27 June 2011

Electricity prices are rising - let's start saving

(Sorry, there seems to be a problem with Blogger's paragraph spacing today.)

There is no doubt about it, household electricity prices have risen a lot and are set to rise even more. Click on this link for a report about it in The Australian. When the cost of electricity rises, so does almost everything we buy - because most of the things we buy are made using electricity. We can't do much about the increased cost of products in the shops, except not buy them, but we can do something about electricity costs at home. Saving electricity at home is all about small steps - you have many opportunities to save small amounts - and it all adds up. The good news is that the more you put into this, the more active you are, the more you'll save. We all have to use electicity but the amount of wasted electricity through stand-by power, leaving lights and chargers on, well, that, my friends, is all up to you.

We have just installed solar panels so we expect our electricity bill to go down but until we use nothing from the grid and are self sufficient in electricity by using only what our panels make, I'll keep on looking for ways to save. I believe the best way to manage electricity usage in the home is to do your own electricity audit. If you can start knowing what your meter reads, then modify your electricity usage and start switching off, you'll be able to accurately judge how much you're saving. If you've never done an electricity audit in your own home, do one now. It's a real eye opener. Here is an old post of mine about how to do it. If you're in Australia, and have had a Climate Smart Audit, you could also check your usage by watching your electricity meter inside the house. It's a good idea to record your meter reading, then use everything as normal for the first day to get an accurate idea of your usage. The following day, start on your program of saving electricity by using whatever you can from the following list. Check your meter again every day - always at the same time - and see how what you do effects your meter readings. 

Find your latest electricity bill and read it again, understand what you're using and how much you're being charged for it. Phone your local supplier and ask them when your off peak electricity rate cuts in and what's the best way to use it. That information may even be on their website. There is some general info here about off peak rates:
I have been writing about saving electricity
for as long as I've been blogging and the following is a list of all the things we've discussed, as well as readers tips, over that time. If you have anything to add that works well for you, please add it in the comments.

  • Turn off appliances at the wall. Reorganise your appliances to make this as easy as possible. Plug your TV, DVD, stereo etc into the one power board and turn the power board off when you go to bed at night. See if you can do a similar thing in the kitchen. 
  • Turn off all chargers with a black box on them at the wall, every time you finish charging. Those things really suck up the power, even when they're not charging but still "on". 
  • When buying new appliances, always buy the best energy rating you can afford. 
  • Sweep the floor instead of vacuuming. 
  • Wash up by hand instead of using the dishwasher. 
  • Use a programmable thermostat for your furnace. Set the thermostat five degrees lower/higher (depending on the season) at night. 
  • Turn the monitor off when you leave the computer. 
  • Replace old light bulbs with compact fluoros. 
  • Keep light usage to a minimum. 
  • Only do full loads of washing. 
  • Don't let rice cooker sit on warm after rice is cooked. 
  • Go to bed earlier – this saves on a lot of things like lights, computer, TV, stereo, extra cups of tea. 
  • Use your mobile phone alarm rather than an electric alarm clock. 
  • Ring your local electricity supply company and get all the information you can on your usage, tariffs and how you can save for your particular situation. 
  • If you have a 3 in 1 light fitting in the bathroom that contains a light, exhaust fan and heater, take the heat globe out. 
  • Watch less TV. 
  • Use a solar camping lamp in the evenings when you don't need strong light. 
  • Try to do without your small appliances like coffee maker, sandwich maker etc. 
  • Never leave small appliances, TV or DVD on stand by. 
  • Do less ironing. Shake clothes when hanging them on the line, hang shirts and dresses on a hanger to dry, give up the idea that you have to be absolutely creaseless. 
  • Use a wall clock instead of relying on your oven or microwave clock. Turn these ovens off when not in use. 
  • “Snuggle up" instead of turning on the heater, get a rug and snuggle with your loved ones on the lounge. 
  • Dress warmer in winter instead of turning on the heat. 
  • In winter, keep lap quilts and rugs on the sofa to encourage the family to use them instead of the heater. 
  • Turn on hot water heater for 1 hour a day. 
  • Change to solar hot water. 
  • Install skylights in dark rooms. 
  • Close the door when you’re heating or cooling a room. 
  • In very cold climates, install double glazed windows and insulated blinds. 
  • If it’s cold outside, hang window quilts. Read about them here: http://www.manytracks.com/Homesteading/winquilt.htm 
  • If you’re using a dishwasher, shut the dishwasher off and open the door after it's finished washing and let the items air dry. 
Following tips are from here:


