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Electric utility cost in southeastern PA

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Joful, Jun 6, 2013.

  1. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I'm content with my level of successfullness.

    Buying shares might be an option for myself, but is no option for those on fixed incomes who are scraping by just paying their bills. And there are a large number of pensioners in that basket here.

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  2. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    To give you comparison numbers - my "cost of electricity is $.07/kWh. THe price I actually pay with distribution charges and fees is $0.154/kWh. So in the same ballpark.

    Consumption thoughts...

    Lighting...
    • Not to pile on but hat lighting load you have is killer. I know finding the right LEDs for your low wattage use is tough but have you looked to see if you can get discounts from your utilitiy? I got the Philips L-prize bulbs for $10/ea from NStar and they are fantastic! Bright as a 100w equiv CFL and indistinguishable from an incandescent. I measured the draw at under 7watts. For can lights Ive used the HD ecosmart brand copies of the Cree CR6 @ $25 each and they are great also.
    • Also ask yourself, do you really need to have 1 kW of outdoor lighting on every evening? Looks like you are burning a couple hundred kWh a month there alone...
    • For your large workshops, how about 8ft flourescent tubes? I had my electrician install some in my garage the year we moved in. HUGE improvent in lighting.

    Climate...
    • For the AC, is it zoned? Can you turn off / close off areas of the house that are unoccupied?
    • On the dehumidifiers I feel your pain. I have 1/4 the square footage that you do and my basement dehumidifier is using up to 300KWh a month in the damp season :( I'm sure you have found as I have that the cost to fix the moisture problem in a stone basement would be worth a many lifetimes of the electric bill. So we live with it as a cost of old house living.
    Other...
    • Wash... feel your pain there as well. It never ends with babies in the house. Best you can do is try to run only full loads, short/cold cycle, use the auto detect setting on your dryer.
    • With all those TVs, you might consider smart power strips to turn off the cable boxes when they are off and save some standby loss (cant if you DVR a lot obviously).
    • The computers and network stack and such are lifestyle choices. You can secretly set the windows power settings to maximum savings on all the kids machines so at least they go into sleep mode if left on. Sounds like you have more computers than residents (same here) - they cant all be used at once. Think about what you need the server for? Maybe put the hubs and switches on timers if they don't need to be on overnight to provide internet service for anything (
    • Do you need both fridges and freezers? We manage to get by feeding a family of 4 with one 30" french door fridge and a 5cf basement storage freezer. Just have to shop more than once a month ;) he he.

    Good luck!
    Joful likes this.
  3. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    All good suggestions, aside perhaps from the lighting, for which I think there is no good ROI for my situation. If I could just get the wife to stop leaving on dozens of lights in rooms she's not using, I'd be in much better shape. True, we don't need 1kW of exterior lighting to survive, but we live in a neighborhood where all the houses are kept lit in the evening / don't want to be the one dark "anti-social" house. In December, I actually put up an additional 2 kW of small white incandescent bulb strings, but I keep them on only dusk until 11:30pm. Tried the LED's there as well, but they look like chit, IMO.

    On the rest of the items, much of it is a convenience / livestyle choice. Yes, there's a little waste with computers, cable boxes, refrigerators, etc., but I don't mind it for the convenience. Refrigerator #2 is mostly stocked with beer and white wine, an extra jug each of milk, orange juice, apple juice, and some frozen items. There are three other refrigerators (five total), as the previous owners hosted a few weddings here, but we have never had any need to plug them in.

    The two dehumidifiers running in the basement are not a function of an old house, as most new houses in this area actually seem to have equal or more trouble with musty basements. The air here, in SE PE in general -- but in particular right in my neighborhood surrounded by creeks, is crazy humid in summer. Hot humid air infiltrating a cool basement = mold. We do run a third dehumidifier on the third floor, where much moisture seems to bake out of the mud-stacked stone walls into the hot attic, and that one could be blamed on an old house.

    My primary goal was just ensuring I'm not paying more than absolutely necessary, for the amount I'm using, not so much about ways to reduce consumption. After all, someone needs to keep the good folks at the utility companies employed, and ensure maple1's stocks don't drop in value. :p
  4. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    You know Joful, funny thing is my wife has asked me a few times if we could get a second fridge for the basement... To be honest we could certainly make use of one if we had it ... we run out of hte kids milk by grocery day most weeks (or at least replace the 30in with a 36in big one in the kitchen... IF we had the space) but I remind her that with the only access down there being a 26in wide door that makes an immediate right turn down a very steep stairs it just cant happen. he he..
  5. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, my last house was like that. I had to buy a special shallow gun safe just to get it thru the door, and even then had to remove a bunch of hardware to get it thru. Basement at the new place is walk-out (think it might have been a kitchen at one time), and has a 40" wide door. I could almost drive the Cub Cadet thru that door. ;lol
  6. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I'm jealous of the walk out. To get our washer and dryer downstairs I had to take off the door, and the hinges AND pry the jamb stops off. Then I had to partially dissasemble the dryer taking the front trim off.

