California to Double Energy Efficiency

October 8th, 2015 by scottgpeer

California passed a new law pushing for more energy efficiency and renewable energy that was promoted and signed by Governor Brown and builds upon standards already on the books. California will generate half of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030. The state will also double energy efficiency in homes, offices and factories. Although there was much discussion about efficiency approaches such as installing more efficient appliances and air conditioners, conservation approaches will surely be part of the solution, just as they have been in solving the water shortages.

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35 years of Energy Efficiency

July 14th, 2015 by scottgpeer

Energy efficiency improvements that have taken place over the last 35 years saved the US $800 billion last year, an average of $2,500 per person, according to a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE, which was started 35 years ago). The savings are in many areas, from efficient appliances to the grid to transportation. But the report says that there is another $10 trillion in savings to be had from continuing progress in efficiency!
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California Flattening Electricity Rate Tiers

June 11th, 2015 by scottgpeer

California charges higher electricity rates for heavy electricity users in order to encourage conservation. Currently the lowest rates are about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, and increase to as much as 33 cents for the highest users. This makes sense because the heavy users tend to have the easiest time reducing their electricity use. It recognizes that reducing electricity use is something that needs to be done across the board in order to reduce pollution, and could be considered a work-around in the absence of other approaches such as carbon taxes.
Under pressure from industry groups, the legislature passed a law that calls for reducing the number of pricing tiers, and reduces the differential to less than half its current maximum. An additional change will be implementation of time-of-use pricing, intended to reduce the peak use by charging more at peak times. The details of the new rules are not yet set, but it appears that the changes will not encourage greater energy conservation or efficiency.
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LED Light Bulbs Top Clean Energy Purchases

April 7th, 2015 by scottgpeer

LED light bulbs are the most popular clean energy purchase for U.S. homeowners according to a survey by Clean Edge and SolarCity. With prices having fallen from $70 to $10 in the past 5 years, LED sales are likely to continue to be strong, and the energy savings will continue as well. A group of other products in the 7% to 12% range for homeowner plans includes smart thermostats, efficient hot water heaters, and home energy audits. Solar systems ranked far below the less expensive energy efficiency purchases. Most of the purchases were motivate by saving money, with the environment being the reason for a third of the purchases.

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Winter Electric Heating

December 19th, 2014 by scottgpeer

Some homes must use electric heating in the winter, even though it is expensive, commonly costing several dollars per day. For example, Mammoth Lakes, California has very few gas lines due to the occasional earthquakes. Heating with wood fires is common because it is cheap and pleasant, but some days it is banned when the winds stall because the air in town can get thick with smoke.
Smart meter data from Southern California Edison can be used to see how much heating costs. The data is hourly data from previous days. To find how much your heaters use you will need to control your electricity use for a few hours. Turn off everything that you can, and don’t run any hot water. Then turn the heaters on and off for one hour intervals and record the times and actions. The following day you should be able to see the usage data jump when you turned the heaters on, and you can estimate how much power they used above your baseline.
Ideally one would replace heaters with a more efficient model. However, there is little that can be done with resistance heaters. They all turn the electricity to heat similarly and have similar overall efficiency. Heat pumps are more efficient, but they are expensive and require installation that is not feasible in most apartments or condos.
So the options are limited for reducing heating costs. Besides just turning the heat down to save, paying attention to locations can also help. Heaters on external walls tend to be wasteful because a lot of the heat escapes to the outside. It cuts costs to use heaters towards the middle of the building and nearest to where the people are. Leaving unoccupied areas unheated is another way to cut costs while staying comfortable.

New AC Energy Efficiency Standards

September 23rd, 2014 by scottgpeer

The Department of Energy proposed new energy efficiency standards for commercial rooftop air conditioners that are scheduled to be finalized by the end of 2015. The new rules have the potential to reduce energy use by about 30%, and would save the owner thousands of dollars over the life of the equipment. Manufacturers commonly cut their costs in order to sell their products at lower prices, and purchasers accept less efficient models that are more expensive in the long run due to their uncertainty about the potential savings of better models. The new rule would help to reduce this problem.

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US Trails in Energy Efficiency

July 22nd, 2014 by scottgpeer


A ranking of the 16 top economies in the world lists the US at position 13. Germany leads the list, while the US ranks above only Russia, Brazil and Mexico. Russia and Mexico produce large amounts of oil and gas, while Brazil has ample hydroelectricity. Even China beat the US, partly due to better auto fuel efficiency. It is time for US consumers to take matters into their own hands and become more efficient!

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Air conditioners are heating Phoenix

June 10th, 2014 by scottgpeer

Frying pan on AC

Scientists at Arizona State University have found that the waste heat from air conditioners in Phoenix is increasing the urban temperatures by more than 1°C on some nights. This is one of the factors (including traffic, roads, and building activities) that can raise the temperature as much as 5°C above the surrounding countryside. Some of the waste heat could become useful energy, for example by being used to heat water.

87% of US households now have air conditioning, and the US uses more electricity to power air conditioning than all the other countries of the world combined. In the Phoenix heat, air conditioning systems sometimes consume more than half of the total electricity used.

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TV set-top boxes to become more energy-efficient

December 30th, 2013 by scottgpeer

Suddenlink box

Suddenlink Huawei DC732 “box”

Environmental advocates, government regulators and the cable and satellite television industry have reached a landmark agreement to save an estimated $1 billion a year in energy costs by making TV set-top boxes more efficient.

The voluntary agreement aims to make an estimated 90 million boxes in people’s homes as much as 45% more energy-efficient by 2017. The boxes are considered energy hogs because they always are on, even when the television is turned off.

Both the U.S. Energy Department and the California Energy Commission have been working on their own proposed regulations. The energy commission said it would monitor the future energy savings before deciding whether there’s a need for mandatory standards.

( note: historically set-top boxes have used up to 100 watts even when turned “off”, costing the consumer $100/year to run. But some newer models are already much more efficient; for example the Huawei DC732 distributed to Suddenlink customers in December 2013 uses only 3.3 watts.)

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NRG Energy Giving ThinkEco Modlets to Customers

August 26th, 2013 by scottgpeer

NRG Energy, the largest power generator in the nation, is now giving ThinkEco Modlets to some customers. In a previous post I noted that the Modlet is affordable and can be used effectively to reduce energy consumption. It’s great news that utilities are continuing past lighting replacement and tackling the broader issue of plug loads.

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