29 November 2012

Saving electricity - what I know works

Our electricity bill came last week. It's something that many of us fear now because, in Australia, and possibly in many other parts of the world, electricity prices are skyrocketing. It was good news for us though, we're in credit and have been since our solar panels were installed 18 months ago. But I know how tough it can be when you're faced with a bill that you know you'll struggle to pay. I thought it would be worthwhile to consolidate our ideas on reducing electricity consumption. One thing is for sure, the rate we pay for the electricity we use is not going down any time soon. Let's be proactive and work to reduce the amount of energy we use in our homes. This is really small steps stuff - there are no big savers, unless you install solar panels or go off the grid. You will save electricity by doing a lot of small saving steps. I'm not going to recommend a whole list of things that might work. What I'm suggesting is what we do here and what I know works.

The power bill we received last week showed a very interesting statistic. See below, our average daily usage in this billing period is 6.1 kWh (kilowatt hours). That is less than half the average for a two person household and 4 kWh less than a one person household. That is nothing to do with solar panels - it is simply us not using the amount of electricity that most people use.


Let me qualify this a bit so you get a full and clear picture. We get the government pension rebate of $50 per bill. We have solar hot water and solar panels. We've had solar hot water for about 30 years but it was only when we had our panels installed 18 months ago that we ever had a credit on our bill. We have the smallest solar panel unit you can buy. It's 1.6 kVa (Kilo Volt Amperes). We saved up to have that unit installed, we got a rebate from the government that helped with the purchase and got in on the deal to sell our excess electricity to the grid at 44 cents, we buy it at 19 cents. With that smallest unit and the small steps we take every day, we have not paid for electricity for 18 months, even though the rates have risen so much.

But let me say again, all that has nothing to do with the amount of electricity we use. We use less than most people, not because of the solar panels, but because of the four steps we take.

I'm not going to say you'll be in the same position we're in. We don't have to monitor any one else's usage, our kids have left home and it's just us two. I know how difficult it is with others in the home, especially when they're teenagers. Just a little tip if you do have teens or young adults still living at home. Our sons only became more frugal with the electricity usage and more mindful of turning things off, when we made them pay the electricity bill. It wasn't much back then, and they were working, but that sharpened them up quick smart. We tried to reason with them about energy conservation until the cows came home but nothing worked like paying the bill themselves. We do have a lot of visitors now, we have four extra people staying with us at the moment. We often have our kids and their families, or my sister here. So these figures are not really just for Hanno and I. It's us, plus.


This is important: Find out about your peak and off-peak times for electricity usage. You need to understand this because it could be your biggest saver. Either go to your electricity supplier's website or phone them. Most of the time you use electricity will be during peak times. You need to know when peak time starts and stops, when off-peak starts and stops, and how much you pay for your electricity during those two times. Off-peak will be cheaper but it will also be at night when most people aren't using electricity - that is why it's cheaper.


So what do we do? There are our four main things.

Use electricity when it's cheaper to buy
If you use appliances with high energy needs - washing machine, dishwasher, dryer, vacuum etc, do that work at night during your off-peak time, or if you have solar panels, when it's dark. Often it's just a matter of turning on the machine, letting it do its thing, and finishing off in the morning. It takes a bit of reorganisation, but it's worth it. Using high energy appliances during your off-peak time works if you're using grid electricity because you'll pay less for the electricity you use then. If you've got solar panels and you sell your excess to the grid use your high energy consumption appliances when it's dark and your panels aren't generating any power. When we have to buy energy, we pay 19 cents for it, we sell it for 44 cents. It's better for us to sell the power we generate during the day for 44 cents and to use it at night when we pay 19 cents for it. If you sell your excess to the grid and have a similar deal, that will work for you too.

Compact fluros
We are not wealthy people but slowly over the years, we replaced every ordinary light bulb with energy-saving compact fluros.  We buy them when we see them on sale and have a small stash for replacements.

Energy efficient appliances
We do our research when we have to replace appliances and white goods and we always buy the energy efficient model of whatever we need. Even if it's more expensive, it's worth it. You'll probably pay for the difference in price in two or three energy bills.

Turn off at the wall
Turn off lights and appliances when you're not using them. Having appliances on stand by, even when they're turned off, still uses electricity. Turn off at the wall.

And that's it. Four tried and tested steps that work for us. What are you doing to save on your power bills?


ADDITIONAL READING


60 comments:

  1. The best thing you can do around where I live to save money on power is to not keep the house as cool in the summer. Heating/Cooling are the biggest energy sucks.