    It was then I understood why the sellers left us their old set.

    Our possible future renovation plan if we don't move (5+ years out) is to take the back ell down to the framing and rebuild it with a full height dormered second story roof to add a master suite/bath above the kitchen. My dream if money was no object was to additionally stretch it to attach the garage and dig out the crawlspace underneath to double the basement area and have a walk out stairs from the basement up intro the garage. And at that point we might as well tear down and rebuild the garage as well.

    Wait a sec what was this thread about... ;)
  7. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Oh I could care less how they got to their numbers or whether they are vampires or kittens. What matters, all that matters, is the cost per kwh that I consume. That cost includes many line items that can vary based on the stars, tides, or presidential party. The only way to get the cost per kwh is to divide the bill by the kwh consumed and arrive at a figure. That figure is the PRICE paid for electricity and is the only thing that can be compared.

    I would suggest that doing anything else would require you to keep track of how many vampires, kittens, or presidential elections occured in the production of smoke and mirrors required when all of the various line items were added to your bill.
  8. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    We agree. The average cost is the total bill/ total kWh. The marginal cost (to compute savings from eff measures) is the total bill - fixed charges / total kWh. And the PTC is a number with no real meaning unless you are shopping for other suppliers in the marketplace. And all the numbers can change mo to mo, subject to some system of constraints. Yuck.

    I personally never made the mistake of thinking the PT was my cost, but I suppose a lot of folks (who are innumerate) might mistakenly think it was their cost. Sucks to be innumerate, I guess. If I made the laws, I suppose the average cost would be right under it, but I don't, so I will just shake my fist.
    Joful likes this.
  9. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    We have cost per kwh for the first 600, then a higher cost for additional kwh (I think that is a tiered rate), then four or five debits or credits billed per kwh and then one or two actual fixed fees.

    As such, reducing my consumption by 10 percent will not reduce my bill by 10%. It is not simple is it? Good or bad, I only have this one supplier so detailed comparisons aren't necessary.
  10. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Yikes! As screwed up as our tax system. Better get Steve Forbes on this.
  11. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    Air sealing, both in basement and the whole house, hugely reduced my basement moisture. Now I leave my humidifier at setting 2/10 and it runs just a few minutes a day. My biggest improvement was putting a regular exterior door in the archway below the bilco door. Even with a high water table, the moisture you get is mostly exterior air coming into the cool basement, reduce the air flow, reduce the moisture.

    As for exterior, I have used CFLs for exterior lights ever since we moved in, they look fine, and generally don't attract nearly as much bugs (although one brand was spectacularly worse). Mine run on those light sensor inserts with no problems.

    TE
    woodgeek and Joful like this.
  12. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Definitely agreed on reducing air flow. Basement is actually sealed pretty well, excepting one 1894 addition, which is getting fixed in 4 - 5 weeks. There are four windows and one door, all of which are the latest and greatest technology, ca.1773. They may not be up to modern standards, but they're in good repair.

    I do disagree on the CFL's, though. I know they don't bother some folks, but I ain't some folks. ;hm
  13. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    I'm curious to understand what you don't like about them for exterior use. None of the reasons I dislike them inside apply for exterior use; slow to light, cold spectrum, buzzing, and shortened life if used upside down. Those reasons and the bucket of CFLs I have that died well before their time but for which I have no receipts.

    TE
  14. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    The cold spectrum alone is enough to make me avoid them, although the slow lighting is a very annoying bonus. The majority of my exterior lighting (everything but the lamp posts , two garage lanterns, and front porch) is kept off, and only turned on when I need to heat out / put the dogs out. By the time a CFL warmed up, I'd be heading back inside, in 99% of cases.

    With regard to the color temperature, think old house. Cold CFL's just don't look right.

    Year-round lighting:
    PC020007.JPG

    Christmas lighting:
    PC150005.JPG

    Gratuitous snow scene:
    PC290037.JPG
  15. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    If any of the outdoor lights are 60W edisons, I suspect the $12 Cree LED bulb (10W) would be a perfect substitute. At 4 hr/day, that's 0.2 kWh/day, 70 kWh/yr, $11/yr in savings. They are instant on, 2700K color (warm), and should last 15 years at that rate, netting you $155 over that period, per bulb. They also appear to attract fewer insects than incandescents or CFLs.

    We agree the early LED bulbs were all junk, and many were bluish. The technology has finally matured, and at an attractive enough price point. You might want to experiment.

