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Tuesday, August 17. 2010
Electrical Usage: A tragedy of ignorance
That is, if you consider broken homes a 'tragedy'.
Mom and Dad and the two kids go out for hamburgers. They have a great time; as fun a time as any family could wish to have.
The light little Jimmy left on is a 60-watt desk lamp.
I once lived with a woman who wasn't very clear on how wildly different electrical usage can be. I decided to make her up a bar graph:
— The first bar on the graph was just a thin, tiny red line. This was things like those plug-in adapters/chargers.
Figuring Out the $$
It's real easy to figure out how much money something costs to run. On almost every appliance is a sticker that has the amount of power it draws. It'll either be in "watts" or "amps".
Computers, while electronic, still use a measurable amount of juice. According to my inductive ammeter, my computer uses 1.2 amps.
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I'm afraid Doc Mercury is confusing power and energy. Watts are a measurement of power -- energy over time. We pay for kilowatt-HOURS, not kilowatts.
His argument about the relative cheapness of power is spot-on, but he needs to fix his terminology.
Yep. Have that argument from time to time with my mathematically challenged spouse.
I suppose the real idea is not the AMOUNT of electricity being wasted... its the sensitivity TO the waste itself. There are two competing dynamics here:
"Penny wise, pound foolish" and "A penny saved is a penny earned"
You doc are stating the obvious in the first, the corollary is in the second. The zen is in the balance. The finance guy would ask, how much is it costing you to save that penny? The military mind would look at the situation awareness. The greenies would overreact as in your strawman above. (Much as an aunt and uncle of mine reacted when I was growing up and electricity was .05/kilowatt hour. I still remember and resent that.)
(Don't get me started on saving money buying gas where its cheapest when there is a 4 mile round trip difference, trying to save .02/gallon on a 15 gallon fillup, and end up spending .50 in gas to do it. Its hard to convince some people.)
no, it's easy to convince some people, as some people are open to arguments and can think for themselves to understand them. It's the large majority of idiots who accept anything coming from their Celeb icons like Al Gore and Lady Gaga that are hard to convince.
"Watts are a measurement of power -- energy over time."
I said at least twice in the post that "watts=hours".
"We pay for kilowatt-HOURS, not kilowatts."
I also noted that you'll see "either KW or KWH (kilowatt HOURS)" on your electrical bill.
Real savings in electric bills could result if everyone understood and and was able to utilize demand billing.
AGHHH, Dr. Mercury also messed up the calculation for gallons per minute. Pressure times size of the hose gives you force, not gallons per minute. Gallons per minute is the product of velocity times cross sectional area, the pi r squared area through which the water flows.
However, he is generally right about the electricity cost calculations if you ignore phase angle (and you generally can for most household applications).
Does the farm need a staff engineer to keep this sort of thing straight?
Uh, I gave that scolding to my son a couple of nights ago. Not the first time either. However, it's a ridiculous extreme to say that's what is splitting up marriages!
You're the guys who linked to WashingtonRebel's rant about this just a few days ago!
Moreover, this scenario also ignores the more subtle fact that parents are supposed to teach the kids self-discipline and responsibility...all at a level that they're capable of achieving. Turning lights off is a level of responsibility that's appropriate for a child. And bringing discipline to a kid (even when that includes a scolding) is a BLESSING to them.
There's an old urban legend that a company got busted by the FTA for advertising "Solar Clothes Dryers" and shipping out a piece of rope to the customer. Nevertheless, using a clothesline is still the best ROI for anyone who has an interest in solar power or green energy.
In the summer it means you save on running the dryer, AND your house doesn't get as hot so you run the AC less. In the winter it's tougher (and the savings far less) but even if you can dry the clothes hanging them inside, you add humidity to your home which makes a big difference if you have forced air.
Finally, if you have natural gas the savings is likely less, but it's still there.
Good points as always, Joe. Another dynamic in play is how people view electrical costs. It seems like most people bitch and moan when the electrical bill comes in, yet I can hardly find a place where a dollar is more well spent.
The best example is my AC unit. It costs 8 cents/hr to run. Given the "feels like 120" temp outside my Florida Keys door, can you possibly imagine a better way to spend eight crummy cents than to, you know, actually be able to function for an hour? I can't.
"and electricity was .05/kilowatt hour"
I still remember when gasoline shot up to 25 cents/gallon. "The end of civilization as we know it" is how the columnists put it at the time, I believe.
I find it humorous to listen to the conservation arguments. First, electricity is like water; it flow into the ground and is gone. That's why we generate more and don't reuse it. Second, baseline costs for a power company to produce power are reflected in the overall economy, shareholder return (or co-op shares) and physical plant. Cut back on usage significantly to affect the baseline, rates will go up, wiping out your savings on conservation. Repeat and rinse. How far can this be taken before burning candles becomes in vogue again. Greenies live in a "what if" world.
"AGHHH, Dr. Mercury also messed up-"
"Also"? You mean that you, too, failed to see that I twice equated "watts" with "hours" and clearly noted that it's often "kilowatt HOURS" on your electrical bill?
