by Justin Bonello
As you may or may not know, I’ve made it my mission this year to cut my costs of living in half in whatever way, shape and form possible. So a couple of weeks I decided to kickstart this whole process by getting an ECO AUDIT done at my house. It’s an assessment to determine your electricity consumption, what resources are being used and how you can make your household more efficient and, more importantly, save money!
Like a school kid waiting for his exam results, I’ve been anticipating the feedback, but the wait is over and the results are in…There are some great tips here that we can all implement in our homes – brace yourself, it’s long…here we go!
At present you are using approx 693.99kWh / month of electricity, and your daily consumption is approximately 25.646 kWh. A kilowatt-hour (kWh) measures a unit of energy, equal to 3,600,000 joules (3.6 MJ). It can also be described as the amount of energy that would be transferred at a constant rate of one kilowatt for one hour. This is the unit that is used by power companies to determine the amount of energy used by a home or business for billing purposes. As all domestic electricity usage over 600 kWh per month falls into current Domestic High rate of R1.86 (including VAT) per kWh.
Therefore your basic usage is costing you approximately R1370.70 per month and R47.70 daily. Please note we used an average regarding Summer and Winter usage. This amount is only your consumption, not other electricity charges. Please note, that for a family of 4, your consumption is quite low! This is due to the fact that you have a Solar geyser, as an electrical geyser uses up to 40% of your electricity consumption. The highest consumers are the wall panels (13%) again an average was used due to seasons, your fridge (12%) and chest freezer (10%), your oven (11%) and your TV (11%) – see Electricity Consumption pie chart above.
Your current usage of lighting is 6%, (43kW/month and 1.433 kWh/day) of your total daily electricity consumption. This is low and due to your gradual replacement of Halogen down lighters which use 50W each. Please continue to replace your last Halogen down lighters with LED’s (which are approx 5W each). Your lighting is costing approx R80 per month and R2.6 daily.
- Be mindful about your use of lights – there is no point having a light on in an area where it is not being used.
- Don’t use lampshades to obstruct light, rather use a dimmer light bulb.
- Keep bulbs clean from dust & other dirt.
- Reduce number of bulbs if possible.
- Face house North, and have as many windows facing North as possible.
Low Cost Solutions:
- Replace all incandescent light bulbs with energy saving CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs.
- CFL’s need to be disposed of correctly as contain mercuric oxide which is hazardous, Woolworths provides bins for used CFL’s and batteries.
Medium Cost Solutions:
- Insert a solar tube or skylight to increase natural lighting
- Plant a deciduous tree outside a window, shade in summer, sun in winter.
High Cost Solutions:
- Replace all your 46 MR16 Halogen down lighters with LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs, LED lights are costly but use up to 3, 4 or 5 Watts each, have a 2 year guarantee and last up to 30 years.
- The cost varies from cheap 1W LED’s for R80 to expensive 5 or 6 W LED’s costing from R140 to R170.
- Install motion detectors (turns light on when someone enters a room or outside area, & off when it senses no movement in that area) Install whole house lighting controller.
At present you are using 94% electricity (651kW/month and 24kWh/day) of your energy consumption for appliances. The increasing number of household gadgets have led to an enormous rise in electricity consumption in the past 20 years.
- Turn off power at the wall on all devices that sit in standby mode when not being used – this is also called “phantom power” & accounts for as much as 5% of your usage.
- Turn off computers if not going to be used for +-1hrs & turn off the computer screen if not going to be used for +-1hrs
Refrigerator / Freezer
Your fridge and chest freezer are using 23% of your household energy usage, your fridge is using 2.97 kWh daily and 89.1 kWh monthly, costing you R5.52 daily & R165.72 monthly. Your chest freezer is using 2.4 kWh daily and 72 kWh monthly & costing you R4.46 daily & R133.92 monthly.
- Choose the most suitable size for you needs – operates at peak efficiency when full Do not under/overload the fridge with products – a fully stocked/empty fridge is less efficient.
- Defrost the fridge once frost buildup is +-1cm think.
- Don’t open the fridge door needlessly or in excess.
- Recommended temperatures are a maximum of 4*C for the fridge & -18*C for the freezer.
- Let hot foods cool down before placing them in the fridge.
- Ensure door seals are secure.
- Keep condenser coils/panels at back of fridge clean & dust free.
- Don’t place the fridge in a place that gets warm, such as next to a stove or in direct sunlight or even against a non-insulated wall that is exposed to the sun.
- Switch off & empty the fridge when going away for an extended holiday
Cooking – Oven and Stove
Using a gas stove keeps the electricity usage down. Your oven uses 11% of electricity which amounts 81kWh per month, 2.7kWh per day and costing you R150.66 per month and approx R5 per day of your total energy consumption.
