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Monday September 12, 2011

Small changes in energy saving can make a big difference

SAVING energy involves changing your habits and attitude but many take the simple actions that make a difference for granted.

The Energy Commission, the Malaysian Electrical and Electronics Association of Malaysia (Teeam) and the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) are three bodies that are trying to raise awareness on saving energy.

Teeam president Fu Wing Hoong said it was the mentality of the people that needed to change for Malaysia to become an energy-efficient country.

Changing a habit: There are many ways a household can go about to save energy, such as practising a prudent lifestyle and buying energy-efficient appliances. – By SAMT HAM/ The Star

“It begins with simple measures like switching off electrical appliances when not needed and later this will lead to awareness in buying energy-savaing products. All this translates into savings for the people,” said Fu.

According to Fu, the first step would be to adjust the air-conditioner to 22 or 24 degrees in view of the Government’s new directive.

Fu said the temperature was enough to feel comfortable in an enclosed area.

Fomca has also embarked on a mission to help suburban dwellers understand the need to preserve energy and has come up with the SWITCH! programme.

The programme is to raise awareness on energy conservation among domestic, commercial and industrial consumers and encourage the use of energy-efficient equipment.

Fomca deputy secretary-general Ratna Devi Nadarajan said their components include 100 outreach grassroot programmes on sustainable use of electricity and its environmental impact.

The first leg of SWITCH! was held last year and will be continued at the end of this year for another 12 months.

Their one-day programme is divided into two parts which is dissemination and workshop where they apply the knowledge gained in simple exercises.

“Several months after visiting the areas, we call them up to see how they have been doing and the response is usually good. Some have managed to save up to RM100 or RM200 in electricity bills,” said Ratna.

She also said the programme would yield better results when dealing with industries because domestic consumers only took up 20% of Malaysia’s total energy consumption.

Five-star rating: Home appliances like refrigerators, air-conditioners and television sets with the five-star rating sticker (top right) issued by the Energy Commission denote that it is energy efficient and consumes 25% less energy than an average similar product.

Energy Commission’s senior executive Hafiza Yob said their job was to produce guidelines to help consumers save energy.

“More than 60% of electricity generated is from gas which is depleting and highly subsidised by the government. If we can save electricity it will reduce the amount of gas we are using,” said Hafiza.

The subsidy is translated into the tariff and the recent increase in electricity tariff is because the Government had to pull out the subsidy, which will encourage people to save energy and be more aware of the usage.

Hafiza said the most important aspect of saving energy was understanding the appliances at home.

In their efforts to create awareness, the Energy Commission has been organising talks and seminars especially at both primary and secondary schools as they believe in moulding young minds.

Hafiza said they also hold regular talks for women and teach them the simple rules of arranging their appliances and learning how to use them.

“A refrigerator is the second highest energy consuming product after the air-conditioner. There are several things to observe when dealing with it, for example avoid putting it near heat or the window. The hot air will force the compressor to work harder thus using up more electricity to cool the inside of the fridge,” she added.

Another common mistake is to open and close the fridge to often and sometimes leaving it open for long periods of time.

Hafiza suggests removing all ingredients for cooking at one go from the refrigerator to avoid opening it too often.

Electrical irons can also be a “guzzler” when heating up, so the best way to minimise the electricity usage is by ironing a number of clothes at once.

From the feedback that the Energy Commission has received from the manufacturers of electrical appliances, more people are becoming aware of their energy consumption.

“People are becoming more conscious of their products and are buying energy-efficient items to help save money,” she said.

To help customers choose the best energy-efficient products, the five-star energy label was created in 2005. The best appliances are given a five-star rating while the least is given one star.

Many people opt for the cheaper products not realising that it would cost them more in the long run due to the amount of energy used by the appliances. The products with the five-star energy label may seem expensive but consumers will get back their money’s worth after several months.

“Do not change all your appliances immediately. Do it in stages because it can be an expensive affair. For a start change to energy-saving bulbs,” added Hafiza.

New house owners should also ensure that their homes are energy-efficient during the building stage. To ensure enough sunlight inside, build homes facing south or north. The evening sun that sets in the west can be hot and that will prompt the use of air-conditioners.

“All it takes is a little change but it can make a big difference. Start small but this can help reduce expenses, save natural resources and preserve the environment,” added Hafiza.

ENERGY-SAVING TIPS

- Do not leave television sets, laptops, computer, DVD players on standby mode. Red and green bulbs or blinking lights are signs of energy wastage.

- Clean out refrigerator regularly. Do not overload and keep food covered at all times. Ensure enough space above, behind and around the refrigerator for free air circulation.

- Measure the size of your room and buy an air-conditioner that is suitable. Clean air-filters to optimise operation.

- Close curtains to leave out heat and direct sunlight.

- Use energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) instead of incandescent lamps.

- Use gas stove to boil water as it is cheaper and more energy-efficient.

- Choose instant water heaters because it consumes less energy than storage water heaters.

- Use bedside lamps for reading

- Learn to decipher electricity bills.

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