For a Bit of Colored Ribbon

I’m in Minnesota, and we have a considerably larger house(roughly 3000 sqft), our usage is considerably higher than yours. I replaced our bulbs with mostly CFL last year, and our electricity consumption went down about 200kwh/month. I was actually surprised as it was around a $25/month savings. So replacing all the bulbs cost me about $300, and that worked out to less than a year payback.

Our main draws are the computers on all the time, and then the furnace fans. Our fans run nearly continuous just to circulate air. (Minnesota homes are sealed like submarines, so we have issues with moisture build up inside. We also have an air exchanger which circulates outdoor air into the house.)

The newer furnace units use a electronically commutated motors, and draw significantly less electricity, like 1/3rd of the draw of the older PSC style motors. I have seen some mention of retrofits, and was going to look at cost, otherwise it’s a whole furnace.

We had an issue this past summer with our AC evaporator coil leaking… that drove our electrical usage through the roof as the AC was running near constant.

Also doing research on this, a lot of AC systems in houses are oversized. People think bigger is better, but it’s not true. There’s a lot of calculations that go into proper sizing, especially CFM you can push through the pipes in the house. If you don’t get enough air flow, the evaporator coil will ice up. I think that’s what happened in our house, as we have zones, but the system was sized for the full house size, but with the zones half the house is shut off so the air flow is restricted.

I’m going to keep the current system running another 5-7 years and then just replace everything. In 2020 R22 isn’t going to be available for recharges anyway, so we’ll have to move to a R410 system if it breaks. That’s a $5-7k cost, so have to plan for it.

It’s a Trap! If you send the same graphic to every home… :wink:

I also worked at a company that built this sort of system for the Utility. Yes, it was totally inspired by Stack Overflow.
The thing you need to be careful about is “average home”. It is sort of a made up number. I’m sure others here will attack the statistics. Rightfully so, trying to be the best energy saver is sort of the Kobayashi Maru. They set it up to keep you saving, and you can never really win.
The next step, now that you are into it is to monetize you. Do you need new windows, insulation or more. You bought a Nest, that shows you will spend on it. They can recommend services to help…
Will you opt in to a peak demand event system? Basically they can shut off the AC at high demand times for a lower rate. That is like printing money. Your excess capacity can be sold like an energy future.
You have just seen the surface of the fractal world of public utilities, energy, and smart grid.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you probably have more computers running fairly often than the average home? Those things burn up power pretty fast (as I’m sure you know: )

I’ve got a 3 year old Intel Ion powered Ubuntu server that spends most of its time waiting and it still draws 30W (compare and contrast with a new Mac Mini Server’s 11W idle, much less sleep). Someone would do the world a good deal of benefit if they could make Linux squeeze more energy efficiency out of non-specialized hardware.

Oh, did I mention I was Amazon’s 191st ranked reviewer…

May we please have a link to the elusive LED candelabra bulb? I have similarly spent way too much time looking for said unicorn.

I would not trust the details from your utility company.

Have a look at

Based on these, the average for US/Residential is 920kWh/month with Maine and Cali being the lowest states at 521 and 587 kWh/month. Based on your electricity graph, it appears that your are averaging just under 500kWh/month. Based on that you are already winning.

design massively multiplayer games for people who like to type paragraphs to each other

oooh! Which ones? I am a massive fan of the MUD

I’d LOVE to know which ones you are involved in.

I just found this out today: LED bulbs are not actually any more energy efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs, according to

The Freakonomics podcast talked about how people respond the most to peer pressure.

Marketers have known this for years. Tell someone that people just like them are doing something, and they’ll typically do more of it.

Steve Levitt had this to say: “From an economic perspective, shame is a wonderful punishment because unlike imprisonment, it’s free. It’s not only free but the society can impose as much shame as they want on people without any kind of cost or resources used up. But in fact, the rest of society actually likes it when other people get shamed.”

Do not beat yourself up. With 3 kids at home, you are doing good. You would do better if your house was better insulated. There used to be a company called Sustainable Spaces that did whole house efficiency modeling for $500, but they are no longer in this business. Try finding someone who does this, they’ll tell you exactly where your heat is going. That’s what I did.

My gas usage is comparable to yours, and my electricty usage is 30% higher. We have a similar setup: 2 adults and 3 kids at home most of the time, Bay Area. My disadvantages are bigger house (2000sq/ft), and a pool. I love comfort, so my thermostat is at 68/66 all the time, and my halogen torches turn night into day.

But the real reason for this comment is to rant about Corporate Social. Corporate Social adapts superficial social features, without actually creating a community. My theory is that corporations love certain aspects of community building: members do a lot of work (you buying efficient bulbs), emotional connection. But they hate other stuff (communities can be messy, you need to police them, give them tools, they can turn against you). That’s why forums still thrive, they really are a community.

Power companies community comparassance report could be so much more useful. As is, it is not of much use to me because: 1) I do not know who they are comparing me with, and 2) doing something about it is hard, requires a lot of work.

