Saving Power at Home
Electricity has become the part and parcel of modern day life. This is particularly felt when we have frequent power cuts in summer or other months due to various reasons. Saving power is not taken seriously for two reasons – one is because it is affordable, you tend to ignore it.
Secondly some of us know that majority of the power shortage in our country is due to power thefts, pilferage, etc. There are a lot of political and governance issues in power management, which is a different debate that we will avoid here.
Now the focus is on the key areas that we can improve or control which are:
- Saving power so that it helps the future generations
- Saving costs of power
- Ensuring that you get reasonable output/utility with minimal or lesser power consumption
Why Save Power?
Just like petrol and other precious commodities power is also precious. It has to be utilized judiciously otherwise there is a greater chance for the next generation to run out of electricity. Even the fuel and raw materials like coal used for generating power are not clean and environment friendly and they are exhaustible too, so saving power becomes essential.
Today cost of power might be cheap at Rs.3-5 per unit depending on the state/location, usage, etc. But in future we are going to see tariff hikes and since this is part of your Household Monthly Budget you should keep it under control.
I have seen two types of people – one group who are too conscious and get jitters if the power bill exceeds Rs.500 in a month, while the other group consists of those who don’t care and frequently consume more as long as they can afford it.
Saving power will not only save you money, but will also help with the rising power cuts, as the country needs to cut energy use by 10% for the current system to cope. Saving power will also give you a warm fuzzy feeling, as you will be doing your bit to conserve natural resources that is coal, and reducing the impact energy consumption has on the environment, slowing down global warming.
Ways to Save Power
There are different ways to save power, or get a better productivity without consuming more power. We will just see a few simple ways which most of us can easily implement.
1. Lighting Using CFL Bulbs
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) are four times more energy efficient than regular incandescent bulbs and provide the same for lighting. CFL bulbs consume less energy compared to normal tube lights. These lamps also fit in to the regular bulb’s holder, which means you can also do away with several accessories such as a special holder, adapter that are attached to regular tube lights.
The initial cost of a CFL bulb may be higher but you will recover it in a few months in the form of savings in your electricity bills. If you buy a good quality CFL bulb it will last for several years.
The price of a CFL bulb starts somewhere around Rs.120 and can go up to Rs.250 or more depending on the wattage and lighting.
The next technology is LEDs (light-emitting diodes), which will become a contender for CFL. Currently these are expensive and may not be as powerful as tube lights or CFL, but with better technology and mass production it should become affordable.
2. Natural Ventilation & Lighting
Today very few people understand the importance of natural day light because most of them are used to artificial lighting in office or workplace.
I have seen people switching on their light even in broad day light. The reasons are many
- No ventilation through windows, doors, etc.
- Dark curtains or closure of doors or windows there by blocking light
- Habitual where people are lazy to move to a brighter spot or open curtains
Natural light is good and healthy for your eyes and you also save on power if you have adequate ventilation at home. For instance if you have good lighting in the living and study room you don’t have to switch on the lights when you want to read or study for a few hours during the day.
The saddest part i have seen particularly in Indian households is the typical dark kitchen where women are supposed to work for several hours. Why don’t people design kitchens with better ventilation both in terms of light as well as air circulation? This is very important even from a safety point of view. Since most people end up switching lights in kitchen the power consumption will obviously increase.
3. Switching Off When Not in Use
This is a best practice that most of us (including me) forget to follow. Whether it is lights, fans or other appliances turn them off when you are not using them. This is not just at home, but also needs to be practiced for common area lighting (verandas, parking, etc).
Most electronic devices such as TV, audio systems, charger, etc. are left on a plug when not in use. These devices that are in idle operation leads to an energy loss of 10 watts /device. Setting computers, monitors, and copiers to use sleep-mode when not in use helps cut energy costs by approximately 40%.
(Source: Energy Saving Tips)
4. Air Conditioning & Fans
In the 90’s and 80’s even telephones were not so common in middle class homes, and was considered luxury in some cases.
