033. the approachable architect podcast -Troy Lindquist With Alternative Energy Solutions

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episode 033. troy lindquist with alternative energy solutions

  • in this episode, i’m joined by energy analyst, troy lindquist, of alternative energy solutions. troy specializes in producing calculation for compliance with california’s energy code as well as provides third party verification and testing for LEED homes as well as other green building programs. listen in as we discuss the importance of sealing the envelope, testing of insulation and duct leakage as well as troy’s recent trip to the burning man festival. for more information about troy, please visit www.title24energy.com.

ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES: i specialize in providing architectural design services for environmentally friendly, healthy, high performance, and energy efficient homes including major remodels, second story additions, and new construction. please contact me at the studio at 310.391.9191 or david@residearchitecture.com if you would like to discuss your project.

energy audit: a look at your electric bill

my electric bill
my electric bill

let’s talk about your electric bill. an average size home in america consumes between 600 to 900 kWh per month. this will obviously vary depending on what part of the country you live in (and what is considered average), but it’s a good starting point. let’s break that down even further because i believe when we have an understanding we can relate to, we’re more apt to make small changes that can have big impacts, both on the environment and in your wallet.

i’m going to work with the 600 kWh usage per month and use that as a basis for our understanding. if we divide 600 kWh by # days in a month, 30, that would mean we are consuming 20 kWh of electricity per day. let’s assume we’re paying .14 cents per kilowatt hour (the rate will vary by area but generally will be between .10 and .14) so we’re spending $2.80 per day on electricity for our home. that will give us a bill of about $84 per month. if you’re consuming 900 kWh per month, your bill will more likely be $126 per month.

one note: make sure you read your electric bill correctly. it will be either based on one month or two months, just make sure you know which one and adjust your figures accordingly.

SO, you’re now looking at your electric bill and you say, “oh yeah, i see, my bill is about $100 per month and that fits within the average so that must mean i’m doing good and can keep doing what i’ve been doing all along.”  does this sound like you? let me clear up one thing here, AVERAGE DOES NOT EQUAL GOOD. just because everyone else in the country is averaging $100 a month electric bill, doesn’t mean you should too. there are simple ways to get that down. and we’ve all heard them, turn off lights when not in the room, replace bulbs with compact flourescents (which i’m not a fan of, that’s another article), run the air conditioner set at 78, to name a few.  even if you knock it down $10 a month, you’ll save $120 per year.

let’s put all of this in perspective. i live with my wife and two young boys in a modest, 1 story 1500 s.f. older home. we moved in this past january and i’ve been looking at our bills since we moved in. our power is supplied by los angeles department of water and power. we get a bill from them every two months and it covers solid resources fee, water servce, and energy service (electric). our electric bill averages about 650 kWh per billing cycle, that’s for two months. SO we are consuming 325 kWh per month, well below the national average. we aren’t doing anything special either. we have a mixture of incadescent bulbs and compact flourescents. the most important thing we do is to not leave lights on around the house and turn off lights when we leave the room. we also haven’t run the air conditioner yet and rely on opening doors and windows instead. i’m sure at some point we will turn it on this summer, which may push us into the 400+ Kwh range, but we’ll see. one important note here is that our stove, dryer (electric dryers do cost more to operate than gas dryers), and furnace are heated via natural gas.

assuming you pulled out your electric bill for this exercise, you should have been able to locate how much you are using per month, then how much you use per day, and finally how much you are spending on electricity per day. just having an understanding of this will prove beneficial to you. i have found that once we have an understanding of something, we tend to pay better attention to it. the less we understand something, the more likely we will pay less attention or ignore it altogether. did i mention my wife is a psychotherapist?

think twice before reaching for that air conditioner button

ball-fan
modern company's ball fan

any way you slice it, air conditioners are electricity hogs. they are the suped up SUV version of the appliances in your home and they consume large amounts of electricity. whole house air conditioners can use anywhere from 15 to 25 kWh (kilowatt-hours)  of electricity per day (assuming about 4 hours of usage). at 14 cents per kWh, that’s about $3.50 per day. considering the average home consumes about 20 – 30 kWh per day, 4 hours of  air conditioner use almost doubles the daily consumption to a whopping 55 kWh per day. now you’re at about $7.00 a day for electricity.

now, that may not sound like much, but if you’re running your air conditioner everyday, that will be an additional $105 on top of your normal electrical bill (the average monthly electrical bill in the US is about $95 for around 900 kWh of electricity). multiply that by 4 months and that is an additional $420. it adds up, especially when you don’t pay attention to the time your a/c is on or your electricity bill. so here are a few tips that may help you limit the time your a/c runs;

1. turn up that thermostat to 78 degrees. “wait a minute, what??? you mean you want me to turn my thermostat UP to 78 degrees? i thought i am supposed to turn it down for my a/c. that means my air conditioner won’t even kick on until it gets warmer than 78? i like my home to be an ice box. i prefer a nice chilly 64. i like to run my air conditioner 24/7, i can’t sleep otherwise. but i admit, i don’t like the $500 a month electrical bill.” i hear you but i challenge you to give it a try. even if you do it for a few days, you’ll save electricity and money. check out this cool website that shows you the cost of your thermostat setting when deviating from 78  http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/sponsor/save-money-save-energy

2. use those ceiling fans. “but i don’t have ceiling fans installed in the house and i don’t really like those combo things at home depot.” ugly ceiling fans are no longer an excuse, check out the modern fan company’s selection of cool, modern fans. the ball is my favorite. you’ll pay for the cost of the fans and installation in a few seasons by limiting the use of the a/c and turning these guys on instead.

3. use a programmable thermostat. along with a setting of 78 degrees, a programmable thermostat will help you limit the amount of time your a/c stays on, thus reducing your electricity bill. your savings in one year can pay for this nifty unit (it works great for the heating in the winter too).

4. open those doors and windows. “but it’s hot outside, why do i want to open the doors and windows.”  a simple concept that has been around since the beginning of time,  called passive ventilation. if you open your doors and windows, you’ll create cross ventilation and bring an airflow into your home. along with your ceiling fans, you can really start move that air around your house. this doesn’t mean you’ll never have to use your air conditioner again (unless you live near the beach), but it will help you limit the use of your a/c unit. as i mentioned earlier, every little bit helps.

5. seal those ducts. if your ductwork is in the attic or in the crawlspace under your house, have them professionally sealed and tested for leaks. the ductwork is moving that cool air through the house and you don’t want it leaking into the attic or in the crawlspace (or anywhere else for that matter).

6. eat lots of otter pops. a nice frozen treat that will help you feel cool on hot summer days,  http://www.otterpopstars.com/