    Most of our appliances (including the furnace) are gas, so our bills have been low since natural gas supplies are high at this very moment. If we had electric appliances, we'd be more in tune with peak usage charges.

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  2. I love this topic. We just received our bill too. I was planning to do another post on electricity as well. we used 8.2 kWh per day. We are are family of two adults and three kids aged 5, 7 and 9. I was disappointed that it has gone up from our last bill of 6 kWh. I realised over the last couple of years how easy it is to reduce. We had been wasting it by running stand by electricity. I encourage everyone to give it a go. It's not hard! We use the same steps as you. And yes, teenagers probably change consumption with dreaded hair straighteners etc.

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  3. Thanks,Rhonda, I'd forgotten all about off-peak.

    I also try to limit the kids tv viewing and computer time, and for myself turn the computer on, do what I have to do and turn it off - no repeated checking of emails etc...

    Although I work from home a lot and have to heat my studio for clients our Winter electricity bill was still less than half of others we know, so all of the little steps we take really do work.

    Also, with the weather getting warmer I'm trying to bake less and do some goodies for the kids that don't need to be baked.

    have a beautiful day, Madeleine

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  4. This is something we have found since getting solar panels too. Where once I did my washing in the mornings, I now put the washing machine on while we're having dinner and it's ready to hang out when we're finished. The downside is that sometimes the mozzies like to nibble your ankles while you're hanging out clothes lol.

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  5. Ours is way to high but n our defence we are a 6 person household, my husband works from home and has two staff members here. There are 3 computers n the office, a printer and fax. I also work from home after homeschooling and both myself and my elder child have a pc. We have a pool with a filter that runs for the morning, loads of washing and a dishwasher. All these things make for high energy usage. We have wanted to put in solar panels but the price in our country is prohibitive. I have found other ways to save power outside of the already mentioned problems like only using the oven for more than one thing and preferably not everyday, turn off things at night, we do not watch tv etc...one day we will have a smaller household, but for now itis what it is!

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  6. rhonda, sadly people who've had solar installed recently are not necessarily getting great deals on their electricity... my parents paid a fortune to put it in and their first electricity bill cost MORE than their previous one! that was about a year ago now but they are still having such a hard time with it and are really disappointed with how it's worked out for them :( we were looking at putting the panels on our house, but both my parents and sister (who had it installed about the same time as my parents) aren't very happy with it so we're very undecided about it all...
    leah

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    Replies
    1. Leah, I'm sorry your family is having trouble with their solar units. There are some shonky dealers out there and you have to make sure you're dealing with a reputable company. We used Energex and didn't have any problems.

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    2. Leah, I've heard that from a few people. I think it has more to do with the state you live in. Rhonda is very lucky she is getting 44c/kw for the energy she produces - that's huge. In NSW I was quoted 6c/kw which is less than third of what I actually pay, so it would only be beneficial to install the panels if I'd be using most of my solar electricity myself. It's a real disincentive for many people. It may be worthwhile installing the panels in the future as prices of the systems come down. Kind Regards, Miki

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  7. We all need to use less electricity and this info is really useful. Thanks Rhonda.

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  8. We installed a 2KW system a couple of years ago, and have not had a bill since either. But what was more exciting on our last "bill" was the drop in our average daily consumption, it's down to 11.86kWh for a family of 5! For the same period last year it was 16.03kWh that's a drop of 4.17kWh!

    I changed only a few habits. Turning the dishwasher off at the machine after a load, instead of leaving it on 24/7. Grouping the washing, so the really smelly stuff gets washed together in warm water, and the rest gets washed in cold. (trust me I cannot get out of a warm wash for some of our items, but this helped minimise the need for hot water). And at night we got out of the habit of leaving the kitchen light on, just for lighting, we only have a lamp on in the loungeroom, if we need to go to the kitchen we turn it on when we get there.

    It all helps.

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    1. Busy mum of 3, thank you for letting us know what works in your home. This is the type of feedback I really appreciate because if it works for you, I know it will strike a cord with others as well. And yes, we do cold water washing and it makes a big difference. Our days of hot or warm water washing are over for the time being.

