Energy saving. Sounds boring – until you get the electricity bill!
The thing about energy saving that I think stumps most people is that although they want to use less electricity (and pay less!) their lack of understanding makes it hard to start. Electricity is just a another tool that we all use every day to help us do things. But because we’ve all had it since before we can remember, most of us probably feel like we’ve never been given an instruction manual or any diagrams to help us understand when we use it, how, or why.
The good news is, there is quite a bit of information out there to help us get a handle on our electricity use, and I want to share some tips and pointers to get you started on your energy saving journey. (Please note that I am in Victoria, Australia, so if you are in some other part of the world you would probably be better getting your information locally.)
How do you use electricity?
There are various ways to get information on how you use electricity. Some give you an overall picture of your daily use, others show you the average use of other homes like yours, and others can tell you exactly how much energy a specific appliance uses. We’ll look at big picture options first.
Smart meter compatible web-portal
In Victoria at least, most people have now had a smart meter installed at their homes. This meter records electricity use in your home in 30 minute intervals, and sends this information back to the retailer. Accessing this information will give you a really good overall picture of how your home uses electricity. Many of the larger electricity retailers have their own free web-portal that you can sign up to, to view your usage. If not, and you don’t want to change retailer, then you can see if your local distributor offers the same service. This is type of diagram you should be able to see from your on-line web portal:
Can you see how Friday was a real peak in energy use? Now you can start to think…what was happening in our home on that day? When do the peaks regularly happen? Are they weekends? Are they when my teenagers are at home? Was I using the oven all day? Was I out and the heater left on full all day?
In home electricity monitor
Another option for getting this information is to install an in-home electricity monitor; this doesn’t need a smart meter to have been installed and it still measures your energy use in the same way. Cost is approximately $100 plus you need an electrician to wire it into your meter box. An excellent one is the Efergy Energy Monitor, which captures electricity use data and displays it on a digital device that sits in your home. It shows you electricity use by the moment – you put the kettle on, and the reading goes up. This is a really excellent educational option for kids because it is so visual and so immediate. We’ve got one of these and it’s really simple to use. See what happens when you turn the hair dryer on!!
Energy saving for specific appliances
So… you’ve seen the overall picture of your own home electricity use, and your energy bill will show you how that usage compares to other average homes.
But you are still curious about that fancy electric heater you have in the study – does it blow your electricity bill out or is it as ‘efficient’ as the salesperson told you? Here is where a ‘power meter’ such as a Power Mate can help.
A power meter plugs into your wall socket on one end, and your appliance on the other. When you turn your appliance on, the device shows exactly how much electricity it draws, and can show you this figure over time or by cost. It’s a great tool to narrow down which specific items are drawing a huge load so you can be much more choosy about when you use them.
Many councils have power meters available for loan to residents; our local Nillumbik Shire Council has several home energy auditing packs that can be borrowed via any of the local libraries just like a library book. If your council doesn’t have this option, ask them to provide it!
This blog hasn’t begun to cover all the amazing resources available for your use or to explain all there is to know about energy and electricity; there just is not space. However we are really happy to answer questions and follow up with information about anything you’d like to know more about. If I don’t know I can probably refer you to someone that will. So ask away – and enjoy getting to know electricity on a first name basis!