- It is more efficient to boil water in a kettle then to heat it up on the electric stove, but more efficient to heat water up on gas stove then boil in kettle.
- Use cooking utensils of appropriate size per plate, with flat bottoms & tight fitting lids.
- Use pressure cookers or ‘hot box’ when cooking meals that take a long time.
- Don’t use the grill oven to make toast.
- Convection ovens more efficient than conventional oven.
- Use a ‘hot box’ for cooking can save up to 60% of cooking costs (price approx R250).
*We know the ‘hot box’ better as the Wonderbag!
As I said before – I have excluded some appliances as their consumption is minimal, these are– tumble dryer, sound system, oil heater, sewing machine, phone chargers, cordless drill, garage door motor and your hair dryer, as these appliances came out to use less than 1% of your total consumption.
- Your hydroponic pump, drill and vacuum cleaner are each using only 1% of your total consumption.
- Your kettle uses about 0.66 kWh per day & 19.8 kWh per month, costing you R1.22 per day & R36.82 per month.
- Your toaster is using about 0.39 kWh per day & 11.7 kWh per month. This is costing you R0.7 per day & R21.76 per month.
- Your TV is using quite a lot of power (11%) at an average of 2.53 kWh per day & 75.9 kWh per month. This is costing you R4.70 per day & R141.17 per month.
- Your laptops are on all day and are using 1.5 kWh per day & 45 kWh per month, costing you R2.79 per day & R83.70 per month.
- Your printer-all-in-one scanner uses about 1.2 kWh per day & 36 kWh per month and costing you R2.23 per day & R66.96 per month.
- Your tools use a small amount of your overall power consumption, with the cordless drill using minimal power whilst charging but the regular drill uses only 1% of power. The jigsaw uses 2% and the circular saw 3%.
- Your hydroponic pump and fan use only 1% of the total, so it is energy efficient. Please see details on ‘Your Energy Usage Table’ above.
- Don’t use the vacuum with a full dust bag.
- Keep all appliances that are not being used switched off & unplugged from the wall.
- Iron low temperature items first to reduce heat up time.
- Iron large loads at a time to avoid wasting reheating the iron every time.
Dishwasher & Washing Machine
Your dishwasher uses 5% of your total electricity consumption as it uses 1.1 kWh daily & 33 kWh per month. This is costing you R2 per day & R68.38 per month.Your washing machine currently uses 4% of your energy consumption at 27kWh per month and 0.9 kW per day costing you R50.22 per month and R1.67 per day.
- Dishwashers use up to 50% less electricity & up to 9x less water than inefficient hand washing
- Frontloading washing machines are more efficient then top loaders
- Purchase a washing machine with a variety of temperature settings Use cold water settings as much as possible
- Only run with full loads, as uses the same energy & water as if you washed only 1 item at a time
- Also, never overload, as lessens efficiency & the items don’t get washed properly with cramped circulation
Low Cost Solutions:
- Repair any deficiencies with any appliance that needs mechanical maintenance / repair.
Medium Cost Solutions:
- Smart-strips/multi-plug: Purchase a ‘smart strip’ multi-plug for appliances that sit in standby mode – it will automatically turn off power when appliances are not in use for a period of time, approx R300, estimated yearly savings 100KWh, therefore reduction of yearly CO2 emissions 45kg.
- A Trickle Saver reduces the standby power consumed by TV accessories. It has inbuilt current sensing circuitry to sense when a TV is on or Off. When the TV is on it will switch On all peripheral devices. Conversely when the TV is Off, it will switch Off all accessories, saving standby power that can account for up to 10% of your power bills. A
- Trickle Saver is easy to install and provides simple automation to reduce wasteful standby power consumption. The product is suitable for residential and the workplace. The Trickle Saver can be connected directly to equipment or connected to a standard electrical power board with a number of connected devices.
High Cost Solutions:
- Buy more energy efficient/Energy star rated appliances
Hot Water / Geyser
As you already have a Solar geyser, your electrical consumption for heating hot water is zero! Well done! However here are some tips to reduce your water consumption….
- Be mindful of your hot water usage:
- Choose to shower rather than having a bath Try to keep your showers short
- Where possible, use cold water to rinse/wash, rather than hot.
- Install Low-flow showerheads – Oxygenics.
How Low Flow or Aerated showerheads work
Low-flow shower heads manage to use less water than older shower heads by restricting the flow of the water while maintaining the water pressure at approximately 80 psi. Most low-flow shower heads on the market today deliver below 9.5 Litres per minute at the same pressure as older shower heads. Therefore, consumers are able to enjoy the same water pressure as in older models while conserving water.
