Bright idea to get smart about power usage in the home

Kya deLongchamps plugs in and offers tips on how to cut down on your electricity bill while keeping warm and cosy during winter months.

Bright idea to get smart about power usage in the home

Kya deLongchamps plugs in and offers tips on how to cut down on your electricity bill while keeping warm and cosy during winter months.

Comparing our electricity antics at home to other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (OECD), we are relatively well behaved. The average annual usage per household in Ireland is around 4,300kWh. In the US, that figure is a steep 12,300kWh. Yet, Americans for all of that fuse-popping usage, pay only €100 more than we do per annum, on average.

Still, with prices soaring here, we really need to look at things we can do to at least nibble at the edges of our power bill without any loss of comfort at home.

Read the electricity meter

Don’t leave your provider to blithely estimate your bill from an averaged reading. If they base your numbers on your last bill (when four school-liberated teens were slouching around for the summer) it could well be costing you more. When emails arrive reminding you to send in that reading – get up and do it. Smart meters that will send your readings directly to the supplier are on the way but this could take up to five years to come to your house.

Know that bill

According to the office of the Consumer Energy Regulator, only one-third of electricity customers open or access every bill and read it in any detail. 15% of customers never read their electricity bill. Discounts are standard for paperless billing and direct debits, but that doesn’t mean you should be idle. Compare bills from time to time, exploring unit figures beyond your standing charges and PVO fully. Why has your usage changed up or down? Is your 12-month contract up — try a switch: bonkers.ie, switcher.ie. (Look up my recent guide online.)

Monitor your usage

We’re resistant as a nation to the monitoring our draw. In a survey released in April by the CER, 57% of residential customers said they have no interest in switching to a smart meter. A pilot program in Ireland (Smart Metering Electricity Customer Behaviour Trials) monitoring 5000 smart meters over 2009/2010 showed an impressive 8.8% reduction in consumer demand at peak times. issda.ie.

As we wait on smart meters, we can still get started. Become aware of what costs what to run, keeping in mind that a hairdryer is a fast blitz, where a dishwasher could be running for three hours. Energy labels on new appliances offer a meticulous guide for annual running costs. For smaller appliances: try a plug-through monitor like the EcoSaver to watch usage in real-time, €19.99, purchase.ie.

Pay as you save

If you have pay-as-you-go power, your unit price is significantly higher, but there is some good news. The meter with systems including Prepay Power includes touch key features to monitor the greed of individual devices we are using in real time.

For the rest of us, the new government-funded smart meters will monitor our reading 48 times a day and send it to the customer via a mobile app. Like any device, it’s only as good as the habits of the user. Remain proactive.

Boiling mad

We all know that repeatedly boiling a half-filled kettle is expensive. Counter-mounted dispensers (Morphy Richards €189, Argos) and boiler taps (€450-€1000 ex.installation) also remain expensive. Instead, choose a kettle with 1-2 cup readings and keep the element free of lime-scale.

Night owl

NightSaver electricity (11pm- 8am in Electric Ireland’s ‘summer’ of March to October and 12am to 9am from October to March) may or may not work for you. If you can use appliances and set the timer on the immersion, for example, for overnight water heating, work odd hours or just stay up late or rise early, it might be worth a go. It requires a change of meter — totally free.

However, expect a loading of €50-€60 (urban/rural) on your standing charges and higher daytime unit prices — 18.33 cent per unit (day), 9.06 cent per unit (night). VAT @13.5% included. Plug timers and monitors will be part of your daily round to eke out savings from a NightSaver meter. It’s vital to move at least three of those essential 11 daily kWhs to the night-time hours to make significant savings. For more go to: electricireland.ie.

Efficient appliances

Upgrade your appliances to energy efficient models when you can and only when it makes sense to do so. A modern A++ rated washing machine could wipe €60 off your annual running costs if you’re down at a C currently, and a heat-pump dryer can do a load for 40% less energy as standard. Look for interest-free credit on white goods, offered by most major retailers.

Vampires

Current regulations specify that all electrical products sold within the EU after 2010 cannot have a standby power greater than 1W. Don’t leave things you are not using on standby, known in the green community as ‘vampire’ power for days. They are drawing power. With newer technology such as TVs this may be as little as IkWh (a couple of Euros a year), but with an older screen, it can be 10-12kWs.

Efficient habits

Modern appliances and 21st-century technology is only as good as the hands that hold it. Used properly, modern things (cookers/dryers, washing machines and dishwashers) should help your bill to steadily trend down. You’re in control at the working end of the system after all.

If your clothes dryer features a moisture sensor and your dishwasher and washing machine have eco-settings stop over-riding them and decimating the savings. Half loads in any machine slashes efficiency. LED lighting uses only 6kWh a year (700 lumens). Change out any halogens to LED and CFLs as they pop. No timer on the traditional immersion switch? Call up your RECI qualified local electrician and get it done (around €40 plus the call out).

Smart control

If you are willing and able to commit to a 36-month contract and have the discipline to save on your bills, Electric Ireland offers an impressive bundle in its Smarter Home Control offer. Turn appliances on and off from your phone. Set schedules for your hall lamp. Get your next bill forecast. Learn how much electricity your home used yesterday — for €3.99 a month. The Smart Immersion control is another €2.99 a month, and the whole bundle is worth €350, less than half price over the three years, leaving you ready to ditch it for newer technology or to recommit.

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