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2 June 2009

Energy and water audits

The Energy Monitor a couple of days after installation.
(Click on photos to enlarge.)

We had an energy and water audit done a few weeks ago. These audits are subsidised by the Queensland Government to help us cut down on our energy and water consumption. It cost us $50 and was well worth every cent of that. If you're in Queensland and haven't had one done yet, ring up today and book, I promise you will not regret it. I was at work when our audit electrician inspected our home but from what Hanno told me, he looked at a wide range of things.

He checked that the fridge was running at the correct temperature - between 3* - 5* C and gave us a thermometer for future checks. He also checked our freezer - which needs to run between -15 and -18*C. This thermometer can also be used to test the temperature of the hot water system. If it's too high, the thermostat can be adjusted to a more conservative setting. All these checks will save money if you're running too high.

Another check he made was in the bathrooms. He checked the shower heads to make sure ours reduced the flow to save water, and the energy to heat it, but gave an adequate amount for showering. Both our shower heads were fine, and we have solar hot water, so we were looking good in the bathrooms. He would have given us new shower heads if we needed them. He checked all the light fittings and as we'd already switched to compact fluros bulbs a couple of years back, most of our lights were okay but our small lamps weren't. The last time we checked, probably two years ago, we couldn't find compact fluros for our bedside table lamps nor the lamp on my desk. He installed new little CFs in those lamps and gave us eight new CF globes for future use.

This is the monitor this morning.

The best part of the entire audit though is the Wireless Energy Monitor (above), this was also given to us as part of the audit. The electrician installed it on our power board outside, then programed the monitor that sits in our kitchen. The monitor picks up wireless signals from our power board and updates constantly, telling us how much electricity is being consumed, if it is peak hour or not, the temperature in the house, the time and date and how much our electricity has cost us so far. The monitor can also be programed to ring an alarm if you go over a certain level. You can see in the photo soon after it was installed it was, now it's on $29.33. I watched a local TV program about these monitors last night and I was absolutely shocked to see their monitors showing in excess of $400, and one woman's electricity was around $750! Crikey, thankfully ours has never been that high. Ours is usually hovering between $100 and $200, per three months. According to the monitor, our bill this period will be around $180. Even so, now we're working to reduce that.

The way we're doing that is that we use the monitor to see how much it goes up or down according to what we're using. For instance, I now know that it costs much less to use our laptop than the desktop computer. We had not used our clothes dyer for years, but we had to use it the other day and now I know it costs around 30 cents an hour to run it. When we're operating at full capacity here at night, we're using around 70 cents an hour, most of the time our monitor sits between 5 - 9 cents. I will eventually get round to testing all our appliances to see which ones chew up the energy. If I can, I'll get rid of the energy gluttons.

The Climate Smart web site is here and there's quite a bit of good information there about cutting back on electricity and water. Apparently we will soon receive a customised Electricity and Water Efficiency Plan that was made up using the data the electrician collected while he did the audit. That may give us other ideas about cutting back even more.

Do these audits happen anywhere else? If not, why not? This service will help us cut our carbon emissions as well as save us money, it needs to be done all over Australia and in every country. If you don't have this service provided locally, email or phone your local state politician and ask WHY?

On the same day the auditor came, we had insulation installed - again subsidised by our government, this time the Federal government, as part of the economic stimulus. Since we had it done the temperature in the house has remained constant, around 20 - 22*C, with no heating or cooling needed. This will also save us money and carbon. I don't always have much that is good to say about our politicians but this time, they got it right.

PS: With Hanno away, and me working these two days, I'm running behind on a lot of things but I wanted to recognise the lovely comments this week. I will respond to them as soon as I can.


  1. We have a monitor too - a Christmas present :-) .. it is very interesting to see what does make a big difference to the Electricity bill.

  2. That's fascinating. I'd love to see how much things cost to run. I can see myself now, hovering over the moniter, telling the kids to switch off this and switch on that....

    Endless entertainment for the family.

  3. I'd rather not have the government trying to take over something else in our lives, no matter how good it sounds. Don't know if we have it here and don't want to know. We have figured most of this kind of stuff out for ourselves anyway. We just don't like the whole idea of the government being involved in everything. In the end they will probably use programs like that to restrict freedoms, and fine people who go over certain amounts etc.

