One Step Closer to Solar Electric Panels

Solar Pathfinder Reading of Our RoofThe good folks at SIREN gave a stirring presentation last month about how now is the time to switch to solar electricity.  Panel prices have fallen significantly due to the recession, electricity prices look poised to raise (at least here in Indiana where Duke Energy is spending several billion dollars to construct a coal gasification plant in Edwardsport and pass costs on to customers), and there’s a brisk market for renewable energy credits.  We had already caught the fever a bit and the talk just convinced us it was time to get an actual site assessment and cost estimate.

We’re working with Alex Jarvis of Solar Systems of Indiana, a quirky guy who knows a heck of a lot about solar.  He came out to discuss some different options and to do a site reading of a few potential spots using his handy dandy Solar Pathfinder.  It’s a very simple little device that maps shade to determine if a particular spot has a good solar window.  The image above is from the middle of our roof, which has a very good solar window of about 85% between the key sunshine hours of 9:00AM and 3:00PM – solar time.  (See rant on Daylight Savings Time below.)

pole-mounted-solarHe also measured a few other spots in our yard so we could think about doing a pole-mounted solar panel.  You could argue that the pole-mounted systems are a little on the ugly side but they are very practical in terms of maintenance – no climbing on the roof, no trying to patch the roof under the solar panels – and they are great for houses that have a shaded roof but sunny yard.  We are leaning in that direction simply because our roof is 20 years old and will need to be replaced well before the solar panels.  Alex actually has his panel (shown at right) configured so he can move it around during the day to maximize its exposure to direct sunlight and therefore maximize electrical generation.  He is the first to admit that is way too hardcore for most people but he is a tinkerer and enjoys fiddling.  Most people just retilt their panels twice a year at each solstice.  At the spring solstice, the panel is tilted closer to horizontal since the sun is higher in the sky during the summer.  At the fall solstice, the panel is tilted more vertical since the sun is low in the sky during the winter.

After that is the decision of what kind of solar panels and inverters to get, which I must confess is mostly Greek to me but Will is drooling a bit at the thought of enphase microinverters that broadcast all kinds of exciting data for him to analyze with a fine-toothed comb.  We’re looking at getting six modules that are each rated somewhere around 240 watts, giving us a system that is around 1.44 kilowatts.  Here in southern Indiana, we average about 4.7 hours of direct sunlight per day once you factor in cloudy days and the fact that our days are significantly longer in the summer but shorter in the winter.  In a perfect world, our solar panels would produce 6.8 kw-hr per day (1.44 kw x 4.7 hours) or 2,470 kw-hr per year.  However, there are some losses that we have to take into account with our lovely fudge factor friend, the derate factor.   The derate factor has several components:

  • Shade on our system.  Our solar window is about 85% open, 15% shade.
  • Losses from the inverter, connections, and wiring
  • Losses from dirty solar panels (we’re going to assume we can keep ours clean – with a hose if needed)
  • Losses from improper angling (again, we’re in good shape with a pole-mounted system that can be tilted at least twice a year)

In the end, we figure our derate factor is about 0.8 (meaning we lose about 20% of the ideal production level), which reduces our expected output to about 5.4 kw-hr per day or 1,970 kw-hr/year.  That should still just about cover our needs and in our area it’s not worth overproducing since the electric company will just keep rolling over our credits until we move.  If you’d like to try this game at home, check out the PV Watts calculator developed by the National Renewable Energy Lab.  Soon we should have some prices to go along with our power estimates but for now we’re excited about the possibilities and also trying to brainstorm how we might landscape our yard to make the solar panels blend in a bit.  Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Daylight Savings Time Rant:  Indiana only recently adopted Daylight Savings Time while staying in the Eastern Time Zone, and I am not a fan.  Today the sunrise was at 6:30AM and sunset at 9:15PM, which means our solar noon is really about 1:50PM and our key sunshine hours are 10:50 to 4:50.  It also means that the fireflies don’t come out until 10:00 and it’s awfully hard to schedule fireworks, bonfires, or drive-in movies that children (or I) can stay awake for.  I liked it better when we were in straight-up Eastern Standard Time and never had to worry about changing our clocks.

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Solar Chargers

A Soleo solar charger left of a smaller and cheaper off-brandEven with our reduced electrical usage, installing enough solar panels to meet our average needs just isn’t cost-effective for us yet. Photovoltaic (PV) prices have dropped a lot in recent years so even though we can’t afford a big system, there are a couple of cheaper options for trying out solar energy on a small scale.

