Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The real cost of TOU

The utilities and the government are nonchalantly brushing off claims that hydro customers in Ontario can't save money by shifting their consumption to off peak hours. The reason for that is simple, the TOU rates quoted don't include the fixed base charges, which include delivery, regulatory fees, and debt retirement charges. And the HST.

Once you factor in those added costs, off-peak use only has a 33% advantage over on-peak. Also consider that under the old system, the cost of electricity at any time was about 5.5 cents, it's no wonder that TOU is a losing proposition for the consumer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to tell if you're on a fixed-rate gas contract

What your Enbridge bill looks like if you're purchasing your natural gas from Enbridge at regulated market prices approved by the Ontario Energy Board. These prices are subject to change every three months.

What your Enbridge bill looks like if you're on a fixed rate natural gas contract. In this particular case, the name and contact information of the company you are purchasing your natural gas from appears in the gray box. The customer charge and delivery charge go to Enbridge, while the gas supply charge goes to the company you're under contract with.

Note that this bill does not include the gas cost adjustment. That's because you forfeit that privilege under a fixed rate contract.

If you're still not sure, call Enbridge to confirm if you're on a contract or not.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The new reality of electricity prices in Ontario

I've said many times to my friends, family, and colleagues that the price of electricity in Ontario is going to be the biggest issue in the next provincial election.

Case in point, I received my bill for the month of July. Now understand that July was one of the hottest July's on record in Ottawa, and extremly humid, too, with 150.8 cooling degree days. Compare that to all of 2009 that saw only 180 cooling degree days! So the air conditioning was humming for sure, and given we are in a bigger house with a slighly older air conditioner and less efficient furnace fan, it was the most expensive hydro bill I've ever paid at $124. But it's not the amount, it's the aggregate kWh rate.

Now the popular definition of the kWh rate are the rates set by the Ontario Energy Board. Right now, those are 6.5 cents/kWh for the first 600kWh, and 7.5 cents/kWh for anything above that. But that doesn't help the homeowner understand the total amount of the bill, which beyond the kWh also includes delivery, regulatory, debt retirement, and taxes. So by aggregate rate I mean take the total amount of your bill, and divide by the number of kWh consumed to get the REAL $/kWh rate.

In 2004, my aggregate rate was 12.8 cents. In July 2008, my aggregate rate was 13.1 cents. In July 2009, my aggregate rate was 14.5 cents. Now in July 2010, it's 16.6 cents! And we're not even talking about TOU rates yet at my new home; this is still regulated price plan. Regulated indeed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Use a timer for bathroom fans

Here's an idea to conserve energy. Install a hard wired timer for bathroom fans. Wait, these aren't your dad's mechanical-turn-past-15 timers. They're electronic and almost silent.

While it's important to get rid of humid air before it can cause damage, There's no sense in running bathroom fans longer than necessary; not only are you consuming energy from the fan motor, it's also exhausting valuable conditioned air from your home, that your air conditioner or furnace has already treated.

This idea was such a hit in my previous home, that my wife asked me to put one in right away in the new place.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Use a motion sensor in your garage

It never fails, you're in the garage and you've got your hands full - with garbage, tools, materials, groceries, kids, etc. So a motion sensor makes good sense for convenience and energy savings. I use incandescent lights in my garage because they're still the best option for cold weather in my opinion, and unlike fluorescent, you can turn them on and off rapidly without premature failure or worrying about warm-up time. This timer is set at a low interval, so the light shuts off after the garage has been vacant for about three minutes. Easy to install as a replacement for an existing switch.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How much more will you pay under TOU?

Looking back on my electric meter's historical data downloaded from HydroOne, I have done a quick analysis to see how much more I would have paid under the new structure compared to the old.

Taking data from March 16 to March 29, I used a total of 254 kWh. At a cost of 6.5 cents/kWh under the old pricing scheme, this amounts to $16.51. Under the new TOU structure which came into effect as of May 1 2010, I would have paid $18.64, which is 12% more. This isn't taking into account other additional charges, such as the smart meter charge, delivery, regulatory, and debt retirement charges.

I also did another hypothetical analysis, where I took each hour of extreme high consumption during peak periods and moved it to an off peak time. For example, I ran my dryer, dishwasher, or other major appliance. Hypothetically speaking, if I had run major appliances only during off peak times, then I would only pay 45 cents more under TOU. A more modest increase, but still an increase none the less.

Summer update

So I moved in late June, just a few days before I was scheduled to be switched to TOU rates. My new home is also in HydroOne territory, but the meter is not yet being read wirelessly, and therefore HydroOne is not in a position to bill me under the TOU rate structure, or even give me access to my hourly meter reads. So no more cool charts and graphs for a while.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The switch to time of use rates is on

I received the inevitable letter today from HydroOne informing me I will begin paying time of use rates at my current address on June 26. Good thing I'm moving and the house closes on June 25! I hope the new owners will be able to cope. I applied the two reminder labels with the TOU charts to the dryer and fridge that are staying with the house.

