Electricity 2: Understanding my home: How to reduce my electricity bills?

Continued from Electricity 1: How much does a meal cost at home?

It was of a total coincidence that I got enrolled in a training on electricity. I confessed to the trainer that I’m nowhere close to the field and that he has to treat me like teaching to a Kindergartner. I told him to begin with the utter basics. In my college times, I had to learn all those symbols of resistors, capacitors etc, but my college syllabus in India did a mistake from the beginning. They began right away with advanced concepts as star networks, series and parallel connections etc. and moreover there were no hands on teaching too. All these mysterious symbols and terminologies which were taught over 6 months, by the time I had finished writing the exam, felt like being shoved down my throat. I simply shunned and consciously stayed away from anything electricity until now. A new opportunity knocked on door in a different land. My shock had subsided by this time and I considered giving it a second try. In the first class, he began with “Watt”. It was a simple beginning and I could understand as I have seen this term on many products. It’s something familiar and my mind voice said, “Yes, go ahead, I’m hearing”.

He just didn’t teach the concepts; he also made us to build simple electrical devices. The problem with electricity is that you cannot see it! Playing with such devices bettered the imagination and thereby the understanding. We were excited as we got to build like a Lego and simultaneously got to learn something which loomed like a monster years before. Learning was gradual and star networks came only after 10 classes. By this time, we had covered all the relevant basics to be able to imagine such concepts. Learning by imagination is more relevant to this field than many other. It’s a different world altogether.

Back to “Watt”, I asked him how to understand it. A bulb has 40W Rating. I saw from the bills that my electricity cost is 0.27€ per kWh. He said that if I switch on this bulb for one hour, I will use 40 Watts electricity. A bulb with 40 Watts rating means that it consumes 40 Watts power when it is used for one hour. In kilowatt hours 40 Watts mean 0.040 KWh (Divide the Watt Rating by 1000). Multiplying 0.040 with 0.27€m which is the cost of electricity for one kWh, I pay 0.0108€, which is one cent. I pay one cent Euros to use this bulb for an hour.

'Do you mind? No point wasting electricity.'
‘Do you mind? No point wasting electricity.’

This basic understanding got me excited that I went home and noted down the Watt ratings of all the electrical devices at home and together with my wife we tried to estimate how many hours per week we were using each device. I programmed a simple calculator on Excel. While I was trying to calculate the yearly consumption per device, my wife already got anxious on which device the calculator will spit out as costly. Even without seeing the numbers, for the first time, she got conscious of the usage. I think we all are normally wired that way. I never had read any Watt Ratings while purchasing and I hardly ever thought of the usage, as it’s something not visual or giving instant feedbacks like an over-heated pan. You react instantly to remove the pan from the stove, as you will feel the heat right away.

The calculator gave the results. My wife got over-worked up looking at the numbers that she wanted to unplug everything. Although we knew that washing machine and stove would end up on top of the list, we did not know that it almost cost 2€ to run them per hour. My wife was like “Do we even need to launder clothes?” I asked her back rhetorically “Do we even have to eat?” It took some time for us to cool down from the over-excitement. My wife decided then and there to make higher loads and run simpler programs to get lesser cycles. Similarly we discussed on how to cut down the usage of the top 10 items. It was a healthy and financially impacting discussion. One surprising candidate on top was kitchen bulb. I had no memory that I had bought a 70W bulb. It’s also a device which we use daily and for many hours. We decided to use it carefully. What the list also showed us was the many of the unused devices. If you had invested a lot into a product and not using it, this is the best time to resell it.

By entering your usage, Watt and cost of electricity, the analyzer will tell you your overall power consumption in a year. When I tried this tool for the first time, the result what came out and the cost of my electricity bill were two different numbers. My sheet had way higher kWh (yearly consumption) than what was actually consumed. It is not that the calculator is wrong, rather the judgement of our own measurements of usage and the real Watt needed by the device itself (see Appendix). What the sheet eventually tells you are the proportions. If a device has 12% of usage in the calculator, there are higher chances that it’s taking 12% of your final electrical bill as well. Proportions are a reliable indicator of usage. The colours in the columns show you the proportions. Below you can download the sheet to evaluate your own home. Just fill in the fields. It will hardly take few minutes. Once the sheet is ready, you can filter and sort different columns in descending order to see which device you are using the most/ least and which is costing the most/ least.

 

Click here to download the calculator: My Home

 

My yearly consumption came to above 8000 kWh, because of an old styled electric heater we have at home. It’s a heart-ache every time to see the bill. If we act on just the top 20% of the list, we can easily influence 80% of our bill. By doing this exercise, you can easily target to save 20% of your annual consumption year by year. It is about 500€ for me per year or 50€ a month! I have also pasted an Infographic from our Energy supplier EnbW which lists the recommend kWh usage per household. Check it out. Have fun. Share your thoughts and queries in the comments section below. Cheers

P.S. Unplugging idle phone chargers does save electricity, but not much. Unless your device is from decades before, you don’t have to worry. Modern devices use 1 Watt or less on Stand-by (even a TV!). That is 8.76 kWh in a year or less than 3€! Apparently TV Set-top boxes or Audio systems consume a lot on Stand-by. Watch out! Rule of thumb. Bigger the device left on Stand-by, higher the chances of consumption.

*Source: http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/vampire.html

Watt

*Source: EnBW AG: (Language: German)

To be continued: Electricity 3: CO2 Emissions: a floor report

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Appendix: 

I felt like Tom Hanks coming back to the city in “Cast Away” when my friend showed me this link. I’m late to the game by that much, that someone already had even made a business out of it.

Arendo – Home power measuring device

You can measure the exact Watt usage with this meter. You still have to enter the usage though. uff! Thankfully at least some use to my tool. 

What’s even advanced or which made me want to hang myself was a Wifi power measuring device which you can centrally control through Alexa!!!!

TP Link – Wifi power measuring device3

Recommended Reads:

1. https://cleantechnica.com/2019/03/30/the-best-summary-of-kenya-renewable-energy-dirty-energy-you-can-find/

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