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  9. We live in a work house (house that comes with a job, on site) and it is a 1950's power hungry thing. Due to the lack of knowledge at that time, the house is even facing in the wrong direction for natural heating and cooling....this has made it a real challenge to cut down on power useage - we don't pay the bill, the boss does...so we hear about exactly how much it is (he has rather unrealistic expectations as previously there was a single bloke living here and now we are a family of four). I have worked on three of the four things you've spoken of here - and I remember you mentioning you did high power things at off peak times before - but I haven't implemented that yet...I will though as it takes no time to bung the washing machine on before we go to bed (1950's outdoor laundry means we don't have to listen to it crashing around lol).
    In the little shack we recently purchased we are looking at doing up the kitchen and I am researching a ovenless/stoveless kitchen as (aside from hot water) the stove is the biggest user of electricity in the work house...it is a nasty cheap thing that doesn't work well and so takes twice as long to do everything - whereas small appliances may use the same power as a hot plate but they are on for a fraction of the time. I'm going to see if I can set up an experiment and measure the same meal cooked on the two and then post about it, as I feel that it is one of the scariest but perhaps most effective things people can do to save $$$ on the power bill.

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  10. I have heard, can't remember where, that power sold back to the grid is taxable income in Australia.
    Duckedout

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    1. Not taxable income in Victoria (Australia). Also most utility companies will allow any credit you have to be used as a payment of your gas bill if you have both electricity and gas supply with them.

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    2. That's good to know, Hadassah. Thank you! :)

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  11. I'm housesitting for my parents at the moment and they have a combination microwave/grill/oven. As I am only cooking for two people, I have only used the full sized oven once in the last three weeks - the mini one is great for bakes, bread, baked potatoes etc. I've never owned a microwave before, or felt the need to, but the combination one is so much more efficient that a normal oven and I imagine would save quite a bit on electricity costs too.

    I'm pleased you are talking about reducing consumption as well as using electricity after dark if you have solar panels - I've seen a couple of comments online recently from people who are boasting that, if they use most of their electricity after dark, they are still spending less than they generate and therefore don't have to reduce consumption. That rather seems to miss the environmental point of solar panels to me and I'm sure is not what any government intends when they introduce such a scheme!

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  12. Thanks for these tips. Our usage is low for a family of four, but we could reduce it more. Unfortunately our house receives too much shade for solar panels to be viable, but the shade helps to cool our home anyway.

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  13. A mistake a lot of households make is the second fridge. Often people try and save electricity by buying a fancy five star fridge. What do they do with the old fridge? They move it out to the garage where it sits half full in a hot environment using more electricity than ever.

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  14. I had to laugh at how your boys suddenly became much more power conscious when they had to pay the bill. Like you I have talked and talked about reducing the amount of power we use but until eldest DD1 went to live in Bendigo for University it was like talking to a brick wall. Now she has to pay for her own power and is obsessed with turning appliances off at the wall. She still complains when she gets a power bill but at $100 for three months usage I think she is doing extremely well. Thankfully our other two children are more realistic about their power usage. We have solar power and solar hot water. Hubby is an electrician so he designed and built in our system and it works wonderfully. Best of all as time goes by and money allows he can expand it until we will be off grid. Already our power usage has dropped by half. Next to add to the house will be 12 volt lights and fans which will help reduce power consumption and the freezers will go to be replaced by 12 volt freezers too. The generator - for when I want to do lots of cooking and washing is in place - he just has to wire it all up and there will be more money saved.

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  15. When you live off mains water and sewage in rural areas, you have to pay for the electricity to run those services 24/7. That's the downside, The upside is, we're not paying large components of our rates to pay for water or sewage treatment either. Unfortunately we cannot get out of the septic services required by Council though, which again cost $$$.

    My comment is for people who are thinking of moving to a more rural area, and either building from scratch or plan to replace water tanks/septic systems, etc.

    If your site allows for it, have your water tank located on a hill above the house so water pressure is gravity fed. If you already have tanks located near the house but you still would like a gravity fed system, have another tank installed on a hill above the house, and purchase a solar powered water pump to fill it periodically.

    As for septic systems (depending on your local Council Regulations) go for a system that doesn't run an aeration pump 24/7. These aeration systems are more easy for Council to approve, but you are running electricity 24/7. There are systems which use a small pump which switch on periodically and then switch off again.

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  16. Hi Rhonda, very interesting post, my hubby and I are constantly watching our elec usage but our summer bill is always horrendous, we are on trickle feed water here in Lockyer Valley, we have 3 tanks and use pumps everytime tap turned on or toilet flushed, we also have solar panels (same inverter size as you) but I honestly dont think they are making much of a difference, we are with Origin, we have been leaving the airconditioners off until we absolutely have to have cool air, we live in a timber queenslander home, I am now going to trawl my way through Origins home page to see where else we can possibley save, for two people our summer bill is ridiculous, thanks for sharing your ways of cutting down the bills.

