“You’re going to be proud of me, Ted. I changed every light bulb in my house to energy efficient ones. I spent $80 at Home Depot.”
Chris Kimbrell, LA Metrolink Rider
Household Energy Use: Macro to Your Home
Americans spend more than $160 billion a year to heat, cool, light, and power their homes. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that in 2005 homes accounted for 22% of U.S. energy use and contributed 17% of national greenhouse gases emissions.
There were 120,761,000 American households in 2005 that consumed 21,812 trillion BTUs, about 22 quads, of the nation’s 100.4 quadrillion BTU annual energy diet. The most recent data available shows that the average household spends about $1,600 per year on household energy, including electricity, space, and water heating.
In terms of electricity consumption, households bought a total of 1,294 Terrawatthours (TWh) in 2004, 36% of the nation’s 3,548 TWh total annual consumption. More than 95% of U.S. homes have some form of space heating; about 85% have air conditioning. The average household monthly power bill: $88 Are you using more or less than this?
American homes have become much more efficient in the past 30 years thanks to certification programs, state and local building codes, incentives, and awareness of the value of energy. Many housing experts believe that many households can still save 20-30% on their energy bills through cost-effective improvements such as buying more energy-efficient products and appliances, stopping air from flowing in and out of the home, and adding insulation.
Partnerships for Home Energy Efficiency is a joint DOE, EPA, and HUD initiative that has set a goal of reducing energy use in the average home by 10% by 2015. In addition to saving Americans $20 billion annually, this will increase affordability and comfort, reduce natural gas use by more than a quadrillion Btus, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 25 million vehicles from the roads.
So where do you get started? Feel any drafts? Which is your “worst of the worst” appliance? Have you changed out your lights, caulked your doors and windows? For practical information on simple steps for your own home, contact EcoMotion. Buying a home? Look at both its first cost and its maintenance and energy costs. How good are the windows, the insulation, and the appliances in terms of energy efficiency? Is your dream home “solar ready?”
Macro Energy Units
Terrawatt hours = 1,000,000,000,000 watt hours. The U.S. uses about 3,500 TWh in total.
Quad = a quadrillion BTU, or 1,000,000,000,000,000 BTU. The U.S. uses about 100 quads a year for all energy needs.
BTU = British Thermal Unit. 1 BTU is the amount of heat required to raise 1 lb. of water by 1 degree F. ( = about a kitchen match)
Putting Wind in Your Shopping Cart
- Ted Flanigan
Imagine going to the market and getting fresh vegetables, fruit, other supplies, and your month’s diet of renewable energy credits. A far out idea?
No, Renewable Choice Energy has a new product that consumers can buy at Whole Foods stores. For $5, an individual can buy a Wind Power Card to offset his or her greenhouse gas emissions for the month. Family Wind Power Cards cost $15 a month.
Each card represents the equivalent of a month's worth of electricity consumption for an individual or a family, 250 kilowatt hours and 750 kilowatt hours respectively. When you buy a card, your commitment causes more wind energy to be built and purchased, offsetting sales of conventional power sources. The cards also serve as refrigerator magnets – visible reminders of our commitments.
So how does it work? Each time that a consumer purchases a wind energy card, Renewable Energy Choice invests the money in a new wind farm, adding more renewable energy to the national grid on your behalf. Actually, you are supporting the marginal cost of wind energy with your purchase of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour power credits, accelerating wind’s market share with your support.
The result of a simple shopping decision is quite profound: Renewable Energy Choice advertises that an individual card results in the offset of 348 pounds of CO2 (equivalent to 1.39 pounds of CO2 for the typical kilowatt-hour), not driving 429 miles, planting four trees, or preventing the burning of 187 pounds of coal.
My Household Energy Audit
- Russ Flanigan, EcoMotion Operations
I recently had a rep (shown in photo!) from Southern California Edison come by the home that my family moved into two months earlier.
The bills were noticeably higher than our last home, so I thought an outside opinion would help guide me in the direction of a) bill savings and b) saving valuable energy resources.
Once I got the right number to call, the experience was easy, convenient -- the guy was right on time for the appointment that lasted an hour -- and educational. I asked a lot of questions and even though I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on energy efficiency, I learned some things. Plus I was given some free light bulbs!!!!
Most utilities have home energy audits available free of charge for their customers.
It may take a bit of investigation on their website or by phone to get past the on-line audit offering and arrange for a real person to come to your home and assess your power usage. The program will probably be a joint effort by both your electric and gas provider.
Take the time to have a year’s worth of both bills on hand to review with the auditor. Also think ahead of time and be prepared to answer questions about when and for how long you and your family use power during the course of a day. Some things to consider as you prepare: - The age and usage of your major appliances
- Lighting use and wattages
- Your electronics and therefore standby losses
- Heating and cooling (including temperatures and set-backs on thermostats)
- Water use both inside and out; both hot and cold
- Your attic and crawlspace/basement insulation and ventilation
- Your windows and doors
Cogenerating in Your Basement?
New furnaces may be coming to America soon that generate electricity as they heat homes. Like highly efficient power plants that have become quite common in Europe – combined heat and power or CHP plants – these “cogeneration” systems may fill a new market niche.
Like many conventional furnaces, the micro-CHP units use natural gas to provide heat through hot water heating systems. But the new systems also generate up to $800 worth of electricity in the process.
At least five companies are building micro-CHP systems worldwide. Home heating systems producing 1 kilowatt of electricity as well as bigger units that generate about 4 kilowatts are already available in Europe and Japan and are expected to make their commercial U.S. debut. In the United States, Marathon Engine Systems of East Troy, Wisconsin (whose unit is shown above) claims that as centralized power plants and power lines become more difficult to build, micro-CHP units will be much more prevalent. Marathon plans to introduce 4-kilowatt hot-water systems next year. Climate Energy of Medfield, Mass., has developed a forced-hot-air system that links a high-efficiency furnace with a Honda quiet generator. Its first “Freewatt” systems will be installed in Massachusetts in 2007 and will cost up to $20,000 including installation, with an estimated payback period of 3 - 7 years.
The United Kingdom is the furthest advanced market for micro-CHP in Europe and perhaps in the world with over 1,000 micro-CHP systems in operation. In April 2005, the UK government cut the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 17.5% to 5% for micro-CHP systems, creating a 12.5% subsidy. Of the 24 million households in the UK, as many as 14 to 18 million are thought to be suitable for the units.