Taking the Home Energy Scoring Tool a Step Further
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) puts a great deal of focus and concern into the area of weatherization. An abundant amount of recovery act funding went towards weatherization and in return the reduction of energy consumption. In an attempt to make the auditing and assessing aspect of weatherization readily available and understood by both experts and consumers alike the DOE has created the Home Energy Scoring Tool.
This tool is available online for free and unlike similar tools, such the Energy Star Yardstick, the Home Energy Scoring Tool does not take your actual bills or consumption into account; instead it takes the information about your home gathered by an assessor and provides you with a rank. The walk-through needed to gather information for the free online tool collects data from 45 different points. Once completed the tool will calculate your score and compare your home to other homes in your area. The tool is designed to measure the home itself, not how the home is used. To substitute for the home’s actual use it makes the assumption that it is occupied by 2 adults and 1 child and that the thermostat is set at a certain level depending on the time of year.
Upgrades and improvements are then generated by the online tool and listed so they can clearly be seen and considered. The potential savings are also generated to show users how much they could affect their costs by making the improvements. The tool calculates a score of 1 to 10 which shows how your home is currently performing; the higher the score the better the performance. After this initial ranking it compares how it currently is performing to how it could perform if all of the potential upgrades were made.
If you plan to invest in home improvements this is a great tool to help you judge which improvements will result in the biggest savings. The upgrades pointed out by the audit will result in significant savings by improving energy efficiency. But, keep in mind that these readings do not take into consideration your actual use. Your home may be completely efficient, but your bills may still be high. If you are scoring high on the Home Energy Scoring Tool but your bills are still higher than you think they should be it may be time to look at how you use energy.
A home energy monitor provides a glimpse into your real-time daily energy use habits. Using this tool you can narrow in on waste. The average home has over 30 devices that are always using electricity, whether it is a charger that is still plugged in or a device in standby mode. Some devices in standby mode use as much electricity as in the on mode. The first step in changing your habits is to detect these always on “vampire” loads and stop them. A quick glance at the monitor occasionally will assure these loads are still off. Without continuous monitoring these vampires will sneak back slowly but surely, which is why continued monitoring is required. Using the monitor to maintain these devices can result in significant savings. One device by itself does not create a significant vampire load, but 30 or more devices combined can equal a lot.
Combining Conservation and Efficiency
Saving energy comes in many shapes and forms. It presents itself in two ways, conservation and efficiency. Conservation is the act of turning off the lights when they aren’t in use or unplugging unused devices. Efficiency comes in many forms, and can include lighting, insulation, appliances and many other options. By itself each of these items has the potential to save some energy, but, used together efficiency and conservation can save an abundance of energy.
Efficiency and conservation alike have slogans that accompany them, pithy sayings such as, “Pull the plug on energy waste, saving is simple.” While it is true that you can save a considerable amount of energy and money by simply turning devices off or unplugging them completely you can save even more by combining this practice with energy efficiency. This offers a one two punch to your electricity. By utilizing the two you will begin using the least amount possible when the device is in use and none at all when it is not.
While it may be true that empty rooms love the dark they may also love CFLs or LEDs just as much. Buying products that have Energy Star labels ensures they are energy efficient, combining these products with the best conservation efforts ensures the most savings. Having an Energy Star rated TV may reduce your bill a little, but ensuring the TV is unplugged when not in use may save a lot. But what is the best way to tie energy efficiency and conservation together?
The home energy monitor allows users to observe their energy use habits. This allows them to pin-point exactly how to conserve more electricity or how to make the best energy efficiency purchase. Once you have discovered your habits you can begin to dial in on individual devices, this will help you find devices that can be more efficient. Discovering you leave the computer on and turning it off may be a great way to conserve, having the computer set itself to sleep mode is a great way to be efficient, having the computer go to sleep mode throughout the day and turning the computer completely off when it will not be used for eight hours is a great way to save a tremendous amount of energy and money. Combing conservation and efficiency is the best way to lower your energy use, and a home energy monitor can help you discover areas where you can conserve and become more efficient.
Energy Efficiency for Renters
Energy efficiency has been something targeted towards home owners; unfortunately, for a third of Americans who rent their homes many of these upgrades are out of reach. Although landlords may not mind if you make energy efficiency improvements the motivation to improve a rental is low, in addition some landlords may not even let their renters paint the walls. There are some improvements that can be made without a hassle, such as changing lights, but other weatherization improvements are out of reach. Some renters are so nervous about their security deposits they will not even hang pictures on the walls. The desire to increase energy efficiency is evident, in fact, according to a survey 86% of renters preferred or were looking for an eco-conscious apartment.