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  17. We have had solar hot water forever, probably since 1980, at the old house, we have been here on the front block of the old farm ffor 15 years now and the first thing that we did was to put solar hot water on the roof of the shed, now built into our house. We do not have to boost the hot water as it is busted by our slow combustion stove (od second had one refurbished by DH), when we moved here 15 years ago we were still an 8 person household, gradually all 6 children have moved out and away, but we often have a lot of them and the grandies here,
    We put solar panels on 18 months ago, 4.8 kw, and have not had a bill since. I know this system sounds big, but all our water is pumped either from the tanks or from the spring. All our stock are on waterers. We have a large vegie garden, from which we hlep support our family, give some to friends, bottle, freeze and dry large amounts to endeavour to carry us from one season to the next. We have our own layers, meat chickens, kill and dress our own lambs, also do our own mince, We run four freezers of various sizes, (2 rather old ones which will gradually be replaced with new onesthat are more efficient to run) and two fridges, I try to shop only monthly and Dh brings home milk fresh fruit etc on the off fortnight, We have these electrical appliances to preserve what we are able to produce on our block, without wasting anything.
    Our last bill a month ago along with our credit showed that we -1.66 in carbon use.
    we are very careful with turning everything off at the powerpoint, having short showers, bulk cooking when the oven is on, using smaller appliances in lieu of oven.The biggest expense/use of electricity is the watering of the large garden and runnning the coolroom twice a year when we process our lambs, and sometimes pork etc.
    soory about rambling on, but our position is probably quite different to a lot of readers.
    Cheers

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  18. You are so right about when the kids grow up and move away, every powerpoint had something pluged in now I have so many empty ones and one little night light on in when we watch TV, when they visit all the lights go back on, Why are you sitting in the dark they say but they don't relise we look better sitting in the dark and it's cooler.
    Merle......

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  19. I love this post, Rhonda. Electricity use has become a bit of an obsession with me, much to my family's chagrin! For us, our biggest two 'users' were the pool and hot water, so we switched the pool off (sorry kids!) and have worked on reducing our hot water usage.

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  20. We too have reduced our electricity. Took out the electric hot water dropped from 26 yes 26 to 15kw per day. Then switched everything off as possible. Down to 10kw. Family of 4, and 6 on weekends. Put in solar getting 31c. If only our power company could get my bill right. Refused to pay in November all wrong. Did not switch to a solar plan. Wait on that one. However I am sending approx 25 - 30kw per week average onto the grid. Very happy.
    Di

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  21. Great post Rhonda! We are a family of 4 and use an average of about 8kwH a day, which is very low compared to the Australian average. We do the usual turning things off at the wall, switching lights off and just generally minimising use wherever we can (currently resisting the urge to put the a/c on here in sunny Melbourne!!) Our biggest issue is halogen downlights which use heaps of energy.. I will be changing them over to LEDS at the earliest opportunity.

    I try to batch cook in the electric oven whenever I can, instead of using it everyday. We have had solar for a few months now and are generating a lot more than we use. It is very important to try to use equipment in off peak as that makes a big difference to the cost of the bills - our dishwasher only goes on at bedtime. I also keep a flask next to the kettle for those times I boil more water than I need - then my next cuppa doesn't require any electricity :-)

    We have one big switch that turns off all of the TV, DVD player etc in one go and this is at the front of everything so no need to reach around behind the unit. The kids are great at doing this - it has become second nature! One of the things that I have found that it is good to get kids involved, I've explained why it is important (both $$$ and environment) and turn it into a responsibility (e.g. 7 yr old son has the job of going around the house making sure all the lights are off before he goes to school in the morning).

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  22. Thanks for the insight, Rhonda. Everybody I know that has solar (1) is always in credit and (2) have become more mindful of the electricity they use--being in credit rather than owing hundreds of dollars is a mighty incentive.

    Unfortunately, we live in a shared situation and this has done little to motivate us to be more energy efficient. I guess it's the feeling that any changed behaviour will be in vain. A very poor excuse, I know.

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  23. Aww youth! Who understands 'turn out the lights when you leave the room' until you have to pay the bill? Thanks for the information.

