Hello! If you’re reading this, you’ve likely started using SwitchHop. Awesome! We’re happy to have you onboard.
One of the first things you’ll want to figure out is your approximate base load. Doing this lets you start to understand what behaviours and things are driving your usage (and bill) through the roof.
What is a base load?
There’s varying definitions of what a base load is. Some people think it’s the average amount of energy you use on any given day. Or some look at it as the average daily usage over your lowest three months of consumption throughout the year. Either way, there’s no real consensus but there’s definitely lots of noise out there.
When we’re talking about base load, we’re looking at what your house is consuming when you aren’t around doing stuff like laundry, turning off and on lights, and cooking. In other words, we look at base load as the average hourly energy your house uses just to exist.
Why do we encourage you to look at it this way? Because it makes it easy to see the things you do to drive your energy consumption through the roof. Also, if your base load is higher than average, it’s a great warning sign that something’s not right and you need to investigate it immediately.
Figure out your base load Using SwitchHop
Now we’re talking! Let’s roll-up our sleeves and figure out how to identify our base load (don’t worry, it’s not rocket science). Head on over to your personal SwitchHop page. You should see a similar graph to this one near the top of your page:
Play around with it. Every point shows you what you used during that hour of the day (the blue line represents yesterday and the grey line represents that day a week ago).
All those low points are likely from when you were either sleeping or not home (depending on the time of day). So, simply mouse over them and see what they are.
Now, anywhere where there’s a big spike in your usage generally means you were doing something major in your house like cooking, running a washer/dryer, etc. Ignore those. It’s the low points we’re interested in.
In the example above, the low points ranged from 0.5 to 0.3 kWh and most of them were about 0.4 kWh so that’s what I’ll assume my base load is for this time of year. No need to be scientific here, we’re just trying to understand the bare minimum energy our house uses before layering on all the things we do to make those spikes happen.
What to do once you’ve figured out your base load
Yeehaw! We’re rolling ahead! Let’s put our new knowledge to use. At this point, you need to know what to look for. Here’s some telltale signs to help you identify opportunities to use less energy:
Spikes when you’re not home and/or sleeping
When nobody’s home and when you’re sleeping, your baseload should be low and pretty consistent (not deviating from about +/- 0.2 kWh of itself). If you see weird spikes during these times, it’s a good indicator that something’s wonky.
Obviously, every person’s household, habits and appliances are different so it’s very tough for us to tell you exactly what to look for when you see strange spikes. Often, it’s good to think about what is automated in your house as a starting point.
Here’s a few examples of things you could investigate:
If you’ve got a programmable thermostat, make sure it’s properly set-up. If it’s not, it could be doing some weird stuff like unnecessarily heating your house at 2 a.m. while you’re fast asleep under your warm duvet.
Honestly, dialing-in your HVAC system is probably the easiest way to make huge savings in your energy usage.
Most of them have weekday and weekend settings, so make sure both are set up around your lifestyle.
Got automated outdoor lights? Make sure they’re not set to turn on at unnecessary times. Or, maybe you’ve got some motion-sensor lighting coupled with a pesky racoon that frequents your backyard every night. Time for a pellet gun (joking, joking)!
In all seriousness, just look around your house for things that might be unnecessarily firing-up at weird times. Even your DVR could cause a bit of a spike…
Unusually high base load
If your base load is unusually high, there’s likely a big problem with one or more of your major appliances. What is an unusually high base load? Well, that’s a tough question that depends on season, weather, size of house, age of house, appliances, number of people living in house and many other variables.
For that reason, it’s hard to definitively say what’s normal or not. But, as a rule of thumb, if your house is in the 1,000 to 2,000 square foot range and your base load is higher than 1 kWh, it might be cause for concern.
If your house is bigger than that, just use multiples of our rule of thumb to gauge whether you’re high or not. Also, it’s worth noting that we’re working on new peer comparison features that will let you check your usage against similar households. So, that’ll give you better context in this department. We’ll be rolling that out shortly for you.
Alright, so now we need to talk about some common reasons why your base load may be high. There are so many things to look for, but here’s a laundry list for you to check:
- Change your furnace filter: dirty ones cause your fan to blow more often and to work harder – change at least every three months.
- Have your furnace cleaned: dirty furnaces are energy hogs – getting yours cleaned can work wonders for lowering your consumption (costs about $100). Also, make sure the technician cleans your A/C coil at the same time (if you have central air)
- Check your fridge: if your fridge is old, it’s likely using a ton of energy every time the compressor kicks in. I know you don’t want to hear this, but it might be time to replace it. Most utilities offer programs where they give you a discount on a new fridge and you’ll save the money you spent on it within the first year or two. A 20-year-old inefficient fridge will cost you about $285/year to run while a new, efficient one will be more like $67/year.
- Check your insulation:if you’ve got a leaky house, your whole HVAC system has to work that much harder to keep the temperature / humidity level you like. If you notice drafts near windows or doors or notice your furnace / air conditioning firing often, you may want to get an assessment to see if there’s opportunities for better insulation.
- All bets are off if you have any of these: the following list of things are absolute energy hogs that will make your base load quite high:
- Water bed
- Hot tub
- Heated pool (during the summer months, anyway)
- A grow-op (joking)
Hopefully, this post will help you get started on your quest of better understanding your energy usage using SwitchHop.
We’re going to be rolling out new features very often to make it easier and easier for you to get value from our service. Subscribe to our RSS feed to get automatically updated when we post new stuff, which will be often ;)
Cheers and thanks again for using SwitchHop.