How to cut down on en­ergy costs

Lesotho Times - - Property -

WITH an­other cold win­ter now not far off and elec­tric­ity charges once more ris­ing, home own­ers sim­ply have to find ways of cut­ting down on their en­ergy costs. Top of the list­will al­ways be the hot wa­ter geyser, which in most fam­i­lies is re­spon­si­ble for some 39 per­cent of their en­ergy costs. Next to this comes space heat­ing (16 per­cent), stoves and ovens (11 per­cent) and the swim­ming pool pump (also 11 per­cent).

In view of this list of costs, the sen­si­ble steps to take are, firstly, to in­su­late the home by ev­ery pos­si­ble means, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to win­dows, doors and breeze blocks, all of which can be given news­pa­per stuffing where they are faulty.

A Columbia Uni­ver­sity re­port says we all slip up when it comes to en­ergy use and sav­ings. What are we do­ing wrong -- and how can we fix it?

You turn off lights when you’re not in the room, re­cy­cle glass bot­tles and un­plug your cell­phone charger, so you’re do­ing your bit for the planet, right? Well, not re­ally, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the Earth In­sti­tute at Columbia Uni­ver­sity.

The re­port analy­ses what Amer­i­cans in 34 states be­lieve to be eco-friendly prac­tices — but what’s strik­ing is they’re ac­tu­ally at odds with what re­ally works. The re­port also says that those of us who are most keen to fol­low eco-friendly prac­tices are ac­tu­ally the most ig­no­rant. Ouch!

What the sur­vey re­veals is that we gen­er­ally have in­ac­cu­rate per­cep­tions of en­ergy use and sav­ings. Un­plug­ging the tele­vi­sion at night is a waste of time be­cause a mod­ern TV on standby uses less than a watt of power.

You’d have to un­plug it or switch it off for a year to save the same amount of en­ergy as it takes to have one-and-a-half baths.

Sim­i­larly, you can re­cy­cle glass, but it takes so much en­ergy to make or re­cy­cle glass that it’s ac­tu­ally more ef­fi­cient to use alu­minium cans. You shouldn’t even be us­ing glass.

Low-ef­fort, low-im­pact ac­tions may make you feel bet­ter about do­ing your bit, but the truth is, th­ese changes don’t make a huge dif­fer­ence. So what are you do­ing wrong? And how can you re­ally cut down on en­ergy use be­fore win­ter has the coun­try in its grip?

Work out an en­ergy bud­get The big­gest en­ergy glut­tons in your home are likely to be heat­ing dur­ing win­ter and cool­ing dur­ing sum­mer, fol­lowed by your geyser. Af­ter that comes light­ing, com­put­ers, TVS and other elec­tronic ap­pli­ances. Your kitchen ap­pli­ances come next — dish­wash­ers, mi­crowaves, cof­fee ma­chines and your fridge.

With this in mind, it’s ob­vi­ous that it’s far more en­ergy ef­fi­cient to turn heat­ing ap­pli­ances down by a de­gree than to turn off all your lights.

Or you may not con­sider putting a timer on your geyser, to switch it off when you’re at work, be­cause you think it takes more en­ergy to boil wa­ter in a cold geyser (which is not true).

Let’s look at a typ­i­cal four-per­son house- hold with a fixed bud­get for elec­tric­ity (say R600 to R1 000 a month). If you have a good grasp of your house­hold’s en­ergy con­sump­tion habits, you can save be­tween 5 per­cent and 15 per­cent on your monthly bill. If you spend R600 a month, you could be sav­ing over R1 000 a year, be­fore you’ve even started in­vest­ing in ma­jor en­ergy-sav­ing prod­ucts or ap­pli­ances.

Ereeza Ry­land, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer at Pow­er­time, says the first step to­wards sav­ing money is to change your con­sump­tion habits. To man­age your bud­get, you should prob­a­bly in­stall an elec­tric­ity mon­i­tor­ing me­ter — th­ese are sold at hard­ware stores and cost about R800.

While regular pre­paid me­ters tell you how much elec­tric­ity you have left, smart me­ters tell you how much elec­tric­ity is con­sumed, so you can get a minute-by-minute idea of how much elec­tric­ity you’re us­ing.

