# Our oil problem

“Our oil problem is not that “we’re running out.” Our oil problem is that we’re producing so much of the stuff that we are changing the planet’s climate.”
– David Frum, ‘Peak oil’ doomsayers proved wrong

True on climate, but the commenters at the article have it right:

“[W]e are extraordinarily blessed with a moment of respite to temporarily postpone the extremely difficult economic environment brought on by the decline of abundant oil….but it is only temporary, and we would be wise to use this moment to prepare ourselves.”

My comments: Keep bringing on the bikes, insulation, and solar.

# To figure out how much electricity/energy we use each month…

Like many/most people who have grid-tied PV solar panels…. to figure out how much electricity/energy we use each month I have to do some math.  That’s because the smart meter doesn’t know how much electricity we use directly from the panels.  Some electrons never even hits the electric co’s meter, which can only show numbers for 2 things: (1) the extra KWh flowing out and (2) the extra KWh we need that is coming in (at nights, clouds and cold cold weather)

That’s not enough.  I also have to read (3) the total produced by our PV solar panels.  And then do some math.  The pain in this is that since one’s electricity bill is usually not calendar month, and our smart meter isn’t being read automatically by any device, I have to remember to “read the meter” near the beginning/end of the month.  I can’t use numbers on my electricity bill.

Algebra:

The basic idea:  IN KWh = OUT KWh

(2) ELECTRIC CO METER IN (FROM GRID) +  (3) PV PRODUCED = (1) ELECTRIC CO METER OUT (TO GRID) + X (USED BY HOUSE)

Solve for X and I’ve got it.

Additionally I think it makes sense to divide by the number of occupants in your house before comparing with your friends.  And maybe adjust by things like HDD and CDD (heating degree days and cooling degree days) if they live in a different part of the Earth.

So that’s KWh used per person per month.   We have averaged under 800 KWh per month year round on average for 28 months.  And we have 4 people here.  With 8 living with us for 10(?) months in 2011.

So under 200 KWh per person per month.  For everything, including heating and AC, cooking, lawn mowing and 2 home offices.

It’s hard to compare to most people in the northeast because most people don’t know their grand total since almost no one heats their house with electricity (geothermal or air-source heat pumps) like we do.  So they’d need to add up their gas/propane/wood/oil BTUs used and convert to KWhs.

# “Even the hard core in the green movement use washing machine”

Hans Rosling: The magic washing machine — one of the best TED talks I’ve seen (or via youtube) He divides the world into 4 groups. Below the poverty line. (fire people) Below wash line (bulb people). Below air line (wash people). And the rest (the air people) And it’s a zero-sum sustainability game so the dots need to be distributed somehow. Are you going to deny a washing machine to the rest of the world?

# Jane McGonigal TED talk: Gaming can make a better world

Watch this TED talk on using gaming to “save the world”. I think it’s quite compelling. Maybe the logic falls apart if one thinks about it more than 18 minutes, but I think there is A LOT of truth to this based on what I see with my own kids and their gaming.

# 2011/12: The year in heating

We have an emonitor gizmo that tracks our home energy use by circuit. One circuit is the air-source minisplit heat pump (the heat and cool in the house).

For the YEAR ending April 2012, the heatpump circuit shows:

3,009 KWh (total for year, heating and cooling and some hot water)
2,598 KWh (Oct-Apr — 7 mostly heating months)

Remember that we also heat our water with an air-to-water heat pump in the conditioned basement, so during the heating months, it is stealing heat from the house. So the 2598 includes some of that. Let’s pretend it is 10% of our total load (no idea) so that would be

2338 KWh (Oct-Apr — mostly heating months. HOME HEATING ONLY)

If we pretend the price we pay for electricity is \$0.15/KWh (it’s more complicated than just a simple number like that with this and that charges) but close… then that is:

\$350.70 (our estimated heating bill for winter 2011/2012)

Nice.

(Well, and actually… minus some significant fraction of that which is covered by our PVs (electric solar panels). We don’t have net metering, so our electric bill is rarely \$0 even in the summer. I just don’t unclude the PVs cause I generally think of them as an offset. Not an important part of the house.)

