Large increase in electric, gas rate-Green Plug user feedback?

CindyBelleZ6NJAugust 10, 2003

Hi, PSE&G in NJ announced a 15.1% increase in rates on August 1, PLUS they are going to vary the rate hourly. I am already running the washing machine, dishwasher, etc. after 9PM and before 7 AM and putting every energy saving tip I can find into practice. However, has anyone here bought/used Green Plug, recommended in The Tightwad Gazette book? Does it work well, was it worth the investment, etc? Also, does anyone have a timer on their hot water heater, I need to get a new hot water heater and am wondering if I should spring for a timer too. Thanks everyone

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Sorry - I have no advice about the Green Plug.

Does it have anything in common with a Green Thumb - which is a fairly important component of Gardenweb?

When the city electric utility were in charge of our water heaters, three or four years ago they sent out people to cover them in a thick insulation blanket and install a timer which meant that they would operate about 2 a.m. when demand was low. There was a switch which we could push to over-ride once daily, in case we ran out before bedtime.

For which they not only didn't charge us either a purchase or a rental fee - they gave us a substantial reduction in our monthly rental fee on the heater.

Later, when an out-of-town agency took over the water heater issue, when mine quit, our landlord said that they'd remove the timer, which they did. They were going to junk the insulation when they installed the new heater, as well - but I squawked heavy duty, so they left it (I had to re-install it myself).

Much higher rental fee: from about $4.65 monthly, most of which was rebated, to $8.80 monthly.

Which is now a separate bill from my electricity cost, so paying it at the bank would cost about a dollar or more service fee quarterly, if I were not a senior.

They are more closely related to the generating agency, I think - which may be the reason that they are less concerned with conservation.

Maybe you could convince your utility that it would be worth their while to install the timers on local water heaters - at minimal cost to householders.

Do you have the means to gather support for such a project in your area? Seniors, church, sport and community groups might be good ones to approach.

"Each one recruit one" is a good way to go - soon results in a large lobbying group, when you're dealing with an issue that troubles many people. It's important to co-ordinate the group, so they don't run off in all directions. A single agency that co-ordinates the activities, with good and ongoing two-way communication.

Focus is important when dealing with political people. And persistence.

Your utility will tell you, or a dozen - even a hundred - requesters to get lost. But if they hear from a thousand or so - who persist - it will be much harder to ignore them.

If you are about to get a new heater, and don't have many locations where you need hot water (e.g. kitchen sink, one bathroom and laundry, have you considered getting the small heaters that install beside your tap and heat the water as you use it? You don't have a tankful of hot water that continually dissipates heat. Nor dump down the drain a substantial amount of formerly hot water that cooled in the line that comes out when you turn on the "Hot" tap before you get the hot water that you want.

We have a provincial election coming up and recent worry about brown-outs caused out provincial premier to arrange for some extra generating capacity to be available in several areas - at major cost. He's been getting flack over that.

They were planning to privatize, and got the job partly done, but there was a large outcry, so they've (partly) backed off.

Ontario was heavy into nuclear - which cost more to build than they expected, and are not lasting as long as they expected before they need major expensive refits. So the electric generation system are heavily into debt and have not been building new stations recently.

Moreover - in their planning for the costs asociated with the system, they made no provision in budgets for decommissioning of the power plants after their useful life was over (which is a large job with nuclear) and made no provision for the cost of storage of the heavily radioactive fuel rods - which have a dangerous life of what - something like 25,000 years?

It appears that in a number of cases, private = more expensive.

The next issue appears to be the water supply. Many jurisdictions have allowed the distribution system to deteriorate - and it will cost large amounts to rebuild.

In some places they're talking about privatizing the sewer system, as well - which they've been neglecting, as well.

That'll mean large scale price increases, as well.

And when our glorious provincial government went in, they reduced welfare by 22% - and haven't increased it since.

While the costs of several of the basic service systems, such as water, power, phone, etc. have gone up substantially.

It sure ain't pleasant to be poor.

