Powersavvy - Savings
  • Take a structured approach
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    Take a look at your electricity bill. Do you know what the different items mean? Do you know what a unit means? How many units are you using? How much are you paying for a unit? Do you have night rate electricity? How much electricity do you use at night? (Check out the links page to get the answers to these questions)
  • Understand the market
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    Make yourself aware of electricity suppliers in the market (see links page). Can you avail of cheaper electricity by switching supplier? How much are you likely to save?
  • Be aware of your consumption
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    Do you know how to read your electricity meter (see links page for instructions on how to do this). Take regular readings to start getting an understanding of your usage patterns e.g. do you use more at weekends than weekdays etc. Identify what appliances seem to drive your costs
  • Tackle big energy consumers first
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    When taking steps to reduce energy costs, you will want to make sure that you get the biggest return for the effort you put in. It is vital to tackle your big consumers in order to have an impact i.e. if your washing machine is not a significant cost, then changing the temperature cycle is unlikely to have a significant impact on your bill. If you big cost is your immersion then you need to consider how you are using that.
  • Be aware of the 2 basic steps to reduce costs
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    1. Use cheaper electricity - this can be by changing to a cheaper supplier, or by availing of cheaper night rate electricity
    2. Rational use of energy i.e. do not use more than you need. There are 3 steps to take when considering how you use energy - see below.
  • Rational use of energy
    • Could an alternative energy source be used?
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      For each unit of electricity used, there are 2.5 units used on the generating side i.e. 60% of energy is lost in the generation and distribution of electricity. This basically appears as cost on your bill. For residential customers, the average cost of one unit of electricity is approximately 21c, whereas the same unit of energy from natural gas or coal costs approximately 6c (source SEI report on Domestic Fuels Comparison of Energy Costs July 2014). Electricity is convenient but is relatively expensive compared to other fuel sources. Therefore if the same job can be done with another fuel source it will be cheaper. However you cannot watch TV using gas, you can however heat your house with gas i.e. space or water heating is expensive using electricity.  Always consider alternatives for these purposes.
    • Can duration of operation be reduced?
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      It might seem obvious but if the duration a light is left on can be reduced, energy will be saved. A light left on in an unoccupied room is still wasting energy even if it is using energy efficient technology.
    • Can less energy be used?
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      Can less lights be turned on in the room, or can existing lights be dimmed. Either step reduces the total amount of watts being consumed at any point in time ultimately leading to less units of energy being consumed over time. Similar steps can be taken with other pieces of equipment, but each will have to be considered separately based on their operating characteristics etc.
  • Consider each appliance separately
    • Washing machine
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      Reducing temperature of wash cycle used will certainly save some energy. This is simply because not as much electricity is required to get the water to the required temperature. However the same amount of water is heated regardless of how much clothes are in the machine. Therefore a more effective step is to make sure the machine is full, so that you are effectively getting more clothes washed for the same amount of energy. Of course when reducing the temperature of the wash there is always a risk that the clothes do not wash properly and you will be forced to rewash at the higher temperature which will have undone any of your efforts to save energy as a full extra cycle will have been wasted at the lower temperature.
    • Lighting
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      Energy efficient lighting. The temptation is to let your guard down when energy efficient lighting is installed. However remember that leaving the light on in an unoccupied room is still wasting energy even when it is an energy efficient technology that is being used. When considering what light bulbs to replace with energy efficient ones, always tackle those which are used most often first e.g. if a 50W halogen spotlight is to be replaced with a 3W LED equivalent, there is a saving of 47W for every hour of operation. This saves one unit of electricity after 21 hours of operation. If there is a requirement to have this light on 24 hours per day, this change will save over €86 in one year, based on a unit of electricity costing 21c. If the light is used for one hour per day it will only save €3.60 per year. Therefore a quicker return on investment will be achieve from lighting which is used more often.
    • The mobile phone charger
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      I am sure you have heard that you should unplug your mobile phone charger when not in use. I recently measured the current drawn by a mobile phone charger on standby to be 1mA. This equals 230mW. In one year this will waste 2 units of power (costing 42c). Unplugging the charger is unlikely to have big impact on your bill, and unfortunately you cannot rest on your laurels thinking you have now done your bit to save planet by taking that step.
    • Standby
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      Just like leaving a light on in a room that is unoccupied, leaving items on standby is wasting energy. But how much energy is actually being wasted? This will vary from appliance to appliance, but similar to the mobile phone charger any single appliance is unlikely to have a major impact. However the problem in modern society is that more and more appliances have become common place that are left on standby e.g. laser printer, computer, DVD and Blueray players, playstations etc. Individually these may not add up to much but collectively can contribute a significant amount to your bill. The solution is less about turning the TV off when not in use, but more about being aware of all the other appliances that are on standby and making sure they are turned off as well.
  • Some useful tools
    • Base Load
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      When considering base load i.e. items left permanently on or items on standby, the main thing to do is to raise your awareness of how many appliances fall into this category. The template below is intended to help raise your awareness by providing a means of recording all the items in your home that are potentially drawing power permanently and hence costing you money. To use it, simply go from room to room and make a note of everything that is left plugged in. You can then ask yourself which appliances are likely to be drawing power i.e. a lamp left plugged in but turned off will not be drawing any power so will not be an issue but a TV left on standby will. Once this is identified you may be able to identify appliances that you can turn off without having too much of an impact and in this way potentially save yourself some money.
      Download Base Load Template
    • Lighting cost tracking
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      The second tool is to help you come to terms with how much your lights might be costing you. It is very difficult to accurately say how long various lights are left on. The intention with this tool is to again go through the rooms where lights are used, record the wattage, the quantity and the approximately hourly usage per day. The tool will then calculate the approximate contribution to your bi-monthly bill. (The unit rate with your current supplier can be adjusted at the top of the tool as well).
      Download Lighting Costs Tracking Template
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