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Old 11-16-2008, 10:00 PM   #1
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


I've noticed that new GFCI outlets have an LED as well as a circuit board inside and these devices are always on and using electricity, even if nothing is plugged in!

And this got me to thinking about other devices like GFCI breakers, AFCI breakers, and whole house surge protectors. Do these devices use electricity at all times as well?

I've tried looking at the manufacturer's spec sheets to see how much power these devices use and they don't say.

So does anyone know how much electricity the following devices use with nothing on the circuit?

GFCI outlet (UL 2006 LED style)
GFCI Breaker
AFCI Breaker
Whole House Surge Protector

FYI - Picture of inside of new LED style GFCI...
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?-gfci_pcboard_sm.jpg  

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Old 11-16-2008, 10:25 PM   #2
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


I'm going with about 25cents a years worth of electricty. At least for the GFCI's, the afcis generate heat, so they probably use alot more. No different than every transformer you have in your house.

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Old 11-16-2008, 10:48 PM   #3
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


1 LED running off 120vac may take 1w, the LED itself taking 40 milliwatts.
1w for the IC that senses the current difference.
Costs you maybe $1/year.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 11-16-2008 at 11:02 PM.
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Old 11-16-2008, 10:50 PM   #4
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


Billybob, why don't you measure it?
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Old 11-16-2008, 11:43 PM   #5
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Gigs View Post
Billybob, why don't you measure it?
How would I accurately measure the circuit breakers and whole house surge protector? From what I have heard, some of these devices might remain "on" even if tripped. So turning off all breakers to say measure the whole house surge protector probably would not be accurate. Or turning off everything but one GFCI breaker might not be accurate.

Anyway this should be listed somewhere. If it is not listed on the manufacturer's spec sheet, I think it should be.

And it would be interesting to know how much power each of these devices uses from different manufacturers. Maybe some use less power than others?

The new GFCI outlets are designed to detect miswiring. This would not be needed in a GFCI circuit breaker. So maybe a GFCI circuit breaker would use less power than a GFCI outlet?

So it would be interesting to know how much power each device draws.

(Unless this information is for some reason "secret" and they don't want consumers to know how much power these things are using...)
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Old 11-17-2008, 12:25 AM   #6
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


Here is some factual information...

I found the chip used or one of the chips used for GFCI's. I don't know if this was used for the old style only or is used for old and new???

But anyway for just this chip is says "Supply Current 19 mA"...
http://cache.national.com/ds/LM/LM1851.pdf
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Old 11-17-2008, 07:53 AM   #7
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


1 watt * 24 hours * 365 days /1000 watts=8.76 KW/H a year = More like $1/per year for me.

Is there any proof suggesting that those little LEDs actually use up a full watt? If so, changing out my LED GFIs to regular non GFI LEDs would pay for itself.

There is a lot of discussion about "Phantom loadS" lately. The problem I see with it is most of them are not things we are willing to part with. I mean who is going to crawl under the TV stand and switch off the surge strip to save a few dollars a year (TVs use a bit more than 1 watt on standby, I think).

Last edited by pcampbell; 11-17-2008 at 07:58 AM.
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Old 11-17-2008, 11:52 AM   #8
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


It is not just 1 watt...

This is like saying that gas station over there is only 20 cents more a gallon, so don't worry about it - it is only 20 cents!

The thing is just about everything I buy these days is "always on". Remote controls for everything including window air conditioners. Electronic switches instead of the old fashioned mechanical on/off switches, etc.

Anyway if you can identify say 20 of these "always on" devices in your home and arrange things so you can turn off 18 of them when not in use (might want the answering machine and TV always on), then you are saving a bit of electricity. Not much in itself, but a little. They all add up.

Then maybe replace regular light bulbs with CFL's. The saves a little more. Not much in itself, but a little more.

Then maybe get new Energy Star appliances which save a bit of energy. There is a little more savings. Not much for any one appliance, but they add up.

Then add more insulation. This saves more energy.

After doing all these little things, you start to see big savings in your electric bill. Every little bit helps.

So if I know an outside GFCI outlet is using electricity, and I know I will not need that outlet all winter, then why leave it on all winter?

And if I know my window air conditioner will be using electricity all winter and I will not need it, then why leave it plugged in?

How about a switch next to the microwave to turn if off when not in use?

And if I only use the GFCI outlet in the bathroom for 5 minutes every morning, why not install a switch and turn it off when not in use?

Or think about this... What if NEC code required every bathroom to have a 20 amp light circuit and switch and this also switched off the GFCI outlet? Then you would have 50 million homes in America not using that 1 watt most of the time!

Or instead of having the doorbell transformer on 24/7, how about installing a 120V pushbutton switch and proper wiring to code and pressing the button would turn on the transformer to ring the bell?

