Tuesday, October 29, 2019

LEDs vs. Fluorescent Bulbs

Wandering through the home center this week to pick up a few things, I came across a clearance bin of LED bulbs - 4 x 60W equivalent, GE, soft white - 98 cents. I picked up two boxes. This morning I decided to go through the condo and pick off the handful of remaining fluorescent bulbs that got enough use to justify replacement,

I ended up replacing four bulbs - two hallway ceiling fixtures, a bedroom table lamp, and my front porch lamp. I've gotten used to the fluorescent warm-up over the years; kind of like a propane or kerosene lantern while camping - takes a while to come up to temp. I'm 100% sure I went through the condo and replaced incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs when I first moved in (2009); this is a fairly quick product lifespan. It's a testimony to the reliability of fluorescent bulbs that I've got a box of spare / replaced bulbs kicking around - rarely if ever had to replace the fluorescent devices.

I'm a bit too Yankee frugal and environmentally conscious to just toss these. I'm sure whoever is settling my eventual estate will be grateful for the task.

I did a quick survey of the remaining fluorescent bulbs - back deck (almost never used), rear basement door (ditto), two bedroom ceiling fixture bulbs (rarely used, mini receptacle), and a couple of 3-way floor lamps. There's an old pull chain fluorescent tube fixture in the basement (24" long, tool bench lighting). Nothing that gets used or left on a lot. I've also got a few incandescent bulbs left - some ceiling track PAR lamps in the yoga room, on a dimmer.

Next time I'm in the home center I'll check on the availability of 3-way LEDs and dimmable PAR LEDs, and if I see another bulb bargain I might replace these stragglers as well.

Remember when one had to replace light bulbs regularly - when flicking a switch and getting the soft pop and bright flash of a bulb burning out was a thing? I can't remember the last time a bulb went bad...

And I have to wonder if there are stats out there about the reduction in residential fires related to the thermally cooler and lower current drawing lighting tech of the modern era. Once upon a time, the watts consumed by lighting was a pretty significant part of the home electrical panel load - I have to believe it's become almost insignificant.

Tuesday morning musing by a power quality engineer with a bit too much time on her hands!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Shoemaker's Children Go Barefoot (no more)

For someone who makes the bulk of her income working with power quality, my own computer systems have been fairly under-protected for many years.

I picked up a stand-by UPS (APC Model ES550) many years ago (maybe 10? hard to say, might have been my second device); it has served me reasonably well. And even though I'm well aware of the nature of stand-by UPS (time delay before inverter switches on, step wave inverter output) it's done a pretty solid job of keeping my computer up and running.

A few days ago, my home office lost power for a bit - clocks were reset, the computer switched off - and I realized it was time to upgrade the office UPS. I picked up another APC - a line interactive, sine wave output model RS 1000MS - rated for 1000VA / 600W.

It's got plenty of juice for my needs - sitting at about 20% of load / 37 minutes of battery time with my desktop, monitor, cable modem, and a small backup server and peripheral hard drive. I'm much enamored with the front panel LED screen and the PowerChute software. And while I have not set my computer up to hibernate at the command of the UPS, that's a possibility.

I go back a long ways - when a buck a watt was perhaps a reasonable price to pay for a small UPS. So to get all this for about $150 - well, I'm not complaining.

And I took the time to run my house cable through the internal TVSS and the Ethernet from the cable modem back to the computer through the UPS - so I've got a better chance of surviving nearby lightning strikes / transients - related to both transient voltages and ground potential issues. I'm not at the point of driving a ground rod and connecting an external ground though. I'm down in a basement and close to the residence service panel, so not super worried about ground issues.

And I've also spent some time separating critical loads (computer, monitor, cable modem, exterior drives / servers) from less critical loads (printers, speakers), plugging these latter into the TVSS only outlets. And while I was down there with the system off, untangling the cable spaghetti, wrapping and tying off cables, neatening things up.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Line Level Thermostats: Smart, Connected

Back in September 2014 I put together a blog post about how to save money when using electric baseboard heat, commonly found in condos and smaller residences, or locations not easily served by natural gas, propane or heating oil.

At that time, there were three primary options:
  • Analog, mechanical thermostats
  • Digital, electronic thermostats
  • Timer based smart thermostats (~$50 these days)
Over time, I've upgraded my residence to include four smart thermostats - bedroom, living room, yoga room, and basement office. And I could probably use one in the kitchen. They have been pretty reliable and useful; when I occasionally turn the heat up for comfort, they come back down to more economical settings at the next time change. The heat goes down to 58F at night, warms up to 65F in the morning before my wake time, and drops down to 62F during the day (when I am typically in the basement working or out of the house). A spare room I use for yoga practice is closed off and kept at 55F unless I'm practicing (~85F) and the thermostat resets if I forget to lower the temp when I'm finished. A little bit of hassle changing the time in the spring and fall, but not a big deal.

