Saving Money: You can save money by cutting energy use!

By | July 3, 2008

Today we received our first electricity bill of the summer! And we got a shock! It was much…..


… than we had expected originally. We saved about NT$1700 on our bills vs. the same period last year… And we really didn’t do that much yet. But if we focus, we could save about 15%~20% of our annual energy bill, and cut carbons by a similar amount.

Exercising our discretion

So what did we do? Well, as luck would have it, it just hasn’t been THAT hot this year so far, so we decided to delay turning on our ancient A/C in the main office. In fact, we only turned it on about three or four times before July started.

We found that we just didn’t need it as much as last year, partly as we had fewer employees than last year, and we turned the other a/cs only as we needed them. In other words, we monitored our superfluous requirements, and exercised discretion. It’s amazing how much energy you waste just out of ‘habit’!

Turning off switches at night

This was also an obvious one: turning off unnecessary appliances AT THE SWITCH. In some cases, we simply turned off the entire power bar, too. It was astonishing how much energy our always on water heater/cooler drinks machine actually used at peak power (that’s 910 watts!). Turning just that off at night saved quite a bit. We also turned off power bars on PCs to cut ambient power going through them.

Switching to more efficient machines

Last March we started transitioning to more energy efficient monitors. We went from having only 3 pcs with 3 CRT monitors that were on 7~8 hours a day, and generated QUITE a bit of heat, to no CRT monitors and four PCs / one notebook. Naturally, the LCDs and notebook are a lot more efficent, and generate considerably less heat. This in turn requires a lot less A/C cooling.

Now we’re about to replace our 8 year-old A/C with a more expensive but smaller machine that is brand new. And we’re considering replacing our older second-hand computers with new ones that are either energy efficient or notebooks.

Substitution appropriate equipment

In one or two cases, substitution works well. Our drinks machine provides hot and cold water, as well as regular temperature water. Since we never drink cold water, it’s not necessary to chill the water. We primarily use the hot water for tea-making, and occasional other use so it is excessive to have hot water on all day or even some of the day. Result: we’ll substitute our hot water machine for an electric kettle that is boiled only several times a day (at most), and turn off the water machine entirely.

Power Saving Bulbs

Installing power saving bulbs was something we had done for quite a few years, as they were just more appropriate than typical strip lighting. But we didn’t use them exclusively at first because we couldn’t find the right sizes in the stores. Now, though, there are all manner of power saving bulbs from 0.5 watts upto nearly 50 watts. So we switched to 100% power saving bulbs about a year ago. There’s little excuse these days NOT to use such bulbs.

With increased interest in global warming, we have all started to become acutely aware of our impact on the situation. To that end, I’m beginning to wonder how far we can cut our power bills. Given our success this year, we’re now going one step further…

The Complete Lighting Inventory

Doing a power inventory will take a while, and will produce some quite exhaustive lists once you get started. I did one for our office and classrooms, and was quite surprised just how many items we had that required power in some form or other. Through the power inventory we were able to detect some obvious places where we were wasting power: especially in our lighting arrangements.

So our plan is simple “LEARS” …

Lights: Eliminate, Add, Replace and Select

We installed 9 spot lights at 50 watts each in two rooms to increase the lighting in the room. And for 4 years we burned them as much. Only when I did a power inventory a few days ago, did I realize just HOW large a portion of the power bill these 9 bulbs represent… over 15% of our bill and we have nearly 135 separate light bulbs in our school. By replacing just those 9 bulbs with LED spots and upping the nearby main bulbs, we figure we could save a large part of our usage, maintain light quality, and cut ambient temperatures in the rooms involved.

Replacing strip lighting with newer power saving bulbs would also save an additional 25% or more because we would cut the number of bulbs in use by about 30%. We’d be able to space out the lights more appropriately and use variable wattages when necessary. In other words, we would make the choices about lighting instead of letting the traditional strip lighting tell us where it goes.

I decided to vary the wattages involved instead of using a standard wattage throughout: not significant until you remember how many bulbs we’re talking about.

  • So corridor areas will have 18 watt bulbs, with 25 watts in desk or corner areas.
  • Reading areas will be given higher wattages, too, to create visual foci on the areas that are important.
  • Classrooms will have the higher ratings (we haven’t decided yet) bulbs, like over 30 watts.
  • Spot lights will either be replaced entirely with LED spot lights or removed.
  • Kitchen and service areas will receive 11- or 13- watt bulbs as necessary because supplemental lighting is adequate. And these areas are not accessed by students, anyway.

Unlike many cheapskate schools and business in Taiwan where people sit huddled around 1 lamp or lights are simply turned off (I know I’ve seen a few where there’s only one strip light in the classroom or living room, and it’s almost impossible to read because the building is so poorly designed), we’re not about to go down that route. It’s just bad for business.

But such buildings are a reminder: architects should be doing a better job of providing natural lighting for businesses, homes and people. If architects and builders built environmentally friendlier buildings, society as a whole would pay less in unnecessary power bills and emit fewer carbons!

What are you doing to cut carbons in your home or business?