Suggestions on cutting energy bill --

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I never expected a simple procedure to ELIMINATE the need to be careful.
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Hey Guys --
Is there a good meter I can plug in between an appliance to the wall to simply show the watts being used? I'd love to use something like this for things like my fridge, coffee maker, TV, cable box, etc. I created a spreadsheet with everything in my house that sucks power, and if I can get an accurate count of what each appliance uses I can see how much each thing costs if I run it for X hours per day for Y number of days being charged Z per kWh. Yup, I'm a nerd if anyone asks :)
Also I'm looking at prices of florescent bulbs, and those things aren't cheap! Our ceiling fans use those smaller decorative bulbs, and I'm finding them no cheaper then $10 a bulb online. But I figure the 4 50 watts in my ceiling fan costs me about $3.30 a month to run where if I replaced these with 12 watt CFL bulbs it'd just be $0.79 for the same fan. Granted that's only like $2.50 a month per fan, but it'll pay for itself in about 1.5 years. Replacing lights in 4 fans would save $10/month right there a month on electricity even though the investment is steap up front.
Note: I'm getting the costs above with the following formula: ( bulb wattage x 4 bulbs per fan x 4 hours/day x 30 days/month / 1000 [convert to kWh] x .1375) My electric company charges 13.75 cents per kWh.
And what are ya'lls thoughts on hot water heater timers? I have a new 50 gallon hot water heater (electric) I put in last year, and it's not a cheapo one -- so i assume it's very efficient. Would I get any noticeable benefits using a timer?
Thanks again --
Sam
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Alex wrote:

<snip>
I would think electric hot water heaters should heat water at near 100% efficiency (if you ignore losses in generating the electricity, which are somebody else's problem), and, if well insulated, probably won't benefit much from using a timer. But I haven't actually tried it.
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It makes sense if you have different peak and off peak prices for electricity like they do in some places. Then it will probably be acceptable to heat the water during off peak times and let it cool when it's on peak.
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flip
Ich habe keine Ahnung was das bedeutet, oder vielleicht doch?
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that you pay for

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Mark Lloyd wrote:

Sure, but it's reflected in the rate, along with lots of other factors.

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Pop, He was a new tech, just out of tech school. We had just hired him. He had his own tools and we were replacing an air handler. I had him bring his own tools in, instead of using mine. He had a UEI combination digital volt meter and digital clamp amp meter. We checked the voltage with TEST LEADS connected properly to his meter. It showed zero volts. That is how I got my eyes lit up.
My Fluke clamp on also has voltage and ohms testing capability. Some clamp on meters only test AC amps, some have other capabilities as well. I cary 4 meters on my truck, one True RMS, three other digital meters, clamp and test lead and combination types.
No fish tale, he had used it before, but it was only 6 months old.
Now he has a Fieldpiece meter, not as good as a Fluke, but better than a UEI.
Stretch
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Can the clamp-on ammeter be used without separating wires?
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Mark Lloyd wrote:

No, but you can make a short extension cord (or modify an existing one) with a section in which the wires are exposed so that they can be accessed separately.
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Kevtrane wrote:

I use the cheapest model from Brand Electronics and it does the little I need it to do although having the ability to monitor 240V loads might be occasionally useful to me. Brand does sell a 240V meter but they call it their "whole house" model and with the two current transducers required for the job it costs about $300. There may be others out there and I'm sure that a Google search would turn up something.
Measuring true power is a bit trickier than it might appear since it involves monitoring current but without interfering or modifying the circuit unnecessarily, monitoring the voltage, then calculating the true power many times per AC cycle, then integrating and displaying the result. Add to that the $ calculations and long-term integration of results that most users want and the design quickly becomes non-trivial. Of course if the load is purely resistive some shortcuts like using a clamp-on ammeter and a decent RMS voltmeter and doing the calculation for instantaneous power manually but most users would balk at that amount of work.
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wrote:

And turn off the cabinet heater in the refrigerator. These are often confusingly labeled "energy saver". Where "on" is acutely "off" for the heater.

