It was Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) who made the famous statement, "If you can not measure it, you can not improve it."
Whether its sports, finance, education, politics or Google AdWords, tracking the numbers helps achieve better performance. Without good metrics, it’s difficult to know how well or how poorly progress is being made. Shaving one second off your previous time, or improving one percentage point above last year's average, can make the difference between winning and losing, between success or failure.
Metrics are definitely fun when it comes to sports, but when it comes to home finances or energy efficiency, it can get downright tedious. When you understand the benefits, i.e., more cash in your pocket, then it definitely becomes a game worth playing.
Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), and natural gas is measured in therms. You can't control the cost per kWh or therm, but you can control the amount used in your home or office. How? First, you need to know how much energy each device is using. You can't tell this from your utility bill because it shows only the total dollars spent each month. You need a metric that’s easy to see and understand; then you can change it.
Whole house energy monitors
For measuring kWh, there are several excellent tools called whole house energy monitors. Most are easy to set up and economical to implement. They show precisely how much energy and money you use/spend every month, every day and every second — in real time.
Once you see this on a computer screen, it’s fun to see how much kWh you can reduce or eliminate simply by turning off appliances, TVs, stereos, computers, lighting, etc. You simply turn off an item and watch the meter go down and the savings go up.
On the average, whole house energy monitors can help you save 9-13% just by allowing you to see your electric usage on your desktop and then taking action to turn items down or off. Recently, the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield reduced its overall energy usage by some 14% simply by attending to the lights and turning them off when not needed.
Real-time energy monitoring on your computer, smartphone or tablet
A few models worth mentioning are TED (The Energy Detective), which is wired by an electrician into your electrical box, or Powercost Monitor, which works through a wifi network in your home and can be set up by yourself. In both cases, accurate information about total energy consumption is displayed on a screen in real-time. This information can be uploaded easily to other free applications such as PlotWatt. These on-line applications use the information generated by TED or the PowerCost Monitor to create graphs and moving displays of your energy consumption day or night, which can be viewed from any computer, smartphone, ipad, etc.
We have used a PowerCost monitor for several years in our home, and have discovered several phantom electric draining devices such as a sump pump in the basement which was running 24/7 due to a cable that was tangled and which interfered with the shut-off switch. Although we had turned everything off in the home, the monitor still showed a significant amount of energy consumption. Puzzled, we went through the house room by room until we finally figured it out. By fixing the problem, we saved hundreds of dollars per year, plus the sump pump did not burn out. We also purchased several LED can light replacements and could see, instantly in real time, how they lowered the energy consumption of our home.
Free home energy assessment
If this sounds too complicated for you, or you prefer to understand all the metrics affecting your energy costs, contact your power company and schedule a FREE energy assessment. If your home qualifies, your power company will send an energy expert to:
What will they audit in my home?
- Identify ways for you to reduce your energy usage,
- Give you estimates on how much the upgrades will cost and
- Tell you how much you can expect to save.
- The auditor may even install some energy-saving measures on the spot at no cost.
Where do I sign up? (it takes literally 30 seconds)
- Building construction and tightness
- Heating and cooling systems (if applicable, the energy expert will install a clock-
programmable thermostat at no cost)
- Kitchen and laundry appliances
- Lighting (if applicable, the energy expert will install ENERGY STAR rated
compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs at no cost)
- Water heating equipment (if applicable, the energy expert will install up to
two faucet aerators, a low-flow shower head, pipe insulation and water heater
insulation wrap at no cost)
- Windows, doors and insulation levels
Contact your local power company to signup.
Alliant Energy customers
Many homes in the Midwest get their power from Alliant Energy.
How do I qualify?
Signup online for the Alliant Energy Home Energy Assessment
Call Alliant at: 1-866-ALLIANT (1-866-255-4268)
New Alliant Energy Rebates
- Alliant Energy must supply your home's primary heating energy. The primary heating source is the heating equipment permanently installed in your home (furnace, boiler, etc.); all other heating sources (space heater, corn stoves, etc.) are considered supplemental.
- Your home must have been built before January 1, 2002.
- If you’re a renter, you must have your property owner’s approval. (Alliant Energy is happy to contact your landlord for approval).
(Many of these rebates require an energy audit prior to installation, so make sure you sign up soon.) See Alliant Energy Rebates for more specific details on your state.
Don't waste time. Sign up now.
Insulation — 70% of the total cost of installation, up to $750 for each type – attic, in-wall and foundation
Energy Star Appliances — $25 to $100 per appliance
Heating and cooling appliances — from $25 to $400
Water heaters — from $50 to $300
Replacement windows and doors — from $25 to $50
LED lighting — $10 per LED light bulb or $30 per light fixture with no limit; for CFLs, 50% of purchase price per bulb
You can apply on line in 30 seconds. Depending upon their workload, it takes 1-3 weeks for Alliant to visit your home, office or commercial building to conduct the full audit. This service is provided free of charge. There's no obligation, and the report is yours to keep.
Copyright © 2012 Joel Hirshberg All rights reserved.