The exact set up of your apartment or rental home may greatly determine which energy efficiency improvements you may pursue. Installing new windows, insulation, HVAC systems, washer and dryers or appliances may be out of the question, but monitoring your electric consumption is still possible. In order to monitor your consumption in an apartment you need to find a system that does not require electric wiring and that is plausible for an apartment.
There are many different home energy monitors on the market, some of which require electrical wiring. If hanging a picture on your wall puts you at risk imagine what splicing wires can accomplish. Other options attach to the actual utility meter; in some apartments the meter may not be accessible, or too far away. The average meter attached monitoring devices only has a 60 foot range, on average you will need to subtract 10 foot for each wall, making this solution nearly impossible for some apartments. Utility companies greatly discourage the use of this type of device, since it attaches to the meter, which is the utilities property. The question becomes, how can a renter measure their electricity consumption without angering the utility company or a landlord?
The answer comes in the form of the Current Transformer or CT. The Envi home energy monitor utilizes the CT to monitor electric consumption without requiring wiring of any type. All that is required for the CT solution is access to an electrical panel, which is very common in an apartment. The system is very simple, the CT clamps over each of the main cables leading into the electrical panel. The most difficult part of the installation will be accessing the cables themselves. Accessing the cables involves unscrewing the electric panel, which can be screwed back in place and will not cause any damage to the apartment. While this is not for everyone, an electrician can be hired to quickly install the system. Why sacrifice saving money, energy efficiency or being green simply because you live in an apartment? Energy monitoring using the Envi is possible and plausible for renters.
The Power of Knowledge
One of the best ways to lowering your energy consumption and costs is to eliminate waste and unnecessary use. Using a whole building energy monitoring system allows you to see two things very clearly, your base load and spikes. A base load is the electricity that is always on. There are some devices that may draw electricity 24/7; although these devices may be small their combined affect is significant. One user contributed 33% of his use to his base load. Another item to note is the spikes. Spikes occur when large items cycle or turn on. An example would be a furnace or HVAC unit, machinery, dryer, microwave or other large devices. If you are running a business a common spike will be when employees come into work and turn on their computers or other devices. Using the information from monitoring your energy you can reduce your usage and costs in two ways, attacking the base load and the spikes.
Monitoring will allow you to see your base load in real-time. This gives you the ability to make an informed decision and to see the effects instantly. The best way to manage a base load is to make sure it is as low as possible when a building is not occupied or at night. To do this you need to find the devices that draw energy 24/7. Even simple things like a porch light being left on all day can make a huge difference. Once your consumption base load has been reduced to its bare minimum you can use the energy monitor to assure yourself that it is at this minimum each night before you go to bed or before you leave the building. This especially becomes important for facilities over the weekend when the building is not in use.
The second way to reduce your consumption with energy monitoring is in the area of spikes. For facilities controlling peaks has a lot more application then at home. Commercial buildings are charged peak demand charges, because of this knowing exactly when your electricity peaks and managing those peaks can mean the difference of thousands of dollars. At home, and at a commercial building, it can also be an indication of how those large devices are working. An inefficient device will use far more electricity than an efficient device. If the peaks and spikes are higher than they should be consider repairing or replacing the device.
Real-time energy monitoring gives you the information needed to make informed decisions. It also gives you the peace of mind to know that everything is off and that you are saving the most money over the weekends or overnight. Having a device that allows you to view historic data will also help you narrow in on items that are turning on in the middle of the night or excessively cycling when not in use. There are many different benefits from having real-time information. The power of knowledge can never be under estimated.
The Best First Step Towards Improved Efficiency
Every energy consumer has various and different reasons for seeking energy efficiency improvements within their home or business. What motivates one person may not be of any interest to another. The five main concerns that bring awareness to the need to improve are saving money, comfort issues, a health concern, carbon footprint or an incentive program. Knowing what to do next becomes the biggest problem. There are many different programs available, all of which boast success. There are many ways of going about achieving savings and many ways to throw your money away on unneeded improvements if you are not careful. Regardless of the method you choose you should be able to track the success in the amount of savings you receive or through a reduction in your energy consumption.
The prospect of being taken for a trip by a fast talking salesman is always in the back of the average consumers mind. The average electric bill arrives 30-45 days after the fact; a lot can happen in that amount of time. If you are planning on undertaking any energy efficiency, home improvement, home or building performance or energy management project you need to make sure you have a way to measure and verify the results. A simple utility bill will not supply enough information to draw an accurate conclusion. The solution comes in the form of real-time information by utilizing energy monitoring.
An energy monitor has the ability to display real-time energy consumption and costs. Having real-time information allows you to measure and verify results instantly. Real-time energy information can also help you dial in on specific areas that need improvement. Once you have pin-pointed the needed improvements energy monitoring will let you know if it was successful at lowering your consumption instantly, not 30-45 days later.
