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ENERGY TRACKING TOOL: Welcome to the Bluebonnet science laboratory

0811
 2014


You don't need a white lab coat to try these experiments on saving energy

 
By Denise Gamino
 
These are experiments you can conduct to save money on your electric bill. Try a few of our lab experiments and you may even become a PHD: Profitable Home Data-cruncher. 
 
The only “scientific” device you need is Bluebonnet’s online Energy Tracking Tool, which shows how much electricity you use, down to the hour. 
 
Once you study the results of your experiments, you can adjust your lifestyle — or even your cooking style — to save money.
 
First, some prep work
 
Get started with some simple research: Go to bluebonnet.coop and click on the Net Energy Market link, then on Energy Tracking. You’ll see a tutorial on how to use the Energy Tracking Tool. 
 
Ready? 
 
Log in to your online account (from the top right corner of any page on bluebonnet.coop). If you don’t have an online account, just click on Register underneath the login button and follow the prompts. You have to be a Bluebonnet member to have an online account.
 
On your account page, look at the Energy Tracking Tool and toggle to the “Daily” setting. You'll need to wait 24 hours to see how much energy you used during the hours of your experiment. You can look farther back — by the billing period or year, too. Just hover your cursor over each blue bar to see each hour of your experiment. 
 
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Experiment #1 : Cooking Dinner

 
Make a list of your electric cooking gadgets (you have more than you think!): electric can opener, coffee maker, electric fryer, electric knife, bread machine, electric skillet, electric mixer, hot plate, blender, food processer, juicer, toaster oven, rice cooker and portable wine cooler. Don’t forget dessert: electric ice cream machine, cupcake maker or snow cone machine. Create a menu that uses as many electric gadgets as possible. Of course, include your electric oven and range burners.  
 
Note the date and hour you start firing up your gadgets and appliances. Cook your all-electric dinner. Enjoy! 
 
 
Now, select another day (preferably one with similar weather — you can see temperatures by clicking on the small red box below the bar chart). At the same hour as before, make dinner using no electric gadgets, oven or stovetop. Maybe some fruit and sandwiches, or meat and veggies cooked on a charcoal grill. Again, note the date and prep/cook time.
 
Wait 24 hours, then go to Bluebonnet’s online Energy Tracking Tool and look for the dates and hours of your two cooking experiments. The tool will show just how much more power the all-electric meal used — and how much more it cost — compared to the no-electricity dinner. 
 
EXTRA CREDIT: Compare both dinners with your average dinner hour to see how much electricity was used or saved.  
 
PRO TIP: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that cooking accounts for 4.5 percent of total home energy use. 
 
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Experiment #2: Movie Time

 
Plan to leave your home for two to three hours during the day for this experiment. Head to the cinema, or take a no-cost excursion to the park or to visit friends or family. Before you leave, increase the temperature in your house by several degrees to reduce your air conditioning use. The more you change the temperature, the more noticeable the differences in power use should be. 
 
Did you know the Department of Energy recommends adjusting your thermostat by 10-15 degrees when you’re away from home for eight hours? That can save 5 to 15 percent on your energy bill.  (You may moderate that if you have indoor pets.)
 
Our experiment will take just a few hours. Note the date and hours you are away. Wait 24 hours, then check your Bluebonnet Energy Tracking Tool to learn how your household electric use was affected by the thermostat adjustment. Again, try to choose days that have similar outdoor temperatures for your experiment.
 
EXTRA CREDIT:  Try this experiment over several days, varying the setting on your thermostat each time.
 
EXTRA, EXTRA CREDIT:  If your AC filter is dirty, clean or change it on one of your  multi-day experiments and see what difference that makes.
 
PRO TIP:  The DOE suggests setting the thermostat at 78 degrees when you are home in the summer, and even higher when you are away.
 
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Experiment #3: Laundry Day

 
An electric clothes dryer is one of the biggest energy guzzlers in your home. Unlike other newer appliances, dryers still don’t have built-in energy efficiencies, so they can consume as much energy every year as your energy-efficient refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher combined, according to a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
 
For this experiment, select a time to do laundry, but air dry the clothes. Use a clothesline (either in the yard, garage or carport), or hang clothes over shower and towel rods, ironing boards or fold-up drying racks sold at big box stores. Remember, this is only an experiment!
 
Note the date and hours that you air dried. Use Bluebonnet’s Energy Tracking Tool to compare your electric use during those hours with a typical laundry day using an electric dryer. Again, try to do the laundry at the same time on both days and on days with similar temperatures outdoors.
 
EXTRA CREDIT:  Try this experiment when you have a large load of towels or bulky bedding.
 
PRO TIP:  If air-dried towels feel stiff, pop them into the dryer for a few minutes.
 
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Experiment #4: Washing Dishes

 
Roll up your sleeves for this experiment. If you have an automatic dishwasher, when did you last opt to wash and dry dishes by hand? Turn this lunch or dinner experiment into a family activity by assigning everyone a task: clear dishes from the table, scrape dishes, wash and dry by hand, put dishes away. It’s likely to take less time than with a dishwasher and can be more entertaining. The dishes may come out cleaner, too.
 
Note the date and hour of your dishwashing party and use Bluebonnet’s Energy Tracking Tool to compare that day and time to an evening when you load up  the dishwasher (maybe more than once if you have a big meal on both experiment days).
 
EXTRA CREDIT (ADVANCED): It’s possible to use too much hot water washing by hand, and if you have an electric water heater the cost of powering it could offset the energy saved by hand-washing dishes. Try to use a sink full of lukewarm soapy water to keep water heater use to a minimum.
 
PRO TIP:  Scrubbing pots and pans by hand will burn about 160 calories per half hour, according to LiveStrong.com
 

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