lamps, which I usually leave plugged in.

    Time for an Energy Audit at The Boogie.

  170. the only thing plugged in at my house is the refrigerator. everything else is powerstripped and the powerstrips get turned on when in use.

    keeps the electric bill as low as $11 in summer.

  171. Ric Locke September 6, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    … commercially available one-piece “muffin” fans became popular, but they were still 110V shaded-pole motors. Those were used up until about the mid-eighties, when DC fans began encroaching on their territory …

    Indeed; disassembly of a typical long-suffering and overlooked (until it fails!) “muffin fan” here in the home lab last night revealed a ‘split’ stator and what may be a turn or two (a shorted turn) around the smaller pole piece … hallmarks of a shaded pole motor. Since there is precious little ‘on the web’ regarding the makeup and design on these “inside-out motor design[s] for airmovers” (as the history for the Rotron website puts it) I selected a suitable, ailing specimen (missing a retainer clip for some reason) for closer examination …

    But don’t kid yourself, the ubiquitous ‘muffin’ fans still enjoy a place in the equipment designers toolkit, albeit a more infrequent choice as time progresses. BTW, I have yet to see a “brushed” DC fan in equipment, in part, no doubt, for a couple or reasons one being EMI/RFI issues due to ‘brush arcing’ (any car heater or A/C will easliy demonstrate this phenom using a hand-held AM radio in proximity).

    As to the 60’s and “electronic equipment normally came in “relay racks” two feet wide by two and a half deep by anything up to seven feet tall,” some of us still ‘deal’ in racks of gear of that magnitude; the nameplate is often Agilent, Rhode&Schwarz and National Instruments and the ‘racks’ into which trey are mounted (along with some ancillary support gear) require ‘venting’ (air cooling) of said tall racks of gear … and this is 2010 for the record …

    Ric: “No, brushless DC motors don’t work on the shaded-pole principle. As I said, they use electronics to create polyphase AC and run on that. ”

    I’ve a little EG&G marked unit from 1984 that ‘counters’ that descrip; the outside of the rotor appears to be a series of magnets (there are a series of NS poles present) and the stator is comprised of a singular pole-piece with a coil, this in one corner of the little square fan’s frame … there is also a Hall-effect device about 1/4 circumference away from the coil/pole-piece.

    The normal ‘parked’ position of the rotor is ‘parked’ attracted to the single pole-piece … I theorize the Hall effect detects the ‘position’ of the rotor from the mag field and actuates the coil for attraction/repulsion as required … this does not appear to be a polyphase AC motor but it gets the job done … I’m going to have to look more closely at more recent PC class fans and ascertain their technology as well …

    .

  172. David Onkels September 7, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Where I come from, arguments such as yours, which boil down to, “I’m intelligent and educated, while you are ignorant and stupid,” don’t fly. Why don’t you attempt to refute my argument?

    Pls, get over yourself; frankly, I have better things to do with my time. As I said before, you don’t know us, you don’t know where we’ve been or what we’ve done …

    .

  173. Smokey,
    Sorry for the late follow ups, but it seems others are on top of it ;^)

    Yep, I’m talking about AC power into inductive/capacitive loads.

    Large factories (with lots of large motors) would get killed on the power bill due to having to pay for the VA consumption instead of the power actually used to produce work (the Watts or V*A*powerFactor). What was typically done was to use synchronous motors for the ventilation systems since they can be tuned to appear as a capacitive load (and cancel out the inductive loads). The benefit is a more neutral power factor and better utilization of the power bill. You can also see capacitors wired into the power lines around town in places the power company is trying to correct the power factor. As to what residential meters actually measure. I’m still convinced that they also measure VA, but I wouldn’t bet on it ;^)

  174. Well Efficiency is my middle name and I don’t leave any of that computer stuff on. Both at home and in my office, my computer is turned off unless I am using it; which is pretty much ten hours a day at work; but the display goes off via a power Nag if I leave my office; well it’s worse than that. The sensor is on the edge of the desk looking over the keyboard, and If I am not typing, it shits the display off. sometimes, I am so stealthy working with the mouse; which is right under the damn motion sensor; it doesn’t see me mousing; so it shuts off the display.