One interesting thing I noticed is that the letter and labels have the Ontario government logo on them. I guess HydroOne wants to remind you who's behind this whole scheme.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Smart Meter Data Collector

Here is an example of a Smart Meter data collector that was installed by Hydro One. In this particular neighbourhood, all the power lines are underground, so Hydro One does not have a utility pole of its own to attach a data collector to. This particular installation piggy backs on the meter serving a Bell Canada DSLAM for high speed Internet. This is a good place to install this since there is no homeowner to complain about this ugly thing attached to the side of their home.

This data collector relays all data via standard cellular telephone technology, and it supports almost every cellular technology, so Hydro One isn't tied to a particular cell phone provider. Must be some kind of cell phone bill!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Vampire Loads

I've been looking at the base load of my electricity consumption. The base load is the sum of all the things you have running continuously in your home. Most of this load is the refrigerator/freezer, but the rest of it can be comprised of what are popularly known as vampire loads or phantom loads. Many of these loads can be only one or two watts, but add those up and they can be significant.

Presently, my base load is 0.19kWh per hour, which equals 190 Watts. So even when we're sleeping, we have 190 Watts worth of stuff in our house running, which is like having two 100 Watt light bulbs lit 24 hours a day. To put this in perspective, 190W of stuff running 8760 hours per year will cost the average Ontario rate payer $233 a year! In this graph which shows one weekday of my electricity usage hour-by-hour, the base load is 40% of the daily total. The base load is the easiest thing to reduce and offers the most "bang for the buck" since these aren't typically user controlled things like lights.

To determine what makes up this 190 Watts, I decided to go through my home with a Kill-A-Watt plug-in meter and measure the draw of every device when it's plugged in but powered "off." I only listed devices that had an idle draw of at least one watt. Here are the results of my findings:

Interesting to note that the Bell TV receivers use the same amount of power whether they're on or off, since they are constantly updating the programming guide or looking for new software updates, both of which only occur when the unit is "off." The price we pay for convenience. I guess it beats buying a copy of TV Guide every week. I wonder how much power nationwide Bell's receivers are consuming...

So, out of the 190 Watts I've only been able to track down 135 so far. There are other things in the house that are directly connected to the power supply or run off 220V that the Kill-A-Watt can't connect to:
  • Dishwasher
  • Stove
  • Dryer
  • Furnace
  • Central Air Conditioner
  • Doorbell Transformer (rated for 5 VA)
So to determine the load for each these, I will shut them down on alternating nights and see what the difference is on the TOU portal page.

55 Watts to go - that's as much load as my refrigerator!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

No update on the portal discrepancy

No word from HydroOne on my inquiry regarding the TOU discrepancy. I checked the old numbers and graph I quoted originally; they haven't changed. However, newer graphs seem to be accurate, within a fraction of a killowatt-hour or two. Not sure when the change was made - or if it was a daylight savings time thing all along, and still is.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

TOU Portal Link Removed

Today I noticed that the link to view my TOU portal on the HydroOne secure website is gone. Hopefully they've taken it down to fix it and it will be back soon!

Friday, April 9, 2010

TOU Portal Discrepancy

I've been having a lot of fun playing with the HydroOne TOU portal. I can even download all the raw data directly into Excel. I've been doing some analysis and will post it here in the coming weeks.

It would be nice if I had this level of data available for some of the commercial buildings I manage energy in! It would make my job a lot easier.

Unfortunately, I noticed the daily graph appears to be incorrect, because the period totals of the hourly graph don't match the totals of the various periods throughout the day. Oops. I think it might be a daylight savings time issue. Good thing they aren't billing me based on TOU rates yet. I sent an email to HydroOne about it and somebody did acknowledge my message, and forwarded it on to the webmaster. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First look at smart meter TOU Data from HydroOne

So here is the first look at the data for my own home courtesy of HydroOne's webportal - for yesterday, actually. I'm quite surprised HydroOne got this working before Hydro Ottawa did! As per the graph, the biggest draw we have is the electric dryer, and you can tell by the spike exactly when that was in use, and how much it would have cost under TOU. We are not on TOU rates yet; still paying the flat per-kilowatt-hour rate. You can see this data by day, by month, or download data directly into Excel. This should prove very useful for some of the smaller buildings for which I manage energy that aren't large enough to justify a phone line for reading meters.

So if there is going to be any mercy with time-of-use (TOU) rates, it's that you'll get to see a minimum of one month of hourly use data, so you can see how much extra you'll be paying, or how bizarre the changes you'll have to make to your lifestyle will be to try and minimize the damage. To be fair, for something running 24/7/365, the cost will not be much more, perhaps 2 or 3%, as the current TOU rate structure averages out. But if you consistently need to run equipment during peak periods (oh, like the stove), then you're in a very unfortunate situation. This is especially troubling for the poor and retired folk. I wonder if Dalton McGuinty's mom has electric heat...

We're putting up a clothesline when we move into our new home in June.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Looks like Hydro One finally is starting to use smart meters for automatic meter readings. As per my bill: "This bill was produced using your actual electricity use with an automated meter reading from Hydro One's smart metering system, eliminating the need for estimated bills."

Great, so now I don't have to trudge through the snow to take a meter reading anymore. And hopefully no more $1488 hydro bills, either. I guess time-of-use rates aren't far behind, either.