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It's about Total Energy

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by slipdrive, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. slipdrive

    slipdrive Member

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    Having never cared much about the cars I drive, six months of Model S ownership has made an impression. It has finally prompted me to make other changes long over due with respect to energy use around the house. My point is there is more than solar panels ... Less exciting options like insulation and air sealing, lighting, (getting rid of the hot tub) that can make a big dent. It shocked me that the hot tub actually used more kwH than the 2,000 miles per month in the Tesla (let alone chemicals) ! So I've now called the insulation contractor, and am replacing half the lights with LEDs.
    Maybe there is larger story and EV's can partner with home energy experts (credible and unbiased ones). I know others feel strongly about PV panels on homes. Personally, I believe the conservation alternatives are getting shorted in the picture, and need a louder voice. They are the "introverts" in the hype and marketing. I would like to see a renewal and stronger push for the easier things. It all goes together.
     
  2. Zextraterrestrial

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    You might like to look into thermal storage systems too. Some pretty neat/efficient things you can do with insulated hot water storage.

    I majored in Environmental Resource Engineering and tool a solar/thermal class & we looked at some of these systems that were pretty 'cool'

    My house insulation sucks. windows leak. front door can be seen through when the light is right. Sliding glass door practically flows air over the top. really need to do some serious stuff soon (tempted just to tape things up for the winter)
    lighting is mostly halogen still + some fluorescents and a couple of leds(prices are getting good now and that should change soon)
    + there is no sun on the house for 4 months of winter (trees are beautiful :biggrin:)
     
  3. slipdrive

    slipdrive Member

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    Thanks. Unfortunately, XCEL Energy has wiggled out of any smartgrid or TOU metering. They consider TOU to be the doubling of energy charges to everybody during summer. Joke.
    They market they are "ready for EVs". Translation: "we are pleased to charge you 12 cents for what otherwise would be baseload spinning reserve and nearly free at 4am when I schedule car charging."
     
  4. GlennAlanBerry

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    Solar PV panels are "sexy" and visible to the world (and I have a small, 3.1kW grid-tied system), but doing as much as you can to reduce your energy usage after getting an energy audit gives you a lot better ROI. Improving your insulation and house sealing, getting newer, more energy efficient appliances and lighting, etc. should always be your first step. After you have done what you can to reduce your usage, then you can probably get by with a smaller PV system anyway.

    - - - Updated - - -

    @slipdrive I only wish I was in XCEL energy! I am stuck in IREA (a small electric COOP) territory in Douglas County. IREA is actively hostile to renewable energy and conservation efforts. They don't offer any rebates for energy efficiency work or for solar PV systems. They also have regular stories in their monthly newsletter about how climate change is just a theory and how renewable energy is too expensive, etc. Of course none of this is related to the fact that they own a big chunk of the huge new Comanche coal-fired generation plant in Pueblo...

    - - - Updated - - -

    XCEL offers subsided energy audits, where they do blower door testing and use a FLIR camera. You should consider having one of those done on your house.
     
  5. slipdrive

    slipdrive Member

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    Thanks Glenn. Everything is relative. I read some of the same disdain from my Mountain Parks Coop up in Kremmling...
    I will indeed call about energy audits. Thermal scans and blower door would be great.
    I have until June when XCEL jacks the elec rates....
     
  6. VolkerP

    VolkerP EU Model S P-37

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    It's about total carbon equivalent footprint

    Thanks for starting this thread! I second that driving an EV can make you look at overall energy consumption with much more attention. And I concur that energy saving measures are the unsung hero of environmental invest but offer great ROI.

    The nice thing with saving energy is that it impacts your energy bill in a very direct way. You can actually SEE every month what's the return.

    But things can be widened even more. Fire up a carbon footprint calculator and enter the values for your household. Obtaining these values can be an eye opener in itself. Check where most of your carbon footprint stems from, and think what changes you could make to avoid them. What's the impact on your daily life? What's the cost?

    Consider the soft impacts, too: Would it be inconvenient? What will the neighbors think, and will I take offense in them looking at me as a tree hugging weirdo?

    Lastly, the money in your bank account producing emissions, too. If an investment in an index fund yields 2%, you financed a little part of GDP. You can contribute national emissions to your investment by applying rule of three. If the resulting figure is much more than emissions that can be attributed to your personal consumption, think of alternative investments (TSLA, SCTY, SPWR, you name it).
     
  7. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    I fully agree. Without the heavy insulation, good low-e argon filled windows, LED lights, energy star appliances; our 7.1 KW system would not be able to come close to covering our needs. But by making prudent energy savings investments our 7.1 KW system should be covering about 85% of our electric which includes 700 miles of driving a month and electric heat via a heat pump. And yes it does get cold here as we had several morning below 0F this winter.