    I have noticed recently that PG&E, our local utility announces that it is saving energy by simply telling us to use less; so its future green energy plan is for us to use no energy. Yes that is really helpful.

    Just how bleak is the California future energy outlook can be discerned from an article in the paper last weekend about the coming electric cars. California is already way behind schedule in meeting the green legislated electric car change over.
    So if you go out and buy one of those soon to be in your neighborhood electric wonder cars; you have to ahve a “Charging Station” in your garage; for which you need to get a building permit. This is a retirement program for building inspectors; they are going to get filthy rich inspecting all the garage electric car “charging Stations.”

    Hey I already have charging stations all over my house. My camera battery chargers are often plugged into them (but not always) They come in 115 Volt sizes at 15 Amps per circuit, or in newer houses at up to 20 Amps with the right cable plug. So what’s with this permit BS. Well if you try to charge your all electric wunderkar from the 115, it takes eight hours to charge so you can go 30 miles round trip to the store. So you need 240 Volts to get the charging time between store trips down to 4 hours. Hey I already have a 240 Volt charging station in my garage; sometimes the dryer is plugged into it; I could plug my electric car into that; so what’s with this charging station BS. They say you have to tell your electric utility company that you are getting an electric car; and they will come out and look at all the trash in your garage. What the hey for; it’s none of their business if I buy an electric car.

    Typical houses these days come with a main breaker box good for 240 Volt at 200 Amps; so why does my electric car; which charges off a 40 Amp breaker on 240, need a permit ?

    Well here’s the rub. When you tell your electric utility that you are getting an electric perambulator; they send a team out to check the pole transformer near your house; to make sure you don’t blow all your neighbors off the grid, when you plug your electric car in at night.

    Are you getting the picture; that California doesn’t have anywhere near enough electric supply capacity to handle any number of all electric cars. We already buy most of our electricity out of State from places like Texas; that have some energy foresight.

    In some posh places like the Hollywood elites where everbody has to be seen to be green; they all have electrics; so you can imagine the headaches that SoCal Edison has down there in lala land.

    So you house may be wired for 50KW of electricity; but don’t you believe that PG&E can actually supply you more than a small fraction of that.

    So much for an all electric future ! But at 10% solar conversion efficiency; you only need 500 squ metres or 5000 squ feet; whichever comes first; to completely cut yourself off from the grid and go totally free clean green renewable energy; at least during some part of the day. But there’s that permiyt thing; the building inspector would like to retire; so he’s not going to ok your do it yourself free energy scheme.

    I may buy an electric train set for my old age; but forget that electric car boondoggle. Did I read that one of those overpriced Tesla Motors cars has something like 3000 C cells in it. Does anybody else think a C cell is an efficient energy packaging container ?

  175. “ … Alexej Buergin says:
    September 7, 2010 at 8:28 am
    ” Larry Geiger says:
    September 7, 2010 at 6:16 am
    Every safety group I know says that plugging multi-outlet cords into multi-outlet cords is a big no-no. Not allowed anywhere that I’ve worked that had regular safety inspections.”

    Why is that a problem? If the current gets too big, the fuse will pop. …”

    ‘Daisy-chaining’ multi-outlet cords is banned at my present work place and the safety guys are convinced that the reason is to prevent overloads and fire hazards when, as you say, that’s what the fuse is for.

    The actual reason is the increased risk of a discontinuity in the safety earth or ground conductor.

  176. Alexej Buergin says:

    …Concerning the units of measurement (in this case even Americans use the International System):
    The Ampere is DEFINED as a base unit by the SI
    The Watt is defined in mechanics (Joule/second)
    Thus the Volt is Watt/Ampere (or Watt=Volt*Ampere)

    That’s all I said: Watts equal Volts X Amps. But thanks for the interesting comments.

