In this first part of a 2-part series on reducing electricity consumption, we concentrate on the home. The next part will look at reducing electricity usage in the workplace.
How much do you pay for electricity every month? If you lead a simple lifestyle, maybe your bill is only RM50-60 a month. But if there are several people living in your home, using numerous electrical
appliances, you could be paying a few hundred ringgit every month.
If the latter describes you, the recent hike in electricity tariff will have hit you hard. But the truth is, a tariff hike is inevitable, with the way gas prices are increasing worldwide. Malaysia’s reserves of this once-abundant resource are rapidly depleting, we have begun importing gas, and we have to start conserving what we have left for our future generations.
Let’s begin by making simple changes in our daily routine to keep energy usage low. It will cost us nothing in terms of money and effort, but the rewards are plenty.
Switch off, but beware the power vampire
The simplest way to reduce electricity consumption is to follow the mantra: “switch off when not in use”. Lights, air conditioners and fans need not be left working when you are not in the room. For televisions, the wider your screen, the more electricity it consumes.
But why not take a step further and switch them off at the source/wall plug – even better, unplug the appliance. What we call the “power vampire” sucks out energy even when appliances are on standby mode. Any indicator lights and digital displays are all signs of electricity being drained and are added to your bill.
Making things more efficient
Air-conditioners: Ideally, temperatures should be set at 24-26°C – a comfortable temperature without resorting to sweaters and blankets. Also, air conditioners should be installed away from direct sunlight, serviced regularly and be of a horsepower suited to the size of the room. This will make sure they perform optimally. Close windows and doors when the air-conditioner units are in use.
Refrigerators: Make sure that it is not located near a cooker, stove or oven and not exposed to direct sunlight. There should be adequate space above, behind and around it for air circulation. Adjust its temperature according to the contents load – never pack contents tightly in a fridge. A suitable temperature is 15°C and for the freezer compartment, - 18°C. Never let the frost build up to exceed 6mm and always switch off when defrosting. Ensure that all excess water is removed before restarting.
Check that door gaskets are in good condition – use a sheet of paper, if it can be removed easily from the door when closed, then the door gasket needs to be replaced. The same goes for the door gaskets of ovens and microwave ovens. Inspect them regularly for signs of wear and tear.
Irons: Steam irons use more electricity than dry irons, because of the extra element of water which has to be heated up. Ironing clothes in one big session is also more energy efficient than ironing them piecemeal.
Washing machines: If you have a washing machine, run it only on a full load, but do not overload. Avoid using the hot washing cycle, whenever possible.
Lights: Change your lights to energy efficient ones. And if you can afford it, change your bulbs to light emitting diodes (LED), as they last much longer; consume less energy; are eco-friendly; durable; light up instantly; and can be switched off and on frequently without affecting its lifetime or light emission.
Look for energy labels
Look for energy stickers on certain appliances, such as air-conditioners, fans, refrigerators and televisions. The number of stars given (1-5) indicates how energy-efficient the appliance is (more stars mean less energy used). The sticker should also tell you how much energy you can save with this appliance, compared to an average 3-star model.
Understand your electricity bill
Your electricity usage is calculated in kilowatts per hour (kWh). The kilowatts used depend on the size and amount of electrical appliances used in your house (ranging from small items like lights and phone chargers to large appliances like refrigerators). The more appliances you have and the bigger the capacity, the more electricity you will use.
The ‘hour’ in kWh is calculated on the duration that the electrical appliances are used. Obviously, the longer they are turned on, the more electricity they consume.
Do your own energy audit!
Find out how much electricity your home appliances use. All you need to know are:
1. Power rating / energy usage of the appliance
2. Number of hours you use the appliance
3. The electricity tariff
The energy audit formula:
Below is an example of an energy audit for a 300W TV set used for an hour a day:
If the TV is used an hour a day, the cost for a month is RM1.80.
If it is used for 5 hours a day, the cost will be RM9.00.
The example on the TV is from the National Water and Energy Consumers Association (WECAM), an NGO dedicated to implementing the sustainable use of water and energy. Contact them if you need any information on energy conservation and energy efficiency:
Tenaga Nasional also has an energy audit calculator on their website:
- Pan Swee Chin is a freelance writer, currently working with the Centre of Strategic Engagement (CENSE).
Saving electricity improves the bottom line