Saturday, April 20, 2024

Time to take control

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TODAY EVERYONE IS FEELING the effects of the slow economy and we monitor what we spend. Some people pay the bills they receive first and spend until the money is gone.

Others plan exactly what they will spend each month and prepare a budget monthly. These are principles for everyday living that most people understand and live by. However, when it comes to the electricity bill, even the really good planners seem not to be able to manage the cost. A lack of understanding of electricity and the billing process seems to make the task difficult.

Let’s for a moment look at the operation of a vehicle. I am sure no one would try driving a car around every day without gauges to tell you what is going on. A fuel gauge to tell you if you have enough gas to go to the supermarket and back. Speed gauge to tell you if you are driving too fast. A water temperative gauge to tell if the engine is over-heating etc. Everyone understands this. They understand that driving a car without a fuel gauge means they will run out of gas at the most inconvenient time and place. If you understand this concept, then trying to manage your electricity cost without any tools/gauges is like driving a car without gauges.

So in the household a power monitor is your fuel gauge and your temperature gauge. It tells you in real time if you are using too much electricity. It tells you if you can make it to the end of the month at your target of $100. It’s time to take the guesswork out of managing your electricity bill. No one would even consider driving to work every day without a fuel gauge wondering if they will still make it to work or not.

Let’s talk about how we use this house gauge, the power monitor. First, place it where you can see it as often as possible and close to the door you use when leaving home. Determine the baseline for your home. The baseline is what your house consumption is when you are not at home; this may include your fridge plugged in and closed, deep freeze plugged in and closed, microwave plugged in and turned off, electric oven/stove plugged in and turned off. Internet modem on and plugged in, cable box plugged in and turned off, and finally the television plugged in and turned off. All other devices and appliances should be turned off and unplugged, but if they are not they should factored in as well.

You should then note what your power monitor is reading. Typically, this would be between 200 watts and 600 watts. Anything lower is great, anything higher is not good. Once you establish your baseline, you can use that as a safety indicator when you are leaving home. For example, if you are leaving home and the monitor is showing a higher figure than the baseline it means you have left a device on. If it’s showing baseline plus 1 200 watts and above, then you have left on a curling iron, iron, an electric kettle, the electric oven or an electric water heater is on. All of these are potentially dangerous so you should immediately return inside and find what was left on and turn it off.

By using the baseline when you are at home you can observe the amount of electricity you use when washing clothes or drying clothes with an electric dryer. This would be a stronger reminder to consolidate your laundry to avoid using these high consuming appliances more often than you need it. You can use the monitor to set a target for the month, for example 250 kilowatt hours and note the number of days on your billing cycle. The billing cycle days can be found on your Barbados Light & Power Company bill next to the daily consumption. You can either use a computer and the software that normally comes with these monitors to review your daily consumption and the consumption for the month. You can also use the monitor screen and note your average daily consumption and write it on a big piece of paper or card and put it right next to the monitor. This will guide your daily activities and as you approach your target you can note the number of days you have to the end of the billing cycle. You can alter your activity to stay within your month target, for example, hang the clothes out instead of using the dryer. You can also delay your washing by a few days so that you this usage goes into the next billing cycle.

Real people living normal lives have accomplished 40 to 50 per cent savings using a power monitor. At a cost of $300 to $400 for a good whole house monitor, it can pay for itself in less than six months and thereafter save you money every month. One person had a $1 400 per month bill cut to $750 by using a monitor. The payback period of the monitor for this individual was one month. Managing your electricity bill can have real impact on your monthly expenses with some effort. Therefore, when oil begin to rise again it can be the one thing that allows your household to survive the increases.

We can’t continue doing the same things and expect different results. Take managing your energy consumption seriously and make a small investment in a power monitor. Start saving now and take control.

Jerry Franklin is managing director of EnSmart Inc. Franklin is an engineer, energy auditor, equipment tester, and energy solutions provider.

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