At present a number of online conservation energy guides are available by energy companies, such as local provider Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco) or through the federal government, such as U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Saver.
These guidelines don't cover the real first step in understanding your apartment or home energy bill with respect to basic cost savings options. A true first step is to analyze and compute your monthly energy costs, whether in kilowatt-hours and/or therms.
While time-consuming, this kind of do-it-yourself (DIY) home energy assessment empowers home-owners to take control of high energy hot spots before serious problems occur. It's also a self-instructive energy balance exercise.
Firstly, looking for energy information on appliances, one learns to locate such information. Secondly, by examining, even cleaning dusty appliance labels, one inadvertently checks up on the appliance's condition. Thirdly, studying energy guide labels, one can compare with the latest in energy saving appliances. Finally fourthly, having the procedure down of creating an energy assessment report, you can repeat it whenever or however many times it's necessary.
Here's how to do it in 10 steps or less (Refer to the slide show):
1. Want to really keep track of daily energy consumption? Record your kilowatt usage on a daily basis by reading the electrical meter. By keeping track of daily patterns you may decide to restrict usages to lower cost periods (eg. midnight to 6am) if such is available (eg. Southern California Edison and TXU Energy have started offering different price tiers per time frame).
2. With the majority of residential appliances being electrical, start with an electrical assessment. A thorough record would include light bulbs, such as 60 watt standard versus 14 watt compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). Estimate the total watt-hours of consumption and divide by a thousand to get kilowatt-hours. Multiply by the cost per kilowatt hours charged by your local company.
1660 watt-hours/1000 watt/kilowatt=> 1.66 kilowatt ($.12/kwhr)(30day/m)=>$6 month
For estimating other electrical appliances (such as refrigerator, space heater, fans, entertainment, freezers, etc), there is a useful guide published by Madison Gas and Electric under MGE brochures called "Appliance Energy Costs." (Note: you may need to apply a ratio to adjust between the label's stated use versus real use, for instance, if you don't use the dishwasher more than once a week).
3. Computers, such as laptops, have a limited rating based upon their adapters. Look for the Wattage on the labels in back of vacuum cleaners, radios, fans, and other appliances. Small appliances will probably not add up to more than 25% of the total.
4. The other way to find information is online when energy guide labels are not available. Enter the appliance type and model and conduct a specifications search at appliance stores such as Sears.com or at the manufacturer website.
5. Create a table using a simple spreadsheet such as Excel. A snippet from my spreadsheet display gives you an idea of how to arrange the quantities for your home estimate.
6. Compare your resulting expenses with "Find Energy Star Products" at Energy Star.gov. For instance, if you decide after the DIY home energy audit that it's time for a new refrigerator, there is even an energy savings calculator for a selection of different sizes and models.
7. Big ticket items include furnace (with or without electrical heat pump), HVAC fan (electrical), and water heater (gas or electric) will take a bit more time to work out. If you have a natural gas piping system installed to various appliances in the home, a separate row of calculations can be included in the spreadsheet to estimate the monthly therms for gas expense.
8. For instance, water heaters generally operate about three hours per day. If the tank is sized properly, that period will probably suffice for a base monthly cost.
Here's an estimate for how it works out electrically for a 66 gallon water heater:
(4400 Watt tank)(3 hrs/day)(KW/1000 Watt)(365 days/yr)($.12/KWh)= $578 per year; dividing by efficiency rating of .90; $578/.90=$642/year or about $54/month*
For the same sized gas water heater base the estimate on the British thermal unit (BTU) input on the label:
(35,000 Btu input)(3 hrs/day)(therm/100,000 Btu)= approx. 1 therm/day
(1 therm/day)(30days per month)($1.00/therm)=>$30/month=> $360/year*
9. According to TXU Energy and others, up to 50% of the energy costs for residences is spent on heating, cooling, and ventilation. This is why installing thermostats, and Dual Fuel Heating Systems (heat pump alternating with furnace) can help reduce costs.
For cooling, assume that your HVAC fan and electric heat pump are operating 50/50 equal time; so the estimate might be 6 hours fan, and 6 hours heat pump:
For the fan an estimate of energy cost:
(400 Watt/.80 eff)(6 hours/day)(30days/mth)(KW/1000Watt)($.12/kw-hour)=$11/month
For the heat pump an estimate of summer cost is dependent upon thermostat settings, ideal temperature settings from the owner's manual, and methods of computing. Here the rated kilowatts was used:
(4000Watt)(6 hr/day)(30day/month)(KW/1000Watt)($. ($.12/kw-hour)= $86/month
10. Conversely during the winter, the estimate of heat pump cost may depend more upon Btu's converted:
(40,000 BTU/hr)(6 hr/day)(KWH/3418BTU)(1/2.0 efficiency)($.12/kw-hr)= $4.2/day or about $126/month
Don't forget furnace costs, probably the biggest percent of the utility bill:
(100,000 BTU input)(4 hr/day)(1/.80 efficient)(therm/100,000BTU)($1/therm)= $5/day or about $150/month
Although only approximate, preparing your own energy expense audit definitely fosters a sense for relative costs and ultimately conservation. Potomac Electric Power Company also has conservation tips which include using overhead ceiling fans, encouraging natural airflow, checking the quality of insulation around doors and windows, and performing routine maintenance on furnaces and air ducts.
There are so many different appliances being developed that estimating whether by theorists or hobbyists can be a never-ending back-burner project. However whether you are refurbishing a house or contemplating a new lease it's helpful to be able to know how to open-mindedly compare different types of energy cost-savings.
Some Select Sources:
Alissa, "How Much Should You Budget for Utilities?", My First Apartment, 03/30/2010, < http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2010/03/how-much-should-you-budget-for-utilities/>.
Duke Energy, "Gas FAQs," Duke-energy.com, 08/24/2013, <http://www.duke-energy.com/ohio/savings/gas-usage-faq.asp>.
Lane Electric Cooperative, "Bill-Estimator," Lane Electric, 08/24/2013, <http://www.laneelectric.com/tools/bill-estimator/>.
Laura Cowan and Emilie Sennebogen, "How Heat Pumps Work," How Stuff Works, 08/24/2013, <http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/heating-and-cooling/heat-pump.htm>.
Madison Gas and Electric Company, " Brochures - Saving Energy," MGE.com, 01/11/2013, <http://www.mge.com/customer-service/publications/brochures.htm?cat=se>.
People's Gas Natural Gas Delivery, "Natural Gas Appliance Calculator," Peoplesgasdelivery.com, 08/24/2013, <http://www.peoplesgasdelivery.com/home/gas_calculator.aspx>.
Potomac Electric Power Company, "Powerchoice Conservation Tips," Pepco.com, 08/24/2013, <http://www.pepco.com/energy/conservation/tips/>.
Spectrum Research, Inc. "Electricity Usage Calculator", Electric-Usage.com, 08/24/2013, <http://www.electricity-usage.com/Electricity-Usage-Calculator.aspx>.
TXU Energy, "Managing Energy Costs in Apartment Buildings," TXU.com, 08/24/2013, <www.txu.com/en/Business/esource-biz/facility-efficiency-advice/apartment-building-overview.aspx>.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Find Energy Star Products," Energy Star, 08/24/2013, <https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_find_es_products>.