August 20, 2014

GE’s Plans to Help You Manage Your Energy Use

GE Appliances & Lighting created the Home Energy Management (HEM) business, intending to be the first major appliance company to provide a whole-home solution for energy management.

When synchronized with the local utility company’s home smart-meter, coming into popular use, the HEM acts as the “central nervous system” for monitoring resource usage and controlling energy consumption within the home. The HEM, with the ability to collect data on multiple appliances, provides both real-time and long-term trend information on power and resource consumption and solar generation to the homeowners.

GE’s new Home Energy Manager (HEM) monitors all networked appliances which can include the refrigerator, range, dishwasher, washer and dryer, water heater, and will track all other home energy consumption including microwaves and televisions.

One of the primary goals of U.S. smart grid initiatives is to better use the energy production capacity the country already has. Home energy consumption efficiency can increase significantly when homeowners the option to participate in time-of-use pricing programs, which reward homeowners for lowering their consumption during periods of peak energy demand (usually 2-7 PM).

Simply providing consumers with energy consumption information motivates energy savings. A U.S. Department of Energy study showed that providing real-time pricing information to consumers via a smart meter helped reduce electricity costs 10% on average and 15% during peak periods.

“Knowing what is consuming electricity, and how much electricity that appliances are consuming, can be very empowering,” states Dave McCalpin, general manager of the new HEM business. “People will be able to make smarter choices if they have information. The once-a-month electrical bill provides no insight into your usage habits. We intend to change that.”

HEM’s design is targeted to include:

* Demand Response Integration, supporting communication standards Zigbee SEP 1.0, to enable demand response communication between a utility’s home smart meter and appliances on the home network, enabling real-time load shedding of networked appliances;
* Five-Day Weather Forecasts on Internet-enabled installations (communications supporting Ethernet, Wifi, and Zigbee SEP 1.0 standards);
* Electricity Usage Data Monitoring for the whole home for both short and long terms;
* Power Sub Metering for each GE demand response-enabled appliance;
* Solar Generation Monitoring of inverter output, including short- and long-term data where available;
* Water Usage Monitoring via household-wide data monitoring at 1-gallon resolution;
* Smart Thermostat Interface with full-featured seven-day programmable communicating thermostats that accepts demand response temperature offsets.

Getting Dry Dishes

One of the simplest ways to save a little money and energy is to let your dishes air dry after they are washed in the dishwasher. Simply use the wash only cycle and open the dishwasher door as soon as the cycle finishes. The dishes will be very hot and will dry quickly.

If you are still using the dry setting on your dishwasher and find that the dishes are wet when the cycle is complete, first check that you really programmed the washer for the heat dry setting, then check to see if the rinse aid dispenser needs filling, evaluate how well the dishes are loaded, and make sure a large item doesn’t block smaller items.

Here are some additional problems to check:

Did you use the proper amount of detergent? Too little or too much detergent can have an affect on how well dishes dry.

The next things to check are the filters, drain valve, drying fan, heating element, and the thermostat. Sometimes a clogged filter will prevent all the water from being able to exit the unit. Clean or replace clogged filters. A faulty drain valve that leaves too much water in the cabinet can be to blame. Is there too much standing water left in the unit after the dry cycle is complete? Check for blockages at this valve.

Some dishwashers have a fan that circulates the cabinet air to help dry the dishes. If the fan is not working properly, you need to replace it. At the bottom of the dishwasher is a heating element that warms the air in the dishwasher. The increased temperature speeds up the evaporation process and decreases the drying time. Visually inspect the element and look for any burned or broken areas on it, and if it’s burned out or if you can’t measure continuity with it removed, it will need to be replaced.

There is also a thermostat that measures the water temperature and drying temperature. If the thermostat is faulty, the cycles may not complete properly. If it’s faulty, you need to replace it. You may want to unload the dishes in the bottom rack first so that any water left pooled on dishes in the top rack won’t spill onto the bottom rack’s dishes.