I hope that you all enjoyed a memorable summer weekend.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   August 11, 2003 at 6:52AM
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HI JoyfulGuy, thanks for the input. I would have to buy the timer myself and since I need to replace the water heater anyway I figured I would do it all at once and it's probably worth it. My brother has an extra insulating blanket he is willing to give me. Green Plug is a different product that one buys-apparently it is a device you buy and if I understand this right, if you receive high voltage in your home G.P. reduces it to what is actually needed to run an appliance. I also varies the amount of power it sends to the appliance depending on load motor is handling, all this according to The Tightwad Gazette. But there is some confusion as to whether it makes a fridge use more energy, and that is the appliance which I cannot replace as it would mean reconfiguring/gutting/redoing the whole kitchen, long story. So anyone out there with experience with this gadget please do post.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2003 at 8:04AM
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No, avoid the Green Plug. When it comes to power, there is "no free lunch." If you reduce the voltage of the power going into a motor-driven appliance, this will make its amperage go up, and not only will it use even more wattage, it will burn up the windings of the motor. What this plug may have is a capacitor which reduces the inrush of current that occurs when a heavy motor starts. This will not have a significant effect on your overall power usage. Gadgets like this have been marketed for years, and none of them work, because the physics of electric power can't be changed.

Now, they have those little "watt saver" things you can put in light sockets; in this case, yes, they do save a little power, but they also cut the light coming from the light bulb. So you're not getting anything for free -- you are cutting your power usage, but you are also cutting the amount of light you are getting. You could do the same thing by using a 3-way bulb and running it at a lower wattage.

A far better energy saving measure for lighting is to throw away every single incandescent bulb in your house (except for in closets and places where the fixture can't accommodate anything else) and replace them with compact fluorescents. These not only save you energy but cut the waste heat going into your house, which will save you on your air conditioning. If you have ten 100 watt incandescent bulbs in your house that you replace with compact fluorescents (which give you the same light for 1/4 the power usage), you will cut your lighting power usage from 1000 watts to 250 watts -- and you get the same amount of light. Plus you save on bulb replacements, because compact fluorescents last five to fifteen times as long as incandescents.

YES, put the timer on your water heater. I have a time-of-use meter as well, and my water heater only runs between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., and it saves me at least $20 a month. The only problem is, if you have a big family, you may need a somewhat bigger water heater if you use a timer, because you don't want to run out of hot water. But with some thought and planning you can often avoid this problem by not doing laundry until the "off-peak" hours. Since you said you are getting a new water heater, bump it up 10 gallons or so and get the timer.

Insulating a water heater isn't that big of a deal anymore; the new ones are very well insulated already. I wouldn't bother with it. The timer is where you'll see your big savings.

Since you have the time-of-use meter, there is a lot you can do. Keep your house as cool as you can stand it at night, and then turn up the a/c to 80 or so during the day. In my house, I have window a/c units, and if I can get my house down to 67 or so at night (yeah, you have to sleep under a blanket), but then it stays cool all day with the a/c units shut off. On a VERY hot day, I may have to switch them back on by the late afternoon, but even if that's necessary, I have still saved hours and hours of expensive on-peak power.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2003 at 9:12AM
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Ken, many thanks for your input. I have been thinking about the compact flourescent light bulbs, my only concern are the studies showing the links to cancer rates, not so much for myself but for my pets. I thought of switching at least some of them, and definitely the outside porch light. I run the dishwasher only once a week, after 9PM at night, do laundry after 9PM, but need to vacuum earlier-two pets, lots of fur balls if I don't keep after it. Will get the timer for the hot water heater, thanks. Try to cook multiple things at once when I do turn on the oven, in this heat,doing a lot of cold salads.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2003 at 3:53PM
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It sounds like you are already taking some good energy saving measures. If you switch the porch light to a compact fluorescent, just make sure you get one that is rated for low temperatures. It can get chilly in NJ, and if it's not rated for outside year round use, it may not work when it gets cold in the winter.

