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Eastern Oregon a Challenging Place For Energy Conservation

By Solar Ambassador Jack Simons

Eastern Oregon has its own unique beauty but it can be a challenge to save electric energy or reduce your power bill every year. Here in Pendleton we frequently face extreme temperature differences during the year which can have profound effects on our energy bill. Typical temperature ranges occur between single-digit lows to 100 plus degree highs, thus if you are totally dependent on electricity to supply your energy needs (as we are), the bill that comes at the end of the month can make you grimace.

My name is Jack Simons and I am a Solar Ambassador for Solar Oregon here in Pendleton. My wife and I live with our two dogs in a 1,300 sq ft manufactured home built in 1976. Our house is all-electric with no air conditioning and has an ancient radiant space heater embedded in the drywall ceiling for winter heating. Each room has its own thermostat to control indoor temperature during the winter. The house is fully insulated and has double pane windows. And, we’re proud to say, that we now have a 2.4 kW solar panel system that was installed in mid-December, 2010 by LiveLight Energy that truly does lower our electric bill during the year.

Last spring Claire Carlson, Executive Director of Solar Oregon, asked me if I would be interested in producing an “energy pie” that documented energy use in our home. As a Solar Ambassador I thought this would be an interesting project and volunteered to contribute what I could.

At the time I was in the middle of developing an Excel spreadsheet program to track our solar energy use, so the timing with Claire’s request looked good. Our power company, Pacific Power, provides us with historical energy data on the back of our monthly bill so the only thing I needed to get started was a way to measure the amount of power consumed by some of our 110v appliances such as clothes washer, TV, refrigerator, freezer, etc.

Claire put me in touch with Doug Boleyn, P.E., and Commercial Solar Program Manager at Energy Trust of Oregon, who shared some suggestions on how to make our energy pie. To measure how much energy our appliances were using, Doug suggested I purchase a Kill A Watt meter. I found what I needed at Amazon (P4460 Kill A Watt EZ) for about $30. Doug also provided valuable assistance and input on factoring in our heating costs given the heating system we had in place.

I shared my energy pie with Claire in mid-January of this year and she suggested I share the information with other Solar Oregon members. Thus, I’ve put together our energy pie to share with you. However, by no means should anyone construe this as a scientific investigation, because it is not. The data does show trends over time which I think are both informative and important.

Simons Energy Pie

The results documented and compared the over-all energy consumption at our home for three consecutive years ¾ in 2009, 2010 and 2011. By a fortuitous coincidence, something noteworthy happened in all three years that made for an intriguing comparison between years. What were the noteworthy items?

·      In 2009, my wife had a craft business and used a portable, oil-filled space heater to heat a craftroom (~10 x 15 sq. ft.) for ~4 months of the year;

·      In 2010, my wife “pulled the plug” on her craft business, closed the craftroom, and turned off the oil-filled electric heater; plus we did some modest insulating/energy conservation measures around the house;

·      In 2011, our solar panels were up and running for the first time plus we continued to upgrade our insulation/energy conservation measures around the house (thanks in part to the many helpful tips in the book, “Cut Your Energy Bills Now” which is available from Energy Trust of Oregon.)

Using data from the back of our electric power bills, I generated tables and charts that showed certain trends between the years 2009, 2010 and 2011, including: a reduction in the number of kWh purchased from Pacific Power; a reduction in the average number of kWh used per day; and, a reduction of our energy costs per day. The only thing I could think of that might influence these three areas so significantly was 1) heating the craftroom with the oil-filled space heater in 2009; 2) not heating the craftroom with the oil-filled space heater in 2010; and, 3) having the solar panels generate electricity for all of 2011 (see tables/charts).

Our solar panels had a definite effect on power consumption. In 2011 our panels produced 2,714 kWh which reduced our electric bill by $284.97. Remarkably, the amount of electricity produced from solar energy was enough to reduce our over-all electric bill by 24%. This amount may not seem like a lot but when you realize that the TSRF efficiency rating for our system was only 83% (our panels face due west on a low sloping shed roof – not exactly optimum) we still exceeded the “estimated annual production” of 2,519 kWh that was forecast at the time of installation. So, I think we did pretty well our first year.


