Not the electricity! Energy saving tips

11 October 2012 | Posted In: #117 Spring 2012, Energy, Planning and Built Environment Issues, | Author: Ali G

By Ali G

Do you dread the electricity bill more than any other? Investment in power infrastructure in NSW has led to an increase of over 60% in average electricity bills over the last six years. The good news is that some tenants have found ways to bring their power usage and bills down.

When Northcott Towers, a public housing estate in Surry Hills, was renovated a few years ago tenants were delighted with their shiny new kitchens and bathrooms. But, they were soon noticing and complaining about their unexpectedly much higher electricity bills.

Northcott had gone modern and mainstream, but at a price. The clanking old water heaters had been instant, while the new ones were storage heaters and this meant more electricity usage. The storage heaters bubbled away day and night to provide gallons of piping hot water as needed, while at the same time tenants were using more of it; electricity itself was becoming increasingly expensive.

Canny tenants started taking advantage of the off-peak rates. They did their laundry on the weekend and switched water heaters off during the day. It only takes about half an hour to heat the whole storage tank, giving you a day’s careful use. If you can start that half hour at 10pm, when the much cheaper off-peak rate starts, you will save more. Careful use of hot water meant some used a small bowl for washing up. Others were able to wash up using almost no hot water, except for rinsing.

Tenants also started turning appliances off at the wall. Apparently, much more electricity than you’d expect goes into keeping these appliances on standby. Think about your electricity usage – only have the television on for shows you want to sit down and watch, not playing in the background. When making a cup of tea, do not boil more water than you need. When you can, use a microwave rather than the stove-top. Do not turn the oven on for just one thing – follow a casserole with a cake. Keep showers brief. Use shorter cycles on the washing machine and avoid having clothes in the dryer for longer than necessary.

Of course, then there’s the issue of climate control within your home. Apparently, climate control appliances such as air conditioners and heaters are the reason for all the expenditure on infrastructure, so as to avoid power failures when extremely hot or cold weather causes a giant spike in demand. Draw your curtains or blinds to reduce heat loss through the windows, while a ‘snake’ under the front door will stop it rattling and keep out cold winds. Rug up. In summer, draw the same blinds to block out heat on the sunny side of your unit or house, while letting any cooler air in from the shaded side. Change sides in the afternoon.

So, with all these tips, who is up for a dainty carbon footprint and even smaller electricity bills?

Originally published in Inner Sydney Voice, Issue 116, Spring 2012