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Sounds as if you need to plug up all the unused sockets as the power is running out on the floor :-)
From your description you have almost nothing on that uses electricity. It has to be going somewhere or the meter is broken. Look at the meter and turn off all the breakers, then turn them on one at a time and see when the wheel starts turning. That will tell you which circuit is using most of the power, then narrow it down from there.
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I think you're on the right track. Most folks can cut their energy consumption in half if they really try. If your climate supports it, having deciduous shade trees on the south side of the house will greatly help summer cooling costs. Energy costs have increased in most areas of the US. Personally, I have cut way back on driving, restaurants, theater, travel, and some "luxury" items. Also, I plan to expand my vegetable garden this year to help reduce grocery bills (I like gardening). There are a few energy conservation websites you can get ideas too. Look at energy consumption costs when replacing an appliance (some of the new TVs consume a lot of KWHrs).

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Alex wrote:

<snip>
I'm in Central Texas, too (Austin), and my house is about 25 years old, so about the same era as yours.
I think you're doing many of the right things. But I can tell you from experience that if you have ductwork in your attic, the number one thing to do is to check its integrity and patch any leaks. By doing that (and some other things, most of which you listed), I cut my electricity use in the summer by about 40%. You'd be amazed at how much duct tape (and other materials used in ductwork) can deteriorate in 25 years.
I have gas heat; I can imagine that electric heat could be as bad in the winter as AC is in the summer.
A programmable thermostat can help, and not only because it can be used to set back temperatures during part of the day -- some (many?) of them also have sufficient "smarts" to keep the system from short-cycling, which is wasteful and potentially harmful to your system.
The other thing I should mention is that you'd probably be surprised at how much electricity your computer uses, especially if you have a large CRT monitor.
Good luck, and let us know if you come up with any great ideas, because many of us are in this boat.
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Mine's about the same (built about 1969).

Somewhere, I heard that one thing duct tape isn't good for is fixing heating ducts.

I used to live in an all-electric apartment (in East Texas). The electric bills peaked in both summer and winter. IIRC both peaks were the same height. I have gas in this house, and there's a significant difference.
BTW, the gas bill I got after Christmas was the highest I've ever had although a neighbor with a similar house had one for more than twice that.

I know that's a problem for compressors. How would it effect gas or electric heat?

It's a good idea to turn the monitor off when you're not using it. Your system can probably be set to do this automatically. Note that a "screen saver" does not turn the monitor off, and does not save energy.
I don't do this, because my monitors are connected to X10 modules, and are automatically turned on/off with the other things (lights, fans, TVs, ...).

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Mark Lloyd wrote:

<snip>
I had AC in mind. I doubt it would help with heat, although starting and stopping the furnace fan probably uses a fair amount of electricity.
<snip>
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How about an electric igniter? My furnace uses one of those. It's easy to tell when you know what high-voltage wiring looks like (like the spark plug wires in a car).

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Mark Lloyd wrote:

I think it would be very interesting to know all the things folks like Honeywell considered when they designed the algorithms for their programmable thermostats. I suspect there's a lot more technology in there than the instruction manual reveals.
Whether electric igniters have their own issues is beyond my expertise.
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Hi CJT,
Awesome comments! How would I go about checking my duct work in the attic? I can definitely get up there and eyeball it, but is that the best way to check it? I've seen on TV where folks use those cameras that detect heat or cool, but that's abit more then I can afford.
Also I'll definitely look into getting a programmable thermostat. I do prefer it cooler in the evenings and warmer in the mornings, so might be something to look into.
As for the computer, I used to be the kinda comptuer guy who left his computer on ALL the time, but I'm getting away from that. My wife's computer does stay on, but the power save is on so it shuts off after like 15 minutes. My PowerMac gets turned off when not in use, and both of use use LCD monitors.
Thanks again for the great comments, and please let me know how you checked your duct work in the attic... I'd love any tips, and now that it's cooler now's the time to get up there :)
Sam
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Alex wrote:

Mine was so bad that at first I could see the duct tape flapping in the breeze from the air escaping the ducts when the furnace fan was on. Once I had the worst spots fixed it became more challenging, but I could still often feel the cool breeze of my air conditioning dollars escaping as I ran my hand along the ductwork. I used the UL listed aluminum tape for the repairs, and it is MUCH better than regular duct tape (which is pretty worthless for sealing ducts) -- well worth the $15 +/- per roll. You might want to investigate whether your local codes require anything specific (e.g. mastic) in specific applications.
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