26 January, 2009

Your Electric Bill - part 3

How to understand it, what to do to make it smaller.
So far we've covered the electricity bill in overview, and how to use less energy for air conditioning.  There are still a few tips for all the other energy consumers, and a few things to note about your electricity suppliers.

Another tip about the electric bill:
Some suppliers allow you to install so-called "smart meters" which charge you at a different rate depending on which time of day you consume the electricity.  This is useful for the power companies because they get hit with severe usage at peak periods, so they need to run a lot of generating plant to cover that peak.  And it takes a lot of money (which they can't recover the cost of) to crank up and shut off that generating plant.

Therefore, they charge a premium price to consumers with normal meters, and consumers with smart meters during the peak periods - but then when the peak is over, they encourage smart metered consumers to use electricity in off-peak time with the incentive that it will end up cheaper for them.  That slightly reduces their peak load, and slightly raises their offpeak load, so that the generating equipment can be run at a more consistent load.

So you can save money by making sure your main power draws occur in the offpeak time period, if your power company has an offpeak, and if you get them to install a smart meter for you.  You can do this by installing (for example) a timer to turn the hot water system off during peak times, and perhaps your air conditioning or electric heating as well, if the peak period isn't too long.

The last three energy wasters:
Refrigerating your food is the next cost.  A refrigerator is a heat pump, it uses electricity to pump heat out of the inside of the cabinet to a radiating element on the outside.  Every time you open the door, all the cold falls down and out, because cold air sinks.  That means hot air has flowed in around the top, and now the fridge has to use up more energy to pump that heat out.  The simplest way to save energy on refrigeration then, is to open the door less often, and keep it open for shorter periods.  Another thing that may work for you is to put some strips of  plastic along each shelf so it keeps the cold in on the shelf below, but to do this your shelves need to be solid, not the old style wire racks.

Freezers.  Side opening freezers lose the cold just like fridges, only it's a LOT more expensive to re-chill the freezer.  If you can get a top-opening chest style freezer, that makes the most sense, as the cold will tend t stay pooled inside even if you do open the lid.

And if you have a coolroom or pantry with cooling built in, get freezer curtains installed and again, make sure the door is opened as few times, and for as short a period, as possible each day.  You paid for that cooling, don't waste it!

Now we come to the huge range of convenience devices, things such as microwaves, TVs, DVD players, computers and their peripherals, and the whole slew of things that sit there prodigiously consuming your dollars and the environment.  Computers can, depending on their configuration, chew up between 100W and 800W.  LCD monitors can similarly chew through 200W - 400W depending on their size, brightness settings, and so forth.  As well, they both produce waste heat which you then have to use more energy to pump outside with your A/C system...

Also things like your TV and associated set top boxes, satellite decoders, players and media centers, these all draw power like crazy when turned on, and generate heat to boot.  They still generate heat and draw power in so-called "stand-by" modes too.

And quite often, when you put the TV into standby mode after watching, or put the PC to sleep, the majority of ancillary devices remain switched on...

A suggestion:  There are a number of so-called "smart" powerstrips out there, which turn everything plugged into the "switched" outlets completely off when a device attached to the "master" socket stops drawing power.  In other words, you're swapping five or more devices on standby power for one device on standby power (the TV or computer plugged into the master socket) and a small amount of standby power for the powerstrip itself.  Buy several of these strips and plug one "master" device into it, say the DVD player or whatever draws the least stand-by current and still has a remote, and you could be on your way to saving another 50c to $2.00 per day, depending how many of those vampire power devices you take off your energy needs.  Doesn't sound like much but on a typical electricity bill just doing this alone can save you between $10 and $45 in a single bill.

And PCs have an even more power-conscious smart strip, which relies on the USB port of your computer to activate, so there's not even any vampire power circuit inside there drawing current.  Look out for more and more of these devices to come on the market as manufactuirers realise that people like saving the odd fifty bucks per power bill.

The main thing is - you can unplug these devices for now, and only plug them in when you need them.  If everyone in the house has a PC and/or a laptop, do they all really need to be on all day and all night?  I have a PC which is my media center and which quite often got left on just to play MP3's or the FM radio.  Just by having a small radio around and playing my music on that, I've managed to save about $2 a week on my power bill, as I now only turn on the media PC when I want to watch TV or a video.  That's about $26 per electric bill, right there.  (I get mine each quarter.)

Last thoughts - do you really need the microwave clock to be on all night?  How about all the home entertainment system?  Does it really have to be ready to respond ot the touch of a button, or could you perhaps manage to switch on a master switch and then sit and enjoy remote control convenience?

These are all, of course, your choices, all up to you whether you act on them or not.  But in the end, it's not only your dollar but your world and your life that are being eroded away a kilowatt at a time... 


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1 comment:

Lynne said...

Thanks for doing the research and writing such a well written blog...clever man my teddie:)

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