Don't worry about the cost of running the vacuum, it's okay to run that during the on-peak hours. The running time of it is not long enough to significantly impact your bills. The total amount of energy you spend to run the vacuum for an entire month will surely be under $1.

Your a/c is your big summer energy user, so that's where your biggest savings can be realized, and the water heater is number two. The compact fluorescents can save you some energy, but if you are not comfortable with them for any reason, don't sweat it, because lighting is not a huge portion of your energy bill. Usually it only account for around ten percent of your bill. Change to lower wattage regular bulbs where possible. This does not save as much as compact fluorescents, but it does produce a savings.

Definitely use the off-peak to your advantage on your a/c. This will save you a lot of money. You can get a programmable thermostat if you do not want to have to remember to change the settings. Again, I'd suggest 70 to 72 during off peak hours, 80 during peak hours. Trust me, this will save you a lot of money if you are not currently doing that.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2003 at 11:25PM
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Here's a joke on ole frugal Ed ...

... a few months ago I sprung for one of those compact fluorescent bulbs for the table lamp here on my desk (the light that I use the most).

After about two months, I swatted a fly ...

hit the lamp shade with the swatter - and broke the bulb!

As the tubes are coated on the inside with that stuff that enables flourescents to operate - I'm being careful to contain the stuff.

Further, I guess that I'll need to discard it with the hazardous waste.

So - I saved energy for a while.

But I sure didn't save on total cost, when one considers the initial outlay to buy the darn thing.

But - I'll just have to go and get another. Maybe two or three - but several of the other lights seldom get used.

I imagine that some of you will get a laugh out Ed's not saving as much as he thought that he would.

As did I.

What do they say: "The greatest plans of mice and men - go oft awry"?

Good wishes for a frugal - but enjoyable - summer.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2003 at 12:36AM
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That's very true, a compact fluorescent (CFL) can be broken as easily as any other light bulb. However, when you break a CFL, it's a $7 to $12 loss rather than the $1 or less you lose if you break a standard incandescent.

Ed, if you use a light very little, it may not even pay to use a CFL. These bulbs should ideally be used in lamps that you typically turn on and leave on for several hours. That's why I suggested not bothering to use them in closets. In applications where the light is usually turned on for just a minute or two and then turned off, a CFL will not deliver its full rated lifespan. You can wind up spending more on the bulb than you'll save in power.

To get the maximum benefit from CFLs, pick out the lamps that you frequently turn on and leave on for a good period of time (an hour or more) and put CFLs in those.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2003 at 2:35AM
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Thanks very much guys-Ed, that sounds like something I would do-one of my friends asked me why my legs are always so bruised and I just had to say what, you haven't noticed my Gazelle like grace? She said Oh right, usually you only see that in sick people, but you are a klutz. Ah, friendship....

    Bookmark   August 16, 2003 at 9:41PM
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There is a plug we use on our ref/freezer that we got at Cosco that reduces the electricty, but does not damage the item. You plug the appliance into the plug which then plugs into the wall. We noticed a difference in Calif and here in ND. Some of the bigger stores like Home Depot, Loews, also have it.
Also when we replace our ref. our electric bill went down about 30.00 a month. The electric company (So Calif Edison in Calif) claims the ref. needs to be replaced about every 10 years to be effecient.
We also replaces our bulb with the florecent ones. Every little bit helps. Just getting into the habit of turning lights off helps.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2003 at 9:37PM
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MarieND, if you have the brand name of that power saving device, please post it so I can check into it. There is no way they can work, and if you let me know what kind it is, I'll tell you why it can't. But without knowing what it is, all I can do is reiterate what I said above.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2003 at 12:09AM
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As a resident of the Great, Benighted North-east ...

let me ask ...

anyone for conservation of energy?

When my power went off - I went to my provincial gov't. rep's office to give him H-E double toothpicks. Due to traffic tie-up arrived 5 min. after closing (I think) but they were open. Couldn't afford to give him too much of a piece of my mind - conservation of mental capacity, don't you know.

En route home, directed traffic for a while at substantial intersection in rush hour. Several said, "Thanks" or waved - one said, "Get off the street"! Several civilians in Toronto did likewise, we're told.

