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Changing clocks may save hour, but not energy

October 31, 2005

October 30, 2005

We’ve gone through that autumn ritual again – no, not raking leaves, setting the clocks back and leaving daylight-saving time for a return to standard time. The mornings are lighter, the evenings darker and, if conventional wisdom is correct, we’ll burn more electricity than before.

After all, we’ll switch on the lights at an earlier hour. When it’s cold, we’ll turn on the heat earlier, too.

But in California, for example, the folks at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District don’t see even a blip of change in electricity demand when the time changes.

Off and on for nearly 100 years, America has observed daylight-saving time in the name of saving energy. An oft-cited federal study suggests that rolling the clocks forward by an hour from spring to fall saves the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

In reality, information is scarce on just how much energy is conserved by daylight-saving time.

“We don’t know. We’ve never studied it,” said Craig Stevens, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Energy.

“There are no good data,” said Ian Bartky, a scientist retired from the National Bureau of Standards.

SMUD spokeswoman Dace Udris said evening electricity use this time of year corresponds to sunset, regardless of clock time. If moving the clock backward causes any change in demand, she said, it’s imperceptible.

What about the 100,000-barrels-a-day number? Setting aside the fact that America generates very little of its electricity by burning petroleum, that number came out of a report by the federal Department of Transportation 30 years ago.

Besides being dated, it’s also questionable.

Bartky, who lives in Maryland, was part of a team of scientists who reviewed that study. “We found flaws in the way of calculating the energy,” he said. “You correct for the flaws, and you don’t see any energy savings.”

Bartky said the researchers neglected to adjust for the hour that is lost or gained when the time changes. “If you compare (electricity used in) the week before with the week after, if you don’t adjust for that, you see savings,” he said.

More recently, the California Energy Commission studied the subject. This was in 2001, in the midst of the state electricity crisis. The commission examined whether the state could shave energy use by observing daylight-saving time year-round and/or rolling the clocks ahead by two hours, rather than one hour, in summer.

It concluded that both would save some electricity. The better bet, researchers found, was going year-round, which they calculated would cut wintertime peak electricity use by 1,100 megawatts.

Whether these findings are more reliable than the old DOT analysis is uncertain. The study was not reviewed by independent, outside scientists.

Doing a rigorous study is not a small undertaking. Bartky said there are many variables to consider, including weather and people’s behavior.

For example, if there is more light in the evenings – as happens under daylight-saving time – might people drive more than they otherwise would? Also, might there be unintended consequences that outweigh energy savings?

The analysis by Bartky and his colleagues in the mid-1970s found there might be.

In response to the energy crisis of that era, Congress extended daylight-saving time in 1974 and 1975, starting it months earlier than usual.

School-safety advocates complained that the darker mornings endangered children on their way to school. Upon review, Bartky and others found that, indeed, reports of student traffic fatalities rose following the change.

Whether the increase in fatalities was real or caused by more vigilant reporting, Bartky said, the finding led Congress to cancel the wintertime extension.

This year, with energy costs rising, Congress again has tinkered with time. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, daylight-saving time will begin three weeks earlier and end one week later, starting in 2007.

The presumption is that the move will save energy and money, although Congress acknowledged the uncertainty by requiring the Department of Energy to report back on the effects nine months after the change kicks in.

Staff members for the congressmen who sponsored the legislation – Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Fred Upton, R-Mich. – said that even if the savings are modest, every little bit counts.

Check out our Energy Conservation 101 blog and get 26 tips to save energy this winter.

Where can I get help with electrical questions?

At our website:

We help our clients solve home electrical wiring problems. We can help you in many areas, such as:

  • 220 volt house wiring
  • Wiring a service panel
  • Home electrical wiring how to tips
  • Wiring two electrical outlets together
  • Electrical wiring a two way switch (actually a 3 way switch)
  • and many more

Where Can I Get Help With Electrical Questions I Have?

October 31, 2005

Ever wish you could pick up the phone and ask an experienced electrician a quick question?

…Well, now you can! 

eGilchrist, Inc. is now offering Electrical Consulting Services by phone, instant messenger or email. Now, it doesn’t matter what type of home wiring project you are working on, help is just a phone call, instant message or email away.

