In order to live fulfilled, healthy and modern lives, we all have to have electricity at home. In fact, most of us need more and more electricity as we introduce more electrical appliances into our lives every year. This is a trend that will continue upwards as electric vehicles become more popular, and we automate our lives more and more using technology.
So if we have to have electricity at home or at work, why not makes it cheaper where possible?
At GI Energy we have decades of electrical and energy reduction experience. So, we asked our top support guru what he’s found saves the most money when talking to clients. These are his top six tips.
Tip 1 – Only boil what you need when making coffee
I have many clients that have more than 10 cups of tea/coffee in the house per day. I did an experiment where I boiled my kettle with only one cup of water and compared the cost with boiling a full kettle.
- It took 56 seconds to boil one cup of water.
- It took 4 minutes and 40 seconds to boil a full kettle of water.
My kettle is rated at 1850W, and I pay 30c/kWh for electricity.
- 10 cups (1 cup boiled) = 0.09c per day
- 10 cups (full kettle boiled) = 0.43c per day
At this point my clients think… big deal – until I show them what that means per year.
- 10 cups (one cup boiled) = $32 per year
- 10 cups (full kettle boiled) = $157 per year
Wastefully boiling all that extra water costs you up to $125 more per year.
Tip 2 – Change all of your light globes for low-wattage globes
If you still have 100W, 60W or 40W globes at home – they are costing you 10-20 times more than a low watt bulb.
A few years back now, I moved into a larger house that had lots of 100W globes. My first bill was over $650. I swapped these globes out for low watt versions and the next bill came in at $400 – a $250 saving.
It’s very easy to calculate what a 100W globe costs you. If you use it for 10 hours a day, it will be using 1kWh (10 hours x 100W = 1kWh) – that’s 30c per day or $109.50 per year. If you have the equivalent of 10 of those lights in use for 10 hours a day, that is $1,095 a year.
In comparison, you could replace that with a 10W globe and a single globe will cost $10.95 per year. If you had 10 of these, your annual lighting cost is $109.50. Literally a 90% saving compared with the 100W globes – almost $1000!
If you turn your lights off when you don’t need them, you might save an extra 20-70% off your lighting costs. I’ve personally used this and my bill is much lower than most houses with a similar number of people.
Tip 3 – Air-conditioning
When you understand air-conditioning properly, you can save so much more. This is the biggest ongoing cost saver opportunity.
The typical power rating of air-conditioners can range from 650W to 2.8kW. For this example, I will assume an air-conditioner that uses 1kW at full capacity. This might be a 12,000 BTU air con that has a 3.5KW cooling/heating rating and suitable for a 5m x 5m living room.
If it’s a 30°C day and your room has been shut all day – the inside temperature might be 35°C. It may take an hour at full to cool the room to 22°C. For this first hour it may be using 100% power – or 1kW. Once the temperature has been achieved, the air-conditioner may maintain the room by using 50% power. If you run the unit from 3pm to 8pm you will use 3kWh of energy (1kW x 1hr + 0.5kW x 4hrs). At 30c/kWh, that’s 90c per day or $328.50 per year.
The harder the air-conditioner has to work, the higher its energy consumption. For example, if you set it at 19°C or lower, it may need to use 80~90% of the peak power to maintain the temperature. If you set it at 24°C, it may only use 30% of the peak power. If the room you is losing cold air or letting heat in, the air-conditioner will need to use more power to maintain the same temperature. Here are things to consider:
- Poorly insulated room
- Doors left open
- Curtains left open
- Windows facing north/west with no outdoor shade protection means more sunlight (and hence heat) coming inside
- More people in the room means more body heat
- If people are exercising, they are generating heat
- Appliances generating heat (oven, TV, computer, etc)
If you combine the above factors with multiple old/inefficient air-con units set at a low temperature running for many hours a day – your air-con alone could be contributing $3,500+ per year to your energy bill. We have certainly seen all of these situations, and it shows just how much air-conditioning can impact your energy bill.
Take the time to do some calculations for your home. Think about how many air-conditioners you have. Do you leave doors open? Can you set a higher temperature to cool or a lower temperature to heat to save more?