You two are just reading what you want to read, not what the actual words say. Typical engineers.
"Gallons per minute is the product of velocity times cross sectional area, the pi r squared area through which the water flows."
Well, gosh, Dave, everybody knows that. On the other hand, who gives a rat's ass? I'm just groping for a casual "garden variety" (as it were) example as I introduce them to the extremely complex equation coming up.
Rather than playing the elitist EE dweeb, it would have done a lot more good if you'd suggested how to word the garden hose analogy correctly.
Whew - I'm just glad my degrees are in math and not engineering - the wrath of Doc. Mercury will not be denied. :>)
~~ says he who spent almost his entire career in engineering ~~ :>)
A watt is a rate of energy use. Watts times time is energy, which is what you pay for. 1 watt for 2 hours costs the same as 2 watts for 1 hour.
Just replace watts with watt-hours everywhere in the Dr. M argument and it's okay.
In the winter, if you heat with resistive heat anyway, anything you run is free. It heats the house watt for watt as efficiently as the furnace.
In the summer, it costs double.
It's not quite true that cooling is the same as heating watt-wise; cooling is infinitely efficient for the first degree or so, and gets more expensive very fast the bigger the temperature drop.
That's why air conditioner coils have a gale of wind running over them, to keep the temperature drops as small as possible.
A more accurate description: forced air over the coils removes heat effectively by convection, even when the ambient air temperature is high.
The efficiency of a heat engine depends on no contact between widely different temperatures. You want the cooling coil as close to indoor air temperature as possible, the cooling kept constant by raising the airflow. Do a tiny bit of cooling on a vast amount of air rather than a huge amount of cooling on a small amout of air.
It's the same deal on the outside coils being outside air temperature.
Well, it's true that electricity is fairly "cheap" in the abstract as the example shows.
However, it's the cummulative effect that brings electricity costs to high levels.
In our own experience here at Laugh Factory Ranch was simply amazing. After we remodeled our home, all of the digital stuff was put into storage - my stereo, digital transcievers, amplifiers - you get the picture. The only thing we left was the 42" HD TV in the living room for the wife.
Our bill went from an average of $280/mth to $90 and change/mth just by killing all the digital vampires. The worst offenders were the digital radios and two computers in my office.
It's the electrical vampires that get you - not room lights.
PS: The fun bit was I was forced to get my MacIntosh Mac 50 analog amps, the Mac Pre Amp and tuner out of storage along with the analog heirloom radios - a complete Collins S-line, Halicrafters shortwave receiver - etc.
I had forgotten the power and sound that analog delivers. Plus that warm golden glow from the tubes of the radios.
Anybody want to buy some Mac and original Marantz digital stereo equipment? :>)
Whoa, Cap'n, knock off the smiley face. A working split system Mac might be worth a bundle to the right person. See any at Best Buy recently? That is the primo stuff of a generation. I worked at a high-end stereo shop in the early 70's and we spoke of their equipment in reverant tones.
The Marantz, not so much. :)
I know what they are worth. You ought to see what the Mac 50s area worth and I have four of those. :>)
You might be interested to know that this system is matched up to a set of Bozak Concert Grands.
How's that for sound? :>)
(tipping hat) I admit, that's awesome. What, pray tell, outside of your high-taste packrat leanings, ever possessed you to collect and save them all?
Ah - well therein lies a tale.
T'was back in '70 when I was working for Texaco. I had a basic "stereo" system - Kenwood FM receiver/amp combination, JBL speakers, a Garrard turntable and Ampex four channel reel-to-reel. I wasn't terribly happy with the sound though.
As it happened, I ran into a Coastie at the New Orleans USCG station who was a short timer. He had just bought a 45 foot sailboat and he and his girlfriend were going to sail the Carribean after he was discharged so he didn't need the stereo system. One of my technicians wanted my stereo system so that's how I came into possesion of two of the Mac amps, tuner and pre-amp.
The Bozaks were courtesy of my Dad whose stereo system rivaled mine - that's where the second set of Mac 50s came from.
As to pack ratting - well, it's not quite as bad as it sounds. I tend to keep things that have some meaning to me or relate to some significant point in time. For instance, my '70 Corvette I bought and paid for with my combat pay over two tours plus some money I made prior my service. I loved working for Texaco, despite the hours, so I kept the system as a memento of my years in New Orleans. The analog ham radios were all my Dad's - sentiment there. Other than that stuff, I don't actually have a lot of "pack rat" stuff other than baseball cards (vaulted), my Milwaukee Braves autographed baseball (1956) and some odds and ends that have some particular meaning to me.
You kept the Corvette as a keepsake??
"Kenwood FM receiver/amp combination, JBL speakers, a Garrard turntable and Ampex four channel reel-to-reel. I wasn't terribly happy with the sound though."
The Kenwood always left a little something to be desired in the spurious rejection department, the JBLs were always a bit bright and I thought the bass was a little thumpy, Garrard always had anti-skating issues, however the Ampex with its dual-capstan drive was always a superb machine.