We decided to do this because of a phone call we received first thing Monday morning from a customer requesting us to come out to their house and repair an electrical short immediately. They said that they repaired a receptacle (plug) that wasn’t working in their bedroom Saturday evening. However, all day Sunday and so far that morning their house smelled like something electrical was burning. So I hung up the phone and rushed over there.

I couldn’t believe what I found when I arrived. One of the wire connections was loose and arcing against a roof truss. The roof truss was blackened for about 6″ in either direction of the loose connection. These people were very lucky. If they waited a few more hours, they would have had a fire on their hands.

From this and several other experiences like this, we have learned that most homeowners are willing to tackle their own residential electrical wiring projects. We just want to be sure the wiring is done safely.

To use our service and solve you electrical wiring problems immediately, please visit today.



October 29, 2005

A portable generator can be a great aid, but if operated improperly, it can be dangerous.

Here are some some safety tips from Florida Power & Light and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

• Generators must be placed outdoors because they emit carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. Place in a well-ventilated area, not under an open window where the fumes could waft inside.

• Do not connect the generator to the home wiring system, such as through a fuse box or circuit breaker, unless you have a transfer switch that has been installed by a licensed electrician. The power can flow outside the house to the power lines and injure workers.

• Make sure your generator is the right size. In general, small generators can power appliances requiring 110-volt current, such as lamps and refrigerators. A larger generator (at least 3,500 watts) is needed for appliances using 220 volt current, such as window air conditioners, stoves and clothes dryers. Do not hook up a generator to a central air-conditioning unit.

• Don’t exceed the recommended wattage listed on the generator.

• Make sure the generator is grounded. Connect a length of heavy-gauge wire between the generator grounding lug and an external ground source, or make your own by driving a length of copper piping into the ground.

• Use a heavy-duty extension cord to plug appliances into the generator.

• Let the unit reach operating speed before electrical loads are connected. Disconnect loads before turning off the engine. Don’t allow the engine to run out of gas while appliances are connected.

• Let the generator cool down before refueling. Never refuel while the engine is running.

• Fuel for the generator, such as gasoline or propane, should be stored outside, never inside.

• After storm season has passed, start the generator once a month to keep it ready for next year.

• Keep it dry. Units should be not operated or stored in wet or damp conditions. Don’t operate on top of metal decking. If possible, keep the generator elevated off the ground with plywood.

• Keep intake and ventilating slots clean. Don’t put anything through the slots — this could cause the engine to overheat.

• Keep the generator clean and free of oil, mud and other foreign matter.

A portable generator is nice, but it is too much work to operate and distribute the power. We offer Generac generators that are permanently mounted. These generators start automatically and have your power back on within seconds of the outage. They are fueled by natural gas or propane and are available in 7,000 watt (7kW) – 40,000 watt (40kW) sizes.

Stop by our website and buy your Generac Guardian Home Standby Generator today.

Energy Conservation 101

October 29, 2005

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is projecting that temperatures this winter will be 3.2 percent lower than last year’s.

Heating bills are expected to rise as much as 48 percent, according to the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration.

On average, households heating primarily with natural gas can expect to spend about $350 (48 percent) more this winter on fuel. Households heating primarily with heating oil can expect to pay, on average, $378 (32 percent) more. Households relying mostly on propane can expect to pay, on average, $325 (30 percent) extra. The average bill for households using electricity to heat their homes is expected to climb $38, or 5 percent

Here are some great tips to help conserve energy and lower your monthly power and gas bills:

1. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Utilize the ‘sleep’ setting on computers as this can use as much energy as a refrigerator.

2. Set thermostat to 68 degrees when home and set back to 60 degrees while sleeping or away from home for more than four hours. You can save as much as 1 percent of costs for every degree you lower your thermostat.

3. Install a programmable thermostat that automatically dials the temperature down at night and during hours when nobody is at home.

4. When’s the last time you replaced the filter for your heat pump or furnace? Gas furnaces that have dirty filters, leaky ducts or are in need of repair use significantly more energy (meaning higher gas bills) to produce the same amount of heat in the living space. Get your furnace checked annually and change your furnace filter every three to six months.