    On a related topic if you I hope you have voted in the driving on sunshine poll. I am trying to gather data on how driving an EV spills over to solar panels. It looks like nearly 60% of Tesla owners also have solar. Driving on Sunshine - Page 4
     
  8. bsd

    bsd Member

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    Unfortunately my roof configuration is suboptimal for solar due to interruptions from dormers. I instead "buy" my electricity and natural gas from a ecogenerator intermediary called Bullfrog Power. They pool their customers' predicted demand to provide funding and guaranteed purchases from eco-friendly power generators. Up here these generators produce certificates for every kWH and m^3 of gas produced, and these certificates are retired by Bullfrog on my behalf. I still pay my normal utilities their normal rates, and pay Bullfrog a surcharge.

    I was a bit skeptical at first — I have no guarantee that my kWHs / m^3 consumed came from that feed — but because the electricity/gas was generated and injected in the grid, it offset somebody's consumption. I don't know how this all plays out in terms of forecast demand, but I figure it's just noise that gets averaged out across the hundreds of thousands of households in Ontario.
     
  9. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    Bullfrog Power is only in Canada, unfortunately. However, most Americans have an option for 100% renewable power, either through their utility or a third-party provider.

    I just had a thought/concern: like many states, Massachusetts has a Renewable Portfolio Standard that requires each utility to ensure that X% of its delivered kWhs are from renewable sources. If I pay a premium to get 100% of my power from a renewable source, does my utility just shuffle around kWhs, sending fewer renewable kWhs to my neighbors and more to me? That is, does my election for 100% renewable have no impact on the utility's aggregate purchase of renewable power (unless enough of us opt for green power)?
     
  10. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    If one cannot generate their own renewable energy then I think such "green" credits are a good thing on the balance. It shows there is a demand and customer will pay a premium for green electricity. To it is helping to move us in the right direction.
     
  11. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    #11 nwdiver, Jun 26, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2016
    I've been doing some research on energy assessments so I thought I'd resurrect this thread to share some ways to REALLY knock down energy use... Solar PV may be the sexiest but there are a lot of ways to get more "bang for your $$$". My home in Bremerton, WA once consumed >20000kWh/yr... now it's down to <7000kWh/yr.

    Cellulose insulation; Cost: ~$400 Savings: ~$500/yr http://www.greenfiber.com
    Probably the easiest things to do if you have an older home. My house had ~R-13 in the attic so we added ~8" of cellulose to bring it up to ~R-40. This has the added benefit of doing a MUCH better job of covering the ceiling since you can "spray" it into all the nooks and crannies of the attic and cover the joists.

    Ductless Heat Pump; Cost: ~$3k Savings: ~$500/yr https://www.goductless.com/?gclid=CjkKEQjwia-dBRC07eeatYGe-78BEiQArZhbgNJtw6H99krpQgRM73iAuIo5WzWW9dy9LJ4Nnbzl2wXw_wcB
    Resistance heat is the devil. My electric furnace consumed 24kW and put out ~81000 BTU. You can NEVER have a COP (watts of heat / watts of energy used) higher than 1. Usually it's going to be about .9. I installed a 21000BTU ductless heat pump in my living room for ~$3k. Now not only am I heating ONLY the room I'm using but it's got a COP of ~3; as long as it's >45F outside, pretty typical for Bremerton in winter, I use 66% less energy for the same amount of heat.

    Heat Pump Hot Water Heater; Cost: ~$1k Savings: ~$200/yr http://www.geappliances.com/heat-pump-hot-water-heater/
    Same concept as above I installed the GE Geospring. It has a COP of ~2.3. It's also a 'hybrid' unit meaning that is has resistance electric elements for use if the room temperature its at (usually the garage) drops below 35F.

    Drain Heat Recovery; Cost: ~$1k Savings: ~$70/yr http://www.renewability.com/general/index.html
    This is the only improvement with a worse ROI than my panels... mostly since I already cut my cost of heating water with the Geospring. I does just what the name implies... when you're showering the water going down the drain is >80F while the incoming water might be ~45F in the winter. Using the principle that water going vertically down a drain forms a film on the inside of the pipe the incoming water goes through copper pipes wrapped around the drain pipe recovering ~50% of the heat that would normally just "go down the drain".

    Windows; Cost: ~$4k Savings: ~$300/yr
    One of the most persistent myths about energy conservation is about windows... I was once of the mind that spending an extra 40% on triple pane was worth it... but the most critical part of a window isn't the glass it's the seal. Well sealed single pane windows will beat a leaky triple pane window any day. Mine were >20 years old, single pane and leaky so I upgraded to some good double pane windows.

    Then of course there's LEDs... I won't go there since that horse is dead but here's an awesome video :biggrin:
     
  12. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

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    #12 ChadS, Jun 26, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2014
    Thanks for the numbers nwdiver; that will help a lot of people looking to upgrade their current home.

    I'm not one for home improvement, so last month I moved to get a more efficient home. Some of the energy-saving features it has (I don't know the prices the builder paid so I can't give numbers like nwdiver did):

    1. Daikin Altherma heat pump for hot water. In addition to regular domestic use, this water is circulated under the floors to heat the house. The builder says this is the most efficient heat pump on the market; the marketing materials claim a COP of 4.0. I assume that's only in heat pump mode at a high-efficiency temperature; like nwdiver's system, when really cold outside a small electric resistance heater will come on. (The heat pump can operate down to -4 degrees F, but gets really inefficient). I'm in the Seattle area which has very moderate temperatures so I imagine the heating element will be used very rarely.