Many low-flow shower heads also come with a shut-off valve (pushing a button activates the valve) to enable the consumer to save even more water by stopping the flow while soaping or shaving.Consumers favor the aerating, low-flow shower heads, mainly because these shower heads provide a full, even spray when turned on. They are called “aerating” because they work by mixing air into the stream of water, which helps the stream maintain a constant pressure.
Low-flow shower heads are important to consumers in two respects: first, replacing older shower heads with low-flow ones can reduce water and energy bills dramatically; second, the reduction of water consumption is an important step in water conservation and environmental awareness. A family’s water and electricity bill can drop by as much as 70 percent after installing low-flow shower heads. Less water will be used and, because of that, less energy will be needed to heat the smaller amount of water used.
Insulation – Space Heating & Cooling
Insulate above the ceiling, under the floor or even inside the walls – to keep cool in summer, warm in winter and to save energy. This means less electricity or gas usage and therefore real savings in your pocket. Because Eco-Insulation resists the flow of heat, less heat will be lost from the home or office in winter and less heat will enter the building during summer. As a form of energy, heat always flows to a cooler area, escaping out of the building in the winter and entering the building during summer. Eco- Insulation creates an eco-friendly, fire-safe and non-toxic barrier that controls temperature all year round.
As well as energy saving, home insulation also acts as a sound suppressor. Ceiling, roof or wall cavity insulation can reduce the transmission of sound from one room to another or from noise generated outside. In modern noise-laden environments, increasingly more homeowners are soundproofing their homes. Cellulose-fibre insulation can substantially reduce the energy required for heating and cooling buildings during the process of continuous heat generation or heat extraction, and it is being used in new and retrofit houses. Your lack of insulation and many gaps between doors and windows lose your heat during the winter. Insulation is the key to a warm house in Winter and a cool house in Summer.
I recommend Eco-Insulation for ‘green’ insulation. To close gaps in windows or doors I recommend neoprene – ‘All weather strips’ are available at good hardware stores. This cheap solution is very effective as it adheres to the door/window and keeps the cold drafts out.
- Keep curtains closed to keep warm air in during the colder months & also keeps heat out during the hotter months.
- Darker curtains are better for holding heat in winter & light curtains are better for reflecting heat in summer.
- Keep doors & windows closed when heating or cooling an area.
- Use energy efficient heaters such as : Oil heaters, Infrared Heaters (heats objects/people directly, not the air), Wall Heaters and Gas Heaters
Low Cost Solutions:
- Installing door-brushes at the bottom of doors
- Sealing door & window frames with neoprene strips (weather strips)
- Filling in any cracks / air gaps in doors, windows, walls, ceilings, etc (chaulking)
High Cost Solutions:
- Install roofing insulation – can keep in +-10-50% of heat in winter & keep out +-
- 10% of heat in summer (depending on material used, thickness & density). In your case, you would have to clad your roof with another layer of wood to fit the insulation under your roof.
- Insufficient insulation can account for as much as 20% of your heating/cooling costs
As you already have small rainwater tanks I suggest you invest in large tanks with a filter or Leaf Beater so you are able to drink the water. Install a Leaf Beater – this is ideal to use for home water tanks. It features an integrated flow directional gutter outlet, which directs the flow of water from the gutter onto an adjustable round screen of 6mm. This screen is vertical and allows water to wash the screen to minimize maintenance. A second stainless steel screen is also included to keep mozzies and vermin out of the water.
Your small rain water tank system is great for watering your garden. See Jojo Tanks for large rainwater harvesting tanks.
Install a Grey Water System
This sends all your kitchen sink, bath, shower, basin and washing machine water into the garden (via a holding tank is optional). This can be a D.I.Y. project, where you simply gravity feed your greywater into a pit and plant Banana trees around the pit. The banana trees will send ‘feet’ or roots out into the pit to draw the water. Or you can install a greywater system by a professional – contact Water Rhapsody.
As you don’t have any water saving devices on your toilets (which flush 17 Liters of water each time) I recommend these water saving options:
- Install duel flush system on your toilets
- Use toilet displacement device i.e. hippo or a 2 Liter plastic bottle or even a brick. This will automatically use less water per flush.
Your veggie garden is fabulous! However there are a few tips I can advise you on – Install a drip system to water roots with a timer for early morn or late night watering. Use mulch to keep the moisture in, you should be able to get great straw used by horses in your area, to mulch your garden, which is rich in horse manure!
Other water saving tips:
- Reject bottled water – as it takes 16 Liters of water to manufacture a 2L water bottle, which often ends up in Landfill!
- Close tap when brushing teeth.
