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Sustainable Berry Articles
Tips on Cutting Electricity Bills
By Holly Landgren and Ian Parker
This month’s column highlights other tips for power savings in the colder months.
HOT WATER HEATER
Check the thermostat temperature; if it is set higher than 60℃, you can safely turn it down; however hot water must be stored at 60℃ to prevent legionellae bacteria multiplying. Lowering the thermostat saves on cold water when showering, washing dishes, etc, and lowers the risk of scalding.
Keep mixer taps set to the cold setting. Otherwise, every time you turn on the tap you are unnecessarily drawing hot water from the tank.
Time your showers & turn down the water pressure.
Install a water-saving showerhead.
Ensure the pipes from your tank are insulated, to prevent heat loss. If your tank is outdoors, ensure it is also insulated.
Install solar hot water. Most electricity companies now offer solar panels installation, with payment by installment on regular bills.
Turn off lights when you leave the room. Open curtains and windows to let in light and the warmest air through the day. Films applied to windowpanes for heat insulation block light, so consider if these are appropriate for your home.
MINIMAL COST / INVESTMENT:
Outdoor lights with movement sensors mean the light comes on only when you need it. Solar garden lights are cheap, and free to run. Install dimmer switches; lower lighting uses less power.
Modern skylights have diffuser panels fitted at the ceiling level. These bring light into the interior, particularly dark spaces like hallways. If you have an old style shaft with Perspex cover at the roof level, install a sheet of Perspex at the ceiling level to prevent heat loss.
New LED lights are very cheap to run, and don’t carry the risk of breakage associated with mercury gas filled compact light bulbs (CFLs). They generate 75% to 80% savings over regular light bulbs, last longer, and are more efficient than CFLs.
Turn off appliances at the power point. If you can see a stand-by light, the appliance is drawing power. Based on a bill of $500 per quarter, the estimated 10% saving would be $200 per year. The only things that need to stay on all the time are appliances like water heaters and refrigerators.
Your fridge is always on, which makes it one of the most expensive appliances in the home. Make sure the door seal is tight and free from gaps so cold air doesn’t escape. Check the thermostat, which should be set at 4 to 5 degrees, and the freezer at minus 15 to 18 degrees.
The energy used to boil a full 1.5 litre kettle can power an energy efficient fridge for four hours! Boil only the amount of water you need; if you’re making a cup of tea there’s no need to fill the jug. You can buy a vacuum thermos kettle that keeps the boiled water hot, but these seem difficult to find in Australia.
Use a clothesline to dry your clothes.
Wash clothes in cold water; presoaking cuts the need for washing in hot water. Use clothes airers in a sheltered spot or indoors, as an alternative to using a clothes dryer on a wet day. Using felted wool balls in the clothes dryer will cut energy use. The balls separate items, reducing static electricity, and wick moisture from clothes, allowing for faster drying time. There are lots of web sites with instructions for making your own.
Swimming pool pumps are among the most energy-hungry appliances in a home, where water cleanliness is vital. Consider upgrading your pump if you use one for a pool, or for irrigation. Solar powered and energy efficient water pumps are available.
Induction stoves are highly energy efficient, using up to 80% of electricity to generate heat, opposed to around 40% for a conventional stove. Microwave ovens use less power for cooking than a conventional oven.
If you are upgrading or buying large appliances, the cost of individual reports or a short membership with Choice magazine should pay for itself by helping you make informed choices. The initial cost of an appliance is only one consideration; running costs over the life of an appliance (calculated as a 10 year period) mean that buying a cheaper appliance might not save you power, or money, over the longer term.
Finally, consider the upfront cost of installing solar panels against your current power bills. Once this investment is paid for, your power needs are free, and you may be able to put power back into the grid.