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Energy usage audit (and improvement)

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  • #252511
    Vanessa
    Member

    This is a challenge I am doing for myself with the main intention to avoid being ripped off by my electricity company again (see the story below). How many of us get our bills and just pay them, assuming that the providing company couldn’t possibly make a mistake, and if they did, what proof/reasoning would you have to back up your argument?

    My challenge is to monitor your household’s energy usage and make sure what the companies are charging you is correct. Also I want to work out what my energy hungry appliances are and hence really think about if I need to use them and then limit their usage.

    Who else wants to join me?

    ………………………………………………………………………..

    Read on to understand my reasons behind doing this for myself.

    Ok after getting a very shocking (and luckily incorrect) electricity bill for our new house at over $1000 for our first month, yes that is right 31 days and we allegedly used over 4000 kWh of energy I have decided to try to analyse our power usage.

    When I first opened the bill I thought “that’s quite high for a quarter” (it has been over 4 months since we moved in), like about three times what I would expect compared to our previous house which was all electric apart from the stovetop (this one is completely all electric), but when I started to examine it more closely I discovered that this bill was for 31 days…..only 1 month,!!! 😮 :@

    After picking myself up off the floor, but still shaking at the thought of what might be wrong, and how we could possibly have a bill that high, I rang the electricity company. I was told that the dates of the readings were correct (it was for 1 month) but the amount did seem quite high, and they would investigate it. Umm yes this is a 2 adult household which at that time both of us worked Monday to Friday so were only home of an evening and weekends and I’ll admit we are not complete power misers, but we are sensible about our usage (trackies, jumpers and wheat bags rather than shorts and the heater, lights off if we aren’t using them, curtains open to let the warmth in in winter and closed to keep the heat out in summer etc)

    At the advise of the woman at the electricity company I turned everything of in the house at the wall took a reading of the meter then a few hours later took another reading with the logic that if the meter was still ticking over then it was an error with the meter. No luck there, meter stayed the same so no fault with that. So we were stuck in limbo, the bill was classified as “In dispute” (so we shouldn’t get any red letters until it is resolved) and they were going to look into their billing department and see if an error was made.

    Not trusting these companies I ended up ringing up ETSA, who are the ones which do the readings, to see if I could find out what the final reading of the previous owners were (they moved out only days before we moved in) thinking there had to be a mistake in our initial reading. The guy I spoke to was so helpful, and noticed that the “Turn off” reading (from the previous owners) was different to our “turn on” reading, meaning there was an error somewhere. He ended up giving us a new (apparently correct) reading as our “turn on” reading and was going to follow it up with our provider and get our bill re-issued with the correct usage on it.

    So we are waiting for a replacement bill which by my calculations will be no where near the original one, but still seems a bit high for what I would expect we use.

    I have been taking photos of our meter, and have set up a spreadsheet which takes into account the length of time between readings and works out a kWh/day amount, which quite conveniently is also listed as an average amount on our bill.

    My intention is to note when we use what I think are “hungry” things and see how much of a difference they actually make to our daily usage.

    Here’s my list of what I think are “hungry” appliances:

    Heater (Ducted refrigerated reverse cycle)

    Pool Pump

    Electric oven and stove top (we are looking at getting the stove top changed to an LPG one, but that is another story)

    Dryer (rarely used anyway)

    #468996
    ccBear
    Member

    Check your microwave as well you may be surpised how much it uses.

    Our bore pump uses just over a unit an hour so its use is restricted.

    Plasma TV is a big user, we can be recording 4 cents an hour cost and turn the TV on and it goes to 8 cents an hour.

    Been through ours and the only reduction I will be able to achieve is when my son moves out again.

    #468997
    Vanessa
    Member

    ccBear wrote:

    Check your microwave as well you may be surpised how much it uses.

    yes had thought of that one but we dont often use it, the majority of the time we use it is to either start something defrosting, or to heat up wheat bags. So at 1100W (1.1kW) used for 2min to heat up a wheat bag uses 0.036kWh of electricity, So even if it is reheated say 4 times during the evening that is 0.15kWh which is probably fairly small considering that the compressor on the aircon/heater says it is 3.5kW. So I am assuming that running the heater for an hour would use close to 3.5kWh

    #468998
    goodscissors
    Member

    In terms of bill errors, we received our new one after changing providers, and thought it looked a bit high. After careful reading we discovered that although the bill was sent to me at my address, the metering address was next door. They had swapped over their account to the new provider not ours! We had to start the swap process all over again. All up it only took 10 months to swap providers (and be purchasing greenpower). Yay privatisation.

    I can’t join in the reduction challenge as we’re only using 2KwH a day and I’m not allowed to nag anymore about switching things off;)

    My mum and dad have found that they save a bit of standby from the printer (even when switched off by the button on the printer, it still draws unless you turn off the powerpoint) and the dishwasher.

    Good luck!

    #468999
    lavman
    Member

    Another biggie is an electric jug, we got a larger than usual bill so we went on a search, first we turned everything off, then one appliance at a time we turned on for a while and watched the meter, some things sent the meter spinning while others barely turned it.

    The worst one was an old fridge which we keep switched on in the laundry just in case we needed to get some drinks cold!!!!!!!!!

    Other spinners were anything that heated ie toaster, frying pan, jug, and flood lights.