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  24. We do not have anything solar so everything we have runs on power. We are on 3.5 acres and have to have power to get water from our tanks to our house and to the troughs for the animals as well as power everything in our home. In addition to that I work from home and am at the computer all day. There are just 2 of but we are like you Rhonda, we use less power for the two of us than the average for 1 person in our area, about 7 kwh per day. We make sure everything is turned off that can be and have only 1 tv in the house that is used only in the evening if at all. We make sure the lights are never left on as well.

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  25. I live in a small one-bedroom apartment in northern Ontario, Canada. All utilities are included with the rent, and we heat with electric, none of us ever see a bill for it. Even though the cost feels "invisible", I try to conserve wherever I can. Here's how:

    All of my bulbs have been converted to compact florescent, with one regular florescent overhead in the kitchen. I keep my freezer filled and vacuum the coils behind the refrigerator. When I boil the kettle for tea, I make two or more pots of it and drink the rest later, lukewarm or cold. When I need to use the oven, (usually only in cool weather) there is enough food roasted / baked to last quite a few days, which is then portioned out and reheated in smaller batches with the microwave or in a frypan or saucepan. During the hot days of summer, I eat cool foods, reduces heat from cooking.

    There are ceiling fans in the living room and bedroom, plus a pedestal fan in the bedroom. They spin one way in summer and get reversed in winter to circulate the air, reducing the use of heaters and air con. We have individual heat control for each of the bathroom, bedroom and living / dining / kitchen areas, so I only turn on the heat in the areas that need it. I keep it low in the bathroom and only turn it up for a few minutes before my shower, then down low or off after I am finished. I don't blow dry my hair, or curl or crimp it. When I do the laundry, I hang a lot of my tops and pants to dry on hangers on the shower rod, reducing the need for the clothes dryer and the steam iron. In the summer, I use the exhaust fans in the kitchen and bath to vent away steamy air to the outdoors, reducing air con use.

    Rarely do I have the heat on in the bedroom, I use flannel sheets, warm pj's, a wool blanket and a duvet if I need it (plus the cat cuddles with me).

    In the living room (facing south and into the sunshine) I have a sunscreen roller shade to block out the sun and heat in summer, but it does allow the light to come through.

    All of our car's block heaters are plugged in to outlets that are on timers, alternating on and off to reduce electric use.

    Julie Andrea

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  26. We have a household of six which includes kids aged 18, 16, 13 &11. Eighteen months ago we put in a 4Kw solar system. Have only recived one bill since, that was for $70. All other bill periods have been credits of between $70 and $150. Bills were about $450 pre solar. We still have elec hot water but have changed to gas stove top. Gas Stove Top have saved us about $30/quarter. We use 2x 9kg Bottles that get refilled at the camping shop cost ($30.00/bottle)and each bottle last us approx four months.

    My hint for Air Con - in Qld there is a off peak elec rate that air cons can be connected to. Our bedroom air con runs most night and costs about $40/quarter. Power is avaliable about 16 hours a day.
    Cheers Ruth

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  27. You're so lucky in Qld. Here in S.A. we pay 31c per kw hr but even though my two teenagers are on the internet a lot of the time we still only use an average 8 watts per day because I've drilled into them the cost of electricity.We do get 53c solar rebate from Lumo Energy.What electricity do you go through Rhonda,if you don't mind us knowing.

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  28. Its very exciting not getting electricity bills any more...we are also very frugal,or should I say not wasteful, we would rather spend our money on life experiences not bills. We have 30 solar panels on our pool roof and haven't paid an electricity bill in ages now ... We have a big in-ground swimming pool and my partner just runs the pump for the pool only an hour a day to keep it clean that is such a big saving I can tell you ...we also have solar hot water and always turn of the booster switch when not needed also a big saving...We are a family of 3 now, our oldest two have moved out..We live on a 25 acre property in the bush and our power is less then any of our friends...and we have a pool pump to run.We use power every time we turn on a tap, reticulation again uses pump from bore...people are amazed, we are amazed at their bills, some people are just so wasteful and then wonder why they have no money ...we shake our heads some times...

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  29. So glad to hear that Solar is going well for you Rhonda! We just got a 5kw system installed at the start of November, and not a minute too soon, as our average bill is over $600 per quarter, and I consider we are smart electricity users already. Unfortunately as previously mentioned, down here in SA, prices start at 31c per kwh, and are tiered up from there. We also don't have access to time of use pricing, so it's not cheaper at night except for things that are permanently wired to an off-peak meter (Storage Heaters and Hot Water Service for example).

    It just seems that no matter how smart we are, the power bills just keep going up and up! So glad it already looks like our first bill after our solar installation will be in credit :) which is a great incentive to keep up making the small changes that you have suggested!

