Whether you’re moving home and want to cut down your energy bills, saving for a deposit and need to tighten your purse strings, or you want to become a more sustainable energy user, it’s important to know your energy usage and which appliances are sucking up your power. One of the main ways we waste money is through unnecessary energy consumption, and this is often caused by using the wrong everyday appliances – or the right appliances in the wrong way. We’ve seen some shocking examples of bill devastation. A standout was a woman with an electricity bill for $3200 for three months. Why? She had left the air-conditioner on constantly because the person who installed it told her this was the best way to use it. He was wrong.
How am I billed?
Energy usage is billed by kilowatt hours (kWh) – 1000 watts operating for one hour. This is important to know so you can gage an awareness of how much your mod cons’ average consumption is costing, and can avoid any jaw-dropping moments when the quarterly bill arrives. To find out how much a kilowatt costs you, check your most recent energy bill.
Appliances to be careful with
Fan heater – if you have a portable fan heater, unplug it and put it in the bin. They use between 1000 W – 2400 W per hour and cost between $0.30 – $0.70 per hour to use. Do not be fooled by size – a very small portable heater may be responsible for adding hundreds of dollars to your winter electricity bill. Always check the energy value written on the compliance plate before use and be mindful of budgeting to meet the potential running cost. Portable fan heaters are terrible consumers of energy and there are far better ways to stay warm such as an electric throw rug, which uses a maximum of 150 Watts. (0.15 kW).
Clothes dryer – clothes dryers use 4.6kW per load on average – that’s 4600 watts – costing about $1.40 per load.
Cooling – there is a huge variance in cooling products.
*An average outdoor deck fan uses 250W per hour;
*An average ceiling fan uses 65W per hour;
*An average pedestal or desk fan needs just 40W per hour. One of the surest ways to save power and money is by relying more on fans than refrigerated and evaporative cooling systems, which use about 1500W per hour on average.
Air conditioner – Summer in Australia is sweaty work. But here’s some food for thought.
*A 2.5kW air-con unit operating at 70% capacity for 1 hour needs 672W to do its icy job
*A 5kW unit working to cool 2 rooms for 1 hour eats up 1393W
*A 12kW unit (small household size), uses a whopping 3465W each hour on average to cool an entire house zone (day or night); which may be reduced by closing doors to uninhabited rooms and/or isolating inhabited areas on stinking hot days. But let’s not forget, at 70% capacity that’s adding almost 3.5kWh and $1.00 to your next bill for every single hour of usage.
Calculating energy usage
Check and photograph compliance plates on your appliances. Compliance details must be stamped on all electrical appliances in Australia. Depending on the type of appliance, it may have an input wattage figure or two values (one for amps and one for volts). If the figure is amps and volts simply multiply amps by volts to get a wattage value to help you calculate its power appetite.
Understand star energy ratings
Does your appliance have a sticker? This can help you work out how it compares to others, bearing in mind the star rating system began some years ago and the minimum energy performance standards for various appliances has changed over time to encourage manufacturers to increase the efficiency of new models.
How did your appliance perform in it’s industry test?
Look for information on how your air conditioner or clothes dryer performed during its standard industry test. Clothes dryer labels will show an estimated number of kWh hours per year, this number is based on the appliance drying one load of washing, weekly (52 times) over one year. Air conditioner labels reveal the unit’s output and input capacity in kWh (how large an area it will cool/heat and how much energy it will use to do the job). Also included is information on whether the unit has a variable output compressor (also known as an inverter type compressor), which is an indication that the unit is capable of operating between 20% – 30% more energy efficiently than units with the ‘NO’ box ticked.
Here are our top shopping tips and handy hints for buying new appliances:
*Look for sensor dryers: These automatically turn off when clothes are dry, saving you money on unnecessary power.
*Underestimate drying times: If your dryer is an old-school timer type, check clothes’ dryness regularly and don’t overload cycles. Overloading means the dryer is less effective, and will take longer to dry your laundry.
*Opt for front-loading washing machines: Front loaders spin faster than top-loading machines so clothes come out drier, and need less time to dry as well as using far less water than a top loading machine.
*Buy appliances with invertors: Older-style appliances including air-conditioner units stop/start with that audible ‘clunk’ whenever their motors turn off and then on again as thermostats register a drop/rise of about two degrees; invertors subtly control appliance temperatures to within 0.5 degrees and achieve greater energy efficiency (think microwaves).
*Know the specifications: Before you commit to a new appliance, know the energy use specifications, this way you’ll be able to calculate the potential running costs based on the tariff pricing listed on your latest bills.
*Talk to your energy provider: Find out if you have the best package on offer. Is there an off-peak rate available in your area that will suit you?
*Download an app: There are several apps which tell you how to monitor your usage and they’re very useful. Your energy provider may have its own app, or you can go to energyrating.gov.au, this app will give you the best ratings for the type of appliance you are shopping for. It can also help you find the most energy smart option for your money.
*Make some energy use house rules: Set the air-con thermostat at 24 degrees during summer, 20 degrees in winter, reflecting most manufacturer recommendations. Every degree higher you go in summer will save you about 10% energy consumption.
*Fans first on hotter days: go to your fans before turning on the air-conditioner, always close blinds/ curtains and shut doors to uninhabited rooms.
*Are your filters clean? Check that outside air filters on air-con units are free of obstruction from trees/leaves and so on, and inside filters are dust-free.
Calculations based on average peak domestic energy price of $0.30 per kWh (average SA, NSW, VIC, QLD, ACT network area standard tariffs as at September 2014).