Tuesday, 12 June 2012

How We Save Electricity

A couple of times recently I have been asked about how we use electricity.  We have cut our bills back from around 20 kWh per day to under 7 kWh.  I'm happy to share with you, because it wasn't that hard!

The first bit of advice I can offer you is to stop thinking of electricity by price and try to think of it in kilowatt hours.  It is then easy to work out how much you are actually using.  The price of electricity changes but a kilowatt hour is always a kilowatt hour.

The most major change we have made is to our water.  Our hot water is heated by solar so obviously this is a huge saving to our bill.  We reduce this further by turning our electric back up off on sunny days and just rely on the sun.  Solar hot water services are designed to use electricity to heat at the cheaper overnight rate if the water is not hot enough, but we find most of the time it is warm enough without overnight heating.

If we have a couple of cloudy days we switch it back on.  The trap is remembering to turn it off again when the sunshine returns.

You may not have solar hot water or be in a position to buy a system but there are plenty of other ways to save.  Don't think the little changes don't make a difference to your bill because they add up to HUGE savings.  If you can, put all your computer related plugs into the one board.  You know......  monitors, speakers etc.  Then when you have finished with the computer, turn it off at the wall and you'll save money on those silly little lights.  You can do the same with all TV stuff - DVDs, set top boxes etc.  Put them on the same power board and then just one flick of the switch and they're all off!  Laptops use about one third as much electricity as standard computers. (I have one on my wish list)  When I use my computer, I have the speakers turned off.  You don't need them unless you are watching a video or something.  I just check my emails regularly and save the power instead.

We use the clothes line, not the dryer or we hang clothes inside on a clothes horse if the weather is wet.

We no longer have the time set on the microwave.  I have a watch and we did have a battery operated clock but it's broken at the moment.  Hubby uses his mobile to tell the time.  When I use the microwave, I switch it on at the wall, use it and then switch it off at the wall.  At first it was hard to remember, but if you persist it quickly becomes second nature.

I try not to iron or vacuum unless it's completely necessary!  Both these things use massive amounts of electricity!!!  The upside is I hardly ever vacuum or iron!  And I save money!  WIN/WIN!!!

We have a gas oven that runs on bottled gas so the only other thing I can think of is the lights.  Now, I used to feel like an ogre as I ran around telling everyone to turn off the lights.  Now I don't have to hassle anyone in the family for two reasons.  The first is that it has become like second nature and the second reason.......  Well that's worth me telling you about.  We like to go on a family holiday to a place near Corryong and try to go most years.  The kids love it!  When our last  bill came I talked about it with the children and explained that we would have heaps more money at holiday time due to how careful everyone had been with electricity.  I didn't deliberately mean to make it relevant to them but now I can see that it works.  If your family understand the importance of saving electricity and can see a benefit to them, they will be enthusiastic. I never need to tell anyone to turn off lights any more.  If they leave a light on, one of the others will cry, "Don't you want to go to Corryong?!"  Perfect!  No longer is it just Mum nagging over nothing.  It is the difference between having a holiday or not!

Usually the most lights running at one time would be two.  We have about an hour a night when everyone is running around cleaning teeth and getting ready for bed, that I think of as 'peak hour'.  At this time there can be five or six lights being used!  When the kids are tucked up in bed, Hubby and I usually only have one lamp on.

The last thing I would like to share with you is our thoughts on gadgets.  You can buy all sorts of gadgets these days for saving electricity.  There are gadgets that will turn off your appliances for you, measure how much power individual appliances are using etc.  I don't believe they are necessary.  We try not to be consumers so I don't want to save electricity by wasting precious resources for the manufacture of these gadgets.  Why would I need them?  We don't feel the need to have every modern convenience.  I believe that even with our frugal use of electricity, we are living a life of luxury.  We live a simpler life than many but our home is warm, our bellies are full of good food, we have clean clothes to wear and don't even need to wash them by hand!  (Thank goodness)  I believe luxury is in the eye of the beholder.  I don't need to have everything the neighbours have (and more) to feel satisfied.  In fact, I think our family is happier (or should that read hippier!) because we focus on the things we do have in our lives and are very grateful for them.  The bottom line is, you don't need to use bucket loads of electricity to be comfortable.

If you are trying to reduce your usage take notice of your daily usage on your bill and aim to better that next quarter.  You don't have to do it all at once.  Each quarter try to think of another way to save.  It is easy!  Truly!!!

