Ways to lighten your light-bill burden

By Ayesha Inoon

Do you literally see stars when you get your electricity bill? Though most of the rising costs of food and fuel that drain our wallets may be beyond our control, some things – like our electricity bills – can be considerably reduced by careful and efficient usage.

While the Ceylon Electricity Board believes that the revised electricity rates which have taken effect this month, may bring some relief to domestic users by reducing their bills by up to 15%, officials say that consumers too can take some simple energy saving steps.

  • Lights: Switch on lights only when necessary. Your electricity bill depends on the number of lights, number of watts in each light and number of hours each light is used. For frequently used lamps, replace the regular incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). These save up to 80% of electricity consumption and have a lifetime ten times that of normal incandescent bulbs. Although the cost of these bulbs may be higher, they are definitely more economical in the long run.
  • Refrigerator: Do not expose your fridge to direct sunlight and do not place it close to cooking stoves or any other source of heat. Leave a gap of about nine inches between walls and the refrigerator. If the rubber seal on the door is damaged or worn out, replace it immediately. Leaking doors make the refrigerator motor run more frequently than necessary, thus using more electricity. Do not place warm foods inside, or uncovered liquids which give off vapours and add to the compressor workload.
  • Iron: Irons with automatic (thermostat) control are more efficient. Plan your ironing so that you can iron as many clothes as possible in one session. Do not keep the warm iron in an upright position as this wastes heat, but in its normal position on a suitable surface. Iron heavy clothes that require high temperatures first; then turn the temperature setting down for lighter clothes.
  • Fans: Pedestal or table fans generally use less electricity than ceiling fans. Some older fan regulators use the same amount of electricity regardless of the fan speed. The use of modern regulators can save electricity.
  • Air-conditioners: It goes without saying that air-conditioners use up far more electricity than fans, so minimise the usage. Make sure the room is well insulated when the air conditioner is on. Those who use air conditioners only in their bedrooms at night could run it for about an hour before bed-time to cool the room and then switch to a fan. A 5° higher setting on your air conditioning thermostat will save about 10% on cooling costs, says Maintenance Engineer, Sumith Perera. The lower the temperature setting, the more energy used by your air-conditioner. Air-conditioning units need to be serviced regularly, he says.
    The air filter needs to be checked once a month and cleaned or replaced as necessary so that it runs efficiently. Dirty air filters impede airflow. Besides the air filters, the condition of other components of an air-conditioning unit (such as the refrigerant, pipes and motors) also affects its efficiency.
  • Stoves and ovens: Electric stoves consume a lot of electricity. Using gas or firewood is a far more economical option. Small appliances use less power than larger ones, says Mr. Perera. You can save money by using a microwave oven rather than an electric oven. A microwave oven typically uses less than half the energy of an electric oven because it wastes less heat.
  • Televisions, VCRs and DVD players: Many of us use the remote to switch off the television or DVD player, leaving the appliance running on standby for long periods of time. This means it is still using up electricity. By switching off at the main power button, or even the socket, you can save both energy and money.
  • Washing machines: Wash only full loads of clothing, so that the machine’s full capacity is put to use. Set the water temperature to cold, since heating uses up a lot of electricity.
  • Computers: Configure the power options on your computer to maximise energy savings, advises Software Engineer, Mohammed Hosney. This can be done by going to Control Panel on the Start Menu and changing the power options. For example, set the monitor to switch off after 10 minutes, hard disk after 20 and to go to standby after 30 minutes. Also, having a screen saver doesn't save any energy, unless it turns the screen black.

Use an LCD monitor if possible, he says, since they use less power. Energy Star rated monitors are also more efficient. This is usually stated on the monitor with a sticker. High-end graphic cards (powerful video graphic cards that are used mostly for 3D games) can take a lot of energy, especially with all the cooling they need. Use these only if necessary. Most of the time an onboard VGA (Video Graphic Array), will do the job.

The CEB also advises that consumers reduce their electricity usage between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., which is considered peak time, and during which charges are higher.

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