When our electricity bill is high, and we don’t know why, it helps to take a closer look at the way we use hot water. We might think of our morning shower as a necessity and not a luxury, though when it lasts more than say, 5 minutes, we’re literally pouring money down the drain. The good news is, we can stop the flood and adopt green living principles that will reduce our electricity bill. And we won’t have to give up our morning ablutions.
How much can we save on hot water?
It really depends on how far we’re willing to go and what our budget is. Without spending any extra money we can cut our water-heating costs by 10%. If we have a modest budget we can save 30% on hot water. And if we’re willing to invest substantially in green technology, there’s no limit to how much we can save.
Change small habits to save 10% on our electricity bill
When ready to start saving money on our electricity bill right now, all we need do is change some habits. That’s all that green living really means—being aware of the way we use limited resources and using them carefully. Here are four things we can do right now that won’t cost us a penny:
Turning the geyser down to 55°-60°
Check the thermostat on the geyser. Most geysers are set to 65° or higher. That’s hot enough to scald us. Turn it down at least 5° or 10° and we won’t even notice the difference. For every 5° we reduce the temperature, we save up to 10% on our heating costs. Proof that living green helps us save money.
Turning our geyser’s temperature down has other benefits. We’ll protect our family from burning themselves (essential with small children) and we’ll increase the lifespan of our geyser. Don’t get carried away, though. The temperature needs to be at least 55° to stop bacteria from breeding.
We might get a bit dirty climbing about in the attic, nevertheless, that is the start of savings each month.
Cutting down on shower time
A 10-minute shower can use as much as 65 litres of hot water. By reducing our shower time by two minutes we’ll need about 12 litres of hot water less. A family of four would save thousands of Rands on electricity and water every year by spending a little less time in the shower. And don’t be tempted to bath instead. A bath uses more water than a shower.
Another little trick; is taking a bucket into the shower. Use it to collect the grey water that normally disappears down the drain and use it to water the garden. It won’t help save on electricity though; it’s a way of living green and to save another precious resource.
Switch off the geyser when away for prolonged periods
Going on holiday this summer? Stop at the DB board and flip the geyser switch to the off position. If nobody is around to use hot water, why let the element heat up a few times every day? This is the easiest way to save on electricity and with a geyser timer, why not switch the geyser off during peak periods even when not on holiday. Just don’t forget to switch the geyser on again when back, then give it a few hours to heat up again. Eco-friendly homes enable everyone to enjoy the benefits of modern conveniences while reducing costs and reducing strain on the national supply.
Use cold water for the laundry
Unless our clothes are heavily soiled, we can wash them in cold water to clean them. While our washing machine doesn’t draw hot water from the geyser, this little tip helps reduce our electricity bill. Green living is all about the small habits that make a big difference.
Waiting until we have a full load of clothes or dirty dishes before switching on the washing machine or dishwasher are further savings. The more efficiently we use these appliances, the more we save.
Spend less than R1000 to save 30%
With spare cash, investing in these tips and boost our hot water savings by as much as 30%. Imagine such savings on electricity every month. Here are some ideas to get started on the road to living green:
Installing low-flow shower heads
They really aren’t that difficult to install and won’t need the services of a professional plumber. Doing the ‘Bucket Test’ to determine the efficiency of our current shower heads, is even easier. Hold a bucket under the shower spray for 12 seconds and see if we collect more than 2 litres. By installing a low-flow shower head we save a lot of money (and water and electricity). As low-flow shower heads aerates the water we still get the same blast of water so our morning ablutions are as luxurious.
Put a timer on the geyser
Though this tip costs a bit more, the savings we’ll enjoy is worth every penny. Installing a programmable timer on our geyser and setting it to switch off during peak periods, such as 6am – 8am and 5pm-9pm, creates another saving. Living green means we are conscious of our consumption, and looking at creating saving of our month costs, while incidentally conserving resources of the planet.
We’ll need to call out an electrician to install the timer, and, at the same time adding the geyser thermostat control. That save us from climbing into the roof every time we want to adjust the temperature of our geyser. And when having such handy features it’s easy to manage the geyser: Being able to monitor and adjust our hot water usage to save electricity costs. More convenience with our hot water.
Invest in insulation
A geyser blanket will cost between R200 and R400 and pipe insulation won’t cost much more than R100. Every penny is worth it because it stops the heat escaping from the tank. That means using less electricity to heat the water in the tank to the desired temperature. Eco-friendly homes make comprehensive use of available resources such as insulation. (Ceiling, exterior walls, floor, double-glazing, water pipes.)
Buy energy-efficient appliances
When in the market for a new dishwasher or washing machine, check the Energy Star ratings. Modern appliances are designed to use less water and less electricity. We’ll save on two fronts and be implementing further green living features.
Go big and save up to 50% or more on hot water costs
When taking full advantage of reducing the costs of our hot water bill, and decide to take up green living technologies we’ll have a huge impact on the monthly running costs of our homes. And reap the benefits from right away as well as adding value to our home.
Installing a heat pump – water heating and cooling
Heat pumps are remarkably efficient and use only a small amount of electricity. They’re about the size of a medium to large air-conditioning unit.
A fan draws hot air into the heat pump and passes it over a refrigerant. Because the refrigerant boils at low temperatures, it transfers this heat to a condenser coil – which in turn heats up water. The hot water continuously replaces the cooled down water in the hot water tank.
Dual function heat pumps are particularly versatile because they have three different modes. They heat water, cool water down, or they cool and heat water at the same time. This means twice as much efficiency is achieved. By installing this type of heat pump it easily produces the required water temperature, either separately or simultaneously.
Because heat pumps use electricity, they work just as well on cloudy and rainy days. Installing a heat pump is viable indoors and outdoors, as long as the unit has space around it for the air to circulate. Heat pumps don’t require much maintenance. A heat pump that is properly maintained will last more than 15 years. This makes them an ideal choice for those who want to strike a balance between greener living and convenience.
Go with a solar water heater
Though solar water heaters are expensive, consider their savings in monthly electricity costs. With a solar water heater we aren’t subjected to increasing electricity costs. A family of four would recoup their investment in a solar water heater in 4-6 years. When looking at it like that, the idea of a solar water heater is a sound investment. And they form part of green living.
Enough roof space is needed to accommodate the solar collector. The tank is either fitted on the roof alongside the collector or, inside the roof. A pump circulates water between the collector and the tank.
A solar water heater provides free hot water all year round. We’re not affected by power cuts or load shedding. This system doesn’t produce any kind of pollution. In fact, we’ll be reducing our carbon footprint and embracing greener living. To top it, solar water heaters require little maintenance and last as long as 15-20 years before they need repairs or components.
When a roof gets sufficient sunlight during the year, is big enough to house the collector and the tank there’s every reason to go ahead with installing a solar water heater. As an alternative to the favoured heat pump system, solar water heaters provide and alternative water heating system to eco-friendly houses.
Whether opting for a heat pump or a solar water heater, with a substantial investment we’ll have access to hot water while saving electricity costs each month.
How many of these ideas should we use? One option is to start small, no-cost changes to see an immediate difference to our monthly electricity bill. Putting the saved money aside or invest in some insulation for the conventional geyser. That way we save until able to afford a solar water heater. The other option, though pricey is, a purpose built green smart home.