Please read this first...

If you want to know what I'm on about in the shortest time then please read the introductory first post and my current action plan. Comments are very welcome. And if you like this blog, please tell a friend. Thanks!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

SITREP: electricity usage at Brady base camp

Unlike water, there are no restrictions imposed on our electricity consumption. But also unlike water, most of our electrical usage directly contributes to global warming. (So why aren't we setting energy restrictions...?)

I mentioned in the hot water post that we have an electric water heater. It's wired up to operate only during the night when demand on the grid is low and is metered separately. I dug out some of our Energex bills and came up with some interesting data:

First thing I want to note is that this data doesn't cover our recent switch to CF light bulbs and the extra effort to be conservative. But there are some interesting trends there.

Our general consumption, in blue, shows a slight downward trend. The most recent figure is up a bit, which could be explained by the fact that we had an air conditioner installed in February (and which I will write about another time). As with our water consumption I've started just tracking electricity usage much more closely and will let you know how much difference our recent efforts have made.

But take a look at the shape made by the red bars, which represent the energy used for heating water. The five periods shown align pretty well with the seasons: summer on the ends and winter in the middle. There may be some reduction if we are successful in using less water overall but I expect that pattern to continue simply because the water comes in colder during winter and therefore takes more energy to heat up.

So... what are we doing to live more sustainably with regard to electrical consumption?

1. CF light bulbs
2. Turning things off
3. Um...

To be honest I'm not sure that there's a lot of room for us to reduce consumption just by changing our habits. Major reductions will require significant investment in more efficient appliances - water heater, fridge, stove and washing machine. Not only is that relatively expensive but the things we have now are working quite fine and replacing them prematurely would be a waste of materials and resources in itself.

But that doesn't mean we can't do something to reduce our impact on the Earth: today I paid a little under $60 to GreenSwitch to fund the generation of 1402kWh of electricity from renewable energy sources - the same amount of electricity that we consumed last quarter for general use and water heating combined. There are other ways to achieve the same effect but I liked the simplicity and the low cost that GreenSwitch offered.

Some time down the track I'll replace my electric hot water system with a solar one and I may even look at installing solar panels to generate power. But for now I'm pretty happy that we have a renewable energy industry that's so easy to access and quite reasonably priced.

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