When it comes to household appliances, they are not all created equal. Some labour saving devices are heavy energy users, while others are far lighter on the juice. With electricity being the biggest bill for most homes, electricity usage is an obvious place to make savings, and in most homes, there are some clear black spots in energy use.
Perhaps surprisingly, the first place to start looking for savings is any machine that makes things hot or cold, and then move on to some of the other potential electrical vampires that may be lurking in the house.
Cooling air uses a lot more energy than heating it, so air conditioners are the most energy intensive appliances in most houses. The best way to save electricity in this case is not turn them on, and keep the house cool in other ways on predicted hot days:
- Shut curtains during the day
- Keep doors and windows closed as soon as the sun rises
- Seal up any gaps under doors and around windows and pipes
- Outdoor awnings and carefully planted shade plants can make a huge difference
When you do need to switch it on, the higher the thermostat is set, the less work the air conditioner has to do, so keep it comfortable, but not Arctic.
Energy Fact: A ducted refrigerator system heating 140m2 of a 200m2 home costs an estimated $2.07 – $2.59 to run per hour. This calculation is based on electricity costing 36.5 cents per Kwh.
Like cooling, heating all the air space in a house can use a lot of energy, and electric heating elements are among the most electricity hungry devices in the home. Again like air conditioners, avoid turning them on until absolutely necessary by keeping warm in other ways:
- Seal up all the gaps
- Close off unused rooms
- Put on warmer clothes
- Open curtains during the day and close them at night
- Use the lowest heat setting that’s comfortable
If possible, move to gas powered heating, which is a more efficient and less expensive energy source than electric options.
Energy Fact: A small reverse cycle air conditioner working over a space of 12m2 is estimated to cost around 11-15 cents per hour. This is based on a cost of 33C per kWh for the electricity.
The older a fridge is, the more money it costs. This is partly due to improvements in refrigerator efficiency in recent years, but ageing mechanisms and faulty door seals make the fridge work harder than necessary. There are ways to improve the efficiency of fridges:
- Check door seals and replace if necessary
- Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the fridge and freezer
- Adjust the thermostat to the warmest setting that keeps food fresh
- Position the fridge in a cool spot out of direct sunlight
Of course, if a fridge is older than about ten years, it is likely to be time for replacement, as described in this article from Home Improvement Pages. Modern fridges will generally save enough electricity annually to pay themselves off in a few years.
Energy Fact: A medium size fridge costs an estimated $166.60 per year in electricity. This calculation is based on a 300-399 litre fridge running 24 hours a day, consuming 490 kWh of energy.
Water heaters are generally more efficient than heating air in a house, as they are often well insulated, but there are some tips that can save energy:
- Adjust the thermostat so water is not over-heated
- Insulate hot water pipes that lead into the house
- In smaller households, move to on demand hot water systems
- Investigate solar boosted hot water systems
- Use low flow shower heads and taps to reduce the amount of heating required in the tank
Ultimately, as with space heating, gas is generally cheaper and more efficient at heating water than electric elements, and should be considered if possible.
Energy Fact: Water heating often accounts for 25% of the energy used in the average home. Depending on your system type, heating water can cost around $2,964 for Electric Storage, or $1,287 for a natural gas instantaneous system; for more detail on estimated costs, see this article.
Most people don’t use their oven every day, but due to the sheer size of the appliance, it can use and waste a lot of energy, and there are ways to reduce that consumption too:
- For smaller cooking tasks, a toaster oven may be more efficient
- Think about whether the microwave or grill might be a better option
- Avoid using the oven in summer where possible, it will compete with the air conditioner
- Try “time stacking” your meals to cook several courses – as it heats, at its peak, as it cools
- As with fridges, oven seals should be checked and replaced if necessary
As with other kinds of heating, gas is a cheaper and more efficient way to cook, and should be seriously considered, especially if replacing an old oven.
Energy Fact: A gas cooker or cooktop typically uses around 12 mega joules per hour, which roughly equates to $0.48. Electric ovens often cost significantly more; though fan assisted ovens can save energy.
A final word…
Of course there are other electricity users in most homes, so perhaps investigate which of your appliances is using the most power by taking a look at their energy rating labels. This labelling has been around since 1986, and according to RenewEconomy.com.au has made significant differences to Australian’s ability to make energy savings. Additionally, this Electrical Appliance Running Cost Calculator from sa.gov.au allows you to enter the information on the label for your appliance, and calculate your quarterly running costs.
Whether you have the most efficient home, or the least, getting a great deal from your energy company is a top way to make savings, compare providers here.