Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Cutting back the kilowatts

It's like cutting back calories, but easier! And you don't have to give up chocolate!!

I started out with the best intentions to get the filing done, but got sidetracked when it came to electricity bills. I wonder how our usage has changed over 3 years.........

An hour and a few excel charts and formulae later I discovered our annual average KWh per day has dropped from 25.8 in 2006 to 19.8 in 2008. That's a decrease of 23%. This is in spite of the fact that I started working from home during this time, which meant more electricity use during the day. 19.8 is still higher than I would like, but given that we use electricity to pump our water, plus the home office, I'm really pleased by this progress.

I should point out that we currently do not have solar hot water (it's coming when the existing system finally needs replacing), AND our hot water system is too big for just 2 people, so 5-14kw per day (depending on whether we have a bath or not) is accounted for by hot water.

You can see in the chart below we have made the biggest savings in the 'winter' quarters: Apr-Jul (29% decrease 06 - 08) and Jul - Oct (39% decrease 06 - 08!!!).

But the best thing about these decreases? We didn't have to spend a lot of money to make these savings. We did spend money on:
  • gradually replaced curtains with blockout-type curtains for better insulation (when they were on sale, of course!) (2007 - 2008)
  • making old fashioned draft-stoppers for all the doors (2008)
  • replacing power hungry old electric oil heaters with newer electric ones that have timers and temperature sensors so they cut in and out as required, and can go off overnight (eg in the bedroom) (2008)
  • I bought a power meter to track how much power individual pieces of equipment use (2008)
  • converting to cf bulbs
  • replacing the electric kettle with a stovetop kettle (we have a gas storevop)
But there were still more simple behavour changes we made that have clearly made a huge impact:
  • over time I've gradually turned down the temperature on the hot water unit to minimise reheating time
  • we 'curtained off' the end of the house that we don't use unless guests are here, so we're only heating the part of the house we use
  • in 2008 we 'decomissioned' the second bathroom unless guests were staying - so that meant turning off the second small hot water unit for that bathroom, and not having to heat the bathroom in winter. I think this was strangely the 'hardest' adjustment as we quite liked having our own bathroom each!!
  • in 2008 I relocated my home office to the end of the house that we use in winter - so I now share this room with Jerry. This was also something I resisted as I quite liked being able to have the office a bit more seperate to the rest of the house, and Jerry liked having his own room. However, as my office was in the "curtained off", and therefore unheated part of the house, I was using a lot of power to drag the temperature up from 12 to 16 every day, and running a heater 5-7 hours per day. It was a bit mad looking back on it. In the new study I might only have to run the heater for an hour or so on really cold days. And I can always just pop around the corner and warm up by the fire.
  • in 2008 I also 'bubble-glazed' the study/office windows to keep the room warmer, but still let in light.
  • I switched to only using 'eco' mode on the dishwasher (which saves about 50% of the power compared to the normal cycle that includes drying)
  • I use my slow cooker as much as possible in winter rather than the oven to cook meals - and I try to make enough for 4-6 serves per meal to make the most of the power use
  • We have progressively removed light fittings from our halogen track lighting eg over the dining table we had 6 (or maybe 7) and now we only have 4. In the main living area we had 5 and now we have 3. In addition we try to use lamps with cf bulbs rather than the track lighting whenever possible.
  • We have used insulting foam or mud to seal gaps that were letting in drafts
But of course, there is still more we can do! On the power saving to do list are:
  • solar hot water
  • finish replacing old curtains with insulating curtains in the rest of the house
  • moving from rod and ring style curtain fittings to track fittings so we can get the curtains closer to the window (pelmets just woudlnt work in our style of house)
  • replacing the old standard fridge with a chest fridge
  • keep up with the gap-sealing work
  • opening up the chimney to expose more flue and replacing the fireplace with one that I can put a pot/kettle on to slow cook food during the day / keep water hot for a cuppa .
Alas most of these need some serious $$, so I'd best get back to work!!


Chris said...

You guys should be so proud of yourselves. Congratulations for sticking to it and making even more improvements.

I have an eco setting on my dishwasher too. I may have to try using that feature to see if will reduce our electricity bill. I think I was probably taking comfort from having a solar-powered hot water system. But maybe it will make a difference if I still use the eco feature.

Thanks for sharing all those great ideas.

HerbmanAndy said...

Thanks for sharing. It seems amazing that all those relatively small changes can really add up. Something to think about.

linda said...

I didn't realize that a slow cooker could save energy. I have to now read the specs on mine to find out how much it uses. Congratulations on cutting back 23%. This inspires me to do more myself.

Dmarie said...

we have a shelf on our woodburner, but I only recently started using it to cook on regularly. Really getting a kick out of experimenting with it and love that our power-hungry stovetop is being used less!

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