To get started: change those light bulbs! It has been noted so many times, and indeed the reduction in power use linked to light bulbs is a fact. Now, do not go around and throw out all your old ones, just replace them as they wear out. If you do not like the slightly more clue light, look for LED bulbs. There are even more efficient and provide a bit more calm and warm light. They are still a little more expensive but, in my opinion, worth it.
The next item, if you are living in a climate that depends on year round climate control, such as Miami, is to replace your thermostat with e digital, programmable model. Once you have done this program it! You should set the daily dial when no one is home to at least 82, better 85 degrees. If your AC unit is reasonably new, try to set it at 77 or 78. Older models will likely be lower than this. You can improve the performance by cleaning out the ducts and getting the whole system services. On the latter, ask about improved refrigerants, they may help your unit run better.
Next item up is an Energy controller, such as KVAR (www.KVAR.com ) which will optimize the energy used ongoing versus initial draw: In essence, we are using, let’s say, 100 units to turn on a light. Once on, the light will continue to draw 100 even though it only needs 20. The energy controller will reduce the energy used to that what is needed only; during start and operation…thus saving you energy and money. This nifty little device goes next to your panel and will require a basic electrical permit under FBC; still easy to do and very affordable.
If you like go beyond just optimizing a few motors in your home, consider a home automation system. This is a little more complex and generally more appropriate for new construction or substantial remodeling, but can also be done in existing homes with minor upgrades. Into the automation system you can tie in whatever you have. AC, water heater, lights, sound, appliances, car garage and automatic dog feeder. The good ones will not just let you program it but also provide remote access and detailed history to continue optimizing use and application. I like to use the guys from Sound Components (http://www.soundcomponents.com/ ) and Lutron products (that they also use).
Final note on this go around is the on demand water heater. Great for residential applications, it only requires power when actually heating the water and not the entire day, regardless of use. This system also will never run out of water, since there is no tank, making it a space saver. In my house I have a Titan installed between my back to back bathrooms and the water is hot quickly (no more wasted water while waiting for it to arrive from the tank…). The challenge for a tankless system is that it requires 220 volt. Alternatively you can use a gas system, but this will have to be vented through the roof. Both options require permits.
More to come…
Contact Sebastian Eilert @ www.SebastianEilert.com for speaking engagements, workshops and project help.
Your discussion of the KVAR product was a little bit off target.
The example of a light bulb is a resistive load, for which Power Factor Correction is not necessary (or even possible). Where it comes into play is with motor loads, and most significant for very oversized motors compared to their average running load.
BTW, I talked by phone to a KVAR distributor who is no longer selling to residential customers because the cost and payback period do not justify it. Still very high potential benefit for commercial or industrial customers though.
Thank you for your comment. Your input and correction is much appreciated. I agree on the payback for residential proejts, it is a little challanging.