While it rarely reaches below freezing in the Phoenix area, that doesn’t stop us from feeling those cool temps that come in the winter. We will inevitably have to turn that heat on to combat our more temperate weather. Below, you can find a few things that will help your home stay comfortable enough to walk around barefoot in the dead of winter while also saving energy and improving your air quality.
Also, check around potential leakage “hot spots” such as old windows, doors, plumbing penetrations under sinks, and electrical outlets. By replacing old weatherstripping around the doors or caulking around the windows or plumbing penetrations, you can effectively keep your conditioned air where it belongs, inside. Check the local hardware store to find outlet sealers to add a little insulation behind light switches too.
2. Check your insulation
For Phoenix and central Arizona, the DOE recommends at least 12-inches of blown-in cellulose or an R-38 value to slow the transfer of cold air into the home. If your attic has fiberglass batt insulation, it should be in contact with the attic floor at all times to work properly.
3. Have your furnace or heat pump inspected
A seasonal tune-up may be in order for your furnace or heat pump. If the temperatures consistently don’t reach the temperature set-point, the HVAC system may be low on refrigerant or something else may be awry. It's best to have it checked by a professional.
4. Remove shade screens During the Phoenix winters, solar gain through windows can help significantly warm the home, lowering energy bills from decreased heat use. Shade screens can be unclipped and stored until it comes time for summer. Don’t underestimate the power of natural sunlight!
5. Stay safe! Install CO detectors if you have a fireplace or gas appliances 3-6 feet from the ground. Use a bubble solution to check for gas leaks around fireplaces, water heaters, furnaces and feeder lines. Be sure that the furnace or water heater has a good clearance to allow for fresh air intake and that they are not located in the same room as a dryer.
Follow these tips for a comfortable winter in the Valley of the Sun!
Load controllers have been gaining popularity because they are an effective way to forcefully ensure your energy usage doesn’t exceed a certain amount at any one time. SRP and APS energy customers who have considered solar or have solar power have especially been made aware of the load controller by the companies selling and installing solar. More than ever, it has become an integral part of an installer’s solar system. Before we get into the solar aspect let’s take a step back and cover the basics of what a load controller is and their pros and cons.
There Are Three Ways to Reduce Energy At Home
Produce it yourself with solar power. Remember to first reduce before you produce.
Using less energy with energy efficiency is about eliminating waste with many of the suggestions we make in our Energy Audits: sealing the ductwork, adding more insulation the right way and purchasing a more efficient air conditioner. These are upgrades that don’t change your lifestyle but instead work behind the scenes to lower your energy bills.
Energy conservation is about putting a sweater on during the winter rather than turning the thermostat higher, changing to shorts and a tee shirt in the summer rather than lowering the thermostat in the summer, or turning the ceiling fans off to rooms that are not used. These are lifestyle changes.
Today we are talking about method #3: energy conservation through load controllers.
What Is a Load Controller?
A load controller is a device that puts a cap on how much electrical usage a home can use at one time. They tie directly into your electrical panel and limit on how much power your home can draw at one time. Let’s say it’s the middle of the summer in Phoenix at 5 pm and your air conditioner is on full blast, your TV is on, you start cooking dinner with an electric oven and you are running hot water, turning on the electric hot water heater. All these loads running at one time would send a signal to the load controller that your power demand is exceeding the rating of the load controller and the load controller would start shedding loads and turning off your appliances and air conditioner to level off your usage. I understand this can immediately be a turn-off for homeowners, and yes, I was taken aback by the thought of it too.
I thought, “why would I want a load controller shutting off my air conditioner during the hottest part of the day? That’s the whole reason I have an air conditioner in the first place! It’s like I’m being forced to keep the thermostat set to 84 degrees, take a cold shower (not that we get cold water in Arizona in the summer), walk around with shorts and a tee shirt and sweat my butt off! YES! I want to be able to cook at 6 pm when I come home from work without having the oven shut off in the middle of cooking. Load controller? No thank you. You can take that load controller back!”
Load Controllers on APS and SRP Homes
Looking at load controllers from a different perspective, from the point of view of APS or SRP, they are a godsend. One of the main problems APS and SRP have is meeting energy requirements during peak demand. In the middle of summer, peak demand is when everyone comes home and blasts the air conditioner, starts cooking, washing dishes, and doing their normal thing. The load on the electrical grid spikes in usage to the point of capacity. This gets APS worried that they will have to build another power plant, which costs a lot of money and sits idle more than half the time because it only gets used during peak demand like many of its other power plants. From the utility’s perspective, why spend money building another power plant when we can get our end users to reduce their consumption through energy efficiency, solar and load controllers and then charge customers a lot more to use energy during peak hours. Load controllers level out the peak demand from homes so they don’t see huge spikes anymore.
That is why APS is drastically changing their rates to charge customers a lot more for on-peak energy usage. How much more? APS has already raised their electricity rates by 44% for on-peak usage and 72% for off-peak! With this new rate change, all 4 million APS customers are going to see an increase on their energy bill even if their energy usage stays exactly the same. SRP has peak hours from 1-8 pm during the summer and has implemented a demand charge for solar customers where they look at 30 min increments and nail you with another charge if your load exceeds 7 kW. See the table below to get a feel for how little 7 kW of load actually is.
How Much Energy Do My Appliances and AC Use?
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