    Beautiful house by the way.
    Joful likes this.
  16. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    There are several 40W and 60W clear Edison style bulbs, but they're all decorative in function, clear glass large filament bulbs in clear glass and brass lanterns. No hope of making an LED look right in one of those.

    However, I may be able to replace some of the reflector bulbs with LED's:

    (3) R16 45W flood
    (2) R38 100W spot
    (3) R38 45W flood
    (4) R30 long neck 50W flood (on barn)

    I actually did try replacing one of the R38 45W floods with an LED about 16 months ago. It was one that was very highly reviewed as being a warm white, and it wasn't nearly as awful as some others I have seen, but it still looked cold next to the warm glow of the other incandescent floods. I would have to go thru old email when I get home, to find exactly what brand/model it was, but it made for some very expensive land fill, in the end.

    It is interesting that the LED's actually do not look bad when reflected off some objects, but they look entirely unnatural when reflected off others. I believe that's because they're relying on mixing three very narrow wavelengths to mimic the color balance of a broad spectrum light (incandescent, halogen, etc.). They can provide the same color temperature as an incandescent, but because there are only three wavelengths to reflect, objects that do not reflect those three narrow wavelengths in predictable fashion end up looking very odd. In my case, with the LED bulb, it made the old stone walls look like fake plastic stone.
  17. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    If you saw a side by side color difference, then the bulb prob wasn't really 2700K, or your incandescents are underpowered/cool.

    I am sure you can tell the difference between a CRI = 80 bulb warm color and the temp matched incandescent if you really try. The L-prize lamps were well liked because they were over engineered to have a CRI = 90, really can't tell the difference there by eye. I am skeptical that natural surface reflectances have narrow bands in them.

    The flood market is still evolving, and the prices for Phillips/Cree are down to the $25 mark, pulling your ROI down to 10% per hour/day runtime.

    You might be more happy to experiment if you have a good return policy in place, at a convenient brick and mortar store.
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  18. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    I agree with Joful's observation, whether his explanation is correct or not. It's probably more complicated than that since I've observed the same with CFLs. I have a room in my house where placing even one LED/CFL makes the whole room look sickly, yet others where I couldn't see any difference even with the very early CFLs. I have two rooms with almost identical yellow paint, yet one looks much worse under LED/CFL lights.

    I suspect that paint manufacturers will get ahead of this trend, and will be bringing out warmer paints, that will look better under LED/CFLs, or perhaps homeowners will be choosing different paints. My observation has been that generally speaking, stronger colors look better, but its not as simple as that, some pigments must reflect differently.

    TE
  19. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Don't forget that your rods and cones aren't perfectly flat broadband receivers, either. This is particularly an issue for anyone who works in a capacity where their eyes may be damaged (welding, optoelectronics, surgical lasers, etc.).

    A coworker was telling me about a problem he had with his LED headlamp (used for cycling in the dark early morning hours), and his yellow or amber filtered cold-weather goggles. He never had a problem wearing these goggles in cold weather when using the incandescent headlamp, but once he switched to the LED he found many objects just show up black thru those goggles, which are clearly filtering one of the LED's wavelengths.

    He has settled for augmenting the LED headlamp with a handlebar mounted incandescent, a technique I experimented with in my own interior lighting. In fact, two of my second-floor hall light each contain one 40W CFL and one 40W incandescent, inside the same frosted globe. It doesn't look as good as two incandescents, but it looks better than two CFL's.
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  20. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    So, there is color temperature, and CRI (color rendering index). The Color temperature is the temperature of an incandescent object that the light best matches. The deviations from that match are described by CRI. IOW, an incandescent bulb at 2700 K has a color temp of 2700, and a CRI = 1.00. The color temp is the big thing, but a 'warm' bulb with a low CRI <0.8 can distort color appearances, by <0.7 most folks notice. The market seems to think that CT=2500-2700K and a CRI=0.80+ will be 'good enough' for most people to happily swap for LEDs, esp since incands are getting phased out.

    I personally would like a slightly higher CRI.

    So, years ago a lot of people bought the wrong temperature CFLs, and trashed the concept without giving it a fair shake. I blame the manufacturers for this...I think the blue ones were easier to engineer/cheaper/more profitable, but they ended up trashing the 'brand'. Now that everyone is hip to color temps, there are still a lot of cheapo CFLs that have terrible CRI, that continue to frustrate buyers and slow adoption.

    The same thing seems to be repeating for LED bulbs, with the bonus that a lot of bulbs are significantly underpowered/dark, but claim to substitute a bright bulb. Scammers pure and simple.

