Environmentally friendly technologies are usually associated with smug, inner city techno- hipster types but what if I were to tell you that they can save you an absolute bomb in the long run? Going green is a great option for those who are as concerned about their family’s bottom line as they are about the environment. Here at Chez Abulous we managed to slash our electricity bill by 85% with a little work and upfront investment. That’s not a misprint. Until Dadabs took matters into his own hands our electricity bill was around $1,000 per quarter. Our latest quarterly bills were closer to $100. In effect we’ve saved around $3,500 per year. Whilst this may not buy me a Prada handbag it covers my cappuccino, chocolate and wine habits – just.
Here are the five steps we took to achieve this.
1) Solar panels: Besides marrying me having solar (photovoltaic) panels installed is arguably the best thing Dadabs has ever done in his domestic life. Our solar panels pretty much cover all of the home’s electricity needs during the day light hours. Occasionally we even over generate and sell power back to the grid. This means that the house is actually making us (a small amount of ) money instead of sucking it remorselessly from our bank accounts.
The Federal government currently provides incentive to install solar panels through the Small Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). Under this plan households (or small businesses and community groups) who install eligible systems are allocated a number of Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs) which are mini-carbon credits. The number of certificates issued depends upon the amount of power the system is expected to generate over a 15 year period. The householder can then assign the STCs to a registered agent for an upfront incentive – usually a discount on the installation price. Otherwise they can sell the STCs themselves through the Clearing House (like a stock market specifically for these instruments). Most people opt for the upfront discount because the Clearing House route is frankly a long winded pain in the bum.
2) Rejigging the hot water system: Here’s where smart metering comes in handy. Dadabs happened to notice that our electric hot water system was heating during peak periods when power is more expensive. We were frankly being ripped off. We arranged for the system to be put on a timer so that the heating took place over night in the off-peak period when power is considerably cheaper.
We then decided to do away with the whole thing and install a solar hot water system instead. Now we can enjoy long hot showers any time we please without our electricity retailer benefiting. Its a good thing when you bath your kids in a double spa the size of a small swimming pool. As with the photovoltaic panels, solar hot water systems are covered by the SRES, offsetting the cost of installation. Some state governments also offer other rebates for solar hot water but sadly NSW is not one of them. Bastards!
3) Installing LED lighting: Those new fangled LED lights that you’ve heard about are more expensive than traditional incandescent and halogen lights. However independent tests indicate that they are up to 80% cheaper to run. There are a number of state government based schemes that offer incentives for households to switch from halogen downlights to LEDs which are similar in nature to the solar rebates.
In a massive military style operation we replaced almost every light bulb in the house with LEDs. Yes – it was an expensive exercise but we are reaping the benefits now.
4) Switching stuff off: This one is a no brainer. We did a quick inventory and found that we were continuously running systems that we simply did not need. Our security system was running 24/7. Not any more. Similarly the previous owners had put in an automatic sprinkler system which we simply turned off. Other appliances like sub woofers, a bar fridge, the media center and the printer were chewing up energy for no good reason. We flicked the switch.
5) Use efficient appliances: This one is also very straight forward. As your appliances die a natural death replace them with energy efficient models. The mandatory Energy Rating Label (ERL) makes this task easy. The more stars displayed on the label at the point of sale the more efficient the product. Items with over six stars are considered ‘super efficient’.
Not everyone is in a position to throw a few thousand dollars at solar panels, solar hot water heating and brand new appliances but there is still plenty of things you can do to keep your costs down. Although the thought of it may make your eyes glaze over, its worth while to go through your electricity bill with a fine tooth comb. There’s a good chance that the plan you are on is not optimal for you. The electricity companies purposely make their plans so complicated and painful that deters the average person from questioning them. It is time consumers stood up to this treatment. At the very least you can ring your electricity provider and threaten to leave. Its remarkable how quickly they will offer you a discount which could save you hundreds of dollars per year.
Electricity – its not sexy but saving serious money sure is.
Have you got any power saving tips to share.