Before our first big train trip last year, I bought a small (and cheap!) solar charger for my cell phone. It’s about the size of a box of cards and has two suction cups so that it can be placed directly onto a window. Despite costing less than $30, the solar panel has a battery behind it so that you can charge the battery first and then hook up your phone later. That turns out to be a really good thing because it takes over a week to charge fully!

Something that I didn’t realize before getting this solar charger is that most solar panels require direct sunlight. When I put the charger on a south-facing window, it didn’t charge at all, despite getting indirect sunlight for most of the day. I had to place it on our east-facing window, where it got 1-2 hours of direct morning sunlight, for it to charge.

More recently, we won a much nicer (and more expensive–$90 or so) Soleo charger as part of the SIREN Energy Challenge. This solar charger has a built-in battery with three panels attached, each a bit larger than the first charger I got. When it’s open, the charger looks a bit like a tilted flower, with solar panels for petals (you put a pencil, included, through the center to keep it upright). The advantage of this charger is that you can rotate it so that it gets direct sunlight throughout the day. The drawback is that you do have to rotate it. This one only takes 2-3 sunny days to charge (or a little less than a week if you don’t rotate it) plus it has a larger battery (more capacity).

Both chargers have a bunch of adapters for changing a variety of cell phones. The Soleo also includes a USB adapter so that it can charge or run a USB-powered device. It can also be charged by USB if need be.

We have three different devices that we’ve tried with the charges: a normal cell phone, an iPhone, and an e-reader. Neither charger has a very accurate charge indicator, so it’s hard to know exactly how well they work, but the cheap charger would charge the cell phone fully and have some juice left over or charge the iPhone by half to three-quarters. It couldn’t charge the e-reader because it doesn’t have a USB adapter. The Soleo can charge the phone about five times from full or the iPhone once or twice. It can charge the e-reader about as well as it can charge the iPhone.

Are we saving any money? Not really. Cell phones, even power-hungry ones like the iPhone, and e-readers just don’t draw that much power. Over the course of a year, each phone probably uses less than a kWH each, so even if we charged all of them by solar, we’d be saving well less than a dollar a year. And, unfortunately, we can’t charge them by solar all of the time because they run out of power faster than the solar cells charge their batteries (especially during those cloudy winter days we’ve been having).

On the other hand, the chargers provide a lot of convenience under certain circumstances. On our latest trip, Maggie forgot her phone’s power cord but was able to charge it using the solar panel. I can also leave one of the solar chargers in my bag in case I need to use my phone more than normal. The cheaper one especially could be left in a car window to charge and you’d have it handy if you needed to quickly recharge a small electronic device.

The real issue is that most of the things we use draw a LOT of power compared to the amount of electricity a small solar panel can provide, even on a sunny day. If we were willing to keep our phones off more often or to use only small LEDs for lights, a small solar charger like these two would be enough to make a significant dent in our use. When compared to the amount of electricity a television or computer uses, the difference amounts to a rounding error.

I’d recommend getting a small solar panel to most people so that they can play with it, figure out the benefits and drawbacks of solar without a huge investment, and get a better sense of how much power a kilowatt-hour actually is!

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The 3 kWh Challenge

After a poor April (with no year-over-year change in our electrical consumption), we got a new refrigerator and reevaluated our strategy. Reducing our furnace use helped a lot in the winter, but we barely used the A/C last year, so that wasn’t going to improve this year.

Thanks to the refrigerator, May was a good month. We were able to reduce our consumption by 50%! That brought our total usage for May to 121 kWh, which is a little over 4 kWh a day. Given that, I talked Maggie into trying to reduce our usage to less than 3 kWh a day in June. For comparison, leaving two incandescent bulbs on would use up the allotment for that day.

So June is over; how did we do? From June 1st to July 3rd, we used 79.9 kWh or a little under 2.5 kWh a day! Here’s how we did it.

No A/C – A/C isn’t as energy intensive as heating, at least in part because the temperature difference isn’t as high, but it still uses a lot of power. Running a typical central air system for half an hour can use over 1 kWh. Instead, we used blinds to reduce solar gain, opened windows when it was cool and closed them when it was hot, used the ceiling fan and window fans, and, on one particularly hot afternoon, took refuge in an air-conditioned movie theater.

