717th post: Indirectly helping reduce utility bill

I may not directly seem to be saving energy, but there are indirect ways that I help to reduce the household utility bill.

Solar Panels with 2 USB type-A ports
It began after I bought my first power bank in 2012. I didn't know it was a power bank then, but the only input it had was the retractable power plug and the other side covered in solar panel. The down side was the small capacity it had, and certainly couldn't charge much with the size of the panel. However, the idea that you could get some charge from placing it in sunlight without ever plugging it in since completely draining power was new to me. It now only works as a USB wall charger since it can't hold charge now, if it doesn't overheat while charging. Solar panels do still work, but effectively useless with the little power it generates.

The solar panel idea came about as I was looking as a result of that device bought in 2012. I research that I certainly need panels way larger than what I had, and the necessity to unlink the solar panels from the power storage, and make use of an existing power bank I bought for my Europe trip in 2013. (This is one reason why I did not look at another power bank with built in solar panels.) I bought this off from Amazon US.

I also took a look at USB power meter at the same time as a way of knowing what kind of output exactly I am getting out of it, and finding an ideal spot at home to place it. (There is no outdoor area at home; the best were windows facing east or west.) Later on, I used it to figure out energy losses and efficiency of the cables and chargers I have. Not every device uses exactly 5V 1A, or whatever is stated!

It took me a while to fine tune the positioning. While it can produce enough energy to charge the power bank, it isn't enough to charge a smartphone directly unless there's constant direct sunlight. Something I can't get at home the whole day.

I noticed that it worked if I shine an incandescent spotlight bulb at it. Fluorescent ones don't work, and very weak for LED ones. Obviously I'm not going to bother wasting energy to shine lights at solar panels.

Using the shower
I do it in the afternoon when the temperature is warmer than in the morning. In summer days where it didn't rain recently, I don't even need the heater at all. But when the water is too cold to use without a heater, the heating I set is less than what the others had set.

(I know it may not be hygienic, but unless I get dirty or sweaty, I usually take a shower only once a day. This significantly reduces water and electricity consumption.)

Now this is a strange one. I bought the first set of LED bulbs for my room, which turned out to be dimmer than the CFLs I replaced. I bought another set that had higher lumen rating (higher wattage does not equal brighter bulbs as LEDs themselves get more power efficient over time) than the one I had, but those were still not bright enough. By the third set, which has even higher lumen ratings that should be bright enough for reading (as I researched prior to buying), I realized it was just bad furniture placement blocking out the lights and needed additional lighting around the desk I use my laptops on. Overall, the brightest LED bulbs still consume less energy than the CFL counterparts. As an added bonus, I get less insect bites at night for some reason.

What happened to the first and second batch of LED bulbs I bought earlier? Those were used on other parts of the house that still used CFL bulbs. Now I have stockpiles of used, but not end-of-life, CFL bulbs lying about. I would like to replace the non compact variant of fluorescence bulbs, but the equipment to power the fluorescent bulbs is in the lamp holder itself (CFLs have this integrated as part of the bulb design), so an overhaul of the lamp holder is necessary to make it work with LED. On top of that, the LEDs used for these kind of fixtures are more expensive. In the end, these remain as fluorescent bulbs.

Lighting for rooms that are infrequently used, or lit up for only a short time, are somewhat tricky. Lights being used for only a short time are not good for the lifespan of fluorescent bulbs. Its long warm up time, and flickering as it happens if it has a starter plug, are not ideal for these kinds of places. LEDs are the most suitable for this kind of situation, but not from a cost perspective if you don't already have one (and lasting way longer than the rated 15 years due to less-than-usual usage). Since I have plenty of incandescent bulbs lying around, those are the most ideal kind of bulbs for this kind of situation, though some adapters are needed to fit into the socket. Thankfully, none were fixtures for fluorescent bulbs.

Well, this isn't exactly saving the environment kind of method, but to minimize the home electricity bill is to use electricity that you are not (directly) paying for. You can get even more out of this by charging your devices (including power banks).


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