  177. There’s a few commenters here who have not studied electrical engineering.

    Power (in Watts) = Volts * Amps (for dc).

    Power (in VA) = Volts * Amps (for ac).

    AC has the problem that the voltage waveform is actually V(t) = K sin wt (where w= omega = 2*pi*f, where f= line frequency).

    And current is I(t) = K sin (wt + p).

    Now when the current and voltage are in phase all is fine and dandy and the VA = Watts. But when the current and voltage have a phase angle difference (that little p = phi, the angle) above, then the VA is not the watts.

    Your plain ole power meter normally measures watts, not VA, which is one of the reasons your power company likes as many appliances as possible to have as close as possible to unity power factor (ie they want the W = VA because otherwise they can’t bill you easily). Industrial users often have different metering systems to better catch and bill the VARs (Volt-Amps Reactive).

    Talk to a few electrical engineers :)

  178. Here in the SF Bay area, many libraries have Kill a Watt devices available for checking out. Check your area library. Hang in there pal.

  179. FWIW, some few years ago I got a ‘radio remote’ power control thingy at Target (for modestly cheap… I think it was about $15?). It’s a “brick on a rope” but the rope (or cord) is only about 6 inches. Plugs into wall. “Whatever” plugs into it ( I use generic power strips) and BINGO! Instant remote power kill on “Whatever”. IIRC, you get two remote “bricks” and the controller has two buttons on it, all in one package.

    I got two of them, so have 4 total clusters that can be controlled. Living room Entertainment, Bedroom Entertainment, Office Computer, and Misc charging station.

    Biggest issue is remembering to kill the entertainment stack in the bedroom when falling asleep… and remembering to leave it on when I have the recorder set to record something…

    SIDEBAR: I once calculated that the Honda 12 KW Diesel generator had the interesting property that the cost of electricity in kW-hrs was the price of Diesel per gallon with the decimal shifted one position. So with Diesel at $3.12 per gallon, it makes electricity at 31 cents / kWhr. That’s less than the 40 cents you are being hit for, peak. FWIW, you could get that down another chunk by using ‘off road’ Diesel and dodging the taxes.

    Unfortunately, Honda stopped selling that fine generator around here. I’m sure there are others available, though…

    I’m sure the Powers That Be did not intend to make it profitable for everyone to run their own backyard Diesel for summer months… but they did…

    Also worth a mention is the Capstone micro-turbine. At 30 kW it’s a bit large for individuals, but runs on natural gas (that is presently fairly cheap) and makes a lot of “waste heat”. Our local high school put one in, replacing their pool heater. It still heats the pool, but now they get 30 kW of electricity “for free”… Uses air bearings so it has no lube oil and no messy maintenance issues surrounding things like oil changes… Fascinating product. If you have money and a pool, it’s a great solution.

    Finally, my 1 kW Honda gas generator runs about 8 hours on a quart of gasoline. Call it 8 hours on a buck. I make that 12 cents per hour. What I don’t know is how much load I had on it. But even it it dropped to 4 hours, that’s only 25 Cents / kWhr. You would still have a ways to go to get to 40 Cents… Might be worth a ‘full load test’ to see what it ran out to. You can also get Natural Gas versions that would cut the fuel costs way down. (No ‘road taxes’ and nat gas is running about $1.50 / gallon of gas equivalent right now). IIRC the 3 kW unit computed out to 25 Cents / kW-hr on gasoline last time I did the math and that dropped to 12 Cents on Natural Gas… Just saying… And while that does not amortize capital costs, I just assign those to having a standby generator anyway. Hey, it’s Quake Country… you gotta have one.

    Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs when you can buy gasoline or Diesel retail and be competitive with PUC tariffs… Welcome to California.

  180. Running small generators on propane or natgas should also clean up their exhaust a bit and extend service life of the unit, its lube and spark plug.

