Pressures from all sides urge as to conserve energy – and this applies just as much to electricity as to fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. But even without such encouragement, quarterly electricity bills will provide stimulus enough to make us find ways of using less power.
Nobody wants to live in a poorly heated or dismally lit house, without the comforts of hot water, refrigeration, television and other conveniences – but it’s often possible to identify where energy is wasted and then find ways to reduce waste without compromising our comfort or pleasure.
Avoid False Economy
Whether you do your own maintenance or employ an electrician, don’t attempt to economise by installing fewer sockets than you really need. When you rewire a room, fit as many as you may possibly use. The inconvenience and expense later on of running extra cable and disturbing decoration will far outweigh the cost of an extra socket or two.
Similarly, don’t reduce your use of lighting needlessly. Applied sensibly, lights consume relatively little electricity, so it isn’t worth causing accidents – for example, on badly lit stairs or strain your eyes in the light from a single light bulb, hanging from the ceiling, when additional lights could present warm and attractive background lighting.
Fitting Controls To Save Money
Heating is by far the biggest consumer of domestic power. One way to reduce your electricity bills is to fit devices that regulate the heat in your home to suit your lifestyle, maintaining comfortable but economic temperatures.
Most modern heating has some form of thermostatic control – a device that will switch power off when your surroundings reach a certain temperature. Many thermostats are marked out basically to raise or lower the temperature, in which case you have to try various settings to find the one that suits you best. If the thermostat settings are more specific, try 19° C for everyday use – although OAP’s are more content at about 22° C
As well as saving you money, an immersion heater thermostat prevents your water from becoming dangerously hot. Set it at 60°C
Even when it’s thermostatically regulated, heating is costly if running continuously – but you can install an automatic timer switch to turn it on and off at certain times, so you get up in the morning and return home in the evening to a warm home. Set it to turn off the heating about half an hour before you leave home or go to bed, as the house will take time to cool down. A similar device will ensure that your water is at its hottest when needed.
Keep an accurate record of your energy saving by taking weekly readings. Note the dates of any measures taken to cut power consumption, and compare the corresponding drop in meter readings.
Modern metres display a row of figures or digits that represent the total number of units consumed since the meter was installed. To calculate the number of units used since the last electricity bill, simply subtract the ‘present reading’ shown on your bill from the number of units now shown on the meter. Make sure that the bill gives an actual reading and not an estimate which is indicated by the letter ‘E’ before the reading
Off Peak Rates
Electricity is normally sold at a general purpose rate, every unit used costing the same; but if you warm your home with storage heaters and heat your water electronically, and you take advantage of the economical Off Peak Tariff. This system, called Economy 7, allows you to charge storage heaters and heat water at less than half the general purpose rate for seven hours, starting between midnight and 1 AM. Other appliances used during the night get cheap power too, so more savings can be made by operating the dishwasher or washing machine after you’ve gone to bed. Each appliance must, of course, be fitted with a timer. The economy seven daytime rate is higher than the general purpose one, but the cost of running 24-hour appliances such as freezers and refrigerators is balanced since the also use cheap power for seven hours.
For full benefit from off-peak water, heating use a cylinder that holds 182 litres to 227 litres, to store as much cheap hot water as possible. You will need a twin-element heater or two separate units. One heater, near the base of the cylinder, heats the whole tank on cheap power; another, about halfway up, tops of the hot water during the day. Set the night-time heater at 75°C, the daytime one at 60°C.
Electricity companies provide economy seven customers with a special meter to record daytime and nighttime consumption separately, plus a timer that automatically switches the supply from one rate to the other.
Reading Dial Metres
The principle of a dial meter is simple. Ignore the dial marked 1/10, which is only for testing. Start with the dial indicating single units (kWh) and, working from right to left, record the readings from the 10, 100, 1000 and finally 10,000 unit dials. Note the digits the pointers have passed. If a pointer is, say, between 5 and 6, record 5. If it’s right on a number, see 8, check the next dial on the right: if that point is between 9 and 0, record 7; if it’s past 0, record 8. Also, remember that adjustment dials revolve in opposite directions, alternating along the row.