    So, TE, are you saying that your problem was with CFL/LEDs that were 2500-2700K and CRI>=0.80? OR were you trying crppy bulbs with low CRI?

    Just for perspective, natural daylight has a color similar to those really blue CFLs, and halogen bulbs are noticeably bluer than regular incandescent, but noone ever complains about how 'cold' THEY are. I put in some solar tubes, but the light they bring in is 'cool' colored.
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  21. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    For portable applications, manufacturers seem to go for maximum lumens per watt, which leads to a very high color temp, blue light and lousy CRI. Really a different market from indoor lighting.

    I think we are disagreeing over the term 'narrow'. I do a lot of optical work, and in my lingo (lasers), none of these sources are really narrow to me. But your point is well taken!
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  22. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Me too! I did a ton of work at 1310 nm, and some in early 1550 nm cooled lasers. Now I work on systems with decades of bandwidth, though.

    <-- Former laser packaging engineer
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  23. Laszlo

    Laszlo New Member

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    If you want to reduce your bill, it's definitely worth taking a few minutes to find a cheaper electric supplier. Once you decide on one, it takes just minutes to input your info. And there's no hassle of dealing with a second company--PECO still handles billing and all wire maintenance, so nothing changes from your standpoint except the amount you pay each month. I followed woodgeek in signing up for wind power (seems we 3 are in the same boat--all in SE PA and using ~20k kWh a year). Reduced my bill, and locked in my rate for 3 years. A nice thing to have that guaranteed price stability, especially when PECO's "Price to Compare" has more than doubled in the past 2.5 years.

    I also wouldn't discount reducing consumption. We've lowered our annual usage from 33.5k kWh/yr in 2009 through a combination of attic air sealing/increased insulation, replacing our old wood-burning stove with something modern, and converting most of our lighting to LEDs. The savings are real (spent $834 less on electric in 2012 compared to '09), and on top of that we had greater comfort. The attic improvements alone made the temperatures upstairs about 5::F closer to what the thermostat is set to downstairs.

    With the LEDs too, it feels like we got an upgrade. We love the light from Philips L-Prize LEDs for our most-occupied rooms, plus the swap allowed us a much-appreciated brightness boost for some fixtures which are limited to 60W bulbs. And the new $12.50 Cree LEDs provide much better light than CFLs ever did. Finally, even if the light from LEDs doesn't meet your standards, you can still reduce your wattage ~30% by using halogens instead of incandescents. If you wish to calculate your ROI for different bulb types, I've got a spreadsheet for comparing long-term costs (already set to 16.5¢/kWh).
  24. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    With hindsight, I wish I'd kept better (i.e. any) track of what I tried, what worked and what didn't. I never fell for the "60W equivalent" BS, I looked on a nearby shelf for the lumens of the halogen or incandescent I wanted to replace with a CFL and matched that. I don't remember seeing color temperature on the earliest CFLs I tried, and even once temperatures were listed, for a long time they weren't warm enough. I'd buy one bulb and try it, if it lit fast and looked good, I bought more. Many places in my house look fine with CFLs but my kitchen/dining area has pale hardwood floor, pale yellow walls and pale blue cabinets (looks much better than it sounds). I couldn't find any quick lighting CFL with a suitable look for that room. Eating food from a beautiful amish table under a sickly light is not my idea of going green, and neither is coming into a dark room then waiting 30 seconds for the CFLs to light enough to see my way safely across. My holy grail is to find a nice LED that will go in six PAR20 50W halogen floodlights in that room.

    Any CFL that I didn't like went into the basement, or shop lights, so they all got used. My biggest problem with CFLs is that I've never got the claimed life, some have lasted less than a year, and I didn't keep receipts or packages. I'm not prepared to layout the cost of LEDs for the same poor life. I love my CFLs in shop lights (no burnt hair! Much more shock resistant), and also in fittings with limited incandescent wattage due to fire concerns. I've also mixed ultra compact CFLs with incandescent in twin bulb fittings

    TE
  25. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Very similar boat here. I tried a lot of CFLs over the years, and took a lot back to the mom and pop hardware that I bought em at (in sellable condition). I always found I needed about 30-35% the wattage to get the same subjective brightness, (or rather, that worked for the Mrs). I had a few locations (can lights in kitchen) that I stuck with incandescents until 2013.

    I replaced a mix of 50W and 75W halogen floods with these:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008NNZSI0/ref=oh_details_o02_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    and am very happy with the color. Brightness was actually 'too high' but we got used to that quickly. They are dimmable, but haven't tried that yet.

    One suggestion....there are spot lights (PAR series) and flood lights (BR series). The halogens come in spot and flood too. IN my case the BR (wide angle flood) was much more appropriate. The difference between spot and flood is greater with the LED bulbs IMO.

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