How to Save Energy Today, Tomorrow and All Year

We’ve found your step-by-step guide to saving energy at home. Many of these suggestions are appliance related, but even if they’re not, saving energy is always a good idea. You can start today with these simple changes:

To Do Today:

    Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands

    Start using energy-saving settings on refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers

    Survey your incandescent lights for opportunities to replace them with compact fluorescents (CFLs).

    These lamps can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescents. The best targets are 60-100W bulbs used several hours a day. New CFLs come in many sizes and styles to fit in most standard fixtures.

    Check the age and condition of your major appliances, especially the refrigerator. You may want to replace it with a more energy-efficient model before it dies.

    Clean or replace furnace, air-conditioner, and heat-pump filters.

    If you have one of those silent guzzlers, a waterbed, make your bed today. The covers will insulate it, and save up to one-third of the energy it uses.

This Week:

Visit the hardware store. Buy low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and compact fluorescent light bulbs, as needed. These can be purchased from any hardware or home improvement store. CFLs are now sold at some drug stores and grocery stores.

If your water heater is old enough that its insulation is fiberglass instead of foam, it clearly will benefit from a water heater blanket from the local hardware or home supplies store. (To tell the difference, check at the pilot light access (gas). For electric water heaters, the best access is probably at the thermostat, but be sure to turn off the power before checking.)

Rope caulk very leaky windows.

Assess your heating and cooling systems. Determine if replacements are justified, or whether you should retrofit them to make them work more efficiently to provide the same comfort (or better) for less energy.

This Month:

Crawl into your attic or crawlspace and inspect for insulation. Is there any? How much?
Insulate hot water pipes and ducts wherever they run through unheated areas.

Seal up the largest air leaks in your house—the ones that whistle on windy days, or feel drafty. The worst culprits are usually not windows and doors, but utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Better yet, hire an energy auditor with a blower door to point out where the worst cracks are. All the little, invisible cracks and holes may add up to as much as an open window or door, without you ever knowing it!

Set your thermostat back (forward) when you can accept cooler (warmer) conditions. This generally includes night time and whenever you leave your home for several hours. Many people find it easier to use an ENERGY STAR programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the thermostat based on your time-of-day instructions.

Schedule an energy audit for more expert advice on your home as a whole, or learn how to conduct your own by visiting the Home Energy Saver Web site.

This Year:

Insulate. If your walls aren’t insulated have an insulation contractor blow cellulose into the walls. Bring your attic insulation level up to snuff.

Replace aging, inefficient appliances. Even if the appliance has a few useful years left, replacing it with a top-efficiency model is generally a good investment.

Upgrade leaky windows. It may be time to replace them with energy-efficient models or to boost their efficiency with weatherstripping and storm windows.

Have your heating and cooling systems tuned up in the fall and spring, respectively. Duct sealing can also improve the energy efficiency and overall performance of your system (warm-air furnace and central air conditioners).

I know, it’s a long list, but taken one step at a time through the year it’s doable, and you will be making a difference not just in your pocketbook, but for the world.

Tips for Saving Money and Energy Around the House

Looking for ways to save money? Look no further than your kitchen. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) offers these simple energy savings tips to consumers looking for ways to cut energy bills this summer.

The energy consumed by home appliances has dropped sharply since 2000.
Refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers combined account for a 43% decrease in
energy consumption since 2000. Replacing an eight year old refrigerator, dishwasher and
clothes washer with new appliances of average efficiency will save consumers about
$95.00 per year in energy bills. Replacing an eight year old clothes washer will save
more than $60.00 in electricity costs and nearly 5,000 gallons of water per year.
Additional savings can be obtained by purchasing Energy Star appliances.

Energy savings can also be obtained by following these easy tips:

• If you are replacing your refrigerator, do not use the old refrigerator as a second
refrigerator. This will not yield energy savings. Properly recycle the appliance.
To find recycling options in your area, call 1-800-YES-1-CAN.

