Archive for Friday, December 10, 2010

Deerfield neighborhood to be first in Lawrence to try electricity-tracking program

The Trinity Environmental Stewardship Team is preparing for a workshop to help Episcopal congregations get green teams in their parishes.  They have crated a display of CFL bulbs to demonstrate how they compare in brightness to regular incandescent bulbs.

The Trinity Environmental Stewardship Team is preparing for a workshop to help Episcopal congregations get green teams in their parishes. They have crated a display of CFL bulbs to demonstrate how they compare in brightness to regular incandescent bulbs.

December 10, 2010

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Westar Energy's SmartStar director Hal Jensen explains the company's new website

Hal Jensen, director of SmartStar programs at Westar Energy talks about the launch of the company's new SmartStar Lawrence website for monitoring energy consumption. Enlarge video

Pilot program

Westar Energy’s SmartStar pilot neighborhood will include customers north of Sixth Street and south of Peterson Road and west of the Lawrence Country Club and east of Kasold Drive. For those in the pilot neighborhood, Westar is hosting open houses from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 at Deerfield School, 101 Lawrence Ave. Those unable to attend are encouraged to learn more about the program by calling a SmartStar hot line at 855-782-7663 or by going online at WestarEnergy.com/SmartStar.

On the street

How much do you usually pay for electricity each month?

About 50 dollars.

More responses

The Deerfield neighborhood will soon become the guinea pig of Lawrence.

This week, Westar Energy sent out letters to 1,500 customers informing them that they would be the first in the city to try out a technology that allows them to track how much electricity they’re using.

The announcement brings Westar closer to installing smart meters in all of Lawrence’s 45,000 homes. The $39 million SmartStar project, half of which is being funded by a federal grant, will give residents an hour-by-hour description of their energy usage.

Since receiving the federal grant in March, Westar has been setting up the infrastructure needed to connect the smart meters in Lawrence to a computer and software hub in Topeka.

“With each passing day, we get closer to really start implementing the program in Lawrence,” said Hal Jensen, director of Westar’s SmartStar programs. “We’ve spent so much time doing the back work.”

The pilot neighborhood that will receive the smart meter runs north of Sixth Street to Peterson Road and west of the Lawrence Country Club to Kasold Drive.

The neighborhood was picked for its mix of residential and multifamily homes and commercial buildings. Westar was also looking for a part of town that had hills and trees and was easy to access.

“We hope to find out everything we need to know on how things are working through the pilot neighborhood,” Jensen said.

By the second week of January, Westar plans to start installing the smart meters in the pilot neighborhood. The process will take about two weeks. Westar plans to install smart meters in the rest of Lawrence starting in May.

At first, customers in the pilot neighborhood won’t be able to track their energy usage online.

But they will be able to access the online component about a month before everyone else, Jensen said. And when pilot customers go online, they will find data that has been collected since the meters were installed months earlier.

Eventually, Lawrence Westar customers will have their energy usage broken down by hour and available as soon as the next day. The information will also relate energy usage to its environmental impacts and compare it with monthly averages.

Comments

Thats_messed_up 4 years, 7 months ago

another step toward controlling our lives. How much electricity will each family be allowed Chairman Obama?

Bob Forer 4 years, 7 months ago

You are obviously a simpleton who doesn't understand the complexities of modern society. Please explain your ridiculous conspiracy theory that "they" are out to control our lives. Who is "they," what is their plan, and why are they doing it? I doubt you have the courage to attempt a reply, because it surely will be self-incriminating with its utter lack of logic or factual support. The world is full of idiots and you are one of them.

littlexav 4 years, 7 months ago

Most smart meter proposals are based on the assumption that--eventually--the energy companies will be offering lower rates to customers who agree to appliance control by the utilities. For example, "storing" wind energy produced when no one needs it by heating up the water heater overnight (coupled with an additional valve to prevent people from scalding themselves, of course!). Or cycling the A/C during peak load. Or shutting down other power-hungry devices (like fridges) for short periods of time. It's all in the future, because most appliances can't interface with the smart meters. But there is the possibility that the rate disparity will be so large that it will essentially force people to adopt the "yes you can control my appliances" tariffs in the name of energy conservation.