A typical home uses 600-1200 kiloWatt-hours per year for refrigeration and freezing. 
  • Keep your refrigerator at 37°- 40° F (2° - 4° C) and your freezer at 5°F (-15° C).
  • Keep your refrigerator filled to capacity, but don't overcrowd to the point where doors cannot be closed or air cannot circulate.
  • Vacuum the condenser coils (underneath or behind the unit) every three months or so.
  • Check the condition of door gaskets by placing a paper sheet against the frame and closing the door. If the sheet can be pulled out with a very gentle tug, the door should be adjusted or the gasket replaced.
  • Do not put uncovered liquids in the refrigerator. The liquids give off vapors that add to the compressor workload.
  • Allow hot food to cool off before putting it in the refrigerator.
  • Plan ahead and remove all ingredients for each meal at one time.
A typical home uses 200-700 kiloWatt-hours per year with its range/oven. 

  • Only use pots and pans with flat bottoms on the stove.
  • Include more stews, stir-frys, and other single-dish meals in your menus.
  • Develop the habit of "lids-on" cooking to permit lower temperature settings.
  • Keep reflector pans beneath stovetop heating elements bright and clean.
  • Carefully measure water used for cooking to avoid having to heat more than is needed.
  • Begin cooking on highest heat until liquid begins to boil. Then lower the heat control settings and allow food to simmer until fully cooked.
  • Cook as much of the meal in the oven at one time as possible. Variations of 25°F still produce good results and save energy.
  • Rearrange oven shelves before turning your oven on - and don't peek at food in the oven! Every time you open the oven door, 25°-50°F (-3° - 10° C) is lost.
  • There is no need to preheat the oven for broiling or roasting.
  • When preheating an oven for baking, time the preheat period carefully. Five to eight minutes should be sufficient.
  • Use your microwave oven whenever possible, as it draws less than half the power of its conventional oven counterpart and cooks for a much shorter amount of time.
  • Pressure cookers and electric frying pans use less electricity than the stove.
  • Use the self-cleaning cycle only for major cleaning jobs. Start the cycle right after cooking while the oven is still hot, or wait until late in the evening when electricity usage is low.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes - but do not overload dishwasher.
  • Scrape food off dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.
  • Soak burned-on or dried-on foods before adding to the dishwasher.
  • Turn off the dishwasher when the drying cycle starts and let the contents dry naturally with the door partially open.

Washing Machines
  • Follow detergent instructions carefully. Adding too much detergent actually hampers effective washing action and may require more energy in the form of extra rinses. It's better to use less rather than too much laundry detergent.
  • Set the washing machine temperature to cold or warm and the rinse temperature to cold as often as possible.
  • Wash only full loads of clothing- but do not overload machine.
Sort laundry and schedule washes so that a complete job can be done with a few cycles of the machine carrying its full capacity, rather than a greater number of cycles with light loads.

Clothes Dryers
  • Hang your clothes outside and only use the dryer when it's absolutely necessary.
  • A typical home uses 360-1400 kiloWatt-hours per year with the clothes dryer. To become more energy efficient with your laundry, follow these tips:
  • Clean the lint filter thoroughly after each use.
  • Dry towels and heavy cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight fabrics.
  • Avoid over-drying. This not only wastes energy, but harms the fabric as well.
Hot Water
One of the biggest energy users in your home, next to heating and cooling systems, is your hot water system. A typical home uses 1000-4000 kiloWatt-hours per year with its water heater, including dishwashing and laundry water. To become more energy efficient with your water heater, follow these tips:
  • Reduce your water heating bill by 10 percent by lowering the water heater temperature from 140°F to 120F° (60° - 40° C). (Keep the temperature at 140°F (60°C) if you use a dishwasher without a temperature booster.)
  • Once a year, drain a bucket of water of the bottom of the water heater tank. This gets rid of sediment, which can waste energy by "blocking" the water in the tank from the heating element.
  • Locate water heaters as close to the points of hot water usage as possible. The longer the supply pipe, the more heat is lost.
  • Turn off the water heater when you go away on holidays.
  • Insulate your hot water supply pipes to reduce heat loss. Hardware stores sell pipe insulation kits.
  • Consider buying a water heater insulation kit, which reduces the amount of heat lost through the walls of the tank.
  • Repair any leaky taps/faucets promptly.
  • Use sink stoppers instead of letting water run while shaving and washing dishes.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Set the washing machine temperature to cold or warm and the rinse temperature to cold as often as possible.
  • Wash only full loads of clothing and dishes - but do not overload machines.
  • Scrape food off dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.

A typical home uses 400-1000 kiloWatt-hours per year in lighting. To become more energy efficient with lights throughout your home, follow these tips:
  • Clean your light fixtures regularly.
  • Turn off lights when leaving a room.
  • Provide task lighting over desks, tool benches, etc., so that activities can be carried on without illuminating entire rooms.
  • If possible, put lamps in corners of rooms, where they can reflect light from two wall surfaces instead of one.
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs in fixtures that are on for more than two hours a day. Compact fluorescent bulbs will given an incandescent bulb's warm, soft light, while using up to 75 percent less electricity. They also last about 10 times longer. Typically, a 23-watt compact fluorescent bulb can replace a 90- or 100-watt incandescent bulb.
  • Use dimmable bulbs when possible.
  • Install photoelectric controls or timers to make sure that outdoor lighting is turned off during the day.

  • In the heating season, water vapors from bathing and cooking are beneficial because they help humidify the home. Use kitchen and bath exhaust fans sparingly in the winter to keep as much heat as possible inside your house.
  • In the winter, the air is normally dry inside your house, which is a disadvantage because people typically require a higher temperature to be comfortable than they would in a humid environment. Therefore, efficient humidifiers are a good investment for energy conservation.
  • Locate the heating thermostat on an inside wall and away from windows and doors. Cold drafts will cause the thermostat to keep the system running even when the rest of the house is warm enough.
  • Lubricate pump and blower bearings regularly in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations to limit the amount of energy lost to friction and to extend equipment life as well.
  • Close heating vents and radiator valves in unused rooms. Make sure that drapes, plants, or furniture do not block registers for supply or return air.rmostat as low as comfort permits. Each degree over 68°F (20° C) can add 3 percent to the amount of energy need.

A typical home uses 250-1000 kiloWatt-hours per year for air conditioning in one room. To become more energy efficient with air conditioning throughout your home, follow these tips:
  • Set your thermostat to 78° F (24° C), or as high as comfort permits. When the weather is mild, turn off the AC and open the windows.
  • Close your blinds and curtains during the hottest part of the day.
  • Close cooling vents in unused rooms and keep doors to unused rooms closed.
  • Check and clean or replace air filters every month.
  • Clean the outside condenser coil once a year.
  • Reduce your usage by 10-20 percent by caulking and weather-stripping your doors and windows.
  • Insulate your house.
Fact sheet on CF lights:
Info on mercury in CF lights:http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/06/what_about_merc.php

REMINDER:When recycling your compact fluoro globes, to take them to the recycle station, just like you would your old batteries, mercury thermometer and old style fluoro tubes.

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Electricity is usually not one of those expenses you have no control over. If you put in some work you can save electricity and money. It's in your hands.
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