Simple Energy Savings in the Home – 6 things that anyone could do

It seems that every time you wake up, living costs have risen and it is getting tougher to find spare cash at the end of each month to save or invest. In many countries around the world, one of key costs is energy. Globally, energy is in short supply and will continue to become more and more expensive. In South Africa, for example, rumours of an annual price increase of as much as 53% have been circulating in the media. That is scary and while the world is quickly turning to renewable energy on a large scale, most people can’t afford to put a solar system on their house or they rent and simply pay what the bill says at the end of each month, feeling helpless at the ever rising costs.

Thankfully, saving energy can be simple and cost effective, offering great returns and freeing up cash to invest or save at the end of each month. The key is identifying what you need to change, finding out how much it will cost you to change it and then working out how much you’ll save. I’ve built up a little list below of thing to do in  your home. Not everyone can do everything, but take a look around your house, I guarantee you that you’ll find something that you can change to save you money.

Simple and effective – it is cheaper to heat yourself, than your house

First off, if you live in a cold environment, wear warm clothing, accept that you can’t just wear shorts and t-shirt inside during winter and turn the heat down. I’m not even going to work out how much you’ll save, just trust me on this, you’ll notice the difference.

Being efficient – Insulation for heating and cooling

Second, insulate your house. I live in South Africa, a supposedly hot country, yet our winters are frighteningly cold and our houses just aren’t designed for this. We have air gaps under our doors, our windows don’t shut properly and our ceilings aren’t insulated. Instead, we run electric or gas heaters and light fires. In summer, we run air conditioning to keep us cool. Rather insulate your house. Products like http://www.eco-insulation.co.za can go a long way in helping to reduce your heating bill.

Speaking of heating, let’s compare a gas heater to an electric bar heater. Both of these heat your room, but which one is more expensive. If you have a 9kg gas cylinder as a base, it has around 500MJ of energy inside it. 500MJ of energy is also around 140kWh of electricity. In the UK gas is approximately 1p per MJ, so the value of gas you’ve burnt in the heater is around £5. The cost of using electricity to provide the same heat is around £16.50, more than 3 times the cost.

A bright idea – The obvious is often overlooked

Another really simple place to start is changing your lights. Let’s assume that your lights run 6 hours per day on average, that’s 2,190 hours a year. A very typical light is the low voltage downlight. It looks pretty, is low voltage (not low energy) and often there are 10s of them in a room. In my lounge, I have 12 of them. I’ve switched them to LEDs, each 5W, so I have 60W running 2,190 hours per year to get 131 kWh per year in electricity. In Cape Town, it is R2.20 per kWh, so that is R280 a year to run my lights in my lounge. If they were the old 50W halogen lights, it would use 1314 kWh of electricity, that’s R2,980 per year. It cost me R900 to change my lights, but I save R2,700 per yer. That’s a 4 month return on my money and a big saving plus LEDs last up to 20,000 hours, so my lights should last me almost 10 years. The lesson here, always check the wattage of what you are buying.

Blankets are not just for you

If you have an electric geyser or any hot water storage cylinder for that matter. Insulate it. Use a geyser blanket. Geyser blankets will save you around 300 kWh per year. That’s R660 a year in Cape Town and it costs you around R350. That’s a return of a little over 6 months.

The clothes make the bill

If you tumble dry your clothes, consider this. A tumble drier uses 3kW per hour. On a 2.5 hour dry cycle, that’s 7.5kWh. If you run the drier 4 times a week, that’s 120kWh per month, or around £13 pounds a month. If you can let the clothes air dry, you can save a few bucks each month that add up over the year.

Washing at 10 degrees warmer can add 50% to the energy cost of the cycle. 

These might seem like small numbers, but overtime and over your whole house, it’s definitely worth seeing where you can reduce costs to free up some extra cash at the end of each month.

Ken is Technical Director at Terra Firma SolutionsHe is a professional Electrical Engineer with extensive experience in turnkey engineering projects focused on energy management, energy monitoring, electrical design and rooftop solar photo voltaic systems.He has key engineering skills in concept development, preliminary and detailed design, contracts, project management and delivery of key ready solutions along with management of large multi-disciplinary engineering and business analytics teams.

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