And that is an honest and fact-based response. :-)

NewbieGardener 4 years, 7 months ago

No, smart meters are not a prelude to government control of your appliances. Also, I've never read anything about the utility providers shutting down your fridge during peak or off peak periods.

It's simply about conserving electricity and providing people with knowledge so they can make better choices. If you think the government is trying to control your life (with all of the roads, bridges, essential utilities)...do us all a favor and (to borrow from the GOP), move to another country.

littlexav 4 years, 7 months ago

wow, congrats for taking everything i said out of context. :-)

http://www.emeter.com/2010/consumers-show-strong-interest-in-appliance-control-by-utilities/

a simple google search will demonstrate that smart meters are part of the larger movement towards a "smart grid" that does involve appliance control in the distant future. it's not by the government, it's by the utilities that are regulated by the government.

Kat Christian 4 years, 7 months ago

Why would Westar install something that would help consumers pay less for electrics, when that would mean it would cut into Westar's profits? I don't trust it. I feel that if I pay for what I use I should be able to put my thermostat where I feel comfortable. I feel in the future they will control the thermostat, yet our cost will not decrease, but increase because they will claim that as a service to us. Bull

Eric Neuteboom 4 years, 7 months ago

I believe the installation of these meters also gives Westar the ability to shut off your electricity during peak (i.e. 100 degree Kansas summer days) usage times. Does anyone know if this is true?

littlexav 4 years, 7 months ago

the KCC hasn't approved tariffs yet, but yes. that would be part of the deal.

also, the more smart meters and energy conservation measures approved, the higher the likelihood of approving decoupling, which lets Westar earn $ on the power they aren't selling.

Jake Esau 4 years, 7 months ago

KCP&L gives away free programmable thermostats to people who agree to allow them to shut their A/C off during peak times. I have one of those, and my A/C has never been shut off (that I noticed).

I don't know if Westar will be doing something similar with these smart meters.

Gail Grant 4 years, 7 months ago

The main incentive of smart meters is to allow the utility to load balance the consumption by taarifs. Westar don't benefit when the consumption is more than what they plan

parrothead8 4 years, 7 months ago

That's fine. Why do you think we care? You'll be the one paying your electric bill.

littlexav 4 years, 7 months ago

i stock up on the $0.89 boxes of four light bulbs at Wal-Mart while they're still selling them. I have a cabinet full. CFLs are so cold that it makes my furnace work harder to heat my home, and my bills were going UP even in milder weather. So much for "energy efficiency."

Plus no one knows that you're supposed to recycle the CFLs because they have mercury in them, so they're actually WORSE for the environment. Repeal the Energy Act of 2006!

NewbieGardener 4 years, 7 months ago

Let me get this straight...incandescent bulbs produce enough heat to help out your furnace during cold periods? Not sure if you passed middle school science, but the answer is "no."

Also, people do know that CFL bulbs should be recycled due to the minor amount of mercury. Home Depot even has a massive box for CFL recycling in the front of the store.

littlexav 4 years, 7 months ago

thanks for the personal attacks. i'm not suggesting removal, but my engineering degree would suggest that yes, i did pass middle school.

having lights on in the kitchen, living room, and bedroom for the four hours after i get home from work = heat (with incandescent bulbs) or no heat (with CFLs). Consequently, the same time frame that my programmable thermostat is set to raise my home from 66 (day temp) to 68 (evening temp) during the winter.

and my bills suggest that yes, it makes a HUGE difference, especially since Westar and inclining block rates where if you push past 900 kWh in a month you jump from $0.09 to $0.12 per kWh.

so facts support my conclusion, and logical fallacies do not support your conclusion.

