This is the last blog post on my experience with my home energy monitor. Just to remind everyone, I got the monitor at the begining of this past summer. It works by collecting interval data from two CTs that I clipped around the main power cables in my distribution panel. The data is sent via a wireless connection to the display unit in my house. I also have a web bridge that transmits the data to Google's servers so I can analyze and view the data using Google PowerMeter. I do
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, my utility offers free home energy audits, which I signed up for. The audit took place this past week. The auditor spent about an hour in my house and went from the basement to the attic. He did only visual inspections, aided by a thermal camera. Keep in mind that my house is about 15 years old and my appliances are even newer - 5-10 years old. Not surprisingly, here's what the auditor recommended:
- Add insulation to my hot water heater and the hot water pipes
- Change my furnace filters more often
- Redo the weather stripping around my doors
- Add outlet and switch gaskets on exterior walls
- Add more insulation in the attic
- Replace window coverings with insulating shades
These are all good suggestions and I'll get on it right away, but since I use natural gas for space heating and hot water, these measures will have no impact on reducing my electricity consumption - which is what my device has been monitoring. I talked to the auditor about my electricity consumption as well. I've already replaced a fair number of the incandescent light bulbs in my house with CFLs and will continue to do so as the old ones burn out. And I have a fairly high number of "vampire loads" in my house - consumer electronics that draw power even when I'm not using them. It would be a good idea to put in some power strips so I can turn them off more conveniently.
So what have I learned? Here are just a few relevant observations:
- The in-home display unit was pretty useless - I stopped looking at it after the first week
- Google PowerMeter was more useful but still offered limited analysis options and not enough explanation of results
- Whole-house monitoring didn't give me any insight into the different types of usage within my house
- The most useful and and actionable information I got was my "always on" usage
- Without a way to monitor and analyze my gas usage the value was still pretty limited
- Even if I had a smart meter and was on a time of use rate, I can't honestly say that I'd be motivated to change my energy usage patterns - the trade off between convenience and cost savings isn't big enough
- My family is clearly not willing to sacrifice comfort for energy savings - I'm continually chastised for keeping the thermostat too high in the summer and too low in the winter
For me, what this all boils down to is that, first and foremost, my energy costs are pretty low. If I was paying triple my current rate I'd be much more motivated to pay attention. I'll take the energy efficiency steps I mentioned above because they will save me a little bit of money, will reduce my carbon footprint and because I'm an energy geek. Second, although I haven't been able to test this, if my utility offered a technology-enabled demand response program that I could "set and forget", would save me money, and would have little or no detrimental impact on my family's comfort then I would probably sign up.
I hope the utilities and home energy management technology vendors are listening...