Today everyone who moves to a new home wants air conditioning for their bedroom. This is understandable for people who are used to cooler climates and find it difficult to live in hot, humid locations.
But i am surprised why even people who are born and brought up in tropical humid conditions are becoming so lazy and inflexible. Again this is due to peer pressure where your colleague/friend has something and you want it too…….Why don’t you think independently and grow up?
Use of fans again depends on local weather conditions. If you live in places like Bangalore you won’t even feel the need to switch on a fan except during those hot summer months. If you are from a more humid place like Chennai you will agree with me.
In warmer locations frequent use of fans will increase your bills, and frequent AC can dramatically push up your bill by a few hundreds or thousands depending on the consumption/usage.
The largest power guzzlers are AC or air cooler, water heater, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system, refrigerator, iron box, etc.
I would advise people with AC, HVAC or coolers to use them sparingly unless you cannot tolerate the local weather. Its good for you to get used to the environment so that your body can also adapt – its like adapting to a new weather, food, etc.
If you protect too much your body will never adapt, and one fine day if you have to do without AC you will actually suffocate. Most physicians also recommend that one should breathe natural fresh air, get exposed to sunlight, etc rather than sitting inside an air conditioned or heated room.
5. Use of Water Heater
A water heater or geyser needs to be used as per the instruction (given in the manual). Timely one and off and adjustment of tap (in case of instant heaters) can save electricity and time. Most people switch on, but the water stops or flow becomes slow and it gets stuck…so keep a watch.
In summer months you can use lesser hot water and save energy. If you are at home and not particular about taking bath in the morning you could consider postponing it to afternoon or evening by when the natural water itself is warm or minimal heating will do.
For those who have the space and budget, a solar water heater is a good choice. Solar heaters save you from significant electricity bills and the cost can be recovered over 2-3 years.
You can live without an air conditioner, but not without a fridge or refrigerator. So those setting up a new house should give priority to a refrigerator which is very useful, valuable and indispensible. Since a refrigerator has to be functioning 24/7 you don’t have the option of switching off. However, you can save in the following ways:-
- Set your temperature setting according to the instructions (There would be a knob or pointer indicating different settings for summer, winter, autumn, etc.
- Make sure that not to keep the doors open for too long and avoid opening the door frequently
- Avoid putting hot or warm foods straights in to the fridge (instead let it come to normal temperature).
- Regularly clean up the frost in the freezers.
- Follow all other important instructions in the manual
7. Washing Machine:
A few important things to be followed to optimize power consumptions are below:-
- Always wash only with full loads.
- Use optimal quantity of water.
- Use timer facility to save energy.
- Use the correct amount of detergent.
- Use hot water only for very dirty clothes.
- Always use cold water in the rinse cycle.
- Prefer natural drying over electric dryers particularly in warmer months or warmer locations.
The most common advice is to avoid dry grinding, which consumes more energy than wet grinding. However, in some cases especially in Indian masala/spice-based cooking this may be unavoidable.
There are several ways to saving power, which is beyond the scope of our discussion. However, we have covered some of the typical power guzzlers such as air conditioner, water heater, refrigerator, etc which should bring significant savings to you and your family. You can also consider buying energy star rated products which comply with best practices in saving power.
Conclusion – Saving Power
Saving power not only saves money, but it also saves the environment. The most simple but important thing is to remember to turn off appliances, lights, etc when you leave your house.
As the electricity boards are making huge losses and given that there are frequent power shortages and power cuts, the boards are planning to increase tariffs.
If you make it a habit to use power judiciously, you will not get severely impacted if rates go up. Moreover the savings can be utilized for more productive needs like food, groceries, etc. Some of the precautions will also ensure that your gadgets or appliances have a longer life and higher productivity.
We cannot stop using electricity and go back to stone age, but at the same time let us not exhaust it and deprive our future generation of this valuable energy source.