Sunday, August 26, 2007

Energy audit

I have decided to start an in-house energy audit today. We have already put in place a number of measures to reduce our energy consumption, however, I would like to reduce it even further. If we all have to use 60 per cent or more energy less than currently to achieve a reduction in green house gas emissions, home seems a good place to start.

We do not have the money for major upgrades or renovations, so I am trying to reduce our energy consumption and upgrade our energy efficiency on a budget. We do use the so-called “green energy” option from our electricity provider which means that the energy supplied to our household comes from renewable energy sources. However, energy generation is only part of the story. It has to be complemented by energy efficiency - in other words, we need to use less energy, and the energy we do use, should be from carbon-neutral sources.

Through a number of minor changes I have been able to reduce our energy consumption this winter by over 20 per cent compared to last year according to our energy bill. It was very easy to do and has made hardly any difference to our lifestyle (only a big difference to our budget due to the savings!).

This is what we did:
1. Replace almost all incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs. (The two I haven’t replaced have a dimmer. I had heard that you cannot use energy efficient light bulbs with dimmers - I tried nevertheless and found that not only do you hear a constant humming sound but also that the energy efficient light bulb burns out very quickly.)

2. Where possible, turn off all appliances at the powerpoint rather than leaving them on stand-by. This includes: computers, entertainment equipment (TV, video, stereo etc), rechargers for mobile phones, microwave, extension cords and power boards. I found that this measure alone reduced our energy cost by approximately 10 per cent.
The only appliances that keep going through the night, either on stand-by or actively are our fridge, our water pump (we use tank water to supply the house with water), the electric hot water system (which uses off-peak power), the telephone and answering machine and the oven which is hardwired (this is annoying as it has a timer/clock which I would like to be able to turn off).

3. Make good use of the slowcooker rather than the stove top. Apparently the slow cooker uses a lot less energy than cooking the conventional way, although I have not been able to test this properly to confirm.

4. Moved our two older children into one room together and keep the baby with us in our bedroom so we only need two rather than three or four (electric) heaters to keep us warm at night.

5. Bake a week's worth of bread in one sitting rather than several throughout the week.

6. Always turn the lights off when leaving a room.

I have now also turned off our freezer as we used up most of our produce. The remainder could fit easily into the freezer compartment of our fridge. I am curious to see what kind of difference this has made.

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