No hot water – the majority of residential energy use is cooling and heating, including water heating. My best estimate is that our 40-gallon water heater uses 300 Wh (0.3 kWh) a day. We got a solar camp shower and we’ve also taken some cold showers. As a bonus, we cut our water use significantly since you don’t dawdle in a cold shower!

No clothes dryer – Our clothes dryer runs about 2 kWh per load! Now that it’s summer, we’ve avoided using it entirely and line dry everything. It takes more planning, especially since we had so many thunderstorms in June, but that’s quite the energy savings!

Reduced computer use – I have a small netbook that uses less than half of the electricity of my normal laptop. I was able to get even better numbers by using Windows’ power settings to dim the screen and slow the processor. I also made sure to take my charger with me when I worked outside the house. That doesn’t decrease my overall electrical use, but partly offsets the fact that I work from home.

Sharing space – In the evening, Maggie and I make sure we spend most of our time in the same room. That means we’re only running one fan and one set of lights. It’s not a big savings, but it’s also pretty easy to do.

We won’t be able to sustain it into the winter, and some of it is extreme enough that we might not be able to sustain it for more than a month or two. I think we’ll be able to keep it under 3 kWh for July and maybe August, but when it gets cold again, we’ll have to turn on the furnace. We also won’t be able to stop using the dryer entirely at that point. Still, for now, we’re feeling pretty good!

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Energy Star Appliances Rock!

our refrigeratorThis whole SIREN Energy Challenge has made us even more conscious of how much electricity we use and Will has become obsessed with switching off lights, unplugging appliances, and spending his free time trying to uncover the source of unaccounted energy use every month.  We thought we had made some major progress with our new water heater and our conservation efforts and were initially proud of our first quarter results – 11% less electrical use than last year.  Then we found out that the winning household cut their energy use by 35% for the quarter!

How did they do it?  They made a lot of little changes that we’ve also done like adding attic insulation, installing a programmable thermostat to lower their heat at night, caulking windows, and replacing light bulbs with CFLs.  However, they also made two big appliance changes.  First of all, they unplugged an underutilized chest freezer, determining that they didn’t need the space.  Secondly, they replaced their 1986 refrigerator with a new Energy Star model.

We don’t have a chest freezer but we immediately became suspicious of our refrigerator and got out the Kill-a-watt meter, which confirmed our fears.  The old fridge was using 2.6 kWhr/day, which was a big chunk of our daily usage.

Our “Carbon Free Home” book suggested insulating the fridge to try and increase its efficiency so we got some foam insulating board from the home improvement store and stuck it on with double-sided carpet tape.  (For those aesthetic types, they suggest building a wooden insulated box around the sides of the fridge and adding shag carpeting on the front for a little extra oomph.)  It seemed to help at first but then the electrical usage went back up, possibly because our house suddenly warmed up with the weather.  (We survived with the thermostat at 62 all winter long but in May 62 degrees started feeling really cold!)

I suggested that we look into getting a new fridge so Will started doing research and we figured an Energy Star fridge would be at least 50% more efficient, which seemed significant.  We shopped around a bit and although theoretically there are SUPER efficient fridges out there, we bought one that is simply VERY efficient from our local box star.

The results so far?  The new fridge uses less than 0.7 kWh/day, which is about one quarter of what the old fridge used.  Did you catch that?  It uses SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT LESS ELECTRICITY!  We’re thrilled and feel like it was totally a good purchase, even though a payback time of 8 years still seems like a lot.

Of course, replacing the refrigerator was relatively painless (at least in terms of our day-to-day lifestyle).  We decided to push on into the lifestyle change category in the quest of fame, fortune, and fabulous eco-prizes.  Tune in next week as Will regales the world with tales of turning off our air conditioning, our water heater, and our clothes dryer in the quest of using less than 3 kWh/day….

Energy Tracking Note:

kWh/day = kilowatt-hour per day which is calculated by multiplying the wattage that a device uses by the number of hours it runs in a day and dividing by a thousand.  Here’s a link to a nice post about estimating appliance energy use provided by our federal government.  For real world testing, you can use a Kill-A-Watt device on anything that plugs into a normal outlet (so it doesn’t work for most clothes dryers and water heaters).

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Using Energy for Good

Seed Starting ShelvesSo we signed up for the SIREN Energy Challenge and have been trying to figure out where we use electricity and how we can cut back, which means Will is running around using his Killowatt on everything.  At the same time, I am planning my garden for spring and also thinking about how we will take advantage of the summer bounty.  My dad helped me set up a seed starting system with three shelves of fluorescent lights and I’m trying to talk Will into getting a chest freezer so we can store the summer’s vegetables but all he can think about is the increased electrical consumption.

