An energy audit gives you a good idea of your biggest energy drains. Knowing where you use the most electricity empowers you to make the biggest cost reductions by tackling those spending areas.
The cost of electricity just keeps going up (heck, all the bills are going up), and if the experts have it right, energy costs are going to continue to skyrocket.
So to keep on top of the rising prices, you’re going to have to do more than change the light bulbs.
To get the biggest savings, you have to look at your biggest areas of energy consumption and focus on reducing your big spenders (as well as switching light bulbs, of course).
What are your big spenders?
There are two ways to find out.
The first is to assume you’re an average Australian energy consumer. The graph below shows how the average household consumes electricity.
The second and more accurate way is to conduct a home energy audit to find out exactly how you use electricity.
That’s what today’s post is about.
And over the next few weeks, I’ll cover the nitty-gritty of how to cut your household electricity expenses.
Are You an Average Australian Household When it Comes to Energy Costs?
This graph represents the average Australian household energy use. Heating and cooling and water heating clearly make up the bulk of energy expenditure in the home.
You can see that the standard advice to switch off standby power or turn out the light isn’t going to save you a whole heap of money.
So should you bother?
Standby power or lights left on = electricity wasted. And wasted electricity is like throwing money in the bin.
And who wants to throw money away, right?
But if you want to make an impact on your electricity bill, you’ve really got to target those big fellas.
From next week, I’ll cover how to target each of these areas in turn, with printable checklists to make it easier.
But in the meantime…
what if you’re anything but ‘average’?
Maybe, like us, you don’t heat your home, don’t use air-con or have solar hot water.
Or maybe you want to get an accurate personal account of how you use electricity so you can really make big savings.
This is where a home energy audit is essential.
A home energy audit will tell you exactly how you are consuming electricity and where you can make savings.
how to conduct a home energy audit
The easiest way to do an energy audit is by using an energy monitor. This is an inexpensive device that works by monitoring the energy use of an appliance (including electric heating and air con) over time. Just plug it into an appliance for 24 hours and record the reading.
An energy monitor is particularly useful for appliances that don’t run at constant full power or that have a thermostat. You can also get a good idea of when you use appliances and for how long.
You can get an inexpensive energy monitor from the hardware store or online.
(I picked up one from the middle aisle in Aldi!)
If you live in South Australia or Tasmania, you can borrow the Home Energy Toolkit for free from your local council or library and this kit includes an energy monitor as well as useful checklists for making cost-saving changes. Some councils in other states also lend these toolkits; check with your library or council and if they don’t have them, ask them to acquire a few to borrow.
If you can’t get your hands on an energy monitor, you can estimate an appliance’s energy usage by doing the following:
- Look for the appliance’s input power. This is either on a label stuck to the appliance or printed into the plastic and is usually given in watts. Some small appliances are labelled with the amps and volts instead. Multiply the amps by the volts to get the watts.
- Divide the watts by 1,000 to give you the kilowatt amount.
- Estimate the number of hours you use an appliance and multiply it by the input power in kilowatts. For example, if an appliance uses 2,200 watts that equals 2.2 kilowatts per hour. If you operate that appliance for three hours a day, then it would be consuming 6.6 kilowatts per day.
- To calculate the cost, take the 6.6 kilowatts and multiply it by the cost per kilowatt-hour according to your last energy bill.
Record the energy you monitor for a week and examine where you can reduce your consumption. Make it a competition in your house to see how much you can reduce your energy consumption each week. Graph the results. Get the kids involved. Set a target to aim for.
The average Australian household uses around 20 kilowatts of energy per day. If you check your latest electricity bill, you’ll see how you compare to the average. Reducing your consumption will not only save you money, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s a double win.
The next post in the series looks at cooling costs.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.