Archive for the ‘Energy Efficiency & Conservation’ Topic

Understanding LUMENS and the New Labeling for Lighting

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

You might have heard recently all the talk about banning the incandescent light bulb. It’s not really a ban but a legislation to increase the efficiency of light bulbs – similar to increasing the miles per gallon of automobiles. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required light bulbs to use at least 25 percent less energy beginning in 2012. The uproar was that this requirement could make the old incandescent bulbs obsolete if manufacturers didn’t meet the new efficiency standards.

The requirement for lighting efficiency has spurred new technologies and the new consumer options for lighting can be mind boggling. Have you been in a big-box store lately to shop for light bulbs?

Here’s some information to help sort through the new options and labeling in light bulbs. Read the new labels and look at the LUMENS not the watts. Lumens tell you how much light you are going to get; wattage indicates how much energy is being consumed. Lumens are what you are buying for your money. The more lumens–the brighter the light.

Here’s some rule of thumb (from

  • To replace a 100W (watt) incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that gives you about 1600 lumens. If you want something dimmer, go for fewer lumens; if you prefer brighter, go for more lumens.
  • Replace a 75W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 1100 lumens
  • Replace a 60W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 800 lumens
  • Replace a 40W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 450 lumens.

To become fully “enlightened” on lumens and new lighting labels, watch this video from

Remember, when looking for new light bulbs, you want to compare lumens with lumens. Lumens is a measure of how much light output the bulb has or brightness (see post 3/14/11). A typical 60 watt incandescent light bulb has a lumen output of 820 lumens. An equivalent compact fluorescent bulb will have the same lumen output but far less electricity needs such as 13 watts. That’s a savings of 47 watts for the same amount of light.


Triple Rebate Savings on Super Efficienct Heat Pump Water Heaters

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Heat pump water heaters have just been approved by BPA for rebates. There is a limited offer to bundle three rebates together for these super efficient water heaters if you purchase one from Sears between November 15 – December 16th. OPALCO is offering rebates of $300 on 50–75 Gal. heat pump water heaters and $500 on heat pump water heaters larger than 75 Gal. This is combined with rebate offers from Sears & GE, and Smart Water Heat for incredible savings. Learn more here.

Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly, like a refrigerator running in reverse. While a refrigerator pulls heat from inside a box and dumps it into the surrounding room, a heat pump water heater pulls heat from the surrounding air and transfers it – at a higher temperature – into the tank to heat the water. The best locations for a heat pump water heater are in a basement or garage, where the unit will not be drawing heat out of a living space. Learn more about heat pump water heaters.

Fall and Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Friday, October 26th, 2012

See the linked article below to find strategies to help you save energy during the cool fall and cold winter months. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

  • Cover drafty windows
  • Adjust the thermostat
  • Find and seal leaks
  • Maintain your heating systems
  • Reduce heat loss from the fireplace
  • Lower your water heating costs

Learn these simple tips, tools and strategies – and more:  Fall and Winter Energy-Saving Tips from the U.S. Dept of Energy

If you haven’t already, schedule a Home Snapshot energy assessment to find out where you can save the most, and consider making a larger investment for long-term energy savings.


Monday, September 17th, 2012

Orcas Power & Light Cooperative awarded ten new homeowners on San Juan Island with checks for $1,710 each for the energy efficient homes that they helped to build through Homes for Islanders. The homes received the Northwest Energy Star certification ( and are estimated to save approximately 3,000kWh/year for each home over a standard home built to building code.

Building homes to the Energy Star standards guarantees that the home’s envelope is properly sealed and insulated. Energy efficient windows, heating systems, appliances and lighting are all requirements and everything is verified by a third party. The homes are more comfortable and the utility bills much smaller.

The checks were presented at a luncheon at OPALCO’s Friday Harbor office on Friday, September 14th.

EPRI Calculates Annual Cost of Charging an iPad

Friday, September 7th, 2012

According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), consumers who fully charge their iPad tablet daily can expect to pay $1.36 a year.

The analysis shows that each model of the iPad consumes less than 12 kWh of electricity over the course of a year, based on a full charge every other day. By comparison, a plasma 42” television consumes 358 kWh of electricity a year. Costs may vary depending on what region that a consumer resides and the price of electricity in a particular location.

According to Apple, 67 million of the devices have been purchased worldwide. EPRI calculations show that the average energy used by all iPads in the market is approximately 590 gigawatt hours (GWh). In a scenario where the number of iPads tripled over the next two years, the energy required would be nearly equivalent to two 250-megawatt (MW) power plants operating at a 50 percent utilization rate. A quadrupling of sales in two years would require energy generated by three 250-MW power plants.

Read the full story

About EPRI: The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI’s members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States, and international participation extends to 40 countries. EPRI’s principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.

How Clean and Green is the Electricity that OPALCO Delivers?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

OPALCO is contracted with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to secure the lowest cost, most reliable power for our member owners. Each year, BPA reports on the fuel mix—the various sources of electrical generation—that were delivered to us for distribution. The 2011 fuel mix report shows that our fuel mix was 97% greenhouse-gas free with more than 90% of our power being generated by clean and green hydro-electric turbines. Greenhouse gases are those that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range. The process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect, which contributes to global warming.

The components of the fuel mix vary from year (see this year’s detailed report) due to the availability of wind power and Columbia Generating Station (nuclear energy), which shuts down every two years for refueling and routine maintenance. Additionally, from time to time BPA requests Columbia Generating Station reduce power due to current or expected high water levels in the federal hydroelectric system.

The other components of the fuel mix represent less than 3% of the total generation and include (in order of prevalence): coal, natural gas, biomass, waste, petroleum, landfill gases, solar, co-generation, geo-thermal and other.