5. Insulate gas or oil-fired hot water storage tanks and household pipes, being careful not to insulate the thermostat area on the equipment.

6. Remove any furniture or items which may be blocking vents supplying and returning air to the furnace.

7. Your water heater accounts for 25 percent of your natural gas bill. Be sure to lower your thermostat to 120 degrees and use less hot water by taking shorter showers.

8. Take showers instead of baths. Bathing uses more hot water in the average household — up to 25 gallons. A five-minute shower uses less hot water and could add up to substantial savings over time.

9. Replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs. The up front costs are more; $10 – $15 for the compact fluorescent verses $0.65 for a regular incandescent bulb, but the compact fluorescent will last 20,000 hours verses 750 hours for a regular incandescent. The energy star qualified compact fluorescent also uses 66% less energy while operating at cooler temperatures.

10. Apply self-adhesive foam strips to the back of wall plates for electrical outlets and switches.

11. Vacuum refrigerator coils and keep lights and lighting fixtures clean.

12. Place the refrigerator at least four inches from the wall so as not to overwork the motor. Make sure doors are sealed tightly to prevent cold air from escaping.

13. Keep the freezer as full as possible. Use plastic bottles with water to fill in the empty spaces.

14. When cooking, prepare all ingredients ahead to minimize constant switching of the stove on and off. Thaw frozen food before cooking. Cover pots and pans to prevent heat from escaping. Don’t buy a gas range.

15. Ranges, ovens and grills account for six percent of natural gas use in your home. Be sure to preheat the oven only when necessary. Everytime you open the oven door — you pay a penalty of 25 degrees.

16. Make sure food is cool and covered before it goes into the refrigerator.

17. Run full loads in the washer and dryer.

18. Unplug televisions, DVD players and VCRs while on vacation.

19. When ironing, do it all at one time. Dampen clothes moderately. Switch off the iron in the last few minutes of the ironing.

20. Use caulk around the house — inside windows, electrical receptacle boxes, fan openings, pipes leading to bathroom fixtures, cracks in chimneys and basement walls.

21. If a playing card fits in the crevice of an outside door, you need more weather stripping.

22. Humidity helps: Use a vaporizer to humidify bedrooms.

23. Close off unused space

24. Open window coverings on the sunny side of a home to take advantage of the sun. Close the coverings as the sun goes down.

25. Check insulation levels in attic, crawlspaces and/or basement; add insulation where needed.

26. Keep the garage door closed if the garage is attached to the house.

Good Luck!

Nevada Power’s cool plan to save electricity

October 28, 2005

Nevada Power’s cool plan to save electricity

Amid the threat of higher rates — and corresponding customer outcry — driven by soaring costs for natural gas used to fuel electric power plants, Nevada Power Co. of Las Vegas continues to examine efforts to reduce its load.

Earlier this month, the utility asked the state Public Utilities Commission to consider a conservation project built around partnerships with many large residential builders. The goal is to encourage the use of high-efficiency air-conditioning units.

If approved by state regulators, Nevada Power would pay 50 percent of the cost of installing units with a 13 SEER rating on homes, up from the standard 10 SEER. The bigger units are 30 percent more efficient and could save consumers as much as $200 a year in utility bills.

Among the builders involved are Pulte/Del Webb, KB Home, American West, William Lyon Homes, Toll Brothers Inc. and 20 other major builders.

The new air-conditioner project is one of several efforts included in the PUC filing. The utility also is seeking to expand its promotion of Energy Star appliances, its refrigerator recycling program and its Sure Bet incentives for conservation among commercial customers.

I think this is a great idea. More utility companies should create programs like this one to help conserve energy.

Most utility companies already offer some type of energy conservation plan. You should check with your local utility company to see if they offer any type of plan and possibly rebates.

Our local utility company is offering rebates for compact fluorescent light bulbs. They are offering $2.00 back for every one you purchase. These bulbs last considerably longer and use a lot less energy. My wife could not understand why I bought so many and replaced every bulb in our house with compact fluorescent, until she saw this month’s power bill. Replacing all of our regular incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent resulted in a 3% savings for a partial month. I installed these around 9/18.

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