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Power usage figures

Old 02-28-07, 11:43 PM
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Power usage figures

I want to find what the average power consumption of a home in the US is. That is, the average over a short time or an instantaneous value. Not kWh. kW. How many kilowatts of power is the average US household using at any one time? What about peak times? I can't find that information anywhere.

I just got a little interested in a solar panel setup. I just want to see what it would take to have a setup that was independent of the grid. I'm not factoring in weather or anything, purely rated output of the PV panels and average usage.
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Old 03-01-07, 11:38 PM
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Okay damn it, I got it. I just took the average kilowatt hours per month and divided by hours in a month. So, average usage at any one time is about 1.21kW of power for a household. So, a 1.2kW solar panel array could actually power your house for much of a day and with grid tie and batteries use very little actual power from the grid. Not bad, because I've seen the cost of such a system in the $3000 range. My other idea was a solar powered station for ARRL field day contest. That would kick ass.
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Old 03-01-07, 11:57 PM
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Check out the Florida Solar Energy Center. Don't know the url anymore, but it's an excellent source of info, as is the NC Solar Center.

The NCSU Solar House had a 3kW array that supplied much of the electrical needs of the house, included battery storage, and reverse metering to the grid (rather specialized equipment required to "clean up" the power output). I should know. I did my graduate work there. There is also an earth-coupled heat pump, Trombe walls, and a solar-powered water heater.

I don't know what PV panels cost today, but in 1992, that 3kW array was at least a $20,000 investment.

Have fun, and "Go Solar!"
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Old 03-02-07, 12:01 AM
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God...I feel stupid
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Old 03-02-07, 12:07 AM
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Old 03-02-07, 01:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Falkon
Okay damn it, I got it. I just took the average kilowatt hours per month and divided by hours in a month. So, average usage at any one time is about 1.21kW of power for a household. So, a 1.2kW solar panel array could actually power your house for much of a day and with grid tie and batteries use very little actual power from the grid. Not bad, because I've seen the cost of such a system in the $3000 range. My other idea was a solar powered station for ARRL field day contest. That would kick ass.
That's a good start, but solar panels are seldom generating at max rated capacity. First of all, half of the time it's night out, and even in broad daylight it's usually a little below peak. Somewhere the DOE or NREL or someone has published a nationwide map showing average kW-hrs per day across the US. If you want to go off-grid, that will be an essential starting point.

Because of the expense and added complexity of a storage system, the most economical way to move to solar is to stay on the grid and use the solar panels as a bonus. Most states even have net-metering laws requiring utilities to buy excess power from you if you so desire, so during peak usage times, you aren't limited to what your system can put out, and during low usage times, you're whittling away at your bill by pumping juice back into the grid. Staying on the grid also allows you to start with a smaller investment and build up as you choose.

Unless you're into spending a fair bit of time researching, it's probably worthwhile to talk to a local solar consultant about what will work for you.
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Old 03-02-07, 02:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Falkon
Okay damn it, I got it. I just took the average kilowatt hours per month and divided by hours in a month. So, average usage at any one time is about 1.21kW of power for a household.
Uhm, does that sound reasonable to you?

That would imply that, on average, the power usage is the same in the middle of the night as during the day... Not likely!

Really, peak or instantaneous power usage can't be found by doing what you did. You need to find actual figures for it.
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Old 03-02-07, 07:49 AM
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That's why I said it's an average value. I didn't say it's instantaneous value. That's why I said at any one time, the AVERAGE power usage. The idea is still a grid tie system. Panels, inverter, and batteries used. The difference is a nice large chunk out of the power bill and possibly 100% solar water heating. I think batteries would determine how much power is used through the night.
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Old 03-02-07, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by CdCf
Uhm, does that sound reasonable to you?

That would imply that, on average, the power usage is the same in the middle of the night as during the day... Not likely!

Really, peak or instantaneous power usage can't be found by doing what you did. You need to find actual figures for it.
That's what an average is... it doesn't imply that power usage is the same from one minute to the next, just that ON AVERAGE, at any given minute the power usage is 1.2Kw. Most minutes it'll be higher or lower; some minutes considerably higher or lower than the average.

On the other hand, it sounds like the OP needs to figure both the average as well as the instantaneous max peak to meet demand. I guess that's where the batteries would come in, to provide the delta between the panel's max output and a peak demand (VV - is that right?).
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Old 09-25-08, 02:22 PM
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electric usage

well it depends on what is being used in the house here is the break down
tv=80 to 150w
fridge newer 150 while its running 80 average
computer 150 to 400w(150 most of the time)
with out airconditioning electric heat or a stove space heater electric waterheater it should not be more than 1,000 watts but check out these numbers
water heater single element 1,500w
dual element 3,000w
space heater 1,500w
hair dryer 1,500w
electric stove with all 4 burners on(think thanksgiving day)over 10,000w !!!
electric central heat 20,000w
central air 5,000w
widow air 500 to 1500 for the 110v units depends on the size
like i said earlyer if you only use lights fridge and your electronics you can easly keep it under 1,000w
its things that heat or cool that take a lot of watts but a good fridge is not all that bad
and a small window airconditioner and small electric space heater can be used carefully
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Old 09-26-08, 04:32 AM
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If you are doing grid-tie, you do not need to plan for peak usage. In this case, you only need to plan for average usage. Even if you are not doing grid-tie, planning your array for average use is probably fine because you'll have some kind of storage system (probably a bunch of lead-acid batteries) that would be able to provide peak loads.

Keep in mind that PV solar implementations are not environmentally sound in that it takes more energy to create a solar panel than the panel will provide over its useful lifetime, and the lead-acid batteries required create a host of environmental nightmares to deal with, even though much of the material is recyclable.

Most panels are destroyed by weather before they even reach the end of their useful life, anyway. PV is simply not practical as an generalized alternative energy source, TODAY.

There are, however, some new substrates that may be cheaper and require less energy to make. A normal polycrystalline silicon cell takes a tremendous amount of energy to grow. There are several technologies that take less energy to implement, but the cost is also high.

What you really want to look for is a thin film multi-junction Gallium Arsenide cell made by metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy. This is probably one of the better solutions in dollars per watt. Because of this, demand has skyrocketed lately and the cost benefit is rapidly diminishing, if it hasn't already.

Other thin films (i.e. less energy to create) can be had, though. There is a thin film silicon available that uses chemical vapor deposition instead of the classical "melt it and grow it" method. It's more toxic to the environment, but it uses far less energy to create.
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