A box/window air-conditioner is not very efficient. They tend to run at 80~100% most of the time because their thermometers are not as effective. If you have old box air-conditioners, consider replacing them with smaller split systems. Split systems are common and these days are much more efficient. Ducted air conditioners are the most efficient if they are maintained. If they are old and un-maintained, get them tested.
Want lower air-conditioning costs?
- Insulate your room if possible.
- Close your curtains
- Install curtains with better insulation properties
- Plant deciduous trees in front of western or northern windows to shade during summer and allow open curtains to let light in during winter
- Set the cooling temperature at the highest you can while remaining comfortable (reverse for heating)
- Close doors and windows
- Keep anything that changes room temperature to a minimum
PRO TIP FOR SOLAR OWNERS: If you have air-conditioning and a solar system, use a timer to turn your air-conditioner on at 1-2pm, so that by the time you get home the house is already cool.
The air-conditioner is working the hardest to cool the room for the first 1-2 hours, but during this time you have plenty of free solar energy. Once the room is at a comfortable 22-24°C, it will maintain this temperature by using less energy – but still using free solar energy. When you get home, you can turn the air-con off (the sun is down so solar is no longer generating).
If you turn your air-con on at 5pm, after your solar has stopped generating much, you’ll have to pay for the energy to cool the house down. This could cost $1~$5+ – whereas if it was on a timer it would have been free!
Tip 4 – Maintenance of appliances and replacing old/inefficient appliances
I have had so many clients that have come to me with unusually high energy bills and we’ve had to go digging for the cause. In most cases, we’ve found that old and inefficient appliances are the culprit. For example, one client worked from home and used air-con all day, but the bill was still around $1,200 a quarter – far bigger than most people in the same situation. I asked them to get an electrician to check or service the air-conditioning. They found that it was more than 20 years old and in poor condition. When they replaced it, their energy bill went down to $680 on the next bill. Because they use energy the same way every day, that is a direct reflection of updating their air-con. Also given that it will save over $2,000 per year, it’s clear that the saving will cover the cost of a new air-con very quickly.
Other things to look for are water pumps, pool pumps, fish tank pumps, fridges and freezers that are old and have poor seals, old plasma TVs, and one of the biggest ones – your electric hot water system. If you are unsure, consider getting an electrician in to do some testing. You may find that your state government has a service where these checks are offered for free or subsidised.
Tip 5 – Make sense of the energy efficiency rating when buying appliances
Most people are familiar with the energy rating stars when they are buying new appliances. The more stars, the better the efficiency. When you understand the number below it, you will make much better purchasing choices.
The number under the stars is the ‘average annual kWh use’. That means based on typical use, it will use a certain amount of energy.
For example, you might be comparing two TVs. One has an energy rating of 200kWh and the next one has a rating of 300kWh. If you know your tariff rate, you can quickly calculate the annual running cost. If you don’t – just use 30c as a guide. The TV using 200kWh a year will cost $60/yr in energy costs, the TV using 300kWh per year will cost $90/ry in energy costs. This is a really great way to make informed choices about your appliances.
On some appliances it will describe what ‘typical use’ is. On a TV, they might assume an average of 10 hours per day. If you know you only use the TV for 5 hours a day, you know you can calculate the 200kWh TV to cost $30/yr to run.
Tip 6 – Get familiar with your most-used appliances.
If you use certain appliances all the time, take the time to do some quick calculations.
- Look for their service plate and write down how many Watts it uses
- Work out how many hours a day you use it for (and hours per year)
- Estimate if it is being used at 100%, 70% or 50% etc (e.g. low/medium/high settings)
- Multiple this together to find the appliances’ daily/annual electricity consumption, and hence cost.
By doing this sort of exercise, you will become very familiar with your costs, and you will most likely identify opportunities for saving more money.
A couple hints and tips:
- Pool pumps may be running much longer than they need to. Contact your pool specialist to work out minimum running periods. If you own solar – run them when the solar energy is free.
- If your appliance generates heat/cold or light it will be a big user of energy. Things like computers, DVD players and clock radios may only cost you a few dollars a year to run.
Energy management conclusion
When you combine the little changes like using less water in your kettle, upgrading inefficient appliances, turning lights off and making better air-conditioning choices, you can dramatically reduce your energy bill without big changes to your lifestyle.