Energy audit shines light on savings

03 Aug 11 07:00AM EST
Post by Matthew Steen  Matthew Steen Google Plus

Saving energy is all the rage these days, which is no surprise given rising energy prices. A little while ago my wife and I took part in a voluntary government study which measured the standby power and lighting in 150 Australian households.

You will have heard of energy audits before, where some people come to your home and replace all the globes with efficient CFLs and, if you are lucky, give you some advice on what changes you can make in the household to make things more energy efficient such as insulation, reducing drafts, more efficient hot water systems and potential use of solar panels.

As this audit was conducted to gather information for a study on household lighting and standby energy use, it was much more in-depth, they actually measure all the appliances power on standby in the house. They also make a list of all the lights (lighting is estimated to be between 7% and 15% of residential electricity use) in the house and ask you some questions about when you have the lights and various other appliances turned on in the house.

The survey questions were quite illuminating (no pun intended) as you get to know your movements throughout the day, where most of your time is spent and it makes you realise that changing a few of your habits with regards to your movements can save you energy.

The standby power is also surprising. Standby energy is estimated to be around 10% of residential electricity use, and it’s not hard to see where it comes from. We just didn’t realise how many appliances we had that were plugged in all the time. Some appliances, such as TVs, even draw power when they are turned off at the unit. Other appliances, such as phone chargers, draw power when they have no phone attached – if they are plugged in all day they can actually use more energy than when they are recharging the phone.

While we turn off a lot of our appliances at the wall before we leave for the day (apart from the fridge of course), much of our energy is consumed by accidentally forgetting to turn some items off. We were sent a summary of our survey some months later and found that while we had a lower number of appliances than average for the survey (42 versus 67), the number still seems excessive. Our biggest standby power drawing appliances, the laptop and our TV, immediately went on our daily list of things to turn off at the wall.

The summary also listed what was drawing the most power in our overall bill. Since we have mostly halogen down-lighting in our home, it was no surprise that this draws most of our power. It’s easy to forget that one light switch is hooked up to four halogen lights that end up drawing 50W each (plus 10W for the transformer attached to it), making for a large power bill if we leave them on for longer than necessary. We don’t advocate living in the dark; it’s much simpler to just turn off what you aren’t using. In addition they also supplied information about alternatives to halogen lighting and gave the cost benefit to us if we were to swap over.

We have limitations on what we can change (we rent), but there are still many things we can rationalise to lower our power bill, and it’s not hard to see this can be done in most people’s homes. Timing switches, energy monitors and CFLs all make it easier to spend less and coincidentally make your household greener in energy usage.

Now all we have to do is rationalise our heating and cooling, so we may be buying some more clothing and relying less on the heaters.

Have you had an energy survey done? Did you find it useful and did you see your changes reflected in your energy bill? What ideas have you had to make your home more energy efficient?


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