SMALL IMPROVEMENTS “FOR SOMEDAY”:
- The silly 20KWh/month our minisplit uses whether it is on or not. Nothing to do about that at least in the winter. But I could flip the dip-switch for 5 months of the year.
- Someday I will add a submeter for the minisplits since the emonitor is probably 10% off in some direction. (I believe that’s the spec I’ve seen.)
- More PVs, perhaps this string with a central inverter and small battery for:     – night-time (since no net metering) and
– power outages (we have a well so it would at LEAST be nice to have running water when the power goes out.)

# More interesting Steve Jobs quotes

I will collect them here as I find them.

“I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. … That didn’t look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle and a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That’s what a computer is to me: The computer is the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

“When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life. Have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact. And that is: everything around that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” (at 3:30 in the PBS program)

- In the PBS program aired 11/3/2011 (Steve Jobs: One Last Thing), David Sheff states that Jobs described a book-sized device just like the iPad 30 years ago (at around 24 minutes into the 55min program) “…he really envisioned the iPad almost 30 years ago”

# Verizon FIOS vs Solar Panels

I just measured it with our handy \$20 KILL-A-WATT meter and the FIOS set-top-box… when off (on “standby”)… uses 16W! That’s 24/7. Even if you are not watching TV and carefully turned the thing off.

Here’s the math for a year:
16 * 24 * 365 / 1000 = 140 KWh

If you pay \$0.15/KWh then that’s \$21 per year you pay** for that. In the Northeast in some city/towns, you probably pay closer to 0.20 or maybe 0.23 if you pay extra for GREEN electricity (Or use NEW ENGLAND WIND FUND if you use a Municipal).

Anyway, the important point is that this is approximately the equivalent to 1/2 of the output of a typical 230W solar-electric PV panel on a reasonably South-facing roof in MA for a year according to PVWATTS.

http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/calculators/PVWATTS/version1/

IOW, turn junk off with a powerstrip! It’s cheaper than buying solar panels!

And Verizon, you can do better! Shame shame! Some things in our house use less than 1W when “turned off”! Not 16W!

==============

**In the winter, this extra 16W is helping to heat your house, but there are much cheaper ways to heat your house than using phantom loads!

- Visualize Energy

# Walking vs Driving…

(I am writing this here in my blog and linking to it from Facebook, since at the moment there is no easy way to search and find old stuff on FB — like this will be 6-months from now, and that is annoying!)

Anyway, here goes:
You noted: http://wiesmann.codiferes.net/wordpress/?p=9592

So you might be interested in this FB thread where we discuss the NYTimes article
http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/how-virtuous-is-ed-begley-jr/

2. And a friend goes on (via email) to do a little quick research into this (he has a PhD in ecology) and came up with a rough estimate of the carbon footprint of walking vs driving. (This is different than energy cost of course, but related…). What I believe he came up with is that it depends a lot on the diet. If it is heavy on the meat and dairy, then it is a close match carbon wise (which makes sense because “making” meat is very very resource intensive) But if you are eating a plant-based diet, walking wins. But still, not be the “many orders of magnitude” difference one might expect. In other words, it’s certainly quite possible that (say) 4 people on foot or on bikes could be better off carpooling or using a well-used train, etc. But probably not if they are vegan and eating locally sourced, organic/“solar” food. But my friend needs to do more careful number crunching based on some of the research articles on the topic he pulled up.

# That old TV…

Let’s say a 10-year-old analog “CRT” TV (now with little digital converter box for the US) is used 4 hours per day at ~100W average consumption during baseball season.

Let’s say a new LCD TV (22″) — Panasonic TC-L22X2 (29.4 watt avg) could replace it.

Over 1 month that would be:

30days * 4hr * (100-29.4)watts/1000 = 8.472 KWh
* \$0.15/KWh = \$1.27 saved per month

That is not including the heat the TV provides in the winter (~100W) or the AC it then might require in the summer.

Not such a big deal, energy wise. But it adds up I suppose. But it (buying a new tv) is money better spent on paying back credit card debt or new lightbulbs or sealing up the attic with foam if you don’t care about HD and such.

Or only watch TV in the winter?