By Dr Finance
Attention and initiative are all you need to reduce your electricity bills, says Dr Finance.
Now that we’ve decided to stick to a budget and monitor each category of expenses that hurts our monthly savings, let’s focus today on the one where we can see significant results with just a little bit of attention and initiative.
In this first of a two-part series on cutting down household electricity bills, we’ll look at some simple steps one can take to save loads of cash:
• Beware of the ‘phantom’
Moving beyond the obvious suggestion that you must switch off all the electronic gadgets and appliances when you aren’t using them, I’ll urge you to unplug them whenever you can.
Not only do your gadgets consume power in a standby mode but are also prone to ‘phantom’ electricity usage.
“Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These ‘phantom’ loads occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances,” the US department of Energy notes.
Alternatively, use a power strip: you can cut the power to the appliances using the switch on the power strip.
• Switch to CFLs
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), though slightly expensive than incandescent light bulbs - give the same amount of light, have a longer life and use less power.
CFLs will also keep your homes cooler than the incandescent light bulbs as the heat produced due to lighting will be reduced. This is a dual power-saving benefit, as it’ll be easier for air conditioners (AC) to cool your homes during summers.
• Raise the AC thermostat
The equation is simple: lesser energy consumption translates into significant savings in your power costs.
Notching up the AC by three to five degrees saves up to 30 percent in energy consumption and electricity bills, according to Limitless Executive Director Design and Planning Doug Kelbaugh .
So what is the optimum temperature to set our ACs at?
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) recommends adjusting our air-conditioning to 24 degrees Celcius.
Also, don’t forget to switch it off once you’re out of the room or set it to 28 degrees Celcius.
• Install a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat can save a lot on your bills by automatically adjusting the AC temperature in your homes to an optimum level once you fall asleep or aren’t at home.
Now why would people still keep their AC on, when not at home? Well, a lot of families have pets to care for - and it’s challenging for them to keep down their electricity bills - yet leaving their beloved ones in comfort (especially during the summers) while they’re away at work.
Again, this is an investment to start with, but the benefits that such thermostats offer, will ensure you’ll recover your cash in the form of savings over a period of time.
• Mind the gaps
Make sure that there are no air leaks through your (closed) windows and doors or even walls or ceilings. This applies to your refrigerator doors too.
A loose seal will allow cold air to escape and your ACs and refrigerators will have to work harder to keep you (or your food) cooler.
• Switch to fans whenever possible
Barring the sweltering summers, the temperatures in the Middle East are quite pleasant for the rest of the 4-6 months.
Fans (ceiling/ table/ wall/ pedestal) are the outright money savers compared to ACs. If you have one or can buy one, use a fan as often as you can to dramatically bring down your power bills.
• Maintain your appliances
This calls for regular servicing and paying your electrician/ mechanic once in a while. But it’s worth it – a) it ensures that your gadgets/ appliances work in optimum condition and use lesser electricity b) they live a longer life c) they have a better re-sale value.
So if you’re one of those who have smartly switched off their air conditioner since November/ December last year in favour of fans, this is just a gentle reminder to pull out your AMC (annual maintenance contract) and schedule a quick-servicing before the summer starts.
Maintain your electronic gadgets, electrical wiring and other appliances (toasters, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, ovens) regularly – the benefits outweigh the effort.
• Draw up those curtains
The lesser the heat trapped inside your homes – the easier for your air conditioners to cool them. So whenever you step out of your house, draw up the curtains and blinds to prevent sunlight from heating up your place, especially during the summers.
Window tinting is also a good option: the tinted film provides a reflective surface to bounce the sun's rays off.
• Watch your movies/ programmes on your laptop
Your laptop consumes lesser electricity than your normal television sets. So why not take the cheaper option and watch your DVDs on your laptop instead of your TV sets?
Besides, a lot of film and television content is legally available online for free.
Of course, the experience may not be the same – but then we’re trying to think of money saving ideas, isn’t it?
• Use less number of rooms
With different individual pursuits, it’s quite common that members of the same family spend time in separate rooms. But it may be worthwhile for each household to think of ways where they can assemble in a room, or lesser number of rooms for a certain period of time each day (without disturbing each other, of course).
If all the members of a family can share laughter, music, experiences and food together for some time than confine themselves to their own cells - they may still enjoy themselves – this with the lights, air conditioners, laptops, music systems and TVs in their individual rooms switched off!
After note: Next week, read the second part of this two-part series on cutting your household electricity bills. As I’d said in my first post , some of the suggestions here may be obvious and some outrageous. You may already be following some or may find some as impractical for your current situation.
But do the best you can to reduce your energy consumption to save money: you will be charged for lower number of units used and also pay a lower rate per unit too. Electricity companies base their rates on a ‘slab’ basis – so the moment you consume more and move up to the next slab, you will pay a greater penalty. The choice is obvious!
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QUOTE - - Maintain your electronic gadgets, electrical wiring and other appliances (toasters, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, ovens) regularly â€“ the benefits outweigh the effort. - - UNQUOTE I can tip out the crumbs from a toaster and change the dust bag on a vacuum cleaner. What please should I be doing to my fridge, oven and wiring ???? Come on AB - please don't tell us to meddle with electrics - - which in any case would not improve economy even if it was safe to do so.
"Besides, a lot of movie and television content is available online for free." Can you please advise us where you think this content is available for free - and legally so for viewers in the UAE? I'd love to know! I'm not aware of the existence of such outlets - I worry this may come across as a veiled endorsement of illegal downloading - copyright infringement anyone?
Adnan - thank you for raising a valid concern on this forum. Let me clarify that the article does not intend to endorse piracy or encourage copyright infringement of any kind. In fact, even in the previous Dr Finance posts, weâ€™ve regularly suggested that readers confirm with all legal rules and regulations at all times. To answer your question, a lot of television content is legally available online. All prominent news channels upload their content on their websites; some even offer â€˜liveâ€™ streaming videos (e.g. Al Jazeera English). Others share parts of their previous shows/ episodes on their websites (Dubai One/ National Geographic/ Discovery Channel) or through channels on video sharing sites (Zee TV). If you are a cricket fan, youâ€™ll be happy to know that the current Indian Premier League (IPL) is being broadcast live on YouTube, following an arrangement between the league and Google, owners of the Internet channel. Besides this, you can enjoy a lot of original film content online â€“experimental films, animation films, documentary films, short films â€“ made by upcoming movie-makers. (e.g: http://www.ukstudentfilms.co.uk/films.asp) All such content is legally free and coming to our article, consumes lesser power if watched online! Happy saving! - Dr Finance
DEWA advises that in order to save money we should use their water and electricity between midnight and 5am, as they charge a reduced rate at this time - I luckily have timers on my washing machine, tumbledryer and dishwasher which allows me to take advantage, but I would like to know who they think is up doing household chores at this hour? However, it doesn't really matter how much we try to economise, expatriates still subsidise national usage, and they will never conserve.
I am not happy to see negative comments on such effort. More than money, it is for environment. Why can't people just implement what they can and see the benefit rather than what they are confused about?