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  30. Here in our part of rural NSW we are paying about 27 cents per kw and get not a cent for power fed back onto the grid and no off peak except hot water. We looked into a solar system hooked into the grid but we would have been much much worse off.We also get charged $90.00 per quarter service fee. We're working toward going off grid.

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  31. I have never saw on our bill peak and off peak times. We don't have this listed but I will be checking online and also calling our provider. I don't know if our usage in US is the same as Australia but I do know one thing....we need to take further steps to reduce our usage. If for anything our carbon footprint. Thank you for this post and raising awareness even for those that "thought" they were aware ;) Hugs, Amy :)

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  32. Rhonda - We moved completely off grid at the end of June this year. All we have to provide our electricity is 6 X 135 watt solar panels and storage through 6 X 2 volt 1188Ah batteries.

    Our hot water comes from a gas geyser, as does our relocated 2 plate caravan stove. We use approximately 9 kgs of gas / month. Heating / cooking in winter is achieved through our wood fired Dover stove using the wood from locally felled invasive alien trees.

    I use my solar oven to cook most things, including my latest batch of 10 X Christmas cakes.

    Our fridge is on a timer - it works throughout the daylight hours, and at night, when it is seldom opened, the timer is set for 3/4 hour on, 1 1/4 hour off. I have noticed absolutely NO defrosting (of my -23 degree freezer) taking place, and my food stays as cold as though the fridge is on constantly.

    I have replaced all our electric kitchen appliances (coffee grinder, egg beater, herb grinder / crusher, etc.) with hand operated ones.

    We have enough power for our fridge, PC and or laptop, lights and TV.

    Our only "indulgence" is using a petrol operated generator once a week to power our washing machine - I do all my washing on one day and only hang it in the sun to dry. If the sun is not available, then I have an indoor line which I use.

    Since moving, we have reduced our power consumption from 15 - 16 Kwh to an average of 2.5 - 3 Kwh / day.

    Btw, we made this change late in life - both my husband and I have almost reach our 3 score years :)

    As you say, with careful thought and planning, it is possible to reduce your electricity usage.

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  33. Interesting discussion. We try to lower our electricity consumption but seem to be stuck around 12 kWh a day. This is for 2 people who both work out of home during the day, we live in a small apartment (very few lights and only a small fridge-freezer), we use no heating or cooling at all, we do not use the dryer... I don't know where it all goes! We rent so that makes it so much more difficult as suggestions 2 and 3 are not possible - and of course landlords install the cheapest appliances so they are real energy suckers! We also do not have on-peak/off-peak times...

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  34. That's it, I'm moving to Qld...

    We dont get any such benefits like that in South Australia. At one stage we had the highest electricity costs in the world, not sure if that still stands. There are no peak times for us.

    Unfortunately we had one of those shonky dealers with our solar set up and have had continual problems all the way. Now the company has gone broke and we are up the creek with no where to go. The system is barely working at the moment and we have tried to get someone to come and have a look, but they have been a no show, it is so frustrating! We paid $17,000 four years ago for our system and have only ever had one credit bill and that was when we were away for a month...I am very frugal with our usage, but still the bill comes in, each time higher than the last one.

    Thank you for letting me whinge lol!

    x

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  35. Interesting that you have off-peak billing. I think this is still not the norm in the US. There is a municipality near where I work that runs its own electric utility, and they had a bunch of people screaming at a public hearing that they didn't want the electric company telling them when they could use power - and thus turned down a grant for the new smart meters. Idiots.

    As someone who works outside our home, I am usually at work during peak times, so I'm usually using more power during off-peak times anyway. I am just waiting for our utility to offer this.

    In another house, we had an off-peak electric hot water heater. The idea was good, but the meter had a mechanical mechanism for doing this - it turned off the power to the heater during peak times. But it also did this on weekends, and if the power went out, the clock was wrong and you had to call the utility to reset it, or I found I could do it myself with needle-nosed plyers.

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  36. Hey Rhonda

    Did you know Hugh from River Cottage is looking for someone in Australia who shares his lifestyle to film an Aussie series. You should totally do it!

    http://www.rivercottage.net/about/latest-news/hunt-on-for-aussie-hugh/

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    1. Hi Emily, I'm flattered you think I should do this but I'm happy to be back home again just doing my thing. All that publicity just detracts from my life and I prefer being here doing it rather than being out there, talking about it.

