Wednesday, December 14, 2016

my typical electrical day winter

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It is winter here in beautiful Ontario, Canada and I am studying my electrical usage with my utility supplied smart meter. When I called in 2007 asking for one of these, I was quoted about $3K. I didn't buy then, now I have one supplied for me. I am trying to learn from it. I showed my usage this summer. I described the study I am a part of.

It seems to me that there will have to be a bigger incentive for people to pay more attention to their demand for electricity. Our electrical system has huge costs to deal with peak use. There has to be a better incentive for us to pay more attention to this issue. Are we emphasizing the supply side (solar, nuclear, wind, water, storage, etc) of the equation?

Personally I am not unhappy with my own electrical bill. The Ontario government is asking for comments. I read the LTEP (Ontario Long Term Energy Plan) and I think the approach described is sensible under the circumstances we face.

There are huge issues with the system. But good news: we are off coal for electricity in Ontario. Our aggregated demand has been falling for six years which makes renewable easier whatever side of that fence you are on. There are uncertainties that would be helped if we all just paid more attention to our time of use. Little personal changes could make a big difference and many of the issues receiving much attention now would reduce.

I have spent $100 so far and I go off the grid for the peak (of at least I am trying). There are still some problems and not everything works. But this is my path so far. It's pretty painless. I still have rock solid utility grade power when I need it. I am helping out the system. They need me to do this and I am getting ready for the new differential in rates, which will be greater, whatever it is. I think the LTEP is a sensible step forward and gave my comments where I felt I had something to contribute.

I am not being paid or influenced by anyone in the debate. Ontario is off coal. We are actually a beacon. More renewable - of course! Who could not agree.

One other point that we all seem to agree on - using less, especially during the peak yet we don't seem to be focusing on that issue? The demand side - ourselves. I believe TOU will soon become more important us all.

The system is not badly broken. We don't need to be so excited about this issue right now. Let's be a calming voice. My 2cents.

(click any picture to enlarge) Lets look again at the winter picture of my electrical use. I have added some notes to the screen capture. The red arrows show my peak periods, there are two of them now, one in the morning and the other around evening mealtime. I am trying to use less electricity during these periods.

The big spikes W are my old electric water heater. It comes on about three or four times a day at 3KW for about ten minutes. Only the clothes dryer uses more at 6KW. I almost never use it preferring instead an indoor clothesline. When I do use the dryer I reclaim the heated moist exhaust for the house in the winter. In summer, the clothes go on my outdoor line.

At 17:00 the water heater probably hadn't finished heating but it got cut off by the timer. You can see that it comes on immediately at the end of the second peak period, at 19:00.

Here is the summer version so I can compare things. There aren't any W spikes in the red during the winter or the summer so I am successfully keeping the water heater from coming on with a timer. My refrigerator and freezer are also on timers so they are not coming on either but the effect is not as noticeable in the winter because of my oil furnace signature. You will see the furnace marching through most of the day. The furnace uses about 700 watts and comes on every half hour to an hour when the temperature outside is sub zero.

On the winter chart in the period A (the peak), you can see the furnace most clearly since the fridge and the freezer aren't running. Notice how the regular steps of the furnace seem to step down just after 9am? That was a mistake actually. I have added a gutter/downspout heater and have left it ON overnight but it was supposed to have been switched off before the morning peak period started. That heater is not yet on a timer. It uses about 300 watts.

The period B on the winter chart is me doing various things around the house against the usual furnace, fridge, freezer and a toaster oven. The air outside the house was warming up a bit by afternoon so the furnace did not come on as often.

Winter period C puzzled me a bit in that it was completely quiet except for that one mini spike. I had expected to see the furnace running since it is not controlled to stay out of the peak period. Then I remembered that I had turned down the heat when I left the house to go out for dinner. The house was cooling down so the furnace did not come on.

My usage during winter C is about 80 watts which is what I am calling my base load (similar to phantom power). The base load is all the low power things that are always on in my house. The small spike I remember is my garage door opener. I came home briefly and opened, then closed the garage door to look for something.

Periods D and E on the winter chart show nighttime electrical use in winter, a noisy mess of the the furnace, the fridge, the freezer, that one big spike from the water heater coming on. Compare to period C on the summer chart which has only the fridge and the freezer. I learned to tell those apart but with the furnace added, it will be more difficult. I should teach a computer how to do this!

I still don't know usage by individual appliance.

Thanks for your interest
George Plhak
Lion's Head, Ontario

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