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Publication Title | EVERY WATT NOT USED IS A WATT THAT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PRODUCED, PROCESSED, OR STORED.

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The Basics- Power Use

The Basics- Power Use Richard Perez

EVERY WATT NOT USED IS A WATT THAT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PRODUCED, PROCESSED, OR STORED.

Careful attention to the consumers of electric power, our appliances, really pays off in renewable energy systems. A rough rule of thumb for RE systems is that a dollar spent on an efficient appliance will save three dollars in system components. Not a bad deal. Efficient electric power

use also pays off in lower utility bills for grid connected folks and less pollution produced by the utilities. This section of The Basics provides the information required to evaluate your appliances and to how to use electricity more efficiently.

To do or to do without?

I am not writing this article to discourage you from using electricity, but to show you how to get the maximum use out of the power you do use. This is especially important in renewable energy systems. Every watt-hour of electrical power must be produced, processed, stored, and consumed on site. Doing this via independent, self-contained and non-polluting methods is not cheap. Most of us making our own electricity are doing so at the cost of between $0.40 and $1.15 per kilowatt-hour of power. This is about ten times the average cost charged for power by commercial electric utilities. This information assumes that you wish to save power and thereby money. You will save either in your equipment cost if you are making your own power or your power bill if you are renting your power from a commercial utility. This seems obvious enough, but really conservation is a temporal mirage. Read on...

The real problem is not our appetite for electric power, but how we produce the power.

Power produced from coal, nuclear, and oil sources comes with deadly environmental warts attached. If, in our wildest dreams, everyone's electricity was produced by non-polluting renewable methods, then what is the point of conserving power? The only way to waste the power, produced by PV, hydro, or wind, is NOT to use it. The environmental price tag attached is zero. Nature offers this power to us and we'd be fools to refuse it.

The Importance of Efficiency

We have better things to do with our hard–earned bucks than spending them on power hardware or utility bills. What follows logically is that every watt-hour of power we can avoid using is a watt-hour of power we don't have to pay for. To this end, cast a jaundiced eye on every appliance using electricity in your home. Each Appliance's data

Ask only two questions of each appliance: 1) how much electric power does the appliance consume? 2) How much time does the appliance operate? Ask these two questions of every appliance, don't skip any.

The nameplate contains the appliance's power consumption (usually expressed in Watts or KVA). This figure represents a worse–case scenario. The average power consumption of most appliances is less than that printed on their exterior. If you have the technology to measure the appliance's power consumption, then certainly do so. Use measured data instead of the nameplate data.

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The time an appliance spends operating is an estimate expressed as number of hours per day. Some appliances, like power tools and lights have humans operating them. It is easy to estimate their operating time. Other appliances turn themselves off or on without human attention, like refrigerators and freezers. These automatic appliances can be more difficult to estimate without actually measuring their operating time.

The appliance's power consumption is determined by multiplying its average power consumption by the average number of hours per day it operates. That's it. For example, if a light consumes 15 watts and is operating 5 hours daily, then the light will consume an average of 75 watt-hours daily (15 watts X 5 hours = 75 watt-hours).

Entirely Appropriate Appliances

Electricity accomplishes some chores better than any other power source. The question is not whether to use electricity, but what particular type of electric appliance to use.

Don't worry about having to keep track of all this specific data. All the data for appropriate appliances, detailing their power consumption and their average on–time, is on a table at this article's end.

A note on phantom loads: Phantom loads are appliances that appear to be off when you are not using them, but in fact, they are still alive and consuming power. These appliances represent a gross misuse of electricity and waste large amounts of power. Here are some fast ways to recognize phantom loads. Any device with an electronic clock or timer is a phantom load. Any device that operates by a remote control is a phantom load. There are other types less easy to recognize, but they are mentioned below under the specific type of appliance.

Refrigeration

Refrigerators and freezer are the highest power consumers in an electrically efficient system. For this reason, only consider the most efficient refrigeration equipment.

As an example of efficient refrigeration, I cite the Sun Frost RF-12, a 12 cubic-foot refrigerator/freezer. The RF-12 consumes about 300 Watt-hours daily (about the amount of power produced by one and one–quarter PV modules). The RF-12 costs about $1,550.

An example of inefficient refrigeration, I cite virtually any frost-free unit that spits ice cubes out its door. Costing about $600, a 12

Home Power #21 • February / March 1991

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