Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Use the Energy Cost Calculator to save money on power bills?

I'm quite excited about three new items I have available as we are now all very aware of how important it is to save energy. Two of the items I've already purchased myself and the third I'll be purchasing shortly. To me the best recommendation for a product you can get is from someone who uses the product.

The first product is an energy meter which enables you to get a reasonable idea of the watts an appliance uses.

Lights are easy because the wattage is written on them. However for many of the appliances around the home the best way to get a an idea of the energy they use, is to measure their energy use. I've found some very interesting results. Once you measure how much energy an appliance uses, you can determine the best approach to saving money. (Whilst the power meter has other functions, I only use it to measure the watts.)

The second item is a four port power board with a remote control. This item allows you to turn off the individual pieces of equipment plugged into the power board.

For example, I've found a TV plus a DVD when in standby consumes around 25W. That adds up to about $38 a year if the item is left in standby and never used.

My aim is to use the four port power board with the TV/DVD/Entertainment system. I can power down all the devices, or if I want to record something on the DVD recorder, I can leave that powered on. My father-in-law uses this unit with his computer so he can power down his computer, monitor, printer and ADSL modem without having to get under the desk.

The last and I think the most exciting item is the remote control with three power packs. (I call them power packs.) You can plug the power packs in different places around the home and power each unit on or off separately as you go around the house. (I get a feeling I'll end up buying two of these so I can use them with the computers as well.)

For example you can power off the TV/DVDs you have in different locations around the home. For me the payback for power packs will be around four months. There isn't many things you can buy which pay for themselves in just four months.

To help everyone work out the energy cost of an appliance over a year I wrote an Energy Cost Calculator. You can use the calculator in two ways.

1. To find the energy cost for an appliance over a year.

All you need to enter is the watts the appliance uses and the amount of time per day the appliance is on for. Hit Submit and you'll get how much the appliance costs a year.

2. To find the payback period.

A really handy feature of the calculator is when you are trying to work out if it is better to keep the old inefficient light, or to purchase that more expensive low energy light. I wrote the payback feature because whilst it felt good about purchasing the low energy lights, they are much dearer than normal lights and I wanted to know the payback period.

As an example I was looking at replacing two 40W normal screw in globes with two 8W low energy globes. The 8W globes were expensive at around $7. Price varies quite a bit from store to store. The good thing is if you look around, often you will find specials. I picked up two low energy globes for $9 for the pair on special. 

Using the Energy Cost Calculator I entered the two globes as one to give 80W for the old globes and 16W for the new globes. I estimated the light was on for around two hours a day. It could be more, but this is a good estimate. The calculator showed me the payback period would be 13 months. Since I expect the globes to last three years or more, after the first year I'm saving money. To keep using the old globes doesn't make sense.  

  1. Check around for the price of globes as you do your normal shopping. You'll find the price can vary quite a bit from store to store.

  2. Work out what you want and then take your time to buy. I find there are often specials on lights.

  3. Think about how you use your lights. A small change of habit can save money without replacing any lights. You may change some lights now that you use more often and that gives you the biggest saving.

  4. Don't assume the energy a device will use. We've been very surprised by how little energy some devices use and how much others use. The best decisions are made based on real knowledge. The power meter has helped us make better decisions. I could say knowledge is power, but in this case, less power.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the above devices please feel free to contact me. I can organise shipping anywhere in Australia. You can find the pricing on the Electronic Cost Calculator and if you click on the image on that page you can see a larger image.

- Kelvin Eldridge

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