Kyle Chandler 4 years, 7 months ago

Not to be argumentative, but is your home all of 400 sq. feet or something?

bookemdano 4 years, 7 months ago

Are you not on natural gas heat? If not then you should be, as it's far cheaper to heat with natural gas than a bunch of 100W incandescent "heaters", The fact that they heat up your rooms speaks to how inefficient they are at their intended purpose--producing light.

NewbieGardener 4 years, 7 months ago

you're welcome. my PhD in abnormal psychology allows me to understand people like you who use "facts" to arrive at your misinformed conclusions.

incandescent bulbs do produce heat which in turns makes them inefficient for their purpose (i.e. lighting only). the heat they emit, however, is not enough to assist your furnace in the winter. if we are to go down your logical path, your AC bill would be higher in the summer because of your "heat balls" (incandescent).

So, if you're correct, maybe you should walk around in the dark in the summer time to save $ and avoid those damn CFL bulbs.

gphawk89 4 years, 7 months ago

"the heat they emit, however, is not enough to assist your furnace in the winter" Yes it is. Just depends on what you mean by "assist". If you mean that the furnace doesn't run at all, then no, bulbs won't do that. But the furnace will run less. Add heat to your home by other means, the furnace doesn't have to run quite as much. Common sense.

"if we are to go down your logical path, your AC bill would be higher in the summer because of your "heat balls" (incandescent). That's true also.

I have 3 computers running constantly in one room of my house. Maybe pulling 1200 watts. A dozen 100W bulbs. It's currently 83 degrees in that room whereas the rest of the house is at 72. "Waste" heat does warm your house regardless of what produces it.

SnakeFist 4 years, 7 months ago

Ah yes, I miss the good old days when we would toast marshmallows over a roaring light bulb.

Kat Christian 4 years, 7 months ago

Not only this (which I didn't know about the mercury), but they can be a fire hazard too. I've had two bulbs start smoking just before they burn out. If I hadn't noticed it they may have started a fire. So I put regular bulbs in light I burn when I'm not at home and I check the CFLs regularly for brown/black around the base, when I see that I pitch it and replace with regular bulbs. I haven't seen a change in the usage of my electricity by using those CFLs in the first place. Heck my electricity has only been increasing the pasts year & half. I pay one & half times more electrics now then I did when I moved in here 4 years ago and its only increases in the past year & half. You do the math. I do not want a smart meter.

ferrislives 4 years, 7 months ago

Wow, this proves that some people will blame Obama and the "liberals" for anything. Please tell me, what's wrong with anyone ( liberal, conservative, or whatever else) having an "hour-by-hour description of their energy usage"? Are you saying that you have to be liberal to want to save money? Do you really believe that Obama controls Westar? Wow, you're unbelievable, and your hatred will end up costing you more of your own hard-earned money. It's your choice to waste your own money by keeping all of your lights on, but it's a stupid one in these hard times. Have some personal responsibility. Some people.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

You could be right.

But will they really freeze to death at 68???

That's what we keep our house at during the day, and we turn it down to 57 at night - no risk of freezing to death there.

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

Of course not.

I just thought it was a bit of an exaggeration on your part.

If he's that cold in a sweater with the temperature at 80, perhaps he has a low thyroid problem, or some other treatable condition.

Have you/he looked into that with a doctor?

bookemdano 4 years, 7 months ago

Hyperbole much? Who freezes to death at 68 degrees?

bacon 4 years, 7 months ago

Does anyone think this will actually help us save on Westar bills? It seems every year that Westar raises our rates with the notion that we didn't use enough electricity and they didn't make a big enough profit. How long after these meters are installed are we going to see our rates double?

