In a recent email sent to utility customers, my energy utility, San Diego Gas & Electric, provided a link to a video advocating a need to view and identify patterns in energy usage and opportunities to make changes. Drawing attention to this matter is likely a consequence of the utility’s moving customers to a new billing method that incorporates different energy pricing based upon both the time of year and the time of day, more commonly referred to as “Time-of-Use” (TOU).
To facilitate this effort, the video suggests utilizing a usage visual tool available on their website that can break down use in fifteen-minute increments. An image of the tool below shows energy use for May 25th and identifies the utility rate as either on-peak, off-peak, or super off-peak.
The usage visual tool available with the Emporia app provides another view on an hour-by-hour basis that helps to both understand and confirm usage patterns.
Major use patterns on this day are scheduled as follows:
- 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. – Charge electric vehicle
- 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. – Filter spa
- 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Heat spa
Each of these scheduled times was chosen based upon the timelines established by the utility with the intent of taking advantage of super off-peak rates. On weekdays that rate runs from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., and on weekends and holidays it runs from 12:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
One additional high usage period is at 9:00 p.m., and relates to spa use. We purposely delay spa usage until after this time because on-peak hours where energy costs are very expensive. By pre-heating the spa starting at 1:00 p.m. we are able to avoid the heating process during on-peak hours and it maintains a comfortable use temperature.
Both visual tools also display times where solar production exceeds current electrical use. For the utility provided tool, readings that are below the “0”kWh line show when this is happening. For the Emporia tool, the color green indicates solar production exceeds current electrical use and the color blue indicates grid provided power is being used.
For appliances, utilizing Emporia Smart Plugs we have been able to make informed decisions on when they need to be powered up. For some of the devices like our microwave and coffee brewer, because they have clocks, we leave them powered up. That is not true for a sizeable number of other devices. This is best illustrated by what we characterize as our “charger station” pictured below.
I use this setup to charge some of our electronic devices (cell phones, watches, etc.) during the night, based on the available super off-peak TOU schedule. For other electronics I adopt a similar approach but broaden it to times the device won’t be used. For example, my office printer is turned off from 9:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. to reduce the electrical consumption.
The image below provides useful information the Emporia app collected during my May billing period (April 22nd to May 21st), and demonstrates a wonderful feature of the Emporia app. That is its ability to export data for effective analysis. As shown below, we can view the net results letting us know at the end of each day whether power sent to the grid exceeded power drawn from the grid.
As evidenced below, data is also available for each Emporia Smart Plug for time periods that range from every second to every day. Once the selection is made the data is sent to your email in a comma separated value format (.CSV).
With all of these product features at hand, making informed data driven decisions designed to manage costs associated with utility use is truly possible. All it takes is investing your time and a minor monetary investment that will be quickly recovered as a consequence of smart electrical use.
Steve Linthicum is a retired professor who holds a variety of industry recognized certifications that focus on information technology and cybersecurity. He serves as a technical advisor and currently provides services on a periodic basis to members of his senior community.