    2. Polystyrene foam insulation. The wall panels are pre-built with insulating foam wrapped around them. Not only can you get far better than code insulating levels in far less space, but the foam wrap around the wood also prevents thermal bridging. Our old house lost a lot of heat overnight; in the new house I can wake up to the same temperature it was before bed even if it is over 20 degrees colder outside.

    3. Passive heat recovery ventilator. For good insulation, the home is nearly airtight (seriously - they have to have a dedicated make-up air fan to replace air pulled out of the house when you turn on the range hood fan - otherwise it gets hard to open doors!). But of course the air in the house needs to be circulated. So there is a low-speed fan that runs constantly, and it runs the incoming air over the outgoing air to recover 65% of the heat.

    4. Dual-pane PVC-wrapped windows. As nwdiver noted, triple-pane windows would lose a little less heat at night in the winter. But a quality seal, good coating and thermally tight wrap material make the difference small. Plus, with these windows I'll get more solar gain during the course of a year than I'll lose. Double-pane windows were the most efficient for this application.

    5. LED lights (and CFLs; the builder used both. He also used a few halogens, but we are in the process of replacing those with LEDs). I never liked CFLs, although we switched our previous house over anyway. But I love LEDs.

    6. All energy-star appliances.

    The house has a 10kW solar system up top (so I get an $11k tax credit for buying the house, and about $1500/year from the state for generating electricity, plus I only pay my utility for net power used - which is, of course, covered under the Green Power program), and is certified net-zero energy and 5-star green. Unfortunately that's not considering EVs; but I am an owner in another solar collective so that can cover my cars.

    A lot of people are afraid of "green" technology because of their experience with things like CFLs. But this stuff is not only saving me money, it makes for really nice living conditions. It's an all-around improvement, just like EVs. (The house also has some air and water management systems that are nice too; but those are off-topic so I'm just focusing on the energy stuff here. Oh yeah, most of the materials are at least partially recycled or sustainably harvested. Few builders go to that kind of trouble, unfortunately).
     
  13. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    Wow... I've heard of those but never come across one... how complicated does the system look? Have you had any problems? The BIG downside to the Geospring is it's got to go where your old hot water heater was and the COP is a little low for a heat pump.
     
  14. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

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    That was my concern when I first heard of the Green Power program several years ago. I checked in to it before signing up. Of course other programs may not do this, but the Green Power program has an unrelated non-profit check the utility's generating and sign-up numbers to verify that they really ADD enough renewable energy (above what they need to meet regulations) to satisfy the consumption of their Green Energy customers.
     
  15. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

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    #15 ChadS, Jun 29, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2014
    The Daikin Altherma heat pump (and associated hot water storage tank) looks extremely simple, and so far everything works great (the house is so well insulated and gets enough solar gain that the heating system hasn't come on since we moved in on May 2; but I had toured the house last winter when it was on. Radiant floors are nice). I have no idea what lies under their casings, however.

    The plumbing for the house - city and cistern water systems, re-circ hot water pump, four zones of radiant floor heating - looks complicated. I have figured out most of the pipes, but there are still some pipes that I can't figure out.

    The biggest downside to all this stuff is that I'm not going to be able to call any HVAC technician if I have a problem. But again, I see that like there being fewer EV mechanics when I started buying EVs. It may cause me some extra inconvenience and expense, but if everybody let that stop them from adopting new technology we'd never get anywhere. Just as I'm willing to donate time or money to a charitable organization, I'm willing to take risks on new technology - and for the same reasons. (I have a frugal, conservative nature and it has taken some deliberate thought to change my buying behavior. I still get some post-buy moments of panic; but those are outweighed long-term by the clear benefits of the technology.)
     
  16. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    Here's an interesting graphic about the sources and uses of total energy in the US. As it shows, natural gas is already well ahead of coal as a source:
    main.png
     
  17. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

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    Renewables at 9%? Includes corn ethanol?

    And natural gas use is going to keep trending up in Maine. Kennebec Valley build out is under way (sadly my street won't get it until 2017 at current rate of progress) and they're now working on the Falmouth/Cumberland area as well. When we do the upgrade (furnace is 20 years old, so it will be a full replacement) I'm also thinking of adding a heating zone so that the downstairs bedrooms are on their own zone, and then getting a heat pump for space heating the rest of the downstairs space, which would both increase overall heating efficiency and add efficient A/C for our "hot" month(s).
     
  18. Jeff Miller

    Jeff Miller Member

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    I assume biofuel is mostly corn ethanol which, given that almost as much fossil energy is required to make it as you get out of it, shouldn't be counted as renewable.

    Total primary:

    http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec1_7.pdf

    Just renewables:

    http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec10_3.pdf

    For the 2013, the breakdown of renewables is:

    renewable primary energy source%renewable%total
    geo2.2
    solar3.3
    waste5.5
    wind171.6
    biofuel212.0
    wood232.2
    hydro282.6
     

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