• Allow hot foods to cool before placing them in the refrigerator; and always cover
foods that may release moisture in the refrigerator.

• Limit opening the refrigerator and freezer doors. Label foods or use clear food
storage bags to easily identify foods.

• Scrape, but do not pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
Dishwashers do a great job of cleaning soiled dishes.

• Take advantage of your dishwasher’s “eco” option that reduces water use, or use a
no-heat air dry feature.

• Use load size settings- if you are washing a small load of clothing, be sure to
change the load setting. Use cold water settings whenever possible.

• Always clean the lint filter on the clothes dryer after each use. A clogged filter
will reduce dryer performance.

Is it Time to Replace Your Old Appliances?

If you’ve been thinking about whether it is time to replace your aging appliances, or if you are wondering whether you could be saving the big bucks in energy costs if you had an all new suite of kitchen appliances,  Alina Tugend at the New York Times has some thoughts to share.

One of the first thoughts I have about replacing an older, working appliance that whether “besides the money, is this really a good idea environmentally, to get rid of an appliance that is operating just fine to buy another one, even if it does have better energy standards?”

“It takes energy to make a product,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You don’t want to replace perfectly good products.”

He gave his rule of thumb for refrigerators.

“If it’s avocado or brown-colored, it’s time to retire it,” he said. Refrigerators from the 1970s, the last time I believe those particular appliance colors were in vogue, use three to four times the power of today’s models.

A spokeswoman from the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Energy Star program along with the Department of Energy,says that, generally, any appliance over 15 years old probably should be put out to pasture. The good news is that about 80 percent of a refrigerator or a clothes washer is recyclable.

Getting rid of an old appliance “is not without some environmental impact, but because so much can be recycled and reused, if you have a guzzler, you’re better off sending it to the landfill,” said Jennifer Amann, a senior associate at the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Try to find a place that will pick up your old refrigerator for recycling, either the company you are buying your new one from or see if your state or local government has a recycling program.

Even if they are brought to the landfill, Ms. Amann says, most of the appliances’ parts are then recycled, because they take up too much space.

What environmentalists do not want you to do is place the old one in the garage to hold two six-packs of beer. If you really need it, Mr. Horowitz suggested, leave it unplugged until, say, holiday time when you need the extra space for those pumpkin pies.

And do not resell it. Retiring the energy-inefficient model is the best thing to do.

Clothes washers and dishwashers have pretty much the same criteria as refrigerators — they have become much more energy-efficient. So if yours is inching toward 15 years, consider replacing it.

For clothes washers, the new front-loader models use much less water and spin clothes dry much more thoroughly, so you are spending less time — and power — drying.

I also learned something interesting about washing dishes. Unless you are an extremely frugal hand dishwasher, you are certainly using more water hand-washing dishes than a dishwasher does, Ms. Amann said. And with a newer model, do not even pre-rinse by hand.

“A good dishwasher can use just four to seven gallons of water to wash a full load of dishes,” she said. If you do not have a full load, but are afraid the food will get stuck on, a good feature is rinse and hold, which uses less than a gallon of water.

 

Although clothes dryers are big energy suckers, there is not much that can be done to make them less wasteful. So just hang onto yours until it gives up the ghost. One good feature of newer models is a moisture sensor, so the dryer stops when clothes are dry.

The federal government does not issue Energy Stars for dryers, because there is not much difference in energy use among the models.

As we move toward summer, it is a good time to replace an ailing central air-conditioner. New federal standards just started two years ago. But if you are keeping your old one, check to see if the ducts are leaking. You can waste about 30 percent of energy through leaking ducts, Mr. Horowitz said.

Window-box air-conditioners  are inexpensive enough that it is worth swapping an old one for an Energy Star model. The more recent ones also have a thermostat that will shut off the air-conditioner when the room gets cool enough. Sometimes the local utility company will pick up old boxes through an “early retirement program.”

So if you are planning to use that window air conditioner to keep cool this summer, check its age.  You might want to add it to the list along with the new suite.