Electrifying. Or Not…

Sad but true: I was actually looking forward to the arrival of our electricity bill this year. You see, I knew the bastards would actually owe us money, and they did. Not only that but they’ve cut our payments by £14 a month to reflect our lower usage (and pay us back the overpayment). It’s not as good as a fat cheque, but it beats a kick in the teeth. And at a time when news on UK carbon emissions is all bad, it feels like a nice bonus for simply doing our bit.

Free smart meter from the electricity company (pen not included)

So how did we do it?

Well, here’s the catch – I don’t actually know. When I signed up for 10:10 I was unsure whether we could do much to reduce our electricity usage. We already had pretty much all low-energy bulbs, we’ve never left the TV on standby, we already washed our clothes at 30°C and used the dryer as little as possible. All I did was start recording our daily usage by reading the meter before I went to bed in the hopes that that would help us find some more ways to cut down.

At first, the figures seemed bafflingly random. Days when both of us were out all day would be stubbornly high, other days when we’d both been home tapping away on our computers would be low. But gradually by looking at the daily figures and working out what we’d done that day we started to work out what the real culprits were when it came to bumping up our use. The main villain is the electric shower. It’s hard to see how a standard-issue rural dribble could consume so much power but it does, both heating and pumping the water. The electric fan heater was another obvious villain and the dehumidifier also insidiously sucked up power, seeing as it tended to run all day. Switching off the Rayburn for the summer has shown us just how much power our cooker and the electric kettle uses – enough to make me feel far less guilty about keeping the Rayburn going nine months of the year. And, surprisingly to me, doing two half washes on the ‘quick wash’ setting on the washing machine is nothing like as power hungry as doing one full-length full load. All the other things you’re told to do make so little difference it’s hardly worth bothering about. To be honest, I could probably leave my phone charger plugged in and switched on all year and it wouldn’t add up to an extra five minutes in the shower.

Anyway, it didn’t take long for simply measuring and noticing these things to make a difference. Our electricity usage has dropped by 25% even after the coldest winter in recent memory. It’s partly been acheived by me being a pain about turning off heaters, by taking shorter showers, by trying to alter what we cook in the summer to use the oven less and by becoming completely obsessed about how much water goes in the kettle before I boil it. We’ve switched to an oil-filled electric radiator for when we really can’t go without some extra heat and we’ve found that opening the bathroom window in the morning – even in the coldest weather – does a lot to cut down on the worst condensation so the dehumidifier can be used less. But even so, it doesn’t feel like we’ve sacrificed a lot to make the cuts, although the other half may differ on this one. It’s amazing what simple awareness can do to make significant changes.

I’m sure everyone reading this is going ‘well, duh, electric shower, electric heater, of course they were using so much power’. But I honestly was surprised at the results and would not have expected it – did not expect it – when I set out to cut our carbon emissions this year. If asked, I would have said that we were pretty frugal in our usage and there wasn’t much slack to cut. It’s been a real eye opener for me at least, which is why I’m going into this much tedious detail about it. If you’ve never actually measured your daily use – and you don’t have a smart meter yet – I can really recommend giving it a go. It’s simple enough to do and costs absolutely nothing. You have nothing at all to lose – except possibly your place in normal society – and around £14 a month to gain

(Oh, and if you think I’m obsessed, at least I’m not alone…)


10 Responses to Electrifying. Or Not…

  1. Dom says:

    I know what my biggest culprit is – the ruddy great big computer with the 1Kw power supply. That’s right, at full speed it’s drawing as much power as a single bar heater. That said, I do use it to heat the bedroom in the winter 🙂

  2. Kirsten says:

    Good for you! I wish more people would at least think about this, especially since it’s a quick way to become slightly richer.

    We did an energy use survey six months ago with an inexpensive ampmeter, and the results were eye-opening, if not electrifying.

    Since then, we’ve cut our electric bill by two-thirds, much to our great delight, and with not too much difficulty either.

    Our main culprit was the empty, antiquated chest freezer, which insisted upon running continuously for no reason.

  3. disgruntled says:

    Dom – what are you doing with it? Lauching the space shuttle?
    Kirsten – wow, 2/3 is pretty impressive. I’ll have to try harder…

    • Kirsten says:

      Given that this house was wired to use as much electricity as possible, a 2/3 reduction was fairly easy. But our overall bill is still too rich for my taste.

      Here’s what we did:

      -shut off one of our two hot water tanks (unless we have guests, then we’ll turn that one back on for them)

      -replaced the main hot water tank with a tankless, on-demand heater

      -stopped using the dryer and dishwasher

      -shut off the shower while we lather up, using water only for initial and final rinse

      -keep bathroom heater off

      -reduced pool pump usage to 2 hours/day, and then only on sunny days (solar heated pool)

      -use a solar oven to cook dinner or dessert on sunny days (what few sunny days there are)

      -unplugged the aforementioned freezer

  4. Dom says:

    In a nutshell: gaming with large monitors.

  5. The Paper Boy says:

    Demand the money back from the Leccy people, they have no just cause to keep it and better in your pocket than theirs – I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the habit of giving multinational billion-dollar companies an interest-free loan…

    I go through this annually with both gas & electric – not because the payment is set too high, more because we’re gradually cutting our usage – although if you’ve used (say) 20000 units of electricity every year for the last 10 years, why would they base next years payment on you using 25000 units? No idea why, but they do. Without fail.

  6. disgruntled says:

    Well, in fairness to our company, they’ve cut our payment to the point where they will be paying us back over the next few months (and that based on my own reading as well). But there are companies which promise to pay you interest on the money they owe you, which may be worth investigating

  7. The Paper Boy says:

    The problem is that they’ll never manage to set your payment remotely correct when there’s the complication of a non-zero balance at the start of the year (even when based on a zero balance they’re (kindly speaking) suboptimal at it).

  8. […] if we can reduce our power usage with the use of meters as well as customised advice. As I’ve reported before, simply tracking what we used had a dramatic effect on our electricity bills, and while I’m […]

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