  181. Regarding claims about the 230 or such volt AC power option used in Canada and US, beware that people play loose with terminology.
    My understanding is that the feed to a small building like a house comes from a transformer with two output windings that are wound in opposite directions.
    It seems that people focused on distribution refuse to consider it as two phase, sometimes calling it “split phase”.
    But all that users see is two sinusoidal signals that are 180 degrees out of time with each other, which must surely be considered two phases? That phase difference is fundamental to use of the power feed as it gives the double voltage.

    (FTR, quoted values vary from 110/220 through 120/240, actual will depend on distribution system voltage drop at the time – which varies with current in the lines. (BC Hydro are trying to adjust output of the substation based on feedback from an end point, to reduce power consumption.)

    PS: Seems to me that before pontificating on VA vs watts people need to understand how electrical devices including power meters actually work, which may vary with vintage and location. (There are people selling some kind of PF adjuster for things like refrigerators (which are a motor) but they are over-hyped. I forget why the claimed savings.)

    PPS: So who is going to research how to make wall warts more efficient? Seems to me there would be great demand if it can be done, but I do not have the expertise nor the capital. :-)

  182. Well it isn’t so much electric motors that the utility companies are concerned about these days; it is switching power supplies in computers adn other electronic equipment; and that includes all the small light weight non transformer battery chargers that are pluged into the line all the time.

    In Europe; they have strict regulations regarding power factor; ans computer switching power supplies for Europe are required to have active power factor correction so they don’t look like a big capacitor to the power company.

    And often it isn’t simply the Watts versus vA connection. Non Resistive power line loads can also have very high surge currents due to the non sinusoidal current waveform; so the utility company is concerned about the I^2R losses in the transmission lines as well as the lost metered power. At least the older electric power meters ; had magnetic sensing of both current and Voltage; so they were true instantaneous power responding; rahter than RMS corrected systems that actually sensed average power rather than instantaneous. The peaking factor can get pretty wild on some sorts of electrical gadgets.

    A very neat way to run LEDs directly off the AC line (don’t try this at home); is to wire the LEDs in back to back parallel pairs, so that they conduct on alternate half cycles, and each LED acts as a reverse Voltage protection for its mate (LEDs are notorious for not having very well controlled reverse characteristics in high volume production. Well then having connected your LEDs into a (short) string af B2B pairs, you put a good mylar film capacitor in series with it and stick it straight across the AC line Voltage. Well you have to size the capacitor correctly using i = C dV/dt and dV/dt |max =2pif V peak.

    Now the current is almost purely capacitive and not resistive; so if you light your whole house this way; the electric company will come and burn your house down. But hey; if you make up a Merry Christmas or Happy Gaiana day sign out of cheap LEDs they probably won’t notice. Well they’ve never complained about mine.

  183. An IBM Aptiva of Windows 98 vintage had a PF correcting power supply. (Well designed case, motherboard from Acer. I don’t know what they use today as I unse only laptops – with cord warts. :-)

  184. Miscellaneous information on power use:

    IIRC the big power user in a laser printer is the fuser (heater), which in recent designs is turned off automatically by some logic.

    Another thing to check is that your scanner’s light is turning off automatically, usually a setting in software.

    As for running a computer on 12vdc power, the version is spelled “l a p t o p” – with a DC wart (such as from Targus, or perhaps the computer maker like IBM/Lenovo – I use them frequently).

    For multiple power cords, without switch, a solution is a quad wall outlet, wired in – suppliers like Leviton make ones that fit a normal double box. I read that some building codes now require them in hospitals (and they are available with the special grounding often needed there).

  185. Harry Bergeron fails to understand that humans are the ultimate resource – creative, productive beings.

    What society would be better off with fewer resources?

    (Of course Marxist presumptions are “fixed pie” because they deny the efficacy of the human mind. But we know how many people Marxism ever fed or sheltered or fostered. (North Korea anyone? Even the great experiment of the USSR could not in over seven decades of trying achieve the end used to justify its oppressive means – feed its own people (countries like canada and the US had to provide grain to them).

    (And note that the rate of crime and usage of welfare by recent immigrants is the same on average as by people who’ve been in the US a long time. They are just people living their lives.)

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