Observing Energy

I started creating a way to observe my homes food/water consumption, production and distribution the other day and it’s easy enough. With the food and water, I’m physically cooking and eating each food item so it’s easier to monitor and observe. When it comes to energy, each device in your house uses different kinds of energy, different amounts of energy and some are based on temperature switches or some other sort of automatic type switch. As a result of this, we have two different levels at which we can observe our energy use. If you’re considering getting solar panels, or another form of alternative energy, this will be important to know.

This will not pass inspection

The easiest way to monitor your energy usage is through your energy bill. Whether you’re looking at a natural gas bill, an electric bill, or an oil bill, you’ll always get some amount of energy for a price. With electric bill it’s Kilowatt Hours, with an oil bill it’s gallons, and with your natural gas bill it’s typically therms. Regardless, it’s some form of unit of energy for a price. These bills give you a monthly breakdown of how much energy you’re using. This can give broad knowledge of energy usage and is typically what solar sales reps use when designing a residential solar panel system.

It’s better though if you can measure your energy usage at a device level or at least a circuit level. When it comes to electricity, there are great devices like the sense that is pretty straightforward to install and can provide detailed views of what items in your home are using power, when and for how long. Having this detailed of information, it’s much easier to make more accurate hypothesis regarding how better to improve the homes economy.

The Sense is a great tool for monitoring your home’s electric use more closely

Another device that’s great for home electricity monitoring is a Kill-A-Watt. A Kill-A-Watt is a device that plugs into an electrical outlet in your house and then your device plugs into the Kill-A-Watt. Then the Kill-A-Watt will display the voltage, the amperage and the frequency of the device using the Kill-A-Watt. It will also record the amount of usage over time for a device. This is great for figuring out exactly how much electricity a specific device in the house uses.

Kill-A-Watt is a fantastic tool for measuring the electric consumption of a single device.

When it comes to gas usage, it’s slightly harder to measure at the device level. I have not found any easily installed gas monitoring devices, so in order to observe gas usage on a more detailed level, we need to get a bit more creative. In my house, natural gas is used for my hot water heater, my gas stove and my heating for my house. Heating and Air Conditioning is almost always the most expensive part of an energy bill, so in order to help monitor my HVAC usage I installed a Nest thermostat. This was a great tool for both observing and for helping reduce my heating and air conditioning usage.

The Nest monitors all of the time that my heating unit spends on and sends me a report. With this report, and knowing how much gas my heater uses when it’s on, I can determine how much of my gas bill is related to my HVAC and how much is related to hot water, the stove and oven.

Beyond just observing all of your HVAC use, the NEST is great for setting schedules and controlling remotely.

I currently am using the monthly bill method of energy monitoring along with the Nest, but am going to begin setting up monitoring at a much more detailed level as I go through my house and remodel the rooms. In the end, my goal will be to monitor my energy usage at a detailed level so I can start by making big adjustments with large benefit and work my way to smaller adjustments in order to fine tune my energy usage in order to maximize my homes energy efficiency.

Machines need energy to run, and your home economic machine is no different. It’s important to make sure your machine is running as efficiently as possible, and you can’t do that without an effective monitoring or observation system. Do you pay any attention to the energy required to make your Home Economy run, or are you like me until now and just pay your bills when they come in?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *