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Tag: electrical

Energy Efficiency Update

I figured it was time to do an update on how these energy efficiency updates have been reflecting in my energy use and in turn my monthly bills. I’m going to share my numbers as I like statistics and I’m sure there’s other out there like me wondering if it’s worth it. First as a recap things I’ve done to increase the efficiency in the house and track my energy use:

  • Installed a Nest thermostat
  • Had a free home energy audit performed on the home (BGE)
    • Movement to nearly all CFL light bulbs in the house
    • Sealing of all vent edging with aluminium tape
    • Sealing off of extraneous vents with magnetic covers
  • Had a full home performance check (through Retrofit Baltimore)
    • Increase my attic insulation
    • Addition of gaskets behind outlet covers for exterior walls

While I was slow to implement these (thus I won’t see drastic energy use changes) I would expect to see slow decreases of energy (both gas and electric) over time. The Nest thermostat is pretty cool in that it notices when you are home and when you aren’t so it can move to your “away” settings and use less energy. For each day that you meet it’s efficient use criteria it gives you a leaf. These leaves are tracked and compared with other Nesters in your zipcode and emailed to you monthly to tell you how you stack up with the neighborhood. I’m pretty proud of my leafs: 31 leafs for December and 340 for 2015. I’m fairly certain those missing 25 leafs were from the summer when it was hot out and I just wanted to have air conditioning. But note you have no idea how many those are or what their leaf numbers are. I’d love to get ahold of the mean and median and total Nester numbers…

Screenshot 2016-01-12 13.07.06

Top 15% for December!

BGE also enjoys making me feel good by emailing monthly a report from my smart meter to show how I’m doing compared with people 80 nearby homes. Note that this would be a different demographic from the Nest data. My December report is below, again in the top tier of minimal energy use, and 13% less than my efficient neighbors. Whatever “efficient” means. I’m also unclear as to if the vacant homes are included in this data and where they would fall if they were.
Screenshot 2016-01-17 16.46.20

While this does make me feel good (just like badges for my Fitbit), I do want to know if there was a real energy use change. Which gets me into the nitty gritty. My new attic insulation was added in late October, and that was one of my largest changes, so I’ll compare October, November, and December of 2014 with 2015. I downloaded my data from the BGE website (look for the cool green button at the bottom of your My Energy Use tab) to look at this.

Electricity: Since my furnace is gas and my ac wasn’t running during these months my use should be about equal between 2014 and 2015. The only things that should affect this would be exchanged light bulbs and changes in my energy use patterns. My average electricity use those months were 317.3 kWh for 2014 compared with 251.7 kWh for 2015. That’s an average saving of 65.5 kWh per month. Which is kind of cool. I don’t think all this can be chalked up to light bulbs alone, but general awareness of my usage most likely also played a large role.

Screenshot 2016-01-17 17.39.33

My months compared according to BGE

Gas: This year saw the install of the insulation and the dishwasher, shoring up the vents, addition of door sweeps, adding a few outlet gaskets and a generally warmer winter to lower this bill. It also has an increase in the average water heater temperature and a generally warmer winter which could counteract these changes. The savings were slow accumulations so I honestly don’t know that I will save anything yet based on this.

Looking at my BGE bills proves to be unhelpful for this comparison as my smart meter was not so smart and stopped sending them data, causing them to estimate my use based on my neighbors from September 2014 until March 2015. Bummer I’ll have to wait a few more months to do a nice comparison that way.

Faulty math at work, don't believe what you see, 90 days vs 34

Faulty math at work, don’t believe what you see, 90 days vs 34

I do have my Nest data to fall back on for the furnace use at least. Nest estimates each month what to expect: more due to temperature, less due to being away more, more due to you overriding the schedule, etc. If you look at both years I tend to beat the estimated amount of change from month to month (if it estimates I should have 15 hrs more of use, I have 13 hrs more use that month). But I’m not sure I can say more until I can look at the full BGE data in March.

All in all it’s interesting from both the smart meter and the Nest I am more cognizant of how much energy I use, and have a benchmark to tell me when I’m doing “good”. Which helps on the bills front and gives me an idea of where I’ll be for the next month.

Holiday Projects

New year new projects! With so much going on I’ve been slow to update things. Last weekend I took a few days to install my new Christmas present and the ones I bought for the house.

First my present! I drive an 03 Mustang and I’ve been wanting an updated stereo which could allow hands free phone calls (which is law in MD) and would let me play audiobooks/podcasts/anything from my phone in the car (yay!). My phone has been able to do such things for years, but the car never got the upgrade. After some aggravating time on the phone with GeekSquad to schedule an install, I decided it was easier to do it myself. With the help of a few YouTube videos, and a quick stop at Advanced Auto Parts I was easily able to install it with a second set of hands to help.

