Tuesday 30 October 2012

An interesting initiative

Via Scoop.IT and South Werrington's LibDem Councillor Darren Fower:
A scheme which could see every Peterborough resident save money on their energy bill will be discussed by Peterborough City Council's Cabinet at a meeting on Monday 5 November 2012.
The Peterborough Collective Energy Scheme will enable people from across the city, and from other communities in the UK, to join together as a single unit to negotiate cheaper energy bills.
It's expected that residents could see energy savings of between £60 to £200 a year.
If the initiative is approved by councillors, Peterborough would lead the UK’s first ever collaborative scheme for collective energy switching. Fifteen local authorities will join the city council as part of the scheme, which in total will open up potential savings to two million UK households.
The Peterborough Collective Energy Scheme is a response to rising energy prices and an increase in the number of households in fuel poverty. To that end, the scheme will also be the first in the UK to allow residents who use pre-payment meters to register.
Interesting, definitely (horrible txt-spk in the headline notwithstanding!). I shall keep an eye out.

Thursday 13 September 2012

The Green Deal - live Q&A

Just as an FYI for those of our readers who might be interested, Which magazine are running a live chat/Q&A with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey from 11am UK time today.

Its main topic is the Green Deal, a scheme the present government are close to introducing to make renewable energy and energy saving measures more affordable to homeowners.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

How much power does your house use?

Average usage per day in KWh
Another interesting question for you all, in response to Anne's last post, and my general advocacy of monitoring.

How much power do you think your house uses when you think you've turned everything off you can? So, that's leaving fridges, freezers, computers you never turn off (I have an excuse, dear!), etc etc.

You don't know? You might be very surprised when you find out.

Our average daily usage in 2010 (as per the graph opposite) was around 18KWh, of which a sizeable amount was being contributed by stuff that was always on - old computers with inefficient power supplies can chew a couple of hundred watts, which is getting on for 5KWh over a day.

Stop for a moment, and think about that.

Scary, isn't it. One computer, probably 60p a day. Over £200 a year.

A very handy rule of thumb at
present: if you pay 12p a KWh,
it's accurate to within 5%.
Also: 1 KWh/day for a year = £40
Early in 2011, I finally decommissioned the last of the old servers (I'm an IT professional - I host several web sites and other things for friends, just to keep my hand in as a sysadmin) and replaced it all with a MiniITX box from the rather excellent LinITX.com, that eats, relatively speaking, next to nothing. Somewhere about then is when we started monitoring, and I think our quiescent usage is around about the 300W mark - or about £300 a year.

You'll notice our 2011 average is down to about 13KWh/day. Pretty much, just from doing that.

Our 2012 average is down to about 8.5KWh a day. Why? Actually, most of that's a no-brainer. Solar PV. As soon as the solar panels kick in, they start powering the house. Quite literally: once the sun gets out enough that the watts the PV is kicking out pass the magic 'things that are always on' point, we're running the basic functions of the house for free.

On top of that, our washer and dryer now have timers, so we can run them when the sun's out. And we have a new fridge to replace the 10+ year old one, that only uses about 150KWh a year (that's about 17W!).

Sunday 1 July 2012

The Money Stuff

Yay, today we passed the 1000 kWh mark in production on our PV solar panels so I thought I'd note how we are doing so far.

On average for last year (until 26th March 2012) we used 15 units daily of electricity. (The average for the year before was 20, so we had already reduced our consumption by 25% simply by being economy minded and me nagging Mike to remove one of the constantly-on computers). Now my current calculation is we are using just under 10 kWh per day. This is a saving of 5 kWh per day or 60p at 12p per unit, so by my reckoning we are saving £200 per year in outgoings.

We are also earning 21p per unit generated so we have just earned £210 for this quarter, and we will assume that we have 3 quarters of £210 and 1 quarter of £70 just to make the maths easy. so all in all we will earn £700 in government funded revenue from our panels. (feed-in tariff)

Now also there is an assumption by the electricity company that we are using half of the generated amount of electricity and so there should be another payment of 3.2p per unit of unused stuff (export tariff). This means that we will also earn another £100 for the year.

This means that for the current expected year we will save/earn £1000, so at £8500 expenditure we will get our money back in 8-9 years. Of course if we had our money in the bank it would have got us some interest so we will allow another 10% on the outgoings and therefore we should break even in 10 years.

Now all we need is a jolly good sunny summer and we will be well over our target :-)

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Don't do the laundry on the Eco setting...

...or, yet another case for monitoring.

We have a new, shiny, Bosch Advantixx 7 washing machine. Bought, not least, because of it being a Which? Best Buy, its excellent A rating on energy consumption, and a nice button marked "Eco Program".

We also now have one of Current Cost's Individual Appliance Monitors, which allows us to plug any device we like in through it, and (by dint of some handy software of my own devising and a free installation of Splunk) draw graphs of its power consumption over time.

Anne normally uses the 40ºC cottons programme for our general washes, with the Eco button pushed in, 'cause, well, you know, it's Eco, so it must save energy, right? So we thought it would be interesting to graph[1] the power usage of the machine. And here we go:

  avg(watts)6:00 AMWed May 920127:00 AM8:00 AM9:00 AM10:00 AMtime01,0002,0003,000avg of watts
Things to note:
  • there's about a 15 minute wide peak at 2.1kW while it heats the cold water fill.
  • there's a peak at the end for the spin cycle, and two smaller ones where water gets pumped in and out
  • the 'tail' after the water heats up, while the machine's just turning the drum and, you know, doing the laundry, averages around 100-130W
  • total power consumption for the roughly 3 1/4 hours is 0.9 kWh.
So. Let's try that with the Eco button off.

w9:00 AMSat May 1220129:30 AM10:00 AM10:30 AM11:00 AM05001,0001,5002,0002,500
Interesting. Key points to note:
  • the water takes almost exactly the same time/amount of power to heat - there's a dip which might suggest there's a thermostat there, but several test cycles on different days suggested the incoming water temperature didn't make much difference;
  • there's an extra pump cycle;
  • the tail averages about 90-100W, rather than 100-130W;
  • total power consumption for the roughly 2 1/4 hours is... wait for it... 0.73 kWh
Yup. That's right. The Eco programme at 40ºC takes longer and uses more power. (And before anyone asks, yes we ran this several more times last week on both settings).

Now, of course, what I'd like to do is run another CurrentCost monitor to track the water flow, and see which uses less water, but that'll have to wait until they make one!

Points to take away from this:

  • Don't just assume the Eco setting will do what you think it does;
  • Cold-fill washing machines use most of their energy (about 0.5kWh) heating the water. I really miss our old hot- and cold-fill one, especially since my hot water is free! Manufacturers, if you're listening....
  • Having said that, the water heating peak usage is less than the peak output of our solar PV panels.
Next time? We graphed the tumble dryer!

[1] These graphs will require a modern browser with decent HTML5 support - apologies if you can't view them. Also, apologies that they're not quite the same scale!