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  37. I have just studied our latest power bill and I am absolutely horrified to see our daily usage is 20.9kWh where a comparison household of 2 is 15.7kWh. And after reading all these posts, I feel just decimated! The latest bill was over $130 less than the last one and I was feeling quite encouraged, but on closer inspection and understanding the bill, I feel totally deflated.

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    Replies
    1. Diann, why are you feeling deflated when you've made such good progress? If your latest bill is $130 less than the previous one, that is a very big saving. You must have made a few changes for that to happen, and those changes are working. Well done! Now you know what your target is, work towards that every day. You have no reason to beat yourself up because you're heading in the right direction.

      Delete
  38. We are just about to make our move to country Victoria to live a simpler, more self sufficient and environmentally friendly lifestyle. The house we bought needed some major reno's inside (it had been trashed) and one of the things we have done is change all the lights to LED which uses a fraction of the power of normal or even fluro lights. It's cost a bit to change them all over (they were all halogen downlights so I shudder to think of the previous owners electricity bills). We're also installing solar hot water and getting a gas connection to avoid needing to cook with and heat our water with electricity. Solar panels will come but later. Sadly the budget won't stretch that far at the moment. I will be implementing your power saving ideas wherever possible too. We've already done away with power hungry desktop computers and both use laptops only which has definitely helped too.

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  39. Our last electricity bill was $100 more than at the same time last year, and there are just the two of us. I thought we were being really careful as we turn all lights off, turn everything off at the wall when not in use, but with the new supply charges, this is obviously not enough. Thank you for the suggestion about turning on the washing machine at off peak times. I can easily do this as I get up early to let the chooks out, so with a bit of organisation and loading the machine he night before this can be accomplished. I cannot believe how two retired adults can generate so much washing!!

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  40. Received our electricity bill today! Usage down 1.2kWh/day. Solar working well for us (lots of clear sunny day this quarter), Solar output was 1214kwH. Hubby (an electricition by trade) will be a happy! The kids have inproved at turning off the lights.

    In the last year we installed whirly birds on the roof. This has helped keep our home cooler!!

    Cheers Ruth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great news, Ruth. Keep up the good work, love.

      Delete
  41. What a wonderful country you live in. With my power company in USA, we do not have peak or off peak hours, and there is no "credit" given to older people. Many elderly Americans die during the summers because they cannot afford the electricity for an air conditioner.

    My utility company increased rates 50% this year -- 25% water, 25% electricity. I am using bare minimum of both and my bill is still over or close to $100 USD for a single person.

    I do not know what I will do next summer with my cat -- she cannot stay in an un-airconditioned house and I really don't think I can afford a/c next year.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hi. Winter here in the UK, and I am shutting everything down and going to bed earlier, to read. In the morning I make a drink and back to bed for another hour, every little helps. I also wear more clothes inside the house than out and only put the heating on for an hour once a day. Good job there is only me living here, I don't think anyone else would tolerate it.

    ReplyDelete
  43. For those envying the rates Queenslanders get for solar electricity, it bares remembering that it's only that high because of State govt subsidies. What that means is, every Queenslander is paying for that generous subsidy through the State budget, whether they have solar panels or not.

    Those in other States who get less, just remember a large chunk of your budget isn't hitting everyone up for the cost of individuals selling power to the grid. That's probably a fairer distribution of cost burden.

    Those with solar panels in Queensland, are the only ones receiving the benefit in terms of savings. Working families without solar panels, have to pay for the govt's generous subsidy with increased State revenue and have no cost saving on electricity. That's an unfair cost distribution.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chris, you've got a very pessimistic and naive view of solar power costs. In fact, the power costs rises seen in Queensland (42% predicted) are the same as the increased predicted in NSW and ACT (who don't offer the same solar subsidy), Vic 33%, Tas 25% and all due to infrastructure costs, not solar subsidies. And to use your term "what that means" is that they need to build more power plants and methods of delivery to businesses and houses without solar power, and that costs big money.

      This is from the Clean Energy Centre: "The AEMC’s findings clearly highlight that small scale solar power, both residential and commercial installations, are not the main contributor to electricity price hikes over the next few years (2.8% of the 37% increase), despite several media outlets incorrectly allocating blame."

      "Solar Power is still regarded as the best way for consumers to protect themselves against rising electricity prices, and regain some control. According to recent estimates; over 500,000 households in Australia are reaping the benefit of generating their own electricity" Source: http://www.cleanenergycentre.com.au/about-clean-energy-centre/news/325-queensland-electricity-prices-to-skyrocket-42

      In a country like ours solar power should be much more advanced than it is but our governments reap the benefits of coal production and the coal fired power stations. THAT is unfair.

