Tag Archives: energy savings

Low-Wattage Lifestyle; Giving Up Power

Battery Powered Refridge/Freeze

Here’s a simple truth about electrical power: If you don’t have it, you won’t use it. Most Americans never grapple with this. Queue up “Revolution” on the 60-inch plasma, punch the remote, and cheap, abundant power flows out of the wall.

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“A typical home draws about 30 kilowatt-hours a day,” Mr. Crea said, whereas a typical off-the-grid house may try to get by on 4 to 10 kilowatt-hours. Yet even for people devoted to sustainable living, he added, “the idea is always to find larger or greater amounts of power to sustain the kinds of living that people are accustomed to.”

For Friday at the energy fair, Mr. Crea said, “what I’ve done in my talk is to look at it from the other end”: how much power does a person need (that is, really need) to experience a good quality of life?

Mr. Crea’s four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home sits on 57 acres at the top of a hill. That’s a lot of house for a single guy. “I think it’s pretty,” he said. “Other people say it looks like the Bates Motel.”

Yet the house’s photovoltaic panel is just 2 by 3 feet: about a third the size of the front door. On a sunny day, it produces half a kilowatt-hour, enough to power a well pump, a TV, a microwave and the stereo.

Being a tinkerer, though, Mr. Crea decided to wire the tiny amp inside a set of computer speakers to drive his full-size hi-fi speakers. Now he plays music off four AA rechargeable batteries. (“Home Depot, off the shelf,” he said.)

It’s usually the refrigerator that really guzzles the juice: perhaps a kilowatt-hour a day, he said. But companies like Sun Frost and SunDanzer manufacture tiny, highly insulated boxes that run on perhaps a quarter or an eighth of the usual power.

“The majority of Americans would turn their heads when they see these things,” Mr. Crea said. Still, “you can put your beer and your lunch meat in there.”

Read More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/garden/solar-power-to-the-people.html?pagewanted=3&_r=0&ref=realestate

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Skylights – Free Lighting

sky

Buildings that let in more light work better for the people inside. Studies in schools retrofitted with large skylights have proved the benefits. Where extra sources are added, light bills go down, as expected, and test scores go up — as much as 25 percent. Even in classrooms with the same amount of light, the ones with natural sources dramatically outscore the ones with bulbs.

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Over 20 years, several studies have tracked other benefits like reduced absenteeism and fewer behavior problems that may not apply around the house. But there’s no question that most people feel better and are more productive under natural light. There are two ways to bring it through the roof: skylights and light tubes.

Skylights

Skylights are a great option if you have a vaulted ceiling. The latest models are solar powered so you don’t have to rip into walls and ceilings to install wiring for motorized operation. There are screens, of course, also built in shades to filter direct sunlight in summer, and rain sensors that close the unit to prevent leaks even if you’re not home.

The problem with skylights is that most houses don’t have vaulted ceilings. They have attics. If yours is full-height finished living space skylights are fine — and less expensive and easier to install than dormers with windows. But if it’s a storage attic or crawl space with a maze of low-slope trusses, skylights present problems.

To bring light from the roof, through the attic, and into living spaces below you need to build a light well— a basic box connecting the roof to the finished ceiling. That requires a lot of framing, then drywalling, taping, sanding and painting. And if the attic isn’t heated the walls of the well have to be insulated because they’re an extension of conditioned living areas. In attics with conventional rafters you can slope the walls of the well to create a larger opening in the ceiling and let in more light. With trusses (the way most roofs are framed now), you’re limited by the maze of framing typically set 24 inches on center.

Read more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/home/sc-home-0401-diy-natural-light-20130518,0,5831236.story

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Whos Backyard is Next? With San Diego Power Plant Shut, SDG&E Turns To Fossil Fuel

natural gas power plant

natural gas power plant

With San Diego’s nuclear plant shut for good, utility officials are reviving a proposal for a major new natural gas power plant in an industrial zone south of San Diego.

Plans for the Pio Pico Energy Center, adjacent to an existing power plant in unincorporated Otay Mesa, were rejected in March by the California Public Utilities Commission, saying there was no need for the facility until at least 2018. But the door was left open for a repeat application.

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San Diego Gas & Electric President Mike Niggli said circumstances have changed with the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant.

“I think what we see now is the opportunity to take a facility that has been through the entire process of having a competitive bid, the lowest cost facility for our customers, and have that come on as a good solid supply,” Niggli said.

Under the previous application, the Pio Pico project would cost utility customers more than $1 billion under a 20 year contract. Exact terms were not made public under rules designed to protect competitive bidding.

The power plant application kicks off efforts to redraw the Southern California energy grid without San Onfore’s twin reactors, which generated enough energy to power 1.4 million homes. Advocates for alternatives to fossil fuels vowed to challenge the proposal, saying it would cut short efforts to meet energy needs though through conservation, rooftop solar and energy efficiency and other clean technologies.

Under California law, those resources are given priority over the development of fossil fuel plants in an effort to reduce air pollution and forestall climate change.

SDG&E officials have argued that Pio Pico and other quick-start natural gas plants will be needed to offset more solar and wind energy generation that varies with the weather. Utilities are required to generate one-third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The state announced Monday that it is moving forward with new energy storage requirements that can help even out the availability of power generated by wind, solar and other renewable sources.

California’s main grid operator is forecasting adequate energy supplies for this summer, but also is actively preparing consumers to conserve energy on short notice in the event of extreme hot weather or the failure of power plants and transmission lines or both.

Read more at: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/jun/11/natural-gas-plant-revival/all/?print

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