It’s a tough balance!  We have managed to cut down on our natural gas consumption this winter despite unusually low temperatures.  I hope it’s from our vigilant caulking or perhaps our installation of a homemade insulating curtain over the window by our bed.  Still, our electrical use seems relatively high even after replacing our water heater (which we thought was wasting a lot of electricity).  The two main suspects right now are our refrigerator and our laptops.  Laptops are more energy efficient than desktops but we both do use our computers quite a bit since we mostly work from home and we also use Will’s laptop for much of our TV and movie viewing.

I think we’re getting close to the point where we can’t cut much more energy use without major changes to our standard of living.  I also think that it’s reasonable to use electricity for food production and storage, since homegrown food has other benefits in the form of increased nutrition, lower grocery bills, higher assurance of organic quality, and reduced transportation of food.  Still, it’s always tough to evaluate all the pros and cons and I know for now much of my lobbying is based on the fact that I’m super excited about gardening.

Did you know it’s not too early to start planting seeds indoors, even though it’s freaking cold outside here in Indiana?  I am ready to plant onions, kale, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage so I have nice fat seedlings ready to transplant when the ground thaws in March.  (All those except Brussel sprouts are available through Nature’s Crossroads and I’m enjoying the employee discount on seeds very much.)  I suspect this will be another year when I bite off more gardening tasks than I can keep up with but I’m really hoping this will be the year that I feel like I mostly get it.  Of course, there’s always more to learn so I won’t be too upset if I face a few more garden disasters…

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SIREN call for energy conservation

SIREN Energy Showdown posterThe Southern Indiana Renewable Energy Network (SIREN) is a local group dedicated to increasing the amount of renewable energy used in the area. This is an especially important goal around here, since almost all of our power is currently produced by coal.

Maggie and I have gone to one or two meetings and found them very interesting. Their focus appears to be primarily solar energy, with several group members getting together to buy solar panels in bulk. Unfortunately, even then solar panels are expensive since Indiana doesn’t have any solar incentives. As near as we’ve been able to figure, our break-even period would be over 30 years, which makes it hard to justify.

Recently, however, SIREN has begun advertising the SIREN Energy Showdown. The goal of the contest is to get people to reduce the amount of electricity they use in 2010 as compared to 2009. Although you have to meet certain requirements to win prizes (owning a house in Monroe county, etc), anyone can sign up to play for fun. If you do qualify, you can sign up to win some cool prizes, including a 1kW solar system as the grand prize.

We’ve already signed up and are looking forward to tracking our electricity more carefully. I’ve started checking our daily usage instead of just our monthly usage and I’m using my Kill-o-Watt to figure out what our big energy hogs are. I don’t expect that we’ll win anything (we’ve already done most of the easy stuff), but I think we could still reduce our usage by 10%. Reducing our electrical usage by 10% could save us more than $60 a year. According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, it would also reduce our CO2 production by over half a ton!

Even if you can’t compete, I encourage you to sign up and see how much you can reduce your usage. Let me know if you do sign up and especially if you have any good energy-saving tips!

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Let There Be (Sun)Light!

Maggie with hole in ceilingWell, approximately one year after we purchased an ODL solar tube from the Home Depot, we have finally installed it in our kitchen!!  So far we love it and are even contemplating installing a second one, although Will’s a little concerned that it might reduce our energy efficiency a bit since it’s a little less insulative than an intact ceiling with a thick layer of insulation.

The installation was surprisingly easy with two exceptions:

1. Short attics with fiberglass insulation are not fun to work in.

2. There were two pieces of pipe and we managed to swap them, meaning we were almost done and then had to go back to the beginning so it would all fit.  Aargh!

The first step was to stand in the kitchen, think about where we wanted to put in the solar tube, and drill a hole in that spot through to the attic.  I threaded a coat hanger up through the hole and then took the dreaded step of crawling around in the attic looking for it.  (It is surprisingly easy to get disoriented in a small space filled with insulation.)  Once I found the coat hanger, I figured out where the true center point of the solar tube would go (centered between the roof joists) and drilled one nail down through the ceiling and one nail up through the roof.

