How to Save Energy at Home Without Compromise

Whether you’re a household, married or single, your main expenditures, apart from school fees, rent, food and taxes, are for communication, entertainment and energy.

Average US household living expenses (in percentages):

  • 60% on housing payments, insurance, repairs and car leases, associated taxes and services like water and waste removal.
  • 10-14% on energy for heating, cooling, refrigeration, light, hot water and cooking
  • 10-14% on media and communication
  • 9% on food
  • 7% on transport

Your energy use can increase 20% if you are regularly preparing hot food in your kitchen.

Before you can make an educated decision as to where to save, you have to know when and where you use the energy.

Energy companies today sometimes provide you with basic use statistics and correlate them to outside temperature. A cynical view would be that this way of presenting the usage justifies the hikes as they are normally following extreme heat or extreme cold.

Other Energy Monitoring Services using Internet of Things (IoT) charge you for collecting the usage data and present web-based reports for you to collect on their central servers as a subscription service. They also will sell your data or make it publicly available or at least to the government and law enforcement. For example on your energy use pattern it can be determined that you are at home, whether you are cooking, watching TV or have gone to bed.

The best way to monitor your energy use is by using a device that has built-in storage and analysis capabilities, works on your own network, or does not even need a network but can communicate with your mobile devices without having to use the Internet or an IoT service.

No matter which type of monitoring you use, you would want to use a device that has at least hourly resolution for 7 days, daily resolution for a week, daily resolution for months and years and can store at least 3 years of daily data. The device used should have a live Load View allowing you to identify usage by equipment like Air Conditioning, Furnace, Refrigerator, TV, SPA, Pool, Cooking Range and others.

Of the self-sufficient devices, there are many, a locally manufactured one will guarantee support and code compliance and are usually at a slightly higher cost, but worth the investment. Some make 3 phase devices for professional use and data logging as well as specific devices for US homes which normally only require 2 phase (240-V / 120-V anti phase) without high-resolution data logging and are therefore less costly.

Needless to say I am using one of those independent devices and an old iPad-2 which is permanently rigged up (via WiFi) next to the electrical panel displaying the 24 hour usage or any other aspect of the device. Any HTML-5 browser with Java will work with the device.

This way I can determine at a glance if any usage looks out of the ordinary. For example at 3 o’clock the energy use shot up as the kids came home, the Air Conditioning System working overtime because the doors to the outside were wide open.

But there are other things that you can learn, for example a hot water heater running at 120° F, which many do, costs a lot of money. Even in the summer the temperature difference is high and therefore heat will deplete through the vessel’s insulation and the pipes, if you have your electrician set the heater elements to turn off at 90° F, the lowest setting you will have plenty of water for multiple showers at a comfortable temperature, but, depending on your region, your energy cost for hot water may reduce by 40% in the summer and by 60% in the winter.

If you are travelling and are not at home for extended periods of time one solution you may want to consider is to turn the hot water heater off – they only take 20 minutes to reach a temperature for having a comfortable shower. In the Winter you may choose to consider not turning the water heater off if your environment stays below freezing for extended periods of time.

If you still have conventional lighting, lighting is a legitimate cost factor and you will see this with your Energy Monitor. By using LED lighting throughout my home, lighting has become a very insignificant part of my energy usage, I also use motion sensors in all common areas of my home reducing lighting energy use to negligible amounts.

Having a typical American House, my garage is directly coupled to the house and in the roof space of the garage there was an opening to the plenum between the ground floor and the 2nd floor. In the summer this caused to heat the floor and in the winter it cooled the floor. The Energy Monitor verified the improvement in energy usage on days where the temperatures were similar and recognized it as a direct result of thermally insulating that opening.

Over time the Energy Monitor helped me to detect a sewage pump getting stuck, thermostats on the air conditioning system getting stuck in an old inefficient refrigerator. I learned that setting air conditioning units in adjacent overlapping areas to wildly different target temperatures is a bad idea, the highest efficiency is achieved when both are set to the same target temperature.

My annual energy costs average $3600 I found by replacing inefficient equipment I could save $150 a year. By changing the way I looked at my energy usage I could save an additional $800 a year. The Energy Monitor’s cost was $425 so my initial investment was successful. It will help me recognize bad energy usage habits when they set in, allowing me to correct them for even more savings.

I intend to convert my home to run purely off of solar power, I will be able to utilize the Energy Monitor to see how much power I am taking from the grid to supplement my energy use.