By un­plug­ging cer­tain de­vices while watch­ing the dial, you can fig­ure out what’s us­ing power. Oth­er­wise a lot of your bud­get­ing is guess­work.

You should then grad­u­ally in­stall en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient prod­ucts and ap­pli­ances in your home, which will keep you within bud­get. Th­ese ap­pli­ances don’t nec­es­sar­ily cost more than in­ef­fi­cient ones, but they will use elec­tric­ity, so they’re cheaper to run and main­tain.

Steps to cut elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion Fol­low th­ese steps for real en­ergy sav­ing this win­ter:

Seal and in­su­late your home. Al­most 30 per­cent of your win­ter elec­tric­ity bill is used for heat­ing if you use elec­tric heaters. An non­in­su­lated ceil­ing makes heat­ing rooms slow and en­ergy in­ten­sive. Mod­ern ceil­ing in­sula- tion ma­te­ri­als can be blown in as gran­ules (for hard-to-ac­cess ar­eas) or laid (ma­te­rial like isotherm). On a cold evening, feel where breezes are com­ing from, and stop them. Ap­ply weather strips on drafty door and win­dow frames. Con­sider dou­ble-glaz­ing your win­dows

Think about in­stalling a geo­ther­mal heat pump if you use a lot of heat­ing or air con­di­tion­ing. Th­ese de­vices use dif­fer­ences in the ground’s tem­per­a­ture to heat wa­ter and pro­vide cen­tral cool­ing to your home. You can save 30 per­cent to 70 per­cent in heat­ing costs, and 20 per­cent to 50 per­cent in cool­ing. True, it costs about R18 000 to R20 000 to in­stall this, but the pump pays for it­self in five to 10 years and in­creases the re­sale value of your house, if you sell.

About 30 per­cent to 40 per­cent of your en­ergy costs are used to heat wa­ter. Re­duce the tem­per­a­ture of your geyser ther­mo­stat to 55˚C or less (or un­til you are mix­ing in lit­tle to no cold wa­ter in the bath/shower).

Cover your geyser with an in­su­la­tion blan­ket. Hot wa­ter in the geyser will stay hot longer, and you will use less elec­tric­ity heat­ing it up. Try to buy the thicker in­su­la­tion (100m to 150mm, ver­sus the 50mm ones) as it’s not much more ex­pen­sive but is twice or three times as ef­fec­tive. You can get a blan­ket from big hard­ware stores and they nor­mally cost un­der R500.

Con­sider in­vest­ing in so­lar hot wa­ter heaters, which use the sun’s en­ergy to re­duce your hot wa­ter heat­ing bill. Th­ese sys­tems can save 40 per­cent to 50 per­cent in heat­ing costs.

Re­place in­can­des­cent light bulbs with the com­pact flu­o­res­cent or LED va­ri­eties. They use about 20 per­cent to 33 per­cent of the power of the old light bulbs and last eight to 15 times longer. Im­prove­ments now make the light emit­ted from the “soft white” CFLS very sim­i­lar in colour to that of stan­dard in­can­des­cent lamps.

Learn how to set power man­age­ment on your com­puter and turn down the bright­ness on your TV and com­puter mon­i­tor. Plug your com­puter pe­riph­er­als (printer, scan­ner, speak­ers, fax ma­chine) into a power strip and power down when not in use.

Wait un­til you have full loads to run in the wash­ing ma­chine and dish­washer and, if avail­able, use their en­ergy sav­ings set­tings. Con­sider air dry­ing your clothes rather than us­ing the tum­ble dryer. It saves en­ergy and money, plus your clothes will last longer.

Con­sider re­plac­ing old ap­pli­ances, like that sec­ond re­frig­er­a­tor in the base­ment. Look for and pur­chase En­ergy Star ap­pli­ances and elec­tron­ics when you’re out shop­ping for new white goods.

Re­frig­er­a­tors use more en­ergy than any other ap­pli­ance in a typ­i­cal house­hold. Don’t keep your re­frig­er­a­tor and freezer too cold, as this draws more power. Re­frig­er­a­tors should main­tain a tem­per­a­ture of 3˚C to 4˚C. Freez­ers should be kept at about -15˚C. Make sure door seals are in good con­di­tion. — Raw­son/m&g.

COVER your geyser with an in­su­la­tion blan­ket which keeps wa­ter hot for longer.

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