Refrigerator and entertainment system in top using most electricity

22 01 2010

I spent a day checking the energy use of each of the appliances I could.  Because our hot water is shared with the rest of the building, and our heat and air conditioning is similarly built in, I could not check the energy use of those appliances.

As expected, our refrigerator used the most energy, at 225 watts.  We have a fairly new refrigerator, so it is much more efficient than older models, but still an energy hog.

I was surprised that our entertainment system is the second largest user of electricity.  Our old TV uses 80 watts when it is on.  In addition, our TIVO uses between 26 and 30 watts, depending on if it is recording.  The VCR uses 15 watts when on but not in use, which is most of the time.

Our computer was also a big user.  It uses an average of 75 watts when it is on, and even in sleep mode it eats up 4 watts.

The rest of the household came out about as expected.  Our lamps are mostly about 25 watts and our various chargers are a few watts a piece when plugged in, but not charging.

Living in a condo reduces the number of things we can do to become energy efficient.  We have updated our appliances and installed a digital thermostat, but we can’t change the insulation in the attic, put in better windows, or fiddle with the water heater.  But we can unplug appliances that we are not using, and turn the thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter.  I will also finally put the new sealer around the front door to stop the leeks.

Most of these are common sense changes that we have all heard about, but never do.  By measuring the amount of energy I waste, it makes us much more aware, and spurs us to action.

By Climate Pilot Isaiah Akin


Climate Pilot family installs geothermal heating pump

13 01 2010

The Stokes family is currently installing a geothermal heat pump in their front yard that will tap the Earth’s constant temperature to warm their home more efficiently. This morning the drilling down to 600’ and final installation of the ground source heat pump started.


– The rig and other truck take up our entire front yard (plus much of the neighbor’s). They started around 8 am this morning and have continued throughout the entire day. Quite an event here in quiet Lake Barcroft! says Climate Pilot Kathys Stokes.

Watch video from the drilling, part 1 >>

Video clip, part 2 >>

Hard NOT to drive in Northern Virginia

7 01 2010

As for the upcoming Driving Challenge, we learned in Challenge Two that it is really hard NOT to drive in Northern Virginia.  (During a video conference last month with one of our Climate Pilot Coaches she mentioned that she had only driven 3 times that month.)  Therefore, learning to driving more efficiently will be a big help for us.  One of the easiest things I did was to spend a day during the December holiday getting my home office set-up with an identical set of equipment as my “real” office, and now I probably work from my home office two days a week and never drive anywhere.  Now that’s efficient driving.

We are really looking forward to learning more.

By Climate Pilot Nolan Stokes

Reflections on the challenge on Energy

6 01 2010

We had the insulation guys here today for seven hours pumping blown cellulose (basically recycled, shredded, and treated newspaper) into the ceiling between the two floors of our house.  They focused on the perimeter and must have drilled 100 holes in the ceiling through which they pumped the insulation.  I can already feel the difference.  The floors used to be freezing cold, but NOT ANY MORE!

We had already blown-in this cellulose insulation into the attic two winters ago, but because of the Climate Pilot challenge we went back and reassessed the effectiveness of everything we had done.  We have been fundamentally challenging our most basic daily habits in an attempt to critically evaluate our current behavior and look for energy reducing opportunities. 

An example of this related to everyday activities is just doing the dishes. 

To save on water heating costs, we use cold water to rinse dishes and run the garbage disposal. 

We got out the dishwasher manual and reviewed the best settings for our dishwasher.  Our “Normal Cycle” runs for 65 minutes and according to the manual: “This cycle is for medium/heavily soiled dishes and glassware.”  It turns out that a better fit for our everyday needs is actually the “Speed Cycle” which runs for only 35 minutes –about ½ the normal time!  According to the manual: “This cycle is for everyday soiled dishes and glassware.”  So, by challenging the status quo and doing a bit of research we have been able to reduce the time the dishwasher runs on average by about 45%. 

This is just a quick example of an easy, painless change that simply required us to challenge our daily habits.  We did the same with the laundry and now wash most clothes in cold water AND on the “quick wash” cycle.  Now the kids take short showers and not baths.  Again, it was an easy and painless behavioral change, yet statistically significant in terms of reducing energy consumption and saving money.

I ordered from Amazon a Black & Decker EM100B Energy Saver Series Power Monitor  (  ) along with a Black & Decker TLD100 Energy Series Thermal Leak Detector (  ). The Power Monitor attaches to the external meter and transmits a signal to a handheld device in the house and allows us to see power usage and costs in real-time.  The Thermal Leak Detector uses an infrared sensor to highlight temperature differences which can indicate leaks around doors and windows or inadequate insulation around wall and ceiling fixtures.  These have been very helpful.  In fact, this weekend I’m going over to the neighbor’s house across the street with the leak detector and a roll of weather stripping to help her cut down on cold air leaking in through the front door.

We are more than halfway through replacing nearly all of the windows in the house.  Last weekend we literally had ice on the INSIDE of some of the windows at night.  One doesn’t need a thermal leak detector to see that we needed to fix that.

By Climate Pilot Nolan Stokes