  4. Here in the UK our power companies (we have a choice of many) are responsible for encouraging us to use less fuel. We have been given a free monitor similar to yours for signing up to a marginally more expensive tariff that buys energy from renewable sources to replace what we use. The instructions for our monitor were not as clear as they could have been because for the first week or so the readings were unbelievably low, until I moved the clip to a different cable on the meter. Here, the electric oven and the power shower were the two greediest appliances we own.

  5. I have a question about the pickle recipe. Maybe I am missing it but how many cucumbers are you using for this recipe? Thank you

  6. Wow, what good value for the audit, and how helpful too. Wish we had that here... I've been tempted to get an energy monitor thingy - in the UK the monitor alone would cost more than your actual audit.

  7. Our energy companies do what they call an energy audit, but it's pretty basic. I bought a device called a Kill-A-Watt that plugs into the outlet, then you plug the appliance into it for measuring usage. It's a slower process than what you are doing because you have to do one appliance at a time, but also nice because it isolates each energy hog.

  8. Wow that is fab. I wish we had that here in the US. I may have to inquire at PSE&G.I am always looking for ways to conserve and use less. Thanks for a great post and blog. I read it everday. Your blog has changed my way of looking at things for the better.CAn't wait till your book comes out, when might that be?

  9. I am booked in for my audit for June 19 and am really looking forward to what I will learn from it.

  10. I wish we had something like that in SA but as far as I know the energy audits here are expensive and stop at checking for draughts, recommending insulation & measuring temperatures rather than monitoring usage.

  11. We don't have one and have never heard of one. They sound fantastic! I would love to be able to show my hubby how much electricity he wastes because he is the worst in the house!

    Have fun with it.

  12. Hi
    My daughter and son-in-law are building a house in the Currumbin Eco Village and this entails agreeing to have a computerised water and energy monitor built into the house.
    Good stuff I reckon.

    There are many other obligations along similar lines in the village. Maybe short term extra expense, but long term benefits personally and for the earth.

    We really MUST do something about climate change!
    June also in Oz

  13. We just joined a council-run programme that uses those same meters. They've got a selection of about 50 or so households, of all different sizes and types, and will be collecting weekly data over 12 months.

    They're hoping to get a profile of energy use in our region, and use some of the households as case studies to show others how to save energy.

  14. What a good idea! In South Africa, we dont have that yet. But here's hoping! :) I just want you to know that I love your blog. Very inspiring!

  15. That monitor looks fascinating...I wish that we had some programs like that here (Portland Oregon USA)

    I had an energy audit done on Acorn Cottage, but since I had already installed fluorescent bulbs, all they did was recommend that I add insulation to the walls, and add more to the attic (an expensive proposition indeed) No offered funding for the job, though I think that there is a matching funds program or something in the federal stimulus, but you still have to come up with thousands of dollars on your own...

  16. Way to go! You had so many of the basic things already done. It will be interesting for you to see what else can be done that you didn't think of.

    I'm going to call our local electric and see what they offer.

    Our electric bill is pretty much the same or lower than others around here and it's about $210. US dollars each month. Yes, not a typo, $210.00 and we are very careful about the energy we use.

    Thanks for the heads up, i'm off to give them a call.

    Have a great day and enjoy your "mini Vacation" at the house by yourself.


  17. They have a similar thing in the Northwest of the US but only for heating-- they will come audit your house and make sure that your furnace is clean, your windows insulated, etc. They don't give you free stuff to fix problems, though. Just a $2 certificate for a CF bulb.

    Incidentally, wow, your power bill is low. Our is $150 US in the winter, at least, and we have a well-insulated house and a woodstove. When we burn wood we can sometimes get it down to $100.

  18. What an awesome tool to have on hand. I would be fascinated with one.

  19. We also have one of the monitors for free just like Charis.

    We also replied to a leaflet through our letter box for insulation. we both work and arent seniors so we had to pay half, the rest was done by a grants from the uk government. The company who did the work claimed the money back, no forms for us, which is great.

    I dont think we have such a thing as an audit like yours, but if you come to sell your house you have to have a HIPS pack so the buyer can see what eco rating your house is and where improvements can be made.

    Great post Rhonda, as always

  20. wow. We've had people come and install the light bulbs and shower heads before but not the monitor thing. Wonder if I can get it down here........... *goes to look*

  21. Would love something like that here in the US, but all our energy companies do is charge us to us our houses are leaky which we knew already. The other annoying thing is they claim to care about conservation, but when people actually start reducing and it hits their bottom line, they raise the rates.


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