- Fix leaks and drips to save water, especially in your one bathroom. Wash car with bucket (30L) instead of hosepipe (300L)
- Do not water your garden from 10am – 3pm (CoCT by Laws) as most of the water will evaporate.
- All of the relevant waste that is used on your property is recycled
- You are already using your Bokashi bin for organic waste, why not use a bigger compost heap or a worm bin for the rest of your organic waste?
- A small percentage of the waste that results on your property should go to landfill.
- Buy 3 different bins to separate your garbage at source – organic, recycling and landfill.
- Organic/Composting – all kitchen waste, nail clippings, hair, cold ash, teabags, paper serviettes and tissues.
- Recycling – all plastic, glass, paper, cardboards, foils and aluminums, tins and batteries can be recycled; don’t use too much water to rinse, as cleaned thoroughly at depot Landfill – dirty plastic, sheet glass, rubber, ceramics, meat, chicken and fish bones, contaminated paper.
- CFL light bulbs – dispose in separate containers (e.g.Woolworths).
- Used Oil – Rose Foundation.
- Install a Green Genie compost bin for home composting.
A house should be a closed loop system – meaning that water can be harvested and recycled, but if you use chemicals to wash your clothes, body and dishes with, it will go into your greywater system and therefore into your garden. Please read products labels to understand what is hazardous for your health.
Many domestic cleaners and washing powders contain phosphorus and nitrogen which goes into plants and waterways, so use a Biowash ball instead. A Biowash ball or similar product uses ceramic chips to move the water through the soiled clothes. This enables the user to ‘drop’ the RINCE cycle on the washing machine, and therefore saves water and uses no chemicals. Apply Triple Orange paste, available at Heath Shops, to stains.
- Avoid dry cleaning as it contains Perchloroethylene. Avoid paints containing VOC (volatile organic compounds).
- I recommend Harlequin Paints as the family are local to Hout Bay and use no VOC’s in their paints and varnishes.
- Avoid products containing Formaldehyde
Recommended Cleaning products:
- Probac – available at Health shops and hardware stores
- Earthsap –produce an alternative to Handy Andy called ‘All Purpose Cleaner’ , see pic below, and a great Dishwasher gel. They also have good shampoos, conditioners and liquid soaps. Earthsap is available at Spars and Pick N Pay
- A new cleaning product is on the market called Greenman, and is getting great reviews.
Getting off the Grid
Getting off the Grid offers a way to power your home without having to rely on Eskom. There is a range of installation products available from MLT Drives, to help you live off the grid, ensuring a cleaner and more sustainable form of energy than traditional electricity sources.
The pictures below show a house that has been setup to function off the grid, powered by solar panels and a backup generator. The system powers water pumps, fridges, washing machines as well as many other household appliances and equipment. This makes the off-grid option ideal for your home. Products for a complete off-grid power installation for the home include solar panels, a generator, an inverter and a battery bank. These products are used together as a complete system, providing enough energy to power your home.
Components for Photovoltaic power (Solar):
- Solar Panels: 2.2 KW Mitsubishi
- Generator: 12 KVA Single Phase Power Star
- Inverter: 5.5 KVA Diesel Backup
- Battery Bank: 500 Ah, 48V
The main benefit for considering off-grid installations for your home is of course the freedom it gives you from being on the grid. Eskom is set to raise electricity rates by as much as 25% every year, for the next 3 years in order to regain the losses they have suffered. Every year, Eskom falls further behind in electricity production and the reality is that the current power stations are just not able to handle the demand for electricity in this country. This is leading to an energy crisis in South Africa, which is showing no signs of abating. This is why homeowners are turning to alternative sources of energy to provide them with sustainable power that is not only not reliant on Eskom, but is also eco-friendly and pure. Rather than using potentially dangerous minerals to create nuclear energy, off-grid products harness the power of nature’s energy – directly from the sun or wind.
Benefits of purchasing a Wind Turbine Kit
I recommend Sustainable.co.za ‘s wind power kits, which are put together in a way that best combines the relevant and necessary components for a fully functional wind turbine system at the most economical price. There is no need for you to do any research into which components make up a fully functional system – they have done this for you. Due to the fact that that their kits are sold as a combination of parts in bulk and not as individual parts, they are able to offer lower prices on their wind turbine kits . Delivery of the kits will also be easier and cheaper. It is recommended to combine SOLAR and WIND power together to ‘Go off the Grid’.
There it is. So it looks like I didn’t do too badly, but there are definitely areas that I can improve and reduce my household’s carbon footprint. Compare yours to mine and comment if you have any suggestions of your own, but all these tips are valid, so see which ones you can start implementing and we can help be a part of this very necessary change!