Energy Consumption of Typical 110v Appliances

and Their Costs in Pendleton, Oregon

 

Electric Cost by Appliance @ .105 cents/kWh*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kWh per Year

Cost Per Year

Cost Per Month

Cost Per Week

Cost Per Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

TV, DVD, Cable box

771

$ 80.96

$ 6.65

$ 1.55

$ 0.22

Refrigerator

566

$ 59.43

$ 4.91

$ 1.14

$ 0.16

Freezer

604

$ 63.42

$ 5.21

$ 1.21

$ 0.17

Portable oil-filled space heater

3,724

$ 391.02

$ 32.20

$ 7.51

$ 1.07

Washing machine

131

$ 13.76

$ 1.13

$ .07

$ 0.03

Totals

5,796

$ 608.58

$ 50.10

$ 11.48

$ 1.65

 

 

 

 

 

 

 










In January, 2012 we used a Kill A Watt meter to estimate how much energy certain 110v household appliances would con­sume on a daily/weekly/monthly/ yearly bases (see table above). I was surprised at two things: first, how much energy heating the extra craftroom with an electric space heater would consume – Yikes! And, second, how little energy some of our other appliances were consuming. For instance, our 4 year old refrigerator uses less electricity annually than our 13 year old freezer even though the freezer is opened only two or three times per week. The true energy hog though is heating the extra space with a portable electric space heater at a whopping $391 annually.

Lastly, I decided to plot the relationship between energy use and average daily temperature (see the chart titled, “kWh Purchased per Month Vs. Average Daily Temp/Month, 2010.”) As you might expect, the chart shows how energy use is inversely related to temperature, i.e., when the temperature drops in the winter months your energy consumption increases (and is just the opposite in the summer when the temperature increases, assuming you don’t run your air conditioner all the time.)

The challenge to reduce our electric energy footprint here in eastern Oregon will certainly not diminish in the near future. However, adding solar panels in conjunction with energy conservation has given us a new tool to reduce consumption. Hopefully, sharing our energy pie will inspire others to seek ways to lower their energy consumption too. Though individual results may vary, the trends I’ve documented here would likely have broad application across the state and not just in eastern Oregon.

Good Luck!

 

Total kWH Purchased From Pacific Power

Year

2009

2010

2011

 

 

 

 

Jan

3160

2631

1967

Feb

2764

1550

1348

Mar

2361

1503

1347

Apr

1786

1774

854

May

1030

763

507

Jun

758

611

339

Jul

569

548

105

Aug

700

689

103

Sep

553

675

189

Oct

746

508

394

Nov

1468

948

789

Dec

2481

1767

1792

Annual kWh Purchased

18,376

13,967

9,734

Monthly kWh Average

1,531

1,164

811

Annual Cost

$1,929

$1,467

$1,022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total kWh purchased

 

 

 

Avg. kWH per Day

From Pacific Power

Year

2009

2010

2011

Jan

99

77

58

Feb

95

55

48

Mar

81

52

41

Apr

56

54

29

May

37

26

18

Jun

25

21

11

Jul

19

18

3

Aug

21

21

4

Sep

20

21

6

Oct

24

18

12

Nov

49

33

27

Dec

80

57

53

Monthly Ave.

50.5

37.75

25.83

 

 Average kWh per day

 

 

Cost per Day

From Pacific Power

Year

2009

2010

2011

Jan

$ 8.69

$ 6.84

$ 5.60

Feb

$ 8.63

$ 4.99

$ 4.97

Mar

$ 7.36

$ 4.76

$ 4.09

Apr

$ 4.97

$ 4.97

$ 2.93

May

$ 3.24

$ 2.44

$ 1.94

Jun

$ 2.23

$ 1.98

$ 1.28

Jul

$ 1.71

$ 1.72

$ 0.60

Aug

$ 1.87

$ 1.91

$ 0.68

Sep

$ 1.79

$ 1.94

$ 0.89

Oct

$ 2.11

$ 1.73

$ 1.40

Nov

$ 4.26

$ 2.95

$ 2.78

Dec

$ 7.07

$ 5.25

$ 5.51

Avg. Cost/Day

$ 4.49

$ 3.46

$ 2.72

 

Cost per Day

 

 

 

Month

kWH Purchased From Pacific Power in 2010

Avg. Daily Temp in 2010

Jan

2631

33

Feb

1550

42

Mar

1503

43

Apr

1774

45

May

763

51

Jun

611

57

Jul

548

65

Aug

689

73

Sep

675

67

Oct

508

62

Nov

948

48

Dec

1767

33

 

kWh purchased vs Avg Daily Temp

 

 

 

 

 

















 

 

 
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