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1 TRACK YOUR ELECTRICITY USE

This action focuses on reducing energy by tracking electricity use, gaining an awareness of when energy is used in your home.

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why?

Most people may be surprised to see where energy is used in their home. Appliances we consider to be huge energy users may not be significant when seen in the context of total home energy. At the same time, low-wattage appliances may be contributing to a large portion of home electricity use depending on the duration of time they are on during the day.

This action focuses on simply tracking home electricity use to gain an awareness of where electricity is used.


how to do this action:

The first step to reducing electricity use is to find out how much every appliance which is plugged in uses. During the 'tracking week' before the project begins, track all electricity uses using a meter such as a Kill-A-Watt meter (http://www.p3international.com/products/special/P4400/P4400-CE.html )which counts up kWh over time. In a spreadsheet, then translate these uses into watts/hour adding each of them up for a daily total.

The chart below is an example of tracking electricity uses during a week:

The next step is to take a close took at the results.

While there are some very high-wattage appliances which are used regularly (blender, hair dryer, toaster oven) they are often the ones that only get used for a brief amount of time, so they don't end up being the main energy users when considering the total kWh/day. Conversely, many of the seemingly small energy users (a grow light of only 180 watts, or even the fridge at 68 watts /hour) end up being big energy users because they are used almost all day. The small stuff adds up. Wattages need to be taken into account but the time-of-use is critical in electricity counts.

The following pie charts show a comparison of watts per hour of energy users versus watts per day:

As you can see in the above graphic, the electric oven is the highest watts per hour user followed by a blender and toaster oven. In the watts per day graphic, however, the light bulbs, refrigerator and grow light are the real big energy users when the time of use each day is factored in. In this way, it is important to realize that in order to save electricity with appliances it is just as important to understand how long each appliance is in use as it is to know the wattage.

With this in mind, one strategy to reducing 'plug-in energy' can be to focus on reducing use of those appliances which are on for long periods of the day.

The bar graph below shows the energy use (in watts) of different electricity users throughout a typical day. In this example, lighting accounts for the largest use (at 2,700 watts per day). For more information on how to reduce lighting energy see here. The refrigerator is next (1,634 watts per day). For more information on how to reduce fridge energy see here. Analyze your own energy use and you may be surprised by what end up being the largest electricity users in your home.


what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of tracking all electricity use and gaining an awareness of where energy is used in your home affect total kWh usage each month?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of tracking your electricity use affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (E1_BASELINE) to meter and enter all electric using appliances and lightbulbs. Use an electricity meter such as a Kill-A-Watt meter to track electricity consumption for each item. Not all items will be able to be tracked using the meter. Light bulbs will need to be hand calculated depending on wattage of the bulb and average time of use. Wattages and energy consumption for electric stoves and ovens will need to be researched or estimated.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (E1_BASELINE) as it relates to your current electricity use patterns:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
This action does not require any specific actions to be taken during the project, however, we are interested in how gaining an understanding of electricity use impacts daily energy consumption. Keep track of your electric bills during the project and report using the corresponding spreadsheet (E1_QUANTITATIVE).

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on each day you receive an electricity bill on the spreadsheet (E1_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. What surprises or realizations did you have tracking your home energy use? Which items seemed to be lower or higher electricity users than you anticipated? Did you see a difference in your electric usage? Why do think that is? Were there habits that you changed? What stayed the same?


resources

Kill-A-Watt meter
Energy Savers online database of how to track energy use and typical appliance wattages
ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

E1_Track Your Electricity Use Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

E1_BASELINE
E1_QUANTITATIVE
E1_QUALITATIVE