We have lived in our new house for nine months. Over that time I have attempted to keep the electricity bills in check. I banished a lot of appliances - I don't use a tumble dryer, a dishwasher, a TV, a vacuum cleaner, or a bunch of small appliances. When I moved to the new house I bought the smallest, most energy-efficient refrigerator I could find that wasn't a bar fridge. I heat with wood, and we use a couple of small heaters on a cold morning.
I have had three electricity bills during that time, each of them tells me I use about 16kWh per day. That is 5.3kwh per person per day, or 486kWh per month in total for our household, or 5840kWh per year. This puts my electricity uses squarely on the Australian average per household of 5817kWh per year. But when you take a closer look at the figures, this is not taking account of national energy use, merely electricity use. In most states houses and hot water are heated with gas, whereas in Tasmania we mostly only have the option of heating with electricity - so Tasmania's figures (you can see the breakdown of electricity use between states if you scroll down the page in the link above) are for practically all our energy needs. At our place, as I mentioned, we heat with wood, and we also use bottled gas for our stovetop - we go through about 2 barbeque gas bottles per year - but everything else is achieved with electricity.
The average electricity usage for Tasmanian households in 2014 was 8813kWh. So I use 34% less electricity than the average Tasmanian. This is a very similar percentage in savings to my driving numbers - there I discovered that I drive 38% less than the average Tasmanian. There seems to be a theme here..
Now most of that electricity saving is because I don't heat with electricity. But that 16kWh per day seems awfully high for a household with so few electrical gadgets. I drilled down into my electricity bill and discovered that 60% of my electricity use goes to hot water. Sixty percent!!
Three things stand out here:
1. Yes, I admit it, we all love our very long, hot showers. We definitely need to do something about that. And yes, by 'something' I mean we could all have shorter showers.
2. Our hot water is hotter than it needs to be. We tested the temperature of the hot water at our kitchen sink, and it is 56C (133F), which is 6C (43F) higher than it needs to be. It's even higher in the bathroom, including the shower, which is nearly 60C (140F). In order to lower the thermostat though, we need to move an armchair and a heavy cupboard which are in front of the secret trapdoor which hides our hot water cylinder.. and probably call the nice plumber to do it, as the hot water cylinder needs to be at least 60C (140F) to kill bacteria and I have no idea what I am doing. Presumably lowering the thermostat will lower our electricity consumption, while using the same amount of water which seems like a good deal. But yes, of course we will have shorter showers. Of course.
3. We are excellent candidates for solar hot water. Does anyone out there have a solar hot water system? Does it heat up the water enough? I suspect that winter in Tasmania is not great for solar hot water, but I am willing to stand corrected on this. I am also quite interested in the idea of connecting my wood heater to the hot water system, but have no idea what is involved. The fact that my wood heater is inside the chimney space will probably make that more difficult..
I would also like to put some solar panels on the roof. But we have an awkward roof for solar panels - gables all over the place, and no long flat run of roof with the right aspect. I will get the solar panel people to have a look and see what is possible. But first, I need to use less electricity. To start with we will tackle the showers.. and then.. well, I am sure I will think of something but there is not a lot else that we use. We have a tiny oven that we could use more efficiently by batch cooking. The girls have their laptops on all the time, and are forever charging up their phones. They also use the hair dryer and make rather a lot of smoothies in the blender. I give the electric kettle an excellent workout and use the washing machine a lot. I am pretty sure I can't use it any less though, because already we re-wear our clothes a lot, and probably wash sheets and towels slightly less than we should:)
Tell me what you do to save electricity.. and how I can save more at mine.. there are probably dozens of small things that I haven't thought of that would add up to savings over time.
By the way, if you are in Australia you can enter your postcode here and discover how your electricity usage compares to the rest of your suburb. The residents at my post code use even more electricity than the Tasmanian average. Apparently. My neighbours must be taking long showers as well.