Visited 87 yr. old uncle living alone after recent death of wife who, despite painful back, hip, leg insists on keeping some beef cattle, got candles out for him, showed him how to use battery radio (that he didn't know he had - I'd stayed with him for a while after his wife died last year).

Glad I recently bought batteries for my $1.00-at-garage-sale radio. National broadcaster ran advice about need to turn everything off that we could, to reduce surge when reconnecting, and province-wide phone-in to share ideas.

I pulled fuses from water heater connection - haven't replaced them yet, as they say we need severe conservation measures, at present, to avoid rolling blackouts. Shaved in reasonably hot water Sat. morning. Haven't bathed since - imagine I smell by now (but I live alone).

Hope I don't suffer blackout right now, or I lose all my writing here.

A guy called about 10:30 to cry about 400 lb. of meat that he had (perhaps fresh? which would mean that his window of opportunity to save it would be reduced over if it were frozen).

I began calling with suggestions for him, in dark for a while until power returned about 11 - I was without for 7 hours only - plus a short interruption later.

Line busy til 4 a.m.

I suggested he find a van or pickup, load his freezer, put meat in, take substantial lunch, head for nearest rural area, go door-to-door asking for generator. I was sure he wouldn't go three miles till found farmer willing to fire up generator, freeze his meat. Lunch so he could stick around for repeat every half day or so, as needed, till power returned at his home. Lunch optional - most (traditional) farmers wouldn't see him go hungry.

Twice in recent years I took portable generators to areas blacked out due to ice storm - once 500 miles away. I goofed Thursday evening - didn't get on phone to friends seeking generator. When I did, Fr. morning, couldn't locate one.

Think I should try to compile database of generators possibly available and persons with major freezer stock - homeowners, small stores, etc. not hard-wired, with 220 volt systems, etc. in preparation for such an eventuality in future. One generator can travel from site to site to serve possibly a couple of dozen freezers - perhaps half an hour each, twice daily or less, depending on outside temp.

Invite those of you with time, energy available in your area to do likewise.

We've been asked to shut down all unnecessary power consuming systems, e.g. signage, billboards. Local grocery in plaza shut down lights in parking lot. Many non-essential govt offices told to stay closed and asking factories and commerce to try to keep consumption to half of normal usage for about a week.

Can't understand how Times Square figures it should be lit as usual. Do they want to be shut down - again?

They say that it's to be hotter and more humid during the next few days.

Hope you don't suffer Benightedhood too often!

joyful guy

    Bookmark   August 18, 2003 at 1:15PM
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You're right that this is an ongoing problem, and it may get worse before it gets better given this week's weather forecasts. For roughly $100, you can purchase a power inverter that can be run off of a car's electrical system and will have sufficient wattage to power a refrigerator/freezer or a stand-alone freezer on an emergency basis. It may be worth considering for someone who routinely keeps a lot of food in the home refrigerator or freezer.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2003 at 3:50PM
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Conservation is the key Ed, and I try hard to be mindful but sometimes I still mess up and forget that an outside light is on longer than it should be-yes, I'll be installing timers and motion detector lights this Fall. Of course, I don't know what I'm doing, but the neighbors are getting used to seeing me on a ladder with How To books....

    Bookmark   August 19, 2003 at 9:05AM
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Most motion detectors and day/night sensors aren't compatible with compact fluorescent bulbs. A timer would be okay. A compact fluorescent saves so much energy compared to an incandescent bulb that timers and sensors really aren't needed anyhow, except for convenience.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2003 at 11:58AM
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Me, too.

I sometimes forget the outside light for half a day or so.

My favourite is the basement light - sometimes I forget to turn it off for a day or two - or, if I don't go down for a while, longer than that.

A consistent, faultless person would likely be awfully hard for most of us less-than-perfect ones to live with!

Of course, they'd find us definitely hard to live with, as well!

Enjoy your week,


    Bookmark   August 25, 2003 at 1:00AM
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