Maggie caulksNext came the fun but mildly intimidating step of drilling a hole in the roof!  We rented a “Sawzall” reciprocating saw for the job since it didn’t seem like a piece of equipment we really needed to own.  I am mildly afraid of heights but I do love power tools so I had a good time cutting out a big chunk o’ roof.  Happily, the solar tube is designed in a way that the hole does not need to be perfectly circular (it wasn’t) since it comes with a rubber “boot” that fits over the hole, under the neighboring shingles.  Once we had the hole cut, we pried up the shingles around it, put some roof sealant on the rubber boot, and slid it into place.

Solar Tube PipeSomehow we didn’t get any pictures of us sliding the actual metal tube into place, probably because I kept blinding Will with it.  The solar tube is comprised of two very shiny metal tubes and a clear plastic dome.  Sun shines down on the dome and then bounces down through the tubes to our kitchen, where a frosted plastic light fixture lets the light shine through without blinding anyone.

We slid one pipe down from the roof and then attached the dome on top.  Then I headed down into the kitchen with a keyhole saw (not powered this time) to cut a hole in the ceiling.   (The picture at the top of the post is my very ragged hole before we put in the light fixture piece.) Once I was thoroughly covered with drywall plaster I headed back up into the attic to put in the final metal tube.  This was the part of the process that was very difficult, largely because there was not very much room in the attic.  I’ve never been super handy with tin snips (picture giant deadly scissors) but it was particularly challenging to cut the metal tubes to size while lying on my back across three attic rafters.  The idea is to have one tube coming down from the roof and one coming up from the ceiling with about an inch of overlap.  Alas, I realized that I had the tubes swapped and the one I was trying to fit neatly into the ceiling fixture just wasn’t going to work.

Maggie installs domeSo, back up to the roof to remove the dome, swap the tubes, then Will stayed on the roof while I went into the attic and it was much easier to get the tubes together.  He pulled the top tube up while I put the correct bottom tube into place in the ceiling fixture, and then he pushed the top tube down, helping me wrestle the two tubes together and then tape them with the shiny metal tape enclosed in our original kit.  Whew!  I totally used some muscles I didn’t know I had but I would willingly do it again and I know it would go faster the second time.

Will it lower our energy bills?  I hope so, although lighting for one room is not that huge of an electrical draw.  We’ve also entered that charming time of year called Daylight Savings so the solar tube really only helps out at lunch time.   (Oh, I miss the days when Indiana ignored Daylight Savings!)   Still, increasing daylight inside the house is one of the best uses of solar “energy” even if photvoltaics are more sexy.  Having a solar tube makes the kitchen feel a *LOT* brighter so we’re definitely calling it a success.  And it was a great weekend project for improving my confidence in making minor home repairs.

Check out the before and after pictures!  (They’re a bit overly dramatic but the solar tube really does make a big difference.)

Kitchen Before Solar Tube

Kitchen After ODL Solar Light Tube

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Laptop Power

Kill-A-WattIt’s been a crazy day. I was up at four this morning to take Maggie and our friend Lindsey to the airport for their separate flights to the same place (Portland). We had some very interesting conversations, including some talk about investing sustainably that I hope to talk about when I’m more conscious.

Instead, let’s talk about something that I can explain even while brain-dead: the Kill-A-Watt (it’s pretty cheap right now on Amazon). Maggie’s parents gave one to me for Christmas and I’ve played with it several times since.

It resets when you unplug it, so it can sometimes be inconvenient to read when, say, you have it plugged in behind the refrigerator. Nevertheless, it’s fun and enlightening to see how much electricity things around the house actually use. I generally think about everything in terms of how long I could power a CFL (or how many CFLs I could power) for the same amount.

My first sample was my laptop. The power supply can draw 120 Watts (about ten CFLs), so I always assumed that was about how much it drew. It turns out that I was way off. Even though it has a big screen and uses WiFi constantly, my laptop only draws about 35 Watts (three CFLs) while in use or about twice that when charging and being used. While in “sleep” mode, it uses somewhere between 0 and 1 Watts, which is amazing.

My netbook uses even less electricity, which goes some way towards explaining the battery life. Running the netbook draws 15 Watts, which is about the same as a CFL. So far, though, Maggie has vetoed my plan to replace all of our light fixtures with netbooks. From reading the specs, the CPU uses 2.5-3 Watts, so most of that power is going to the backlight (which you can turn off while leaving the screen on, although it’s totally unreadable). It just goes to show how efficient LEDs are.

