The Complete Idiots Guide to the TLC Diet (Complete Idiots Guides (Lifestyle Paperback))

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But in fact, a watt is a rate! Focus on the per in the phrase. A watt is a rate, just like gallons per second or miles per hour. People apply this watt measurement to energy generation, transport, and usage. Chapter 4: Electricity Basics — a Shocking Amount of Info The watt is an instantaneous measure, just like the reading on the radar gun when the cop catches you going 82 in a 55 mph zone.

In other words, wattage describes how quickly energy is being generated, moved, or used right now. In both cases, you pay for a quantity, not a rate. And with electricity, you buy a quantity — kilowatt-hours — from the utility and look at wind generator production in kilowatt-hours.

Now this may bring clarity to the techies out there, but for most people, it just adds to the confusion. In the nontechnical world, people use power synonymously with energy or with electricity. Measuring wattage, the flow of energy So why should you know the watts — or as I like to say, wattage — in your wind-electric system? If you can use appliances that use energy more slowly but deliver the same results, you use less energy.

This means you need to make and transport less energy, which means you need to make and transport fewer dollars to your local wind-energy supplier and utility company. But if you have the standard electricity in most North American homes volts alternating current, or VAC , you can plug a wattmeter into the wall and connect an appliance like a toaster into the meter.

Set the meter to the watt field and watch the reading. You may see several hundred watts or more than 1, Actually doing measurements with a wattmeter can really help you cement the meaning of a watt in your brain. If you plug your clothes washer into a wattmeter, for example, you find that the reading fluctuates a lot.

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If you measure your stereo, the wattage is low when the sound is low, and when you crank up the tunes, the wattage increases. You can also measure wattage on the generating side of your system. And if you only have time to figure out one measure, this is it.

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Why, you ask? The term watt-hour or kilowatt-hour, if you have 1, of them speaks clearly about not only how much energy you generate but also how much you transport and, most importantly, how much you use. All good renewable electricity design is based on first understanding the load — how much energy you use.

Without good numbers on this end, the whole design is speculation. You buy watt-hours from the utility, and when you have a surplus, you sell them back. Watt-hours are a universal measure of electrical energy. In this section, I provide a formula for calculating watt-hours and give you pointers on how to measure them in your home.

A watt-hour is a quantity, like a gallon, a mile, and the like. Sometimes I think the makers of these terms wanted to keep it complicated! How do you understand a watt-hour? It boils down to simple math, as soon as you understand the concepts.

Leave it on for 2 hours, and it uses watt-hours. In 5 hours, it uses watt-hours, and so on. I encourage you to try this math out around your home. Then time or estimate the number of hours you use each appliance on your list each day. Multiply the wattage by the hours and see what you get.

Most portable meters that measure watts in your home also measure watthours. One version of the Kill A Watt meter, for instance, has a kilowatt-hour button. You plug the meter into a wall socket and plug your appliance into the meter. Then wait until the time hour, day, week that you want to measure is over and push the kWh button on the meter. It tells you the kilowatthours consumed, and another push of the button tells you the number of hours in the measuring period.

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Many appliances list watt specifications, but measurement with a meter is always more accurate than using these numbers and calculating. Volts: Putting on the Electrical Pressure All analogies are flawed in some way or another. Voltage is the push that moves electrical energy and electrons from one point to another. In any electrical system, you measure voltage at two different points, and the meter compares the electrical pressure at the two points and displays the difference.

This is really the same as most any pressure measurement. Wind generators create the same sort of potential difference by pushing a magnetic field past coils of copper wire.


In this section, I define voltage and show you how to measure it. If you have stronger push, you can move more electrons and energy, and you can do it in smaller wires. Smaller wires means less copper, and copper is expensive. So higher voltage saves you money. So does voltage tell you everything you need to know about electricity?

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No way! Voltage is just one piece of the puzzle. Imagine a hose connected to an outside faucet on your home. At the end of the hose is a sprayer trigger. With the faucet on, you water the carrots. You have the capacity of your pressure pump or city water pressure behind the pressure in the hose. You still have pressure inside the hose, right? Voltage just indicates the electrical pressure, not the energy flow rate wattage or energy amount watt-hours.

Measuring and interpreting voltage You measure voltage with a voltmeter — big surprise. Put the meter probes in two different points, and your meter measures the difference in electrical pressure between them. Voltmeters come in a variety of types and sizes. These days, voltmeters are usually digital, which works fine and gives you a high level of accuracy. I also like analog dial and needle meters, because watching them through the variations of the wind is so graphic and intuitive.

Handheld digital multimeters DMMs always have a voltage function. Figure shows a typical multi-meter.

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Voltage metering is usually built into wind-electric systems in some place or other, typically in the charge controller or battery state-of-charge meter see Chapter 3 for more on these components. V Figure A multimeter has probe leads to measure voltage. Using a voltmeter If your voltmeter is built into your system, all the smarts you need is enough to read and interpret the numbers. Voltage features such as polarity which I discuss in the next section can help you get wires sorted out properly and troubleshoot systems, so you may have reason to use a handheld voltmeter.

Put the meter probe leads the wires in the proper holes in the meter. Black goes in the COM black hole, and red goes in the hole marked with a V most meters have other notations at this hole — just look for a V. Before you measure anything, choose between AC and DC voltage which I explain later in this chapter and also choose the range of voltage. Voltage choices typically start at 2 volts or below and go to or beyond. Choose a range well above what you expect the voltage to be. Hold firmly to get a good connection. Interpreting voltage readings Touching your probes to the positive bumped out and negative flat terminals of a flashlight battery is a safe and convenient way to figure out how to use a DMM.

If you touch the red probe to the positive terminal and the black probe to the negative, you get a positive number. The difference between negative and positive ends of a battery or another device is called polarity. Voltage interpretation can get tricky when measuring things beyond your flashlight batteries, but remembering that voltage is simply electrical pressure can help. The next step up in complexity may be a simple volt battery bank.

If your volt battery bank is fully charged and has been sitting at rest — with no charge or discharge for a few hours — the voltage is about If you start using a few lights, the voltage will be pulled down a bit.

If you turn on your big volt direct current VDC compressor, the voltage may be pulled down considerably, especially when it starts. Conversely, if the wind kicks up and starts charging your battery bank heavily, the voltage may rise to 14 volts or more. All these voltage readings are with a basically full battery bank. In actual service, the voltage varies with the charge and discharge of the battery. Voltage is not a good indication of how full your battery bank is. Heavy charge can push the voltage up a lot, and heavy discharge can push the voltage down a lot.