The stereo: It’s a Sony MEXN5100BT, which for the highlights has NFC to turn on your phone’s Bluetooth, and you can pick your favorite RGB color for the lights. Since its a single din replacing my double din, with the adapter I get a compartment below it perfect for holding my phone, meaning I get my handbrake back (my phones previous resting space). Below are a few things I found useful in the process. Since I had to go out and search for them, I believe it’s useful to list them in one location:

How to remove the old stereo (a Youtube video showing removal of the dash and original radio).

The necessary adapter

A very important part which I didn’t realize I needed at first was an adapter from my current radio wires to the universal plug the Sony one uses. Luckily my local Advanced Auto Parts had exactly 1 in stock. This adapter converts the old radio wires from the car into the correct format for the new stereo. Attaching the adapter to the wires for my new stereo was fairly simple, connect one color with its matching color. Tools required: wire stripper, electrical tape, and patience.

And finally the hardest part of this was figuring out how to remove the pillar to run the microphone wire to the driver side visor (best decision ever).  After much searching on the internet you remove the pillar by pulling on it. It’ll come off and won’t break even if it feels like it will. There are 4 clip points, 2 on each side staggered (they aren’t parallel between the door and windshield side). I ended up having to use some of my body weight to pull it off since I was at an awkward angle. Fun fact there’s plenty of room to run some wires back there. And if you remove the floorboard driver’s panel it’s incredibly easy to run the wire back to the stereo.

And with our awesome neighborhood yard sale page, I was able to pass to old radio onto someone else who could use it!

The original stereo

Let me just say after playing with the new stereo for a week. Upgrading was the best decision. Huge thank you for the best gift I would have never bought for myself.

New Sony Stereo

The finished product!

The House’s present: While on an electrical kick I decided it was time to change out the blue ceiling fan in the spare bedroom. I loved that blue fan so much I have no pictures of it while it was up. Somehow I managed to angle all o the photos of this room such that I never caught it on screen.

The fan once removed

The fan once removed

Needless to say no one misses the blue fan and someone in the neighborhood wanted it so disposal of the fan was as easy as dissembling it. I ended up replacing it with a similar small Hunter fan from Home Depot that matches the Ikea black-brown furniture in the room. The fan was easy to install with the instructions provided in the box, but I must admit having a spare set of hands from a friend made it much easier (i.e. one person hand things up to the ladder and hold pieces instead of a constant up and down).  The only thing different from the blue fan is this one I mounted close to flush with the ceiling. Since the room is smaller this did help make it feel a bit bigger.

The new fan in place

The new fan in place

While on a roll I also ended up adding a few runners to the first floor to cover the rest of the plywood floors while I anxiously await moving forward with getting real floors. Each step is one more closer to the final product and my current weekend project kick is fulfilled!

Energy Efficiency Here I come!

I figured while I’m listening to new insulation being pumped into the house I could put together this post I’ve been meaning to write about energy efficiency.

When I moved into the house I was super stoked about the $60 electric & gas bill. Super cheap compared to the newly renovated, apparently non-insulated, home I was previously renting. Of course the $60 was because the house had been empty for a few years and went up immediately. My installation of an A/C unit didn’t help either.

A whole box of light bulbs!

A whole box of light bulbs!

I had put myself on the BG&E quick home energy check up list awhile back for the rental home (because it was free and I didn’t want another $400 bill) and they finally called me to schedule before I was scheduled to close on the house. Needless to say I pushed it off a few months and then used the free energy check up on the new place. The energy check up was great and mostly because it was free. The catch for the free part is you have to do one of their recommendations on site while the inspector is there. This could be installing low flow faucets, putting a blanket wrap on your water heater, or installing CFL light bulbs (blankets and light bulbs, I’m in!). Needless to say I ended up with a box of CFL light bulbs for the house and a nice list of both “I can do” energy efficiency changes and “things to save for” changes.  Continue reading

Bathroom Overhaul

The first project I had done on the house was the upstairs bathroom. Since this house only has one bathroom, this was a project that began and the necessities were finished before I moved in. I had a contractor come in and tile the shower and floor, change out all of the fixtures, and reset the toilet.  The best part of this process was seeing the potential for this room that was previously an eyesore, to put it gently.

Since I moved in work has stagnated on the bathroom. I did successfully refinish the existing vanity into a dark coffee brown. And rewired the electrical in the wall, but largely this project has been a lot of me not doing much. Mostly I attribute this to my changing view as to what I want for this room. My final vision for the room still doesn’t match the current state, but the room is far enough along and has taken enough time that it deserves its own entry here.

Lets start with the before: Think pastel seashells, in Baltimore.


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