I'm sure there are many other ways people are cutting back on their power and I would love some ideas in the comments!  Also, please let me know if you do start saving on electricity.  I would love to hear how you go!


farmer_liz said...

That is such a sweet story! I remember my dad used to constantly remind us to turn off lights and shut the door when the heater was on, it has stuck with me into adulthood (the price of electricity in NZ, where I grew up, is also double Aus, so it makes you try harder!). I have the extra incentive in summer here in QLD as the more lights we have on, the more tiny bugs come in through the fly screens. Unfortunately my husband didn't have the same emphasis as a child and seems to leave lights on all through the house, and its seems to be harder to influence an adult than kids, even though we should understand it better. Anyway, we ended up getting a "smart energy" service from a govt dept and for $50 we got an energy meter and a remote to turn off some appliances at the wall. It has been really good as I can turn off the TV and microwave with one button, everything else we already turned off at the wall. Having the meter with dollars on it helped my husband to realise that leaving the shed lights on did cost 10c an hour, so its worth remembering to turn them off. Also highlighted the cost of the beer fridge.... it has reduced our power usage because we can see the direct influence of each behaviour change, but I do agree that I'd would have rather not have bought more stuff to help us to reduce electricity, just lucky it was cheap through a govt program! But if that's the only way you can create a change, its better than keeping going the way you were.

Linda said...

Hi Liz, LOL! I wonder if the answer to motivating your husband is in your comment. You could try this - "My darling , do you realise the more you turn off the lights, the more you can afford to open the beer fridge!"

It sounds like you guys are doing heaps and have a good understanding of your power usage. Yes I agree that any positive change is good! I just think sometimes marketing convinces people they NEED stuff, when it's really not hard!

purplepear said...

Great info there thanks Linda. I would love to get my electricity bill down to your level.Pumps, coolrooms and the like keep it up a bit, but I still think we do better than the average residential.

KMcCulloch said...

I love that you get to vacuum and iron less and save money doing it! That is an awesome tip. And I think getting the kids on board is really where it's at too. That's what I need to do. We've talked about it, but I keep meaning to get out the bills and show them how it works.

For us, we make money on our electricity because we have solar panels and make more than we use, but I am still always running around turning off lights - we could do much better!

Kirsten said...

Oops, sorry, that last comment was me - logged into the wrong gmail account (with no profile!).

Dani said...

Good changes that you have made, and you are reaping the rewards :)

My solar oven has meant that I have not switched on my electric stove in over two years. couldn't live without it in summer, nor my Dover stove in winter LOL

Busy mum of 3 said...

Great advice Linda. I would love to be able to not iron, but unfortunately professional uniforms and jobs require it. (groan). I am trying to reduce our consumption, even though we have had a credit since the solar panels were installed, I still want to do right by the environment.

Linda said...

Hi Kate, of course it's different for people like you and Evi who need to use electricity for business. I'm sure you're very careful and yes I bet you do better than average!

Kirsten, LOL! I thought the name was familiar! We have a solar set-up as well and have been enjoying making money. I still figure we should use as little as we can and put any extra 'out there' for shared use.

Dani I love the idea of a solar oven. I'm working on hubby for a wood fired oven inside. When that happens, I'll look at solar to supplement it. Summer and winter covered!

Yay Busy Mum! I don't remember you talking about solar. Isn't it great to receive credits! Changes the way I feel about seeing the bill in the mail!!!

Christine said...

A really inspiring post, Linda, thankyou!!

Your previous post on saving electricity motivated me to start opening the meter box and check on the little rotating wheely thing..I went around the house turning things off and checking it again..amazing the difference a few small things can make! So an extra thankYOU! xx :)

Linda said...

Christine I'm so glad you have checked your meter box because it changes the way you think, doesn't it? Suddenly you realise they are units not dollars and it's not hard then to change the way you use them. Thanks for letting me know and I hope you see a result in DOLLARS not units!

Solar Installation NJ said...

The simplest tips and tricks can be the most effective at times, like you said, just rely on sun during the day. Especially during summer when its not dark by 5 o'clock, its easy and enjoyable to rely on the sun and when night time comes, you could go even further and use candles. Just an idea. God bless, and good luck!

-Sharone Tal

Linda said...

Thanks Sharone, candles have the added benefit of just plain feeling special!

Pro-Level Trading said...

Awesome post! This blog is so useful.