Having considered myself an environmentally conscious person, I was very shocked to find that despite investing in energy efficient CFL’s and improving the air flow of my house, my energy consumption was still above the national average consumption. 1300 kWh vs. 1200 kWh. Not terrible but definitely a bruise for the eco-ego. We’ve always been very good about switching off the lights and the TV when not in use so I was taken aback when I finally dug deep into the electric bill.
It wouldn’t be good form to preach the environmentally friendly message when I consumed more than the average household. With electrical tariffs at an all time high (then), there was also an added incentive to cut usage. Thus, I decided to do an energy audit of the house.
My goal was to reduce usage to the extent that my comfort was not diminished. One condition I set was to do so without spending any major capital expenditure on new energy saving items. It wouldn’t make sense to spend $1000 only to save say $100 a year.
The results of my energy cutting drive were very surprising. I was using about 1300kWh of energy and after several months of monitoring, I managed to cut it to 800kWh! That is a 40% drop. I had started out with very low expectations so to cut energy consumption by such a big quantum, without sacrificing much, was to say the least intriguing.
One major step which we took that may not appeal to many at first glance: We decided to try sleeping without the air-conditioner. I really love cold weather and am more at home in a frosty climate than the hot tropics. How could I give up using the aircon? We were quite fortunate as the past few months have had quite cool nights which gave us the opportunity to try the experiment. The compromise we had was that if the temperature in our room was over 26 degrees, we’d use the aircon and if it was below we’d use just the ceiling fan. We also have pretty good airflow in our room. I wouldn’t dare do it in the other rooms which have less than acceptable air flow. Nonetheless, even if we had continued to use the aircon, the monthly electrical usage would have amounted to about 1100 kWh. That’s still a 15% drop so I hope this encourages everybody to implement the following steps. They really don’t cost you anything in terms of convenience.
- Set your fridge temps to 3 degrees and freezer to -20 degrees (the recommended is 4 and -18 degrees Celsius but I found that it wasn’t good enough; you can consider getting a fridge thermometer)
- Hang your clothes out to dry versus using the dryer. (yes this can be inconvenient)
- Do full loads when washing
- Set devices like your computer and fax to sleep or switch it off when not in use. I was very guilty of leaving my computer on 24/7. When buying your next computer, consider getting a laptop or an energy efficient desktop like the Mac Mini or the Dell Studio Hybrid
- Set you Air conditioning at 25 degrees C or better still use the fan. We used to set ours to 22 degrees. Now it’s at 24/25 and we don’t notice the difference. Honestly.
- Switch off your TV, cable, DVD, VCR, etc and lights when not in use. When you aren’t using it for an extended period like overnight, switch off the master switch instead of setting it to standby.
- If you have electrical plugs like phone chargers connected to the mains, pull them out when not in use.
- Consider using plugin LED nightlights vs switching on the hallway light at night
That’s really it. The 1st 10% of cuts are easy. Just set and forget. It’s the next 30% that requires some change in lifestyle but as you can see it’s really not that difficult. There were some nights where the outside temperature was actually cooler than 25 degrees and it would have been cooler if we hadn’t used the aircon.
What this has shown is that we can definitely cut energy usage by a good percentage without eating into our lifestyle choices. It’s a good start but it’s just that, a start. If some climatologists are to be believed, we will have to cut our impact by more than 75%. To achieve that goal would mean very draconian cuts in our lifestyle or massive improvement in technology and most likely perhaps, both.