What about all the member-owned renewable energy (MORE) generated locally by OPALCO members? There are more than 80 members who generate their own power and are interconnected to OPALCO’s grid. The total kWh annual production is over 200,000 kWh compared to the total co-op annual consumption of about 200,000,000 kWh. However, with the promise of higher rates tied to load growth in the near future, everything we can do as a co-op to reduce our load—every kWh we can avoid using through efficiency and conservation or that we generate ourselves—will help us to shape our own energy future.

What will you do to be more efficient and avoid kWh use in your home or business?


Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

How many people have heard the term “negawatt”?

Not yet in the Webster’s dictionary, here is the definition from Wikipedia:

A negawatt is a theoretical unit of power representing an amount of energy saved as a direct result of energy conservation or increased efficiency. The concept of a negawatt is simply a measure of power that is not used.

Enter local company, Negawatt Media.   Negawatt Media creates easily digestible, simple, upbeat outreach materials that educate electricity consumers about emerging changes regarding electricity. And they live here, on Orcas Island!  OPALCO contracted with Negawatt Media to produce an animated white board video that delivers our message of energy efficiency and conservation in a fun and engaging way.

View the video here:

Let us know your thoughts by sending your review of the video to:

Check out Negawatt Media here:

Vote for Energy Efficiency

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

OPALCO’s 75th Annual Meeting on the ferry is coming up on Saturday, May 5th. Ballots have arrived in each members’ mailbox and absentee ballots are due by May 4th – an option for online voting is new this year. Why should you participate? As Co-op member-owners, you have the power to elect the Board of Directors who are responsible for policy making – including what kind of programming and budget are committed to energy efficiency and conservation. In a co-op, it’s one member: one vote. Your voice counts. Please take a moment to read about the candidates and exercise your power to vote. The Annual Meeting will be a special affair this year in celebration of OPALCO’s 75th Anniversary. Hope you’ll join us. In any case, check out the historical timeline, annual report and galleries of stories, photos and videos online at Have an OPALCO story or photos of your own to share? Post them on our new Facebook page (Orcas Power & Light Cooperative) – and be sure to tell your friends!

Ahhhhhhh!!!!!! How did I use so much electricity last month?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Why did I use more than last year at this time? Hasn’t it been warmer this year?

These are questions we get a lot this time of year.  Often, after some investigation, we find the answers together.

For example: to answer “Why did I use more than last year at this time? Hasn’t it been warmer this year?

Guess what? This past December hasn’t been warmer than last year.  We think it has, myself included, but here are the average December temperatures for the last three years:

Dec 2009   37 deg
Dec 2010   43 deg
Dec 2011   40 deg

Here’s another example:  “How did I use so much electricity last month?”
Check out the blog post from December 14th.  ( IT’S ALL ABOUT HEATING NOW ) If you heat with electricity, like I do, your bill has gone up 3 or 4 times since the summer.   That’s how it is if I don’t want to wear a parka indoors!

What are some other culprits that cause our homes to use more electricity this time of year?
1. Not using window coverings. Windows are like holes in the wall.  If you cover them, less of the heat ($$) from the room will go out the window.
2. Attic access doors which are not sealed and insulated. Heat ($$) rises right out the roof if you let it.
3. Emergency heat strip settings on thermostats. Did it accidently get left on? You should never put your heat pump in that mode unless your heat pump is not keeping the house warm. Heat strips will consume about 3 times as much electricity as the heat pump alone. This is different than the auxiliary heat mode which comes on usually when the temperature falls below 35 deg.
4. Close the fireplace damper tightly when you are not using it. It’s just like an open window!
5. Lighting. It’s dark outside and our lights are on longer. Did you know CFL bulbs  use one quarter the energy of incandescent bulbs but provide the same amount of light?
6. Hot Tubs. No explanation needed.

Always remember we are here for you. Now that OPALCO has completed the rollout of digital Automated Meter Reading meters, our Member Services team can review your daily consumption trends with you to try to pinpoint your heating and other high consumption sources. Also, reads can now be pulled just a few days before billing.  This means billing periods may not be consistent year over year for comparison.  Always remember to pay close attention to the reading dates and “Days Served” on your bill when comparing historical consumption.  See Understanding Your OPALCO Bill for a visual explanation of you bill.

Our Energy Services Department can help you with a more in depth investigation of your home. Consider a Home Snap Shot Energy Assessment by one of our Building Performance contractors.


It’s all about heating now!

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011


Over the summer I figured out that my home’s base load electricity usage was around 17kWh per day.

I gave the definition of “electricity base load” as the amount of electricity used in providing routine needs for your household, such as operating everyday appliances and electronics including the water heater. The base load usage does not include the seasonal load of heating.

The official start of winter is only a few days away, but I turned on my heating system October 3rd, and my electricity usage has gone steadily up as the temperatures have gone down.

How much electricity is it taking to heat my 1600sf house?  Of course there are many variables to consider including the inside temperature setting and whether or not I have the wood stove burning.

On average, since I turned the heat on October 3rd, my usage has gone up to 57 kWh per day from the 17 kWh per day in the summer. That’s over three times as much.  Now in December the average is 71 kWh per day and that’s 4 times as much.  When I have the wood stove burning in the evenings the usage goes down between 10 kWh and 15 kWh per day.

How does this translate to my OPALCO bill?  Easily, it’s gone up and it’s gone up in proportion to how much electricity I’m using to heat my home. Yes, that means 3 to 4 times as much as the summer bill! Oh, and don’t forget, some of the usage is due to more lighting on these dark evenings.  It’s just a few more days until the shortest day of the year.

Ho, Ho, Ho Hum – Welcome to winter!