Saving Power….if there’s something that we would all like to save money on it’s our electricity bill. But even when we say this to ourselves each and every time we get one of those bills, what do we actually do about it? Run around the house for the next week following our children and turning off lights? Putting up with the heat or the cold just a little bit longer before we turn the air conditioner on? Then after all this, we end up three months down the track in the same spot, staring incredulously at the next bill that’s even higher than the last wondering what went wrong. Sound familiar? Well read on for some tips on what you can do to save some real money.
What is power?
Before we even start looking at how we can save money let’s look at how the electricity companies charge us for this. You will be charged by how many units (kWh) you used in the total billing period; so if there’s 90 days in the billing period and you used 5kWh per day then your bill will be the Unit Cost x 450kWh. Simple right? Now I hear you ask what is a kWh. A kWh or kilowatt hour is how many watts are used in one hour, so if you run a 1000W heater for 1 hour you will use 1kW in that hour and there for have used 1 unit or 1kWh.
I can now see you looking up at your 60W light globe that’s above your computer now and then slowly looking around the rest of the home that’s lit up like a Christmas Tree each with 60W light globes, along with the lights that have been left on outside waiting for someone to come home and will probably be left on all night, just like every night of the week only that these 3 lights are 100W…and that’s just the lights! What about the air conditioner that’s running 24/7 or the three plasma TV’s that are constantly on??? Now you’re getting the hang of it, but wait. Before you run off and start to convince your family that you have to go back to living in the dark ages and be just one step advanced from hunting and gathering, surely there’s a better way to get control of some of our power usage, ways that aren’t going to affect the way we’ve all become accustomed to living?
Here are just a couple of ways that we can start to get a handle on some of our electricity usage in real terms.
How many fridges (and freezers) do you have in your home? If you have more than 2 then this is an area that could be looked at. Fridges and freezers work on the principle that their only job in life is to keep the inside of that white box cold. The fridge (or freezer) will run when the temperature inside gets over a preset temperature and cool things down, once it reaches that temperature it then turns off again.
Here are some simple things we can do to make our fridges and freezers work more efficiently:
Set the temperature to a setting that’s realistic. The Australian Standard for fridges uses a fresh food compartment average temperature of 3°C. It’s a good target to aim for because it means not freezing foods yet still keeping them below 4°C. The temperatures below are a good guide to where you should start:
- Fresh food – between 0 and 4 deg C
- Freezer – close to -18 deg c
- Chiller compartment – close to 0 deg C
Check the location of your refrigerator or freezer. If you, like so many other Australians have a drinks fridge outside, where is it located? Is it somewhere that the sun can beat it’s Australian heat on it? Any fridge that’s located outside will (for half the year anyway) suffer some pretty trying ambient temperatures. Now add to this the fact that generally the fridge outside is not the brand new, top of the range, silver model that’s just been bought but rather the 20 year old fridge that’s been in the family for generations! This fridge will more than likely have below par insulation and even worse bad seals, which brings me to our last point;
Check the fridge seals. If your seals are hard and/or brittle chances are they are not doing their job. Their job is to keep the cool in and the heat out and if they are not sealing agains the fridge body then they will be leaking cool all day every day.
Yes we could all run around madly and turn off light switches after someone leaves a room but then that’s just crazy talk yes? There are simpler ways. You could install movement sensors in rooms that frequently have people move through them like hallways or laundries or bathrooms or pantries. Basically anywhere that someone goes to and when they leave you may not know the light’s on for hours is a potential place for one of these sensors. They don’t cost a lot and it could save you a bucket load in the long run.
For outside lighting, particularly lighting that’s on for safety or security, think about timers and/or sensors. You don’t have to have those ugly twin spot sensor lights, you could have any lights you desire that are all controlled by a discrete sensor mounted separately. Then you won’t have to leave those lights burning all night, or worse, all day as well because you forgot to turn them off and didn’t notice them on during the day.
Think about LED lighting. We all love downlights and as Australian’s we have just about cornered the market on these little things but think about this, one of those old halogen downlights is 50W…you more than likely have replaced the single 60W bulb in the centre of your room for at least four of these! That’s now 200W in that room instead of 60W! Multiply that by the number of rooms you’ve done this in and the power starts to stack up…fear not. There are now great LED downlights on the market which are only around 8W each! And they don’t cost any more than the old halogen ones did. That’s now only 32W in each room that you replaced the 60W globe! Good work!
Now I’m not going to ask you to do without your air conditioner as I know that this is just crazy talk! What I am going to ask you to do is to have a think about how you set your air conditioner and what you do to support your air conditioner.
Remember what we learned about our fridges? Well the same thing applies to our air conditioners, the only difference is our air conditioners don’t have friends like insulated panels and door seals etc…What temperature do you set during summer? For those of you that are saying 16 deg and I wish it would go colder, stop now! It is silly talk to even think that your air conditioner will get your home to 16 deg and if it did, you wouldn’t want to be in there I can guarantee that. Try setting your air conditioner to between 22 – 24 deg, I know this sounds silly but really, a great day outside is around that sort of temperature isn’t it? Your air conditioner’s job is not to cool you down when you’ve come in from the beating heat outside? That’s the showers job, the air conditioner is there to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home. Also, you should try to beat the heat load and if you know it’s going to be a scorcher, turn it on early so you aren’t trying to cool your home down from 30 deg! Close your curtains! Keep that sun out and with it the heat.
Install roof vents. Trust me, as an electrician, I know that in that roofspace of your during summer you could roast a chicken no problems! All that hot air sitting just above the ceiling is going to put some pressure on your air conditioner. Just try it, during summer put your hand on the ceiling and feel how warm it is, and that’s with insulation! If you install a couple of whirly-birds and vents in your eaves, this will allow cooler air in through your eave vents and hot air out through the whirly-bird.
Anyway, these are just some easy hints to get you on your journey! If you would like any help with these things be sure to visit our other pages at LS POWER or give us a call!