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Taking the Shock Out of Your Electric Bill


By Brian S.


For most of us, after food and rent, the next largest unavoidable monthly expenditure is the electricity bill. If you find the wattage of your power bill is becoming a bit too bright for your budget, there are ways to dim the damage done to your wallet without resorting to high priced green gadgets. By putting common sense to use and making a handful of adjustments to how you operate your electronic appliances it’s possible to downsize a giant greenhouse gas footprint from an oversized 16-EEE down to a more manageable 10-C.



Air Conditioner


In the tropics the biggest energy gobbler is always the air conditioner (A/C). It can be responsible for up to 70 per cent of the average energy bill. Obviously, the easiest way to save is to run the A/C less and to dial the temperature up a few degrees. As a rule, for each degree you set the A/C thermostat below 25°C (78°F) your electricity bill will go up by three to four per cent. Cleaning or changing the A/C filters every month and figuring out a way to keep the A/C condensers out of direct sunlight can cut as much as 10 per cent from your cooling bill. Also, don’t underestimate the cooling ability of a fan. A fan will make the air temperature indoors feel 8 to 10 degrees cooler, allowing you to dial the A/C up to an even higher temperature. If you have a ceiling fan make sure the blade is turning in the counterclockwise direction. Most ceiling fans have the ability to run both clockwise and counter clockwise. To keep things cool make sure the blades are rotating counter clockwise so the breeze blows down. If it’s not, turn the fan off and flip the switch or button on the base of the ceiling fan to alter the direction.



Refrigerator


At approximately 13 per cent, the fridge is the home’s second largest consumer of electricity. Old refrigerators are huge hogs of energy. If yours was made before 2001 you should consider replacing it with a newer energy-efficient model. A new fridge will use less than half the energy of one produced between 1995 and 2000. If it’s older than 1995 the savings could be as much as 75 per cent. If you do shop for a new fridge avoid models with built-in ice makers or keep that feature turned off, as it doubles the amount of electricity the appliance uses.



No matter what, set the refrigerator’s thermostat between 2.2 and 2.3°C (36 to 40°F) and the freezer between 10 and 17°C (0 to 5°F) and you’ll cut energy use by up to 25 per cent. To test the temperature put a thermometer in a glass of water, place it in the centre of the fridge and leave it for 24 hours. To test the freezer, put the thermometer between two frozen packages for 24 hours. Frequent door openings, as well as leaving the door open for too long also drives up the energy bill. One way to save energy here is to cut a section of a transparent plastic shower curtain into a veil of vertical strips. Tape this to the ceiling of the fridge. It will prevent a mass exodus of the cold while you root around for what you need.



Other useful tips include: defrost a non-frost free freezer before the ice builds up to a thickness of 7cm; Keep both the fridge and freezer as full as full as you can because cold food helps lower the temperature; Let leftovers thoroughly cool off before placing them inside, otherwise, they can heat up the temperature; Keep all the food and drink inside covered because the condensation they cause will make the fridge work overtime.



Lighting


The third largest energy user is lighting. It’s also the easiest area in which to save. A regular light bulb gives off 10 per cent light and 90 per cent heat, while a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) gives off 90 per cent light and 10 per cent heat. By replacing your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, you’ll dim your light bill by 70 to 90 per cent. Even though a CFL is more expensive initially, a single incandescent light bulb can use as much energy as six CFLs combined. A CFL lasts about 10 times longer than a traditional light bulb. In addition, a houseful of cooler CFLs might just allow you to raise your A/C temperature by a degree or two. By installing dimmer switches you can adjust the amount of light as you need.



Unplug and Save


Even when an electric appliance is turned off it’s still sucking up energy and some of your money. This is especially true when it comes to devices with a transformer (that small black cube on the end of the cord). When it comes to battery chargers, hair dryers, rice cookers or anything else with a cord attached, unplug them when not in use. If the outlets are difficult to reach, purchase a ‘smart strip’ surge protector, which will automatically cut the power to appliances that aren’t in use.



Laundry


Heating the water in a washing machine accounts for 90 per cent of the energy the machine consumes. By changing the setting to cold, you’ll save a bundle. If you’re considering a new washer, be advised that a front loading washer uses 40 to 75 per cent less water and 30 to 80 per cent less energy than a more conventional top loading machine. In Thailand a clothes dryer is really unnecessary, so hang your clothes under the sun and realize a 100 per cent saving on that front. If you insist on using a machine dryer, make sure you don’t overfill it because the hot air won’t be able to do its job. Always leave about 25 per cent of the dryer unfilled or about 30 per cent if you’re drying large blankets or bed sheets. That way, your garments will dry much quicker and you’ll save some money.