FYI my electric bill will be $30 this month. It is a bunch of little things added together which got me down to $30 ($50 in the summer)...
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Old 11-17-2008, 12:23 PM   #9
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


Quote:
Originally Posted by pcampbell View Post
Is there any proof suggesting that those little LEDs actually use up a full watt?
No proof, just evidence.
Without using a transformer, one way to put 20 mA through an indicating LED is to half wave rectify the 120vac which gives you ~50vdc. The LED takes up 2v. (50-2)v x .02A = ~1w in the dropping resistor.
The LED takes .02 x 2v = 40 mW.
Wasteful, but cheaper than using a small transformer or a small switching PS.
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:52 AM   #10
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


Billy Bob if only more of us thought this way. We are a society of waste. My wife and I probably use max, 300 KW/H a month even in the summer. I do not think most people are in touch with the number of Kilowatt hours they use per month. I want to get this down even more! We have so many stupid things that sit idle, I am trying to track them down and eliminate them. I do not know how many clocks one could have in the kitchen. Stove, microwave, coffee maker...

I am a bicyclist, and a great way to be in touch with your KW/H usage is that I can, on an AMAZING day, produce 1 KW/H of electricity. So we are using 10x more than I could ever possibly produce by myself.

The annoyance is, if I turn off the microwave, every single time I go to switch it on, the first thing it does is ask me what time it is. For the TV and DVD player, I am not realistically going to bend on my knees and turn off the surge strip every single night. However a switch on the wall would make sense. My wife does not want me installing a switch for whatever reason though. Thinks it will be ugly I guess. Then there is the Tivo (digital video recorder) - that needs to stay on 24x7 to catch all the lousy shows that we don't really NEED to watch. Do you see a pattern here...

We have replaced all lights with CFLs. For insulation, unfortunately we have NONE (1950 house), except in our attic and even that is questionable. However the Fed is offering a $500 tax credit on insulation for 2009 (not 2008.. so I have to wait 2 more months to figure out the best place to put it).

Now, do all GFIs use ~1 watt, or only the ones with LEDs? As forGFIs, they do sell (15 amp) GFIs without LEDs. I've got a mix of them. If the GFIs costme each $1/year, I should switch them out. Even if it's just $3 a year, times 5 years, that will pay for the other GFIs. Also the LEDs are not that pretty. And doesn't it make sense to have the LED switch ON when there is a problem, not vice versa?

Last edited by pcampbell; 11-18-2008 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 11-18-2008, 09:20 AM   #11
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


They do have them where the LED comes on if there's a fault.
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Old 11-18-2008, 09:47 AM   #12
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


Quote:
Originally Posted by pcampbell View Post
I am a bicyclist, and a great way to be in touch with your KW/H usage is that I can, on an AMAZING day, produce 1 KW/H of electricity.
World class cyclist = 1/2 hp for 20 min?
20 yr old = 1.1 hp for 20 seconds?
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Old 11-18-2008, 10:29 AM   #13
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


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Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
World class cyclist = 1/2 hp for 20 min?
20 yr old = 1.1 hp for 20 seconds?
1/2 HP for 20 min = 4.476 kJ, which is little more than one Calorie. 330,000 ft-lbs.
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Old 11-18-2008, 11:26 AM   #14
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


No I am not world class by far. I can do 200 watts for 5 hours on a great day = 1 KW/H.

0.5 HP for 20 minutes is not world class necessarily, depends in your body weight. I cannot do 372 watts for 20 minutes but with the right training I could.

My max 1 hour output is about 300 watts.

1 hour @ 300 watts is about 900 calories for me.

Last edited by pcampbell; 11-18-2008 at 11:35 AM.
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Old 11-18-2008, 11:49 AM   #15
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Energy use? GFCI's, AFCI's, WH-Surge?


I still have not yet seen any information from any manufacturer as to how much electricity the GFCI's actually use. An engineering type told me $3 to $6 a year.

And I have learned that *all* GFCI's always use electricity - LED or not!

I have found an easy to live with solution for all this... That is don't install GFCI "circuit breakers" as turning these off will not keep them from using electricity! The internal circuitry is directly tied to the hot connection on the breaker.

Instead for a "retrofit", install "combination" GFCI outlets. These are GFCI's which also have a switch on them. They look like this...



Then wire the switch so it turns off the GFCI! Get the kind with the LED light, then you know when the outlet is on or off.

So just turn these off when not needed.

(The combination GFCI/switch is quite expensive. It would be cheaper to install a 2 gang box if remodeling and use a regular switch.)

Then for multiple GFCI outside outlets on the same circuit, wire from a regular breaker to a junction box and from there to each outlet and install a switched GFCI at each outlet. Then you can turn on/off each outlet as needed. This would be easier to use than say needing the backyard outlet and having to go to the front outlet to turn it on/off. ("Daisy chaining" from each outlet to the next will not work because if one is turned off, all those downstream would also be turned off. Plus you can't test all the GFCI's. Typically only one would trip because it would respond a bit faster than the others.)

For a kitchen, you could have 3 or 4 switches where the light switch goes. A 15 amp switch to turn on the lights, then a 20 amp switch to power up the microwave, and another 20 amp switch(s) for the GFCI countertop outlets. So flip everything on all at once. Then kill all those clocks and GFCI's when done in the kitchen!

Take that electric company!

And for a garage you might have a freezer or door opener and would want to leave these on. If not, place the GFCI or switch for the GFCI in a handy location like next to the light switch. New code requires everything in a garage to be on a GFCI, but some locations modify the codes for this or go by an older code. So might be able to place the freezer on a non-GFCI outlet. The garage door should be on a GFCI, especially if it is metal.

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Last edited by Billy_Bob; 11-18-2008 at 11:52 AM.
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