Before you undertake any major efficiency or improvement project you should begin monitoring your energy consumption. Without real-time energy information trying to improve your energy consumption is similar to attempting to paint a portrait in the dark, you may get something, but it won’t be pretty. Lord Kelvin, who completed important mathematical calculations on electricity said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it.” The best first step in taking control of your energy costs is real-time measurement.
The Power of Real-time
Energy consumers are constantly making sacrifices to avoid large bills. A common sacrifice is lowering the temperature in the winter and raising the temperature in the summer. You may be a little cold or hot but your bills will be more manageable. Unfortunately most of these sacrifices are made blindly. The average utility bill will come 30-45 days after the fact. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to conserve energy and sacrificing comfort only to receive an energy bill that is higher than normal. Once you receive the bill there is no way to know what caused it; when you receive a larger bill it is very easy to quickly discredit your efforts as worthless.
Without a way to directly measure the results of your efforts it is easy to become discouraged. With the continued growth of the internet our society has become one where we expect instant results. At the snap of a finger, thanks to modern streaming technology, you don’t even need to leave the house to watch your favorite movie anymore. At the click of a button you can watch a movie directly from your cable provider or instantly from a subscription movie service. A common example of the speed we are used to today is the U.S postal service. The USPS has been called many things over the years, but a common nickname has become “snail mail”. The average letter reaches its destination in only a few days, yet this is considered snail mail. On average we wait 30-45 days to receive our utility readings. If a few days are considered the rate of a snail what animal could this be compared to?
If you are tired of receiving a monthly utility bill and cringing before you open it because you are wondering what the damage is, or if you want to be able to measure and verify the results of your energy efficiency or conservation efforts as they are happening, then you need something a little faster than the speed of the Guinness record holding slowest animal on earth, the three toed sloth, otherwise known as, your utility bill.
A home energy monitor is a device that reads energy consumption in real-time and displays it for users to see. Some of these monitors can be very complex and expensive, others are simple and easy to install and don’t even require electrical wiring. The difference depends on the application. For the common user something simple and easy to install works fine. The Envi, for example, not only shows real-time information in kWhs it also allows user to enter their exact rates and will calculate the current cost of their bill. The device records not only the kWh and rate it will also record the time of use and the current indoor temperature. This information is all very useful when it comes to seeing your conservation efforts. If you lower the temperature the Envi will record this, it will also record exactly how much it decreased your use and exactly how much it saved you. In a time when a few days is considered slow why wait 30-45 days? Receive the information now, in real-time, while you can still use it.
Energy Savings to the Cloud
You may have noticed the term ‘cloud’ or ‘cloud computing’ circulating around popular media. This has become an increasingly popular term and is used quite frequently by Microsoft in their recent advertising campaign. Although it is a widely used term it is not a widely understood concept. What makes cloud computing unique, or how does it work? Is it just a new term that means the internet or online?
In short cloud computing is defined as using a program online that would have otherwise needed to be installed on your computer. In other words, using a web browser instead of installed software. Many companies have already utilized a type of cloud computing when they install software on a server that allows remote access. Even though the software is not installed on the user’s computer they can still access is using an internet connection. The benefits of cloud computing is that it allows you to access information from anywhere with internet access or even on a smart phone. All essential programs and software are kept on a secure server for easy access from any location at anytime. The idea is not new, and in fact, it has been around since the 1980’s. Thanks to the recent upgrades in internet speeds cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular. It was not possible before because even just 10 years ago downloading a song took an hour instead of just a few seconds over a dial up connection. It is this increased speed that has made cloud computing possible and viable.
With the modern smart phones being able to access the internet from any location at faster speeds than our old computers used to be able to it is becoming clear that cloud computing will become the new norm. Many of us are already using cloud computing in one form or another. A common example of cloud computing are apps, whether on your phone, Facebook or any other system. Fifteen years ago if you wanted to play a game online that saved your information you had to download and install the game first, now you can play games simply by clicking a link. All of the information is stored on a server for the next time that you sign in and is constantly updated. Even apps such as “Farmville” are considered cloud computing.
Cloud computing is a powerful tool that constantly updates your information on a server 24/7 and allows you to access that information from any location in the world with an internet connection. Why leave cloud computing to chickens and cows on Farmville when you can use it to save your company a considerable amount of money? Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) uses cloud computing to constantly update information on a database allowing 24/7 access on a web-based platform. The CEMO system display energy consumption and costs, all in real-time and displays historic information on an everyday web-browser. The CEMO system utilizes cloud computing to allow users the flexibility needed to control and manage their energy costs.
Environmental Law and Carbon Accounting
The energy industry and the environment are two things which have been tied together since the beginning of the industrialized world. It comes as no surprise that the Department of Industry (DOI) wishes to discuss environmental law for energy awareness month. Environmental law is a complex system of treaties, statutes, conventions, common law, and regulations. The idea behind the law is to govern the impact humans have on the environment in terms of pollution and natural resources.