With the Consumer Electronic Show going on in Las Vegas this week, I thought it might be a good opportunity to poke around and see what's out there in terms of smart thermostats for line level applications. Here's what I've found:
I'm not at the point of purchasing yet - looking at ~$500 to swap out all the thermostats I'd like to be programmable. But if I were buying right now, I'd go with the Stelpro device - seems to be the most mature technology, works with a lot of smart / programmable house systems. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Short (and Personal) History of Light Bulbs

Once upon a time, light bulbs were pretty simple. You picked a wattage: 40 / 60 / 75 / 100. You picked a brand: GE or Philips or Westinghouse or something generic. There would be some tweaking around the edges (light color, minor increases in efficiency, bulb shape) but pretty much a light bulb was a light bulb. If you got fancy, there were three way bulbs 30 / 70 / 100 or 50 / 100 / 150. And there were some odd shapes and sizes for ceiling fans, chandeliers, wall sconces, etc.

I recently gathered up all the loose bulbs kicking around. I've got a small box of incandescent bulbs - dregs from a much earlier time; replacement units that never quite found their way into a socket. Many of these were installed and replaced (by CFLs or LEDs) others were spares never installed. I confess that, long after CFLs were dominant, I would opt for an incandescent bulb in a few places where I valued the "instant on" ability, dimmability, or the warmer lamp color. And I've got some clear globular lamps that were bathroom vanity lighting for many years.

I've also got a much bigger stash of CFL bulbs. These were much more finicky - I'd buy bulbs that took too long to warm up, bulbs that were slightly different colors, bulbs that were slightly smaller or larger or enclosed. Over time, I replaced most of the bulbs in my home with CFLs, and over time, most of those got swapped out for more efficient and friendlier LED bulbs - I've really enjoyed watching LED technology come into the marketplace, prices to drop, features to improve. Since the CFLs did indeed last longer than incandescent bulbs, there were a lot fewer opportunities to swap them out organically.

So now I've got a bin full of bulbs. I'm too much of a yankee to throw them out  - perhaps envisioning an end-times scenario when older technology bulbs might come in handy. Been interesting to watch this particular bit of technology shift and change over my lifetime.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Draining a Dehumidifier

Documenting my little "never want to empty that dehumudifier bucket again" project.

(A) Bought a small drain hose ($7, Loew's) which screws onto the dehumidifier drain, directing extracted water into

(B) The reservoir of the sump pump (Little Giant model VCMA-20ULT, $45 online including shipping and handling). When reservoir is sufficiently full, the pump turns on, sending water through a check-valve into

(C) 3/8" plastic tube, which I've run up the wall, into the ceiling, and down to the

(D) washing machine drain, where it empties. The pump turns off when its reservoir is empty, and the check valve keeps the water from flowing back into the pump reservoir.

The only improvements I might make are:

(1) Place a shallow plastic tray or container under the dehumidifier and sump pump in case of some sort of failure or loose fitting. Just an extra level of safety....

(2) Run the drain into a large container with a tap or faucet (like a water cooler) which I could then recycle for houseplants / grey water. Although I'd have to be sure that did not overflow.....

The pump is very quiet, I almost never catch it working, especially compared to the relatively loud dehumidifier. I also have purchased a high current receptacle timer, designed especially for motor drive appliances, to cycle the dehumidifier (on at night, off during the day) if the cycling starts to bug me.

The Model VCMA-20ULT is perhaps a bit overkill (20' Head, 1.3 Gals/min) for my application, but there was not much difference in price between this and the next size down, so I thought it best to be conservative.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

High Temperature Thermostat

One of my side jobs is doing facility support for my local yoga studio. They have some unique HVAC requirements - specifically thermostats that have higher than normal set-points.

Most commercial thermostats go up to 90°F or 94°F maximum. I was able to find one thermostat - the Jackson Systems Model T-32-P which can be programmed up to 122°F heating set-point.

It actually seems to be a very versatile device, with a ton of flexibility for many different systems:
  • Up to 3H/2C conventional and heat pump systems
  • 7 day programmable
  • Large backlit display
  • Auto or manual changeover
  • Keypad and/or setpoint lockout
  • Smart fan logic for commercial control
  • Adaptive recovery
  • Optional indoor sensor (T-32-S1 or TS-32-S2) or outdoor sensor (T-32-OTS)
  • Outdoor temperature display with optional outdoor sensor (T-32-OTS)
  • Available with integrated Modbus communications (Version 2.20)
We've got three of these installed right now - two in a large studio (forced air and baseboards, both heat only, and programmed for automatic warm up and night settings) and one in a small studio (heat / cool / forced air, no programming) and all are working great. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Peak Savings

EnergizeCT, the energy saving arm of Eversource, has an interesting web page devoted to reducing peak demand: CT Power Update: Demand / Air Quality - with a tool that maps forecasted and actual demand.

My suspicion is that, as smart metering rolls out, utilities such as Eversource will begin to pro-rate energy based on time of use (peak / off-peak) and perhaps even ding consumers for peak demand and/or low power factor, as they do commercial and industrial clients.

On the same page, they are also promoting a "Wait Until 8" program to encourage consumers from running major appliances during peak demand hours (12 noon - 8 pm). Things like dishwashers, clothes dryers, swimming pool pumps, etc. that could be run more consciously.