### A Repair Story

I’m quite fond of buying things used and then fixing them up. My current smartphone, and iPhone 5s, was purchased second hand from the United States and I’ve already replaced the battery once. Lithium-ion batteries have a limited amount of charging cycles and my replacement battery was also nearing the end of it’s life.

I ordered a replacement battery from eBay and after receiving it I went about installing it. I’ve replaced various smartphone batteries over the years and it seems I had grown complacent. I had lost the respect needed to complete the delicate task.

While rummaging around the innards of my phone I inadvertently dislodged a surface mounted component called an inductor. As luck would have it this little component was critical to the operation of the phone. I later learned that it forms part of the battery monitoring circuit that the phone uses to detect the battery status. Without this ability the phone turns on and as soon as it checks the battery it reboots, mistakenly thinking that the battery is missing. A phone that restarts every 3 minutes isn’t very useful.

Luckily I’ve dealt with a few inductors during my stint at University and I was able to diagnose the problem, find a replacement component from a broken phone in my parts box. Then I ran into a problem. The inductor was an 0402 (Metric) or 01005 (Imperial) component. This means that it is 0.4mm x 0.2mm across. That is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

#### The Kill

Now that I have found all the vampire draw, how do I get rid of it? The easiest way is to turn the power off at the power point, if that is accessible and convenient. I have started doing this in the 2nd Bedroom with the computer and printers. BAM! Almost 10W saved.

The other weapon in our arsenal is the humble timer plug.

Using this timer set to 50% on and 50% off I was able to cut the phantom draw of the fridge to zero when it was idle.The other major culprits are either too difficult to access or too much hassle to constantly turn off and on. I made a conscious decision to let them waste power.

Due to the nature of modern appliances, phantom draw is a fact of life. The trick is to make yourself aware of how much power is being wasted and to decide if that is OK, rather than just wasting all that money every year.

Happy hunting.

### How to set energy use targets

Saving energy is a worthy aim but like most goals it is better if you have a measurable target to aim for. How should you go about setting an energy use goal? I am particularly fond of the Wheaton Eco Test.  The test (or target) is really simple. You find out what the average spending is for a particular commodity and then use less than that. If you have time I would recommend that you go and read the essay.

In the past I have received utility bills where the bill includes a little graph showing how much I use in relation to other people in the same area. I was always shocked to see how my two person household uses less than other single person households! I guess it’s easy to waste mindlessly if you aren’t paying attention.

Now I will conceded that it can be difficult to find out what these averages are. Here are some of the values I was able to find for Melbourne and/or Australia.

The point is not the accuracy of the averages, the aim is to find some reasonable average and then aim to use less than that average. Not doing anything less than the average is just kidding yourself.

### How to use a plug-in power meter

In my post on Dollars and Fridges I referred to the use of my MS6115 plug-in power meter to measure the power consumption of my fridge. I wanted to discuss this tool as well as it’s advantages and shortcomings.

The MS6115 is a \$22 device that is similar to the US Kill-a-Watt. The basic operation is really simple. You plug in the MS6115 into a power outlet and then plug the device you want to investigate into the MS6115. It then tells you the power usage of the connected device. There are a few more advanced features where you can include your electricity price as well as dates and times but the menu’s are difficult to navigate and I prefer to only use the basic features. Let’s have a look at the menu’s

When you first turn the device on it shows all the display elements at once.

The different features we have are WATT, kWh, SET, AMP, VOLTac, COST/kWh, some warnings, various date and time related features, POWERFACTOR and Hz (frequency). You cycle through the menus by pressing the FUNC button below the screen.

The first page shows your AC line voltage and frequency. This is interesting but does not tell us much regarding the power usage. For more information have a look at Table of mains voltages and frequencies.

The next page shows us the amperage and power factor. Keep going.

Here things get interesting. The WATT page shows us the power usage of the connected device.

Finally we get to the energy used menu, the kWh display.

The last menu before we start at voltage again shows us the total price. This will only show the correct values if you entered the electricity price during the initial setup.