We’re currently using the Kill-A-Watt to determine whether we should keep our current fridge or swap it for the old one that Maggie’s parents have. It’s plugged in and running at their place right now, but we’ve already gotten the results on our current model. It uses about 950 Watts (about 73 CFLs) while not running the cooling pump and even more when actively cooling. It used 28kW over a typical period of 382 hours (a little over two weeks). That averages out to about 1.75 kWh per day. That certainly makes it hard to hit my 3 kWh a day target but it’s slightly better than my 2 kWh per day estimate.

Unfortunately, we can’t use the Kill-A-Watt to measure some of our biggest energy users (the dryer and the water heater) because it won’t work on 220-volt outlets. I’m hopeful that eventually we’ll have measured all of the other important stuff so that we can just subtract them out and get better estimates for them as well.

Once we’re done with the refrigerator, my plan is to check my TV and stereo to see how much phantom power they actually draw. We have them on power strips because we’ve heard a lot about the waste of phantom power, but I don’t know how much of a concern it actually is.

What about you? Is there anything you’re interested in hearing about now that I have the means to measure energy consumption?

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Less costs more

After several weeks of suspense, we got our water bill in the mail today. Over the past 37 days, we used 67,000 gallons of water. It turned out to be much better than we’d feared: about 1/3 the cost of our worst-case scenario. Thank goodness we’re on a septic system right now. If not, we’d also have had to pay for “wastewater” management on all of that clean water as well.

Despite our water company’s claim that they’d send us a detailed bill, we just had our normal breakdown into services and usage. That makes it hard to analyze, but if the usage cost had scaled linearly, our cost would have been much higher. This leads us to believe that we got a discount for using more water. That is, the marginal cost (additional cost, for those who aren’t economists) of a thousand gallons is higher when you haven’t used any than when you’ve used, say, 66,000.

Our electrical company is the same way. Our first kWh of electricity cost 9 cents. Then there’s a block that costs 4 cents each. Everything above that is 5 cents per kWh. It’s very odd and not at all like other parts of the country.

The solar books that I read keep suggesting that they’re cost effective because they cut out the most expensive part of your bill. Unfortunately, in Indiana that’s just not true. The most expensive part of your bill is your first kWhs. If we bought just enough solar power to reduce our usage to the first tier of prices, we’d still be paying about $20 a month (with taxes, fees, etc.). That’s a little less than half of what we’re already paying!

This means that for solar power to be cost effective in IN, it has to be cheaper than 5 cents per kWh, because that’s the stuff that you’ll offset! That makes it even harder to justify a PV system around here.

Oh, well. For now, I’ll just thank my lucky stars that our water bill was as low as it was… and keep reducing our water and electrical use.

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Slaughtering an Energy Hog

Maggie looking at the safety lightYou know those little projects that you never seem to get around to?  Well, our new house came with a security light over the garage that stays on 24 hours a day.  Neither of us have ever really been into security lighting, especially the kind that illuminates the back deck, calls in flying insects from nearby counties, and shines brightly in through our windows.  There’s also the fact that it drains electricity 24 hours a day, which seems rather wasteful.  However, this light didn’t come with a light switch so we had trouble figuring out how to turn it off.

At first we thought we could just turn off its circuit breaker.  Unfortunately, it was installed on the same circuit breaker as the refrigerator, which is one of those energy hogs we aren’t quite ready to unplug.  (There are folks who have – check out Green as a Thistle or go straight to Little Blog in the Woods for the real dirt on living without a fridge.)  We tried tracing the wiring down from the light but it disappears under the deck in a corner with no access.

Then Will had an inspiration – just take out the bulb!  My dad suggested a BB gun but we thought we’d be a little classier and actually unscrew the bulb.  I ended up doing the dirty deed since it was an awkward squirm from the ladder to the roof and we figured it would be easier for Will to catch me than to try it the other way around.  No big deal except that I’m really scared of heights.  Happily, it wasn’t too bad except that the bulb was really hot so even with gloves I had to take breaks between rounds of twisting.

The lightbulb from our safety light nestled in a bowlWe checked our electric meter after turning the circuit breaker back on and it appears to be spinning at a much slower rate.  Woo hoo!  Victory!  We’re not sure exactly what wattage the bulb was but based on some other on-line security light figures it could easily be as high as 200 Watts.  With 24-hour usage, that adds up to 6 kWh per day, almost as much as we used in our old apartment in July.  Craziness.  Of course, it will be awhile before we see any significant savings in our energy bill but just knowing it’s gone will help us both sleep a little better at night.

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