      Delete
    2. I'm not sure how you think I'm saying solar subsidies are making electricity prices go up? I went back and re-read my comment to make sure I didn't say anything which could lead you to believe I was talking about electricity prices increasing.

      I only see where I was addressing the subsidy and how it's funded by State revenue. The subsidy is paid by all Queenslanders when the State takes measures to recoup their costs. But the distribution of profit (by offsetting electricity bills) is not equitably distributed to all Queenslanders.

      I don't believe it's pessimistic or naive to understand this is the way our State govt has set up the buy-back price on solar. It's a separate issue to electricity prices, which is set by Distributors and Networks of electricity supply.

      Delete
    3. You’re right Chris. It’s different. I see it as a bigger issue than the financial cost of the buy back, which I think is fair. To me it’s more about self-reliance, a lower environmental impact and moving more people towards solar.

      Delete
  44. There are some shonky solar panel lot out there...make sure you don't get ripped off....some states and companies are definately a lot better than others....not all are good...oh and make sure you clean your panels at least once a year as dirt and scum does reduce how well they work...probably not a big deal for up north where lots of sun but definately for those down south with a whole lot less sun
    (unfortunately I cannot get panels put on my roof or I would have them done years ago)
    A big saver of electricity is your hot water service...make sure it's in a protected spot...even if you have to provide shelter...just make sure you meet the makers requirements for air space etc....this will help stop it having to reheat...and have shorter showers...(says she with 2 adult children who seem to live in the shower) as even though the reheating of it is off peak it still is expensive if a whole hot water service has to be reheated each night....check out washing machines, get the right washing powder for cold water....if you have a constant supply of clothes that seriously need to be washed in hot water like I have here then look into the cost of having a machine that heats up it's own water as opposed to using hot water from the hot water service...when my girls are gone...which wont be long....the washing will be getting done at night time on off peak....my house is tiny and having it going will wake everyone as it's only a few steps from their bedroom and it's noisy in this house and they go to bed early with the hours they work

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  45. I've hesitated to add a comment on this subject because of the risk that I may sound like I'm bragging, however it may show what's possible.

    We have solar hot water, unused during the summer, and a grid connected 2.8kWh PV system. Our average daily usage, from the grid, is 1.2kWh and that is to run the refrigerator during the night since everything else is turned off. During the past quarter we exported, on average, a little over 14kWh per day and generated, and this varies greatly, around 17kWh per day. So our total energy usage is 1.2 + (17 - 14) = approximately 4.2kWh per day.

    We have all of the usual electrical appliances, except for a dish washer and air conditioning, and run at least one fan for probably 15 hours per day. Plus I'm building a house and use an array of power tools.

    Nothing is left on standby (including the microwave oven) and I have set the computer, which runs for around 10 hours per day, to hibernate after 30 minutes of inactivity. It's completely powered down at night.

    All lighting is LED except for one fluorescent tube that will be replaced with LED lighting when the tube eventually fails.

    We're on a very low fixed income and it was a struggle to find the money for the solar PV system but the financial return is far greater than money in the bank. Our electricity supplier paid us a little over $614 for the past quarter.

    Regards,
    Phil

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    Replies
    1. Well done, Phil, keep up the good work. BTW, it doesn't sound like bragging, it's just what it is.

      Delete
  46. Thanks for this Rhonda. I've been putting off looking at our energy consumption properly for a while, but had a letter from our supplier saying they wanted to increase our monthly payment from £110 ($168) to £147 ($225!) so I've written a post about it, and am looking at doing what I can.

    Our electricity use is average for a 2 person house, but our gas use is huge - partly because at least one of us is at home all day every day so the heating is usually on. So the first thing is to turn things off more, and to look at stopping the heat escaping, especially in the evenings with heavy curtains etc.

    Having read your post and the comments, I'm going to investigate what the solar situation here in the UK is too.

    ReplyDelete
  47. We took the radical step of getting rid of our big oven during a kitchen remodel. We use a variety of other low power cooking appliances, and our bill has gone down quite a bit. Turning off the hot water heater during the day lowered our water heater bill by 50% - crazy! Now we fire it up for two hours for baths, showers, and dishes at night.

    I would love to try solar power if it were less expensive here in my area. We are waiting for prices to come down on solar panels.

    ReplyDelete


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