Electrification of household energy is an important strategy to reduce fossil fuel use. The ultimate goal certainly is not to use more electricity, but to reduce greenhouse emissions. Yes, we must strive to “electrify” our homes, but we need to do so smartly to minimize our electric bills and ensure we are using “green” electricity.
Whether you receive the multipage monthly electric bill in the mail or online, understanding the data provided can be quite daunting, and most consumers focus on only one number: the amount due. The amount due is a combination of the electric supply charge, the electric distribution charge and a small fee for being a Central Maine Power customer. There is another number that may be more important: the amount of energy consumed.
Unfortunately, the amount due is provided on the first page of the bill, and the amount of energy consumed in kilowatt hours (kWh) typically is provided on the second page of the bill.
The amount due is driven by the amount of energy you use and is measured in kWh. This number is determined with a simple equation: energy consumed (kWh) = power (kW) x time (hours).
In other words, the energy used is a combination of the wattage of the appliance and the length of time you use it. “Wattage” is a measure of power, and you really don’t need to be an electrician to understand it. Just think that anytime an appliance transfers heat or generates force, you are using power. It should be intuitive: a lot of heat or a lot of force equates to a lot of power. For example, typical wattages for household items include clothes dryer (3000 W), space heater (1500 W), hair dryer (1200 W), 50-inch LCD TV (150 W), Macbook charger (60 W), pedestal fan (50 W), and LED light bulb (8 W).
The biggest electric power hogs are central air conditioning (or heat pump) systems, which can easily run in the range of 3500 W to 5000 W, and electric car chargers, which can range from 1500 W to 8000 W, depending on the speed of the charge. A large number of Watts is not necessarily bad; it simply means it runs at high power, and the longer you use that high power, the more electric energy you consume.
The next time you look at your electric bill, take a look at that most important number, the number of kilowatt hours. The average United States residential customer uses approximately 900 kWh of energy per month. Here in Maine (where use of residential air conditioning and electric heating are below national averages), our monthly usage is 600 kWh, 33% less than the national average.
Understanding your electric consumption is one of the first steps to reducing it. Central Maine Power conveniently offers an online Energy Manager tool, which gives customers a window into their daily electricity consumption. It’s enlightening and fun to see how much power the household is using over the course of a day and night. In the middle of the night, when the household is asleep, is your home still using a large amount of electricity? Are there “vampire loads” sucking electricity even when appliances are off? Are old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs or ceiling fans left on? The Energy Manager tool can help you analyze, understand and minimize your energy consumption.
Understanding electricity use is the first step in smart electrification. Understanding where your electricity comes from and choosing renewable or “clean” electricity is the next step. Stay tuned!
York Ready for 100% is a grassroots citizens’ organization dedicated to building sustainability and reducing the causes of climate change and its effect on humans and the natural world. For more information see yorkreadyfor100.org or [email protected]