Two of the most discussed environmental laws at this point are carbon taxes and cap and trade. The main ambition fueling these institutions is the reduction of carbon, specifically carbon dioxide, which is a byproduct of fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. Carbon taxes have gained support in multiple groups over the last few years. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) focuses on caps more than taxes. The ACESA is optimistic that these caps will create more jobs and give the United States an edge in the clean energy market.
Under cap and trade or carbon tax systems the economic incentives to lower carbon emissions can be substantial. In order to fully capitalize on a cap and trade system you would need to have a constant awareness of the amount of carbon being produced by your operations so that you can decide if you need to sell or buy carbon credits. In order to understand your carbon output you need to conduct carbon accounting which is generally a long process that is either carried out by an audit or through carbon inventories that will need to be accumulated and calculated in order to arrive at your organizations total carbon output. This can be an extremely long and expensive process.
Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) contains powerful carbon accounting software that allows users to see the full picture of their carbon production in real-time for their facilities. The minute by minute information will show how energy efficiency or energy conservation is playing a role in your carbon reduction. The comprehensive dashboards will also factor in alternative energy sources or other carbon reducing practices. Without real-time information you are stuck waiting until an audit is completed or trying to guess your carbon reduction. You wouldn’t trade stocks without watching the market and the same applies for carbon credit trading. Why use guess work when you can have the power of real-time information at your finger tips?
Measuring up your Energy Usage
Receiving a high electric bill may come as a complete shock, especially if you are trying to conserve energy. There is nothing more discouraging then trying to conserve energy only to receive a higher bill. Most utility companies will deliver a bill once every 30-45 days, this means that what happens on day one won’t be visible until at least 30 days later. If something begins impacting your energy bill early in the month can you afford to allow it to rack up extra charges for a whole month before you stop it?
According to Energy Star an important first step to improving your energy efficiency is getting a handle on your energy usage. One of the tools they offer on their website is called the home energy yardstick. This tool allows you to input a year of utility bill information and will let you know how you rank in terms of energy efficiency. Ranking your use allows you to know if you need to take drastic measures or something simple. It will rank your usage on a scale of 1-10; 10 is the highest score you can get and 1 is the lowest. If you are below a 7 you should consider taking drastic measures to improve your energy efficiency. What if you do not have a year of energy bills? Or, if it is the fluctuation from month to month in your energy bills that is the problem?
Monthly bills can give you a picture of your overall usage, but it doesn’t help dial in on what is going on during that month. Real-time energy monitoring let’s you see exactly how much energy you are using throughout the day so that you can find and stop high energy using devices before they make it to your bill. Waiting 30-45 days for an electric bill is the same as if you pumped gas into your car for a month without any indication of how many gallons you pumped or how much it would cost. That sounds fairly ridiculous, doesn’t it? It’s the same story with your energy usage; don’t let it be a surprise at the end of the month. Knowing your usage allows you to make the changes while it is happening to avoid the large bills and save you money.
Should I Repair or Replace?
Energy monitoring is a great tool for detecting inefficiencies in your home. One of the biggest ways that it aids users is by allowing them to discover their usage habits. Small changes in your usage can result in significant savings. Monitoring also allows you to find energy vampires that are constantly left on or plugged in. What can it do for the large appliances that take up the largest portions of energy usage? Once you see the usage for these devices how do you know if it needs immediate attention? A simple answer is to look.
Once you have dialed in on your energy hogging units it simply becomes a matter of analyzing. A quick online search for the exact model you have should result in finding energy information or specifications about the device. Once you have obtained this information you only need to compare your current usage to the recommended usage to find out how your equipment is running. Another way to tell if your energy hogging devices are using too much is by observing how often they cycle, or turn on. If your refrigerator or freezer is cycling very frequently it may need to be replaced or repair.
The National Association of Home Builders completed and released a study documenting the average lifespan of your home devices. It may be interesting to note that the standard refrigerator only lasts 13 years and the average washer and dryer only last 10. This doesn’t mean your devices will stop working it simply means they will begin operating extremely inefficiently. It is important to note that a device will begin performing poorly depending on its usage and maintenance, simply because a device is getting old doesn’t mean it will run inefficiently. If age may be a misleading guide then how can you easily decide if it is time to replace or repair your large energy consuming devices?
Real-time energy monitoring allows you to dial in on your large devices. Once you observe their usage and compare it to user manuals or information online you should also consider its age. If the device is not very old and is running inefficiency you should consider a repair, if the device is old and running inefficiently it may be better to replace the old device. Energy monitoring allows you to know when to repair and when to replace. Once you gain this information look into rebate programs from your local utility and government. Saving energy and money becomes an easy decision when you have real-time information.