#### How to perform a measurement

The types of devices we want to measure fall into two rough categories. The one type of device is under our control like a floorlamp or a TV set. The other type of device can turn on and off by itself like a fridge or a electric hot water heater.

For the first type of device it is sufficient to just write down the power usage on the WATT screen. Since we know, or can estimate, the time the device is on we can multiply the power usage with the time in use to obtain the energy usage. So for example:

If we have a floorlamp and we measure its power usage as 120 watt and we know we only use it for about 2 hours per day, we can work out that the floorlamp uses 87.6kWh per year.

$87.6\ kWh = \frac{120W}{1000W}\times{2\ hours}\times{365\ days}$

For the second type of device I do the following. Firstly plug in the device and then take note of the time, or even better set an alarm for the next day at the same time. Then you let the device run. The next day just navigate to the kWh menu and write down how much energy was used for the past day. So for example:

I measured my fridge and it showed that it used 1.4 kWh  per day. I just multiply it out with the days in the year to determine that it used roughly 511 kWh per year.

$511\ kWh = 1.4\ kWh\times{365\ days}$

Note that the second method does not account for human behaviour or seasonal changes. For example if you open the fridge more often or if it needs to work harder during the summer. It does however give you a good approximation of the average usage.

#### Manual

If you are interested in any of the other features have a look at the manual.

MS6115 Manual

#### Conclusion

The MS6115 is a very cost effective way of getting a handle on the flows of energy in your house. It is simple to use and has very few limitations. It can measure the power usage for any device that has a plug.

The Jevon’s Paradox refers to a term in economics whereby an increase in efficiency, with regards to the use of a resource, does not result in reduced use of that resource but an increase. William Stanley Jevons observed this 150 years ago when increases in the efficiency of coal use resulted in increases in the use of coal.

I have some first hand experience with the Jevon’s Paradox. In most modern day homes you will find LED lighting. LED lighting uses a fraction of the energy of an equivalent incandescent light source. In older houses you would usually have a single light source in the centre of the room but with the advent of energy efficient lighting people have started using more of it. These days people appoint a lighting designer, they have main lighting, accent lighting and even lights in cupboards. It feels like the goal is to see how many light fittings you can cram into a room. The rationale for all these lights is that they are energy efficient. This is Jevon’s Paradox.

As soon as something creates the mental impression that it uses less we use it more, negating the effects of any efficiency gains. This is one of the main arguments against the belief that technology will save us regarding resource depletion. The only way to reduce your consumption is to use less. A new technology which will reduce your consumption, will only make you consume more in the end.

### Book Review: Limits to Growth (1972)

This book forms part of the Deindustrial Reading List. It is not the first one in the sequence but I thought I would start there since it looked like a quick read.

The Greek tragedy of Cassandra comes to mind when reading this book. Cassandra was cursed both with the gift of prophecy as well as the curse that nobody would believe her. The Limits To Growth was published and controversial before I was born. My understanding is that since then it has been vilified and attacked but not disproved. Its recommendations have obviously not been implemented.

The book discusses the findings of a group of scientists who constructed a computer model of the planet that looked at resource use and population growth. The genesis of this model is discussed as well as the extent to which its findings are accurate. Various models and scenarios are then outlined. These models look at populations growing and stabilising, resource availability doubling, pollution declining and increasing as well as the effect of new technologies. The conclusion that is drawn is that we cannot continue our current way of life without running into limits. Even massive increases in various resources (only a paper exercise) buy a little more time before the limits are reached.

The book does not try and beat you over the head with any facts or conclusions. It just tries to ask you to consider the possible implications of their findings. The book was published in 1972 when there was still a bit of breathing room to implement some of its recommendations. Sadly it seems that we, as a civilisation, have opted to tempt luck and see how far we can kick the can down the road under the “business as usual” scenario.

This is a really good book, written in a easy to understand format that outlines a scientific basis for why we can’t just keep on growing and growing on our planet.

I think I have an inkling as to how Cassandra must have felt.