My name is Shane and I live in
North Carolina. In April
of 2007, my wife and I saw the movie "An inconvenient Truth".
Afterwards, we both agreed that we wanted to do our part in becoming
more energy self sufficient and in consequence help the environment at
the same time. I did some research and found a renewable energy
installer and consultant at www.solarvillage.com. He happened to be in
my local area. I called him and he agreed to come out and talk to me
about my installation options and get an idea from him about what would
be realistic in my situation. He charged me about $75 for 3 or 4 hours
I took notes and gathered alot of info from the conversation.
The main ideas I gathered were:
- Find ways to reduce my current power usage. In May 2007 our
average Kwh usage from the the Commercial Utility Grid was 1900 Kwh.
(As of May 2009 , average kwh usage from the Utility Grid (Progress
Energy) is around 550 KWH per month)
- Find phantom loads in your house and try to eliminate them.
- Be willing to spend about 20,000 dollars. (this price is specific
to my goals/situation at the time ie. wanted a wind turbine
and solar panels, needed 240 volt A/C for certain appliances and
well pump - 240v A/C requires 2 inverters instead of one, etc.)
- Use Trojan L16H batteries, Outback inverters and charge
controller, evergreen solar panels.
- Am I going to tie my system into the commercial electric grid and
sell power back to the electric company or will I want to be off grid
and on my own completely.
After the consultation we decided to get right on it and find ways to
reduce our electricity consumption. 1.)
We went to Lowes and
bought 40 of those squiggly looking fluorescent screw in light bulbs.
They were 15 watts each. As of Dec 20 2007, Lowes has been selling them
in 6 packs for $9.99. Thats about $1.66 a bulb. In all we spent about
$45 dollars for the bulbs and ended up replacing about 35 light bulbs
in our house. 2.)
then took an inventory of all the electronics in our house that use
phantom loads. A phantom load is when a device is plugged into the wall
and is turned off but still uses power when turned off. I did not
realize this. Most devices use a phantom load. Some examples are :
players, Directv boxes, Tv's, cordless phones, baby monitors,
computers, wireless dsl routers, cble modems, laptops, etc. 3.)
I gathered up several
power strips and then went to Lowes and bought several of those $8
dollar "Intermatic" brand timers Model: TN711CL
location where I had many
electronics aggregating together, 4.)
I plugged all the devices
into one power strip. Make sure that the intermatic timer's
receptacle is for a three prong plug (has a ground) and NOT for a 2
prong. Grounding is very important.
then plugged the power strip into the intermatic timer which of course
was then plugged into the wall. On the Intermatic timer I set the timer
so that the power strip would cut off (cuttiing off phantom loads) at
12:00 am (latest bedtime) and cut back on at around 8:00 am (usual
I ended up installing power strips and Intermatic timers in three
locations in my home:
- Entertainment center (tv, vcr,dvd, directv,cordless phone)
- computer area (computer, printer, cordless phone, baby monitor,
computer speakers, external harddrive, computer monitor)
- Internet router area (dsl router, wireless routers)
I then went to Lowes once again and bought a hot water heater timer for
electric hot water heaters. The brand is also "Intermatic" and is
called "the little grey box" timer model WH40. The timer was about $25
it goes in line between the power feed from the main power panel and
the hot water heater. Using a cordless drill and sheet rock screws to
screw the timer into the wall (flush mount), about 5 feet of 1/2 inch
(flexible conduit) and (1) 1/2" straight sealtight connector and (2)
degree (elbow) sealtight connectors, some red wire nuts, and 8 feet of
#10 romex wire I was able to install the timer in about an hour. As far
as setting the timer , I set the timer to apply power to the water
heater elements at 5:00am then off at 6:00 am then on at 1:00 pm then
off at 4:00pm then on at 6:00 pm then off at 8:00 pm the back around
again to being on at 5:00 am. This schedule seems to work with our
family water use habits. The electric hot water heater is 80 gallon. I
have several small children and a wife that is home most of the day. We
have never run out of hot water.
The results of our changes were surprising. We were able to cut our
next electric bill down by 1/3 and it seems that our electric bill on
average was cut in half. WOW!! All this just by changing out
heater timer, and eliminating phantom loads! Go figure....
We were pretty excited at this point and felt more confident in our
decision to work towards energy independance.
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