I don’t normally write posts like this, but I found out yesterday that I’ve been doing everything wrong in my attempts to save money, and energy. If your electricity bills are as high as mine, read on.
To start, a quick word sketch of our household :
– 2 adults
– Solar hot water [with a gas booster]
– Solar panels on north facing roof [in Southern hemisphere solar gain comes from the north, not the south].
– Late model dishwasher and washing machine.
– Very little use of tumble dryer [maybe once a month for those emergency moments].
– Big TV, but with cut off switch when not being watched.
– Gas ducted heating.
As you can see, we should be ahead of the game in terms of electricity consumption. Yet still we get $500 plus bills. 😦
Well, this is what I’ve been doing wrong :
– I’ve been running the dishwasher during the day to take advantage of my solar panels.
– I’ve been running the washing machine during the day, also to use up the solar power.
Because of these two, misguided strategies, I only get an average of $100 of credits from the feed-in tariff [this is excess solar power I generate that goes into the electricity grid].
You see, what I did not realize was that my two major appliances [dishwasher and washing machine] use far more electricity than my solar panels can provide. So by running them during the day I am both wasting my solar power, and drawing electricity from the grid during the most expensive, peak period.
A few simple numbers should explain what I mean.
– feed-in tariff = $0.66 per KWH
– peak tariff = $0.34 per KWH
– off peak tariff = $0.19 per KWH
So you see, by running the dishwasher during the day I am not only using up my own solar electricity, I am also using grid electricity so it is effectively costing me :
0.66 + 0.34 = $1.00 per KWH
That $1 is made up of lost money [what I would gain from the solar] plus actual cost [the peak tariff].
So what is the answer? Off-peak, that’s what.
Here in Victoria, Australia, the off-peak period is 11pm to 6am Monday to Friday, and all day and night during the weekends. So with a bit of organization all of us could schedule our most energy hungry appliances to run during off-peak.
Most modern appliances allow you to schedule when you want them to run. My dishwasher only has a one hour delay capacity, but that one hour is enough for me to turn it on at 10pm and have it start up at 11pm – in time to catch the beginning of the weekday off-peak period. My washing machine is even more flexible. And if none of that is possible then there is always the weekend.
Now, for those with solar power, the answer is simple – send as much of your solar gain to the grid as possible. You will earn almost twice what you spend. And here at least, those credits are subtracted from your total bill.
So let’s do a thought experiment. First let’s look at my stupid usage :
Cost of electricity from the grid = $600
Minus credits from solar power = $100
Total bill = $500
Now, let’s say I gain $100 by going off-peak, and an extra $50 from my solar feed-in :
Cost of electricity from the grid = $500
Minus credits from solar power = $150
Total bill = $350
I do not yet have any actual figures to play with but the numbers I estimated are pretty conservative so I may even end up saving more money. Whether I do or not, I should still see a huge reduction in my next electricity bill.
Origin Energy [my electricity supplier] is sending me some information on the average cost of running various appliances. Anyone can request this information, but I will share relevant bits in a follow-up post.
Until then, I urge you all to take a look at your own lifestyle and electricity consumption. Even a few small changes could make a difference to that next big bill!