Blessed4x 4 years, 7 months ago

All I know is that I hate those friggin' little pig tail bulbs. They are delayed in coming on, the light they emit is terrible and weak with a lovely yellowish tinge, and heaven forbid I break one! Better call Hazmat. Better stock up on the good bulbs before they're gone.

bookemdano 4 years, 7 months ago

ROFL, are the damn liberals the reason all of our other crap we buy is made overseas too, or just the CFL bulbs? By the way, I think economists (of any political stripe) would disagree with your assertion that liberals are the reason our goods are all made overseas.

Scapegoats can be fun, but you might try thinking instead--at the very least it should help keep you warm.

Kyle Chandler 4 years, 7 months ago

HAHAHA the bulbs actually employed americans too....this is the ljw quote of the day

hilarious

topeka52 4 years, 7 months ago

I put several of those new bulbs in my basement recently, you need to be a bat to get around down there. These things are awful.

bookemdano 4 years, 7 months ago

CFL bulbs in cold places (like outside or in a basement) take a while to come to their full brightness.

In addition, every CFL bulb's packaging should give the incandescent wattage equivalent, so you know what you're getting. If you buy one that is the equivalent of 100W it will be just as bright as a 100W old-style bulb (once you give it a minute or two to warm up).

CFLs are not ideal for lights that aren't used often and/or are used only for brief periods of time. Not only due to the warm-up time but also due to the wear and tear on the ballast.

CFLs are great for applications where they go on and stay on for several hours--that's where you can see significant savings over incandescents (not only in operating cost but also in bulb longevity).

NewbieGardener 4 years, 7 months ago

Conservatives who are ranting here should take not of their political philosophy and how CFL bulbs play into that. You want to save money and conserve, correct? Despite this, you're claiming that incandescent bulbs, which are proven to save money over time and have greater efficiency, are somehow superior. Wow...hope you enjoy paying the extra electricity bills over the years! Maybe it's all of this "science" that's causing a problem with this world.

Frmrksn 4 years, 7 months ago

I believe my monthly bill will show me what the usage was for the month. This, indeed, is just another way of the government intruding upon our lives. It's just a little nudge.

littlexav 4 years, 7 months ago

the idea is to show you what the rates are, for example, when you're not home. it can cost a surprising amount to heat or cool your home when you're not there, and this is a step to increase awareness of (and consequently demand for) energy conservation. you can choose to do nothing with the information - and since the utility owns the meter, you don't really have a choice. but it's the utility not the government that's intruding.

Kat Christian 4 years, 7 months ago

But I was always told it is not effcient to keep adjusting your thermostat that if you did it would cost more, best to leave it at one temperature.

bookemdano 4 years, 7 months ago

Last I checked Westar wasn't the government.

Frmrksn 4 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, didn't I read that this is partially funded by a Federal Grant? I'm sure there is no possible way the government would ever want to review those reports and "suggest" a few changes to the communities usage. Nothing to see here, just move along.

bookemdano 4 years, 7 months ago

Don't forget to make a tinfoil hat for your new smart meter.

deec 4 years, 7 months ago

Your "facts" are actually opinions or predictions. Except the traffic light one. That may be a fact. Source?

monkeyhawk 4 years, 7 months ago

"What will talking power meters say about you?

Would you sign up for a discount with your power company in exchange for surrendering control of your thermostat? What if it means that, one day, your auto insurance company will know that you regularly arrive home on weekends at 2:15 a.m., just after the bars close?

Maryland residents this month received fliers offering annual discounts of up to $100 in exchange for allowing their power company, Pepco, to occasionally shut off their air conditioning units during hot days, when demand is high. Pepco says consumers will hardly notice the change, and the two-way communication between utility and appliances will go a long way toward preventing brownouts.

.. Up to three-fourths of the homes in the United States are expected to be placed on the “Smart Grid” in the next decade, collecting and storing data on the habits of their residents by the petabyte. And while there’s no reason to believe Pepco or other utilities will share the data with outside firms, some experts are already asking the question: Will saving the planet mean inviting Big Brother into the home? Or at least, as Commerce Secretary Gary Locke recently warned, will privacy concerns be the “Achilles’ heel” of the Smart Grid?

