Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Energy Is Expensive

Regardless of whether you're on a city electrical grid or not, your energy for your home probably costs a lot. I know mine does, here in Phoenix, AZ, especially in the summer--they raise the prices then, in addition to the extra energy usually needed to cool a home to livable conditions.

For myself, my own electric bill costs, despite the drastic reductions I've already made in power consumption in the last two years, will be too high for me to afford if I don't cut further, or do something else to provide my own power. In summer peak usage in 2006 was 3320 Kilowatt-hours, in 2007 it was 2810KWh, and in 2008 it was 1520KWh. I think it was over 4000KWh in 2005 when my mom was still alive and living here, but I can't find those bills right now to check. This year I have to cut the peak from last year in half or be unable to pay the bill, because despite my lowering of energy usage, cost has not actually gone down with it nearly as far, because prices went up drastically.

Cutting cooling has already been severe--there was no main-house air-conditioning at all last summer, and less than usual in 2007--instead we used the swamp (evaporative) cooler for main-house cooling, and when that became insufficient during the "monsoon" season due to relatively high humidity, switched to the bedroom-only window A/C units, as minimally as possible, leaving the rest of the house uncooled. At night, as soon as it was cooler outside than inside (commonly after 11pm), we would open all the doors and windows and use a small window fan to pull air thru the whole house to cool it at night.

The same things will have to happen this year, except we may not be able to afford the window A/C units, or to run the swamp cooler for any but the hottest part of the day. It will get quite hot inside like that, so I'll have to find ways to keep the house from *getting* as hot in the first place.

Essentially, with cutbacks everywhere, no savings left, and only part time work, I no longer have the income to pay for air conditioning, and even a swamp cooler will be a part-time luxury this coming summer. So I've decided that this year, in addition to whatever energy-*saving* improvements I can do strictly with recycled materials, I'm going to see what energy-*producing* things I can come up with from recycled materials.

Part of what sparked this is an item acquired today via a Freecycle.org local mailing list--a 2-section 20-foot pole originally built to hold up an area light, but which is sturdy enough that with the help of guy wires, can be used to support a small wind-powered generator. I already have a number of permanent-magnet motors acquired mostly via Freecycle that may be suitable as a very small generator, and I have three car batteries (one from Freecycle) that may be usable as storage for the power from the generator.

Wind here is not all that reliable, nor constant, but it *is* there, and as long as I can find (in various recycled items) all the parts to build the requisite electronics to convert the generated power to something the batteries can handle, and then into something that will go into the AC power grid of the house, I should be able to do it for nothing more than the cost of my time, of which I have more than is good for my pocketbook right now (though never very much at any one moment). Essentially any energy I get from the project will cost me nothing, and should help reduce my electric bill by at least a few dollars, even if all I can do is power some small amount of home lighting with it.

More about lighting in the next post. In some later posts, I'll explore some of the possible wind-power generators I might be able to make with the components I already have, and also a solar-oven type of steam-powered generator, which could produce a LOT more power than the wind-power generator, given the summer sun here, but which is a much more complex project.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Alternate suggestions or improvements to anything that's been posted is very welcome, and extreme detail is preferred to brevity.

Keep in mind that unless you leave an email address in your comment, I haven't any way to reply to you except to reply to your comment here. That means if you want a reply, you'll have to come back to *this* blog entry and it's comments to see my reply to you, unless you leave some method of contact within your comment.