I'm sure glad we got this cleared up after all these years. :)
I had the TEAC A3340S 4 track/4 channel reel-to-reel bought in 1976. I probably had less than a hundred hours on the thing when I sold it to a nostalgia buddy of mine a couple years back.
Man, what a small world. I had that exact same model. What a dream machine that thing was, after putting together car tapes and such for years, "mixing" two turntables with some cheesy potentiometer. To be able to get the timing of the mix 'just so' with the dual stereo tracks was just too cool.
The other day I was lining up two audio tracks in SoundForge. I wasn't quite happy with the timing of the mix so I took the pointer and nudged the track over a tad. Sounded perfect. Also just too cool.
#184.108.40.206.1 Dr. Mercury (Link) on 2010-08-17 18:52 (Reply)
You kept the Corvette as a keepsake??
I've also kept my wife for 32 years. Just seems a shame to throw her away after all those years. :>)
The problem in the hypothetical is not electricity nor the electric bill. It's the need of one of the parents (in this case the father) to be in control, and/or the passive-aggressive response of the other parent (the mother this time). The child does need to learn discipline; at the same time, the discipline lesson is most effective in proportion and in context. As described, this is about the father using a tiny reason for a major blow-up. As a pattern, it woul need to change. As an incident, we've all been there if we have families.
Devoted parents will put up with a sulking child at times as part of the maturing process. They will stay with each other and the children as part of their shared happiness and commitment.
That Dear Abby enough for ya? But I do mean it.
Snickering at my own response: do you notice how quickly the conversation went to engineering, not relationships? Like that advice column about how the woman's car stalled, and she went to a motel to phone for help, and her husband was there with her best friend, and what should she do? Get a tuneup and check the fuel injectors!
Dad is not reacting about the penny wasted; he is reacting to the fact that his son has (probably again) forgotten to respect other people's property.
But for savings? Use a clothesline instead of an electric dryer, and Americans could save enough electricity to compensate for Al Gore's lifestyle.
It is never really about the energy usage, it is always about the control.
Dr. Merc.. "Watts means "per hour"
No, it does not. Watts means simply the voltage multiplied by the current. An instantaneous value not associated with time. 60 watts is 60 watts whether drawn for 1 second or 1 day. 60 watt/hours however is the value which you should have used. Same for 'kilowatts'. There is kilowatts and kilowatt/hrs, not to be confused.
Regardless, the $.012 result of your arugment is correct.
Now, "The best example is my AC unit. It costs 8 cents/hr to run. "
Better check again doc.
Well there meaux, (is that mee-oww? or mee-ohhh?, or Moe?) the good merc lives on a boat with one of those tiny air conditioners. At 960watts I'd guess about a 8 to 10000 btu plugin model.
Shoot, my home server draws a continuous 200watts for 15hours a day (another digression: A Belkin UPS shuts it down, cycles the power automatically) for 3kw hours per day. So it costs me roughly .45/day to run or $14/month, so far, just to do daily backups on my other machines. After having lost hard drives just in my production laptop at least three times in the last 10 years, I find the peace of mind worth the price.
Highly recommended is a kill-o-watt device. One would be surprised at the parasite power devices and how much those 1 to five watt consumption wall warts add up, let alone the 60 watt ones for the laptop(s). (2 laptops, a monitor, and 5 peripheral warts sit around my office desk, plus the two laser printers and network adapter for those just in my office alone!) I gotta get out of this business.....
"No, it does not."
This isn't science class. I'm trying to explain a somewhat esoteric formula to a bunch of everyday people. For you techie dweebs to come in here and harp about "watts" versus "watt-hours" is simply reprehensible.
"It costs 8 cents/hr to run. "
"Better check again doc."
8 amps x 120v = 960 watts. Divided by 1,000 = .96 KWH. Times $.08 = $.076/hr to run.
Sorry I wasn't more precise originally.
"For you techie dweebs to come in here and harp about "watts" versus "watt-hours" is simply reprehensible.
It is easy to say. Try it Doc:
"I stand corrected"
Okay. I stand corrected that I ever thought techie dweebs would understand what it's like not to be a techie dweeb.
I don't understand what you want "corrected". We have to give them something to multiply so we use "watts". I live on a boat and that's what my AC draws. So what, exactly, would you like "corrected" for this precious record of yours?
Howdy, Meaux and Dr M
See what I mean about the engineering?
No point in getting into the argument about watts, watt-hours
kilowatt, kilowatt-hours, for a number of reasons.
I pay around seven cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, generated by wind energy.
I suspect you pay around 7 cents per kWh for wind-generated electricity, and taxpayers pay that much in addition to your 7 cents. Last I heard, wind energy generally runs around 20 cents per kWh.
If an energy source requires subsidies, that's a prima facie case that it's less efficient and less enviro-friendly than the energy source it's supposed to displace. I'm all for actually clean energy; subsidized gags aren't the real thing.
It's actually more than 20 cents.
It's 20 cents AFTER the massive subsidies the power company gets for constructing the darn turbines, without which the initial investment would be 2-3-4 times higher (which of course would have to be recovered by increasing the cost of the product, electricity).