...Dark side of a bright idea But others see a darker side. Utility companies, by gathering hundreds of billions of data points about us, could reconstruct much of our daily lives -- when we wake up, when we go home, when we go on vacation, perhaps even when we draw a hot bath. They might sell this information to marketing companies -- perhaps a travel agency will send brochures right when the family vacation is about to arrive. Law enforcement officials might use this information against us ("Where were you last night? Home watching TV? That's not what the power company says … ”). Divorce lawyers could subpoena the data ("You say you're a good parent, but your children are forced to sleep in 61-degree rooms. For shame ..."). A credit bureau or insurance company could penalize you because your energy use patterns are similar to those of other troublesome consumers. Or criminals could spy the data, then plan home burglaries with fine-tuned accuracy.

Already, complaints of high bills

When California’s Pacific Gas & Electric flipped the switch on smart meters earlier this year, a cascade of complaints followed. A host said their energy bills doubled the first month after the smart meters were installed. Complaints have been so vocal that the California state Legislature recently held a hearing about it. One consumer, Jane Hahn, said her August power bill soared 422 percent, to $735, over the same month a year ago." http://redtape.msnbc.com/2009/10/would-you-sign-up-for-a-discount-with-your-power-company-in-exchange-for-surrendering-control-of-your-thermostat-what-if-it.html

deec 4 years, 7 months ago

These meters seem like an expensive alternative to common sense. Sure, it would be cool to log on and see your usage spike in the morning when everybody gets up and turns on the lights. But, really, who doesn't know that when you turn stuff on, you use some power? It's not that difficult to conserve. Adjust thermostats at night or when no one is home. Wear a sweater. Turn stuff off when you aren't using it. Turn off devices with indicator lights, like power strips or microwaves,when not in use. Except in the hottest part of the summer, open the windows at night and let the house be cooled by the breeze. Use the power-saving bulbs. If you can afford it, get newer major appliances. Shut the heater vents in rooms you don't use regularly.

gphawk89 4 years, 7 months ago

Mostly good ideas, but the "standby power" suggestions always make me chuckle. My air conditioner uses more energy in one minute than a power strip indicator would in a month. Not worth the inconvenience (to me).

deec 4 years, 7 months ago

That may be, but for me, I rarely use the microwave, for example, so it makes sense to save every little bit I can. A penny saved, and all that.

monkeyhawk 4 years, 7 months ago

Who Likes It?

* Government
* Utilities
* Environmental Groups

Government has a long history of using technology to spy on its citizens, especially in recent years (e.g., Patriot Act, Project ECHELON, Total Information Awareness initiative, etc.).

Government likes Smart Grid because it gives them what governments always want: control; specifically, more control over the sheeple. Smart Grid gives them this through its two-way technology, which allows them to monitor not only how much electricity you’re using but how you’re using it and for what types of appliances.

Utility Companies

If you haven’t figured it out already, we blew right past socialism and have arrived at full-on fascism in Amerika today. A quick refresher for the Illiterati: “Socialism” is where all the losses and the gains are socialized; everyone, including big corporations, are all floundering in the same sewer together. “Fascism,” on the other hand, is where the losses are socialized but the profits or gains are privatized. The most recent and brazen example of this was the banker bailout– they gambled with huge amounts of money and, as long as it worked out in their favor, they kept all the profits; but when they lost big bucks, we the tax-paying suckers, had to bail them out. So, in a fascist system, when the special corporate interests make money, they keep it and the sheeple get nothing; when they “lose” money, the sheeple pay for it and they don’t really lose at all. It’s a game of “heads they win; tails we lose.”

The real reason power companies like Smart Grid is because it will enable them to create artificial scarcity scenarios and thus increase rates.