I’d love to know who the other families are, and I’d love to do whatever they are doing. There is no way for me to find this out. Power company has this information, it’d be so easy to expose it, and give comparable homeowners a forum. Wish they’d publish an API so we could build these tools for them.

Your electric usage is not that high. 15-16 KWh a day is normal. You probably have a lot of screen and monitors on during the day as your neighbors go to work. Check your meter and see what your daily electric consumption is when your family is away and your electronics are off.

Your square footage is small for a family. Are you being compared to singles?
Do you have more than one refrigerator?
Do you have a finished basement that does not count towards the square footage.
Does your home have more surface area than the similar homes? Is it an older home?

I would suggest:
Adding insulation in the attic.
Reduce air leakage.
Be sure to keep your refrigerator full.

Ameren has sent me a similar report here in St. Louis, MO. My usage is far below average. But then I have triple pane windows, hefty insulation, an efficient water heater set on the first notch above vacation mode, and thermostat on each floor programmed to heat/cool only during times we are typically in the space.

Our water heater still supplies enough hot water for a 15 minute shower, or a load of laundry, or a run of the dishwasher. The dishwasher is usually started on a delay to run over night.

Our heat is set to 73 in the winter and AC to 76 in the summer, at least for the scheduled times. Heat is set to 64 and the AC to 84 during times when those spaces are not in use. My home office is in the basement, so summer times don’t require the AC schedule to change on work days. In winter I dress warmer and occasionally supplement with a space heater at my feet.

I’ve only bought CFL bulbs for the last 5+ years. Recently I started purchased LED bulbs only when a CFL stops working, which is only 4 candelabra bulbs so far.

We are getting 4kWh of solar panels installed this month. The federal government is paying for 30% via a tax credit, and Ameren is paying for a large chunk after 60 days of install as well. The balance of the panel cost will be paid off in 4.5 years of energy use savings (and kW sales back to Ameren).

I don’t feel like any of these changes were hard to make, but I only changed one thing at a time and these were made over a long period of time.

We had much higher than average power usage up until a few months ago, when we started taking a closer look at our PGE bills. With the changes we made, we cut our electricity usage about 60% (which causes a much bigger drop in our bills, since the electricity costs are tiered) You end up paying almost 3x per additional KWH over the base price if you are using 200% or more of expected usage.

The steps we made were:
Installed a Nest so we could track how much the HVAC was activating (and control it much easier).

Review/change sleep or power off settings on all computers.

Installed a timer switch to control our master bathroom ventilation fan.

We weren’t using our living room much, so we just unplug the power strip that activates the Xbox, DVR, TV, etc unless we are actively using it.

We also went around to every outlet we could reach and used a Belkin Conserve units (like Killawatts, but a much better form factor allowing you to have the display be a few feet away from the outlets) to view energy usage at our outlets.

If you have a smart meter, you can login to the PGE website and see a per-hour breakdown of power usage. The data typically lags by 2-4 days for us, but it is great being able to see such detail.

You’re a high powered programmer. It’s safe to assume a significant amount of your work and entertainment is electronic in nature. I would expect your electricity bill to be higher than average.

It’s cool that you want to ‘win’ this game. I’m interested in winning the save-the-most-money game. So I use my one light in my kitchen-living room combo for all of my lighting needs except my bathroom. I also don’t use the heater, at all. Lots of blankets. This way I don’t spend money on expensive energy efficient things and I don’t spend much money on energy itself.


You’ve tricked me into becoming obsessed with understanding and reducing my household energy consumption

Reducing, maybe.


From your explanation, you bought into marketing (Energy Star is … meh, and LED/CCFL bulbs are overrated).

Buy a Kill-a-watt, or equivalent. Measure actual consumption - and you’ll figure out pretty quick that it’s almost certainly not your lighting.

Then stop worrying about it, or turn off some computers (or at least make sure they’re in sleep, if not hibernation), because I bet that’s where your power usage is going.

If you care.

I suggest not caring - as other have said, your power usage is a) not all that high compared to real national numbers, but more importantly b) not important, as long as the bill isn’t killing you.

[Remember that time spent reducing your usage is time you’re only getting “paid for” out of reduced bills. It’s unlikely to be remunerative.]

(In fact, the biggest difference I see between you and the allegedly-similar homes is in gas usage, especially in the winter.

Put in more insulation, stop dicking around with lightbulbs - I’m sure, given that spike in February-march, and the way your curve doesn’t match your neighbors, that it’s not lighting using your power.

I suspect computers, very strongly, for the power usage.

But seriously? LED appliance lights? Those will most likely literally never pay for themselves.)

(Actually, I notice other people mentioning that you, yourself were suggesting the Kill-a-Watt years ago.

So why aren’t you just measuring your usage?

It sure ain’t gonna be appliance bulbs…

Don’t guess. Measure. Physician, heal thyself!)

There is a possibility that you are loosing power due to old electrical system or maybe someone else is using your energy. What you can do is turn off all your appliances and see how much energy is being consumed at your electrical panel, it should be none.

Did you ever consider that every home gets a similar looking graph with all numbers relative to there own actual use? (Everyone is above average… :slight_smile: