Saturday, April 24, 2010

35% reduction in electricity usage

I received my latest electricity bill and I must admit I was a bit excited on one hand, but on the other, it crossed my mind that perhaps my effort to reduce energy usage may have been in vain. It was all good.

Compared to the same period last year I estimate the usage has dropped by about 35%. That's cool. Whilst it probably saves around $108 for the quarter, it isn't so much about the money, as the feeling that every little bit may end up helping future generations. 

The following graph shows how I'm tracking in terms of electricity usage.

For those who wish to save electricity and thus money, the first step is to work out how much energy each of your devices use and then decide if there is a way to save energy and thus money.

A lot of people have taken up the government offer to change over their light bulbs. Whilst that is one approach, I really shake my head, because we as tax payers are forking out $10 a light bulb. For one home that was $430 paid for us that could have been done for a fraction of the cost. I've heard of people swapping unused light bulbs for low energy bulbs. This could have just as easily been done by making bulbs available at local councils. I waited until lights were on special and then bought the bulbs I needed. I recently bought six low energy lights for $5 at a clearance sale. That's less than $1 a light and no taxes were required.

The other problem with the government approach is it doesn't handle the screw in bulbs, non-standard bulbs and provides a one light fits all solution. Whether you're using a 75 watt or 25 watt incandescent light light, you end up with a 15 watt low energy light. Whilst it means there will be considerable savings in energy usage, it means more energy could have been saved if people replaced lights themselves with the equivalent low energy light.

The first and easy step then is to check the lights around your home. Look at the lights with the highest wattage and those that are on the most first. For example, often outdoor floodlights can remain on for hours and may use 125-150 watts. I've changed my outdoor light to a 21watt unit. It isn't as bright, but it is quite adequate. Some lights around the home rarely get used and whilst they can be swapped out as required, what tends to happen is you pick up a few cheap lights on special and keep swapping out the lights. Pretty soon you'll have swapped out most if not all the older lights.

There is no need to measure the wattage for lights, as the watts stated on the lights is the energy used. You can use the Energy Cost Calculator to work out how long it will take to repay the cost of the light. You'll be surprised as the payback period can often be quite short.

The next technique is to measure how much electricity devices around the home use. Some appliances have the wattage clearly stated, or you can use an energy meter like the one I used, which is shown on the Energy Cost Calculator page.

What I found was the under used small freezer we have used around 7% of our electricity and we really didn't need it running all the time. We reorganised our frozen items to store less and used our normal fridge/freezer. We then turned off the small freezer.

The standby power being used by computers and entertainment equipment around the home was astonishing. Just by turning equipment off at the wall, using power boards with switches, or using a foot switch like the unit on the Energy Cost Calculator page, we made significant energy savings.

The devices I purchased have now fully paid themselves off in the first two electricity bills and I now look forward to years of savings. Probably around $400 a year.

Of course I'm not going to stop there. I'll continue to look for ways to reduce my energy usage as I go. Whether it be in the home, travelling around in the car, or encouraging everyone to shop local using JustLocal, all of us can save money and do our bit to help the planet and future generations.

- Kelvin Eldridge

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