Environmental Groups

The “Warmistas” or Green Nazis, the tools of the global elite, are all ga-ga over Smart Grid because they’ve been conned into thinking that it’s good for the earth, man. These are the same gullible, useful idiots of the global elite who’ve bought into the whole man-made global warming scam, which was proven to be a scam (and a conspiracy) when a decade’s worth of emails and falsified data were leaked by investigators on the inside. But, hey, don’t take my word for it– read the Climategate Files for yourself." http://fixitnow.com/wp/2010/01/14/smart-grid-green-dream-or-just-another-big-brother-control-grid/

voevoda 4 years, 7 months ago

moneyhawk, Your definitions of "socialism" and "fascism" don't resemble those used by the people who are knowledgable about those economic and political systems. Use of such inflammatory language doesn't help people to make informed decisions.

monkeyhawk 4 years, 7 months ago

Sorry voe, I pulled a merrill again. Only some of my quotation marks appeared, but at least I cite where my "inflammatory language" comes from. If you have a problem with it, I suggest you contact the author through the link I provided. I realize that dude is a bit harsh, but fairly appropriate for this forum.

voevoda 4 years, 7 months ago

For the conspiracy theorists who claim that "smart meters" are a prelude to the "government" controling their access to electricity, here's some information to chew on: If the government wished to cut off your electricity, it already has the capability (but not a legal right). Even Nazi Germany had the ability to do this; it doesn't take modern technology. If you're as scared as you say, you need to get your own home generator and get off the grid altogether. "Smart meters" empower users to make informed choices about how much electricity they consume, and when they consume it. That's in the best spirit of American individualism.

monkeyhawk 4 years, 7 months ago

"Smart meters" empower users to make informed choices about how much electricity they consume, and when they consume it."

Is it power usage control by 2 year olds, or do you think an adult has the ability to do that without government intrusion?

Federal grant = government intrusion = GE payoff. (The Obama administration gave corporate giant General Electric—the parent company of NBC--$24.9 million in grants from the $787-billion economic “stimulus” law President Barack Obama signed in February 2009, according to records posted by the administration at Recovery.gov.)" http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-administration-gave-general-electr

"President Obama Must Dismiss GE CEO Jeff Immelt from the Economic Recovery Advisory Board

Washington, DC - Today, the Free Enterprise Project calls on President Obama to dismiss General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt from the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board because of the findings revealed in a settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and GE." http://www.nationalcenter.org/PR-GE_SEC_080509.html

"General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt admits General Electric is doing business with Iran.

Iran has been sending platter charge improvisational explosive devices, also known as Explosively Formed Penetrators, into Iraq that have been maiming and killing American soldiers and marines since I was there in 2005. They have also made continuing and substantial fiscal contributions in support of anti-American and anti-Iraqi forces." http://bootsinbaghdad.blogspot.com/2008/05/general-electric-and-iran.html

Just follow the money.

I do wish that I could take everything at face value. Life was much easier when I dd that.

Bob_Keeshan 4 years, 7 months ago

Simple truth - the cheapest way for a utility to generate new capacity is through energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is far more cost effective than building a new coal plant, new wind turbine, new nucular plan, etc.

That's all Westar is doing here. Some of you seem to think they're generating power with black helicopters...

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

For those that don't like CFL's - they have a variety of styles and kinds now - some come on immediately, while others take a little while to do so.

Also, the last time I was at HD, they had 3 different light qualities as well.

Using incandescent bulbs to heat is very inefficient for heating - you'd be better off with CFL's and using a gas furnace to heat.

And, last time I looked, the incandescent bulbs, like almost everything these days, are also made in China.

Keith 4 years, 7 months ago

These new meters will be smarter than 80% of the comments here today.

Kat Christian 4 years, 7 months ago

Friends of mine volunteered for the thermostat (in another state), but they canceled it after 1 year when they discovered they were being over-charged for electricity they did not use. since their electric bill has been considerably lower. I think what might be happened it they average out the bills together in the neighborhood then split cost between neighbors and no matter if your next door neighbor uses more and you use less you pay part of their bill. That's just my thought on it.

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