    #469000
    Vanessa
    Member

    goodscissors wrote:

    I can’t join in the reduction challenge as we’re only using 2KwH a day and I’m not allowed to nag anymore about switching things off;)

    My mum and dad have found that they save a bit of standby from the printer (even when switched off by the button on the printer, it still draws unless you turn off the powerpoint) and the dishwasher.

    Good luck!

    gee, goodscissors, 2kWh a day that is good :clap: is your house all electric, if so that deserves an extra :clap:

    Good coment about the printer, at the moment we have our laptops set up on the kitchen table (what I want as a computer/reading room is still a “junk room) and the printer is on the floor turned off but still plugged in, I’m thinking that seing that is is used very rarely (to print a reciept from paying a bill, etc) That it could be packed away into the cupboard, unplugged and not cluttering up the room.

    We have a dishwasher, again we barely use it, might have to see if I can find where it is plugged into and if it has a switch I can switch off

    #469001
    Vanessa
    Member

    lavman wrote:

    Another biggie is an electric jug, we got a larger than usual bill so we went on a search, first we turned everything off, then one appliance at a time we turned on for a while and watched the meter, some things sent the meter spinning while others barely turned it.

    The worst one was an old fridge which we keep switched on in the laundry just in case we needed to get some drinks cold!!!!!!!!!

    Other spinners were anything that heated ie toaster, frying pan, jug, and flood lights.

    I agree about the electric jug but then I think that it is sort of like the microwave, it is a big user of power but it is only on for a short period of time, it think the alternatives for me to boil water (on the electric stove top) would use more power than the kettle

    Talking about flood lights, the heat lights in bathrooms use extrodinary amounts of power, we have them, cant remember the exact wattage (possibly 275W each) but no wonder they punch out some heat with four of them, hence only the normal light gets used there, my theory is if its cold when you get out of the shower get dried and dressed quickly.

    #469002
    goodscissors
    Member

    [vanessa wrote ]gee, goodscissors, 2kWh a day that is good is your house all electric, if so that deserves an extra

    Well, actually, we do have gas for water, cooking (stove and oven) and heating – almost nothing in summer, but lots in winter. :shy:

    If only we had solar panels…

    #469003
    Vanessa
    Member

    Well as an update, I have been keeping a diary of meter readings and have worked out that at the moment our average daily usage (from when I started in the middle of June to now) is around the 17kWh/day which is what it used to be in our old house.

    We have been using the heater a bit but its only for a couple of hours at night time to take the chill of the air, and even then we “suffer” for half an hour or so before we turn it on

    Yes we could probably cut it down further, but for an all electric house and our comfort I think that is fairly good.

    #469004
    RuddyCrazy
    Member

    Well we’ve been off the grid since ’03 and our standalone system cost 17K after the govt rebate. I just did a calc on the monthly cost since we put it in and currently it is $188 a month and dropping every month after. Granted we do have a backup genset and depending on the weather it can cost about $20 a week if it’s pouring down and the sun doesn’t show. Once I get the 4kw motor conversion finished and installed on the house array hopefully the backup genset won’t be needed. So that will mean even more cost savings.

    The way the grid power prices are going north I reckon we are on a winner and granted in about 5-8 years time will need new batteries but eh in the long run being off the grid I feel is the way to go.

    Cheers Bryan

    #469005
    Airgead
    Member

    On the whole off grid/on grid thing – if you have the grid available, you are far better off going grid connected. You can think of the grid as being a giant battery that you feed excess power into when you aren’t using it and draw power from when your own capacity isn’t enough.

    Although the whole self sufficiency thing is attractive, if everyone went off grid, we would end up needing 2-3 times as many panels and batteries as we would if we were all grid connected. In an off grid siutuation, each house needs to handle its own peak loads which can be 2-3 times higher than steady state. In a grid connected setup, the peaks are spread across the whole grid. So the overall generating capacity required works out as being significantly less than a whole bunch of individual systems.

    The cost savings on grid connected are significant.Both from an individual perspective and from the perspective of transitioning communities to renewable energy.

    Cheers

    Dave

    #469006
    dianne
    Member

    is it possible to get a set up so you are on the grid and then later a stand alone?

    or do you need to set these up seperatly?

    #469007
    Airgead
    Member

    Generally you would need to swap inverters if you went from grid connected to standalone. You can apparently get some inverters that will do both. They are very common in places like India where the grid supply is not reliable so they have grid connect with a small battery backup. I don’t know whether any of those type are licensed for use in Australia. There are some safety issues that may prevent them from being used. Normally a battery backed system can not be tied to the grid for safety reasons.

    Cheers

    Dave

    #469008
    slowlynow
    Member

    Agreed Airgead! This I think is one of the biggest dilemma for people wanting to do the right thing for the environment.

    If we all go ‘self sufficient’ in a world with diminishing resources it is in fact, hugely inefficient! Power grids are efficient, factory farming is efficient. Maybe not ethical, but resource savvy.

    This may not be what people want to hear, but I think it comes back to this blue planet’s biggest dilemma, too many people. Without technology and the most efficient way of doing things, there is no way we can possible survive in the long term!

    #469009
    RuddyCrazy
    Member

    This is getting off topic but that thread I did before and the mention of the selectronic SP range inverters can be grid tie OR standalone. My mate who had the passionfruit farm with 2 of them sold up and became a banana bender up in the daintree. He just put in a 10Kw system and used the SP inverter. I asked him why go with a grid tie when ya aint got the grid and his reply was that SP inverter is the smartest inverter I’ve seen and I taught to make the toast on a morning.

    Cheers Bryan

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