Saturday, June 30, 2012

Top tips to reduce your power bill and 'beat the carbon tax'

The 1st of July marks the introduction of the carbon price. The major effect of the carbon price on households will be through increases in energy bills as the cost of producing highly polluting energy increases. But carbon price or not, energy prices have been increasing rapidly over the last few years, mostly due to the cost of network upgrades. Given the rapidly increasing price of power, no matter what the pollies do, it makes sense to take action to decrease your energy usage to save money on your bills.

Here are 30 simple things you can do (from the ABC), plus a few suggestions from me and other commenters on the ABC website:


    1. Turn off the beer fridge during the week or between parties.
    2. Dry clothes on an airing rack or on the clothes line, rather than using a tumble dryer.
    3. Clean the lint filter in washing machines, dryers, and heating and cooling equipment.
    4. Use a rake instead of an electric leaf blower, or a broom instead of a vacuum on sealed floors.
    5. Keep your fridge operating efficiently by keeping the door seals clean (replace them if they've deteriorated) and defrost the freezer if necessary.
    6. Buy efficient whitegoods when the time comes to replace them. The Energy Rating website has a useful search tool that estimates running costs. For example, one 4-star family fridge costs $72 per year to run, paying 25 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, while a similar sized 1.5-star machine costs $135 per year to run.
    7. If you have them, limit the use of heated towel rails to a couple of hours per day, instead of the full 24.


    8. Put lids on saucepans to reduce the heat that escapes.
    9. Cut your vegies into smaller pieces so that they cook faster.
    10. Boil the kettle with only as much water as you need. Heating water takes a lot of energy.
    11. Where possible, use a microwave instead of a conventional oven.


    12. Turn off the television and other entertainment devices manually, instead of leaving them on standby. Master/slave powerboards can make this easier (despite dodgy-sounding name): when you turn off the 'master' (usually the TV), the 'slave' devices are automatically turned off.
    13. Battery chargers can use standby power even when not plugged into the device they charge. Turn them off at the wall. This includes mobile phone, power tool and battery rechargers.


    14. So you've swapped your old incandescent bulbs for more efficient lights? Now, it's time to replace energy-hungry halogen downlights. Mains voltage (GU10 base fitting) 50 Watt halogens can be replaced with 11-watt compact fluorescent 'micro' downlights. Low-voltage (MR16 base) 50-watt halogens can be replaced with 20 Watt infrared coated (IRC) halogens or three Watt LED downlights. Note that 'low voltage' does not mean 'low energy'.
    15. Match your lighting levels to the needs of the activity you're doing. For example, you don't need every light on while watching TV.
    16. Combined light, heat lamp and fan fittings for bathrooms are compact and useful, but each heat lamp typically uses a massive 275 watts. Don't flick on the heat switch when light is all you need.

Keeping warm

    17. Dress for the season. Winter is the time for woollies, rather than wearing summer clothes and setting the heater thermostat to tropical.
    18. Similarly, suit your bedding to the season and use extra blankets (including underlay) rather than electric blankets or running a heater overnight.
    19. Don't scoff at a nana-rug to cover your knees while you're watching telly. Thousands of nanas can't be wrong.
    20. Cover windows with thick, well-fitting curtains.
    21. Put weatherstripping on external doors or use a door snake.
    22. Target heating to the rooms or zones in use, not the entire house.
    23. Set your thermostat to a reasonable temperature of 18 to 20ÂșC in winter. Each degree hotter can increase your energy bill by about 10 per cent.

Hot water

    24. The shorter your shower, the less energy you spend heating up water. 25. Install a water-saving showerhead; it's an easy DIY job. Many water retailers have free showerhead replacement programs.
    26. Consider insulated coverings for hot water systems and pipes.

Staying cool

    27. When the weather heats up again, remember it is easier to prevent your house becoming hot than it is to cool an already hot house. Make sure your home has adequate exterior shade, such as awnings, blinds, sails, shade cloth, shade trees or verandas.
    28. Install flyscreens to make it easier to ventilate your home.
    29. For active cooling, fans use the least energy, followed by evaporative coolers (which suit dry climates). Air conditioners are the most expensive to run.
    30. Fans work by moving air over your skin. If you're not in the room, the fan is doing nothing. Switch it off.


Finally, remember that every product you see in the shops has needed energy, water and material resources to be produced and has a carbon cost. We can cut our eco-footprints, save money and avoid some of the carbon tax by simply buying and wasting less stuff."

So lots of common sense stuff there, thanks Auntie.

A few other thoughts:

1. Hot water is a massive part of energy bills, other ways to save money include:

  • Turn down the temperature on your hot water cylinder, 65 dC works for us
  • Better yet, get rid of your hot water cyclinder, having a big tank keeping hundreds of litres of water hot 24/7 is crazily inefficient.  Look into some sort of instantaneous heating system.
  • Install solar hot water
2. Switch to an energy efficient pool pump. Old single speed pool pumps can use huge amounts of energy and cost over $500 a year to run. While the running costs of new 5 star and better rated pumps can be less than half that. Anecdotally a new pump can pay for itself in 2 years or less.  Even better, Energex is running a promotion for people in certain areas with extra incentives.

3. Install solar panels. If you live in QLD and have been thinking about going solar, you should get in before July 9th when the feed-in tarrif changes. You don't have to have the panels installed by then of course, contact a solar installer and they'll tell you what you need to do.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Solar scuttled - QLD govt slashes solar feed-in tarrif

The new Queensland LNP government has slashed the amount of money householders will be paid for feeding power from rooftop solar panels into the grid from 44 cents a kW/h to just 8 cents a kW/h for new installations, effective July 10.

Although existing solar PV owners will continue to receive the old feed-in tariff, it will also be lost upon the sale of a house, so anyone buying a house will also receive only the new 8 c kW/h. Although even this rate will be up for review in 2014.

Effectively households with solar panels are now going to earn 8 c kW/h for the power they produce but have to pay ~22 c kW/h for the power they use.*1 *2

This kind of out-of-the-blue promised-we-wouldn't-do-it-but-we-are reminds me of when the old NSW Labour government suddenly decided to slash their much more generous feed in tariff with no real thought as to how it might affect the state's solar industry and the people who work in it.

Despite what the new QLD energy minister might tell you, QLD had quite a well designed solar feed in tariff in that it was a 'net', not 'gross' scheme and so incentivised solar power without costing all that much. According to the energy minister the scheme has so far cost $112 million over 4 years, not a small amount, but not bad when you consider it has stimulated a reported $2.37 billion worth of private investment as well as providing renewable energy and helping to grow a reported 10 000 + jobs in the solar industry.

Many in the solar industry had been calling for a gradual reduction in the feed-in tariff as solar panel prices decreased and I think most people will have supported a gradual reduction down to around the retail price of electricity over several years ie: the price you get for the electricity you produce is the same as what you pay for it. However this government has already shown they Can't do clean energy, cutting highly successful programs like the Climate Smart at Home Service which was taken up by hundred of thousands of Queenslander's. Hopefully they will change tack and not try to scuttle the solar industry too but things don't look good currently.

Chances are that the PV power you produce is used by your neighbours, or another home/ business close by, so the cost of distributing the power is low, compared to say transporting it 500 km from a coal plant along high voltage lines and through a number of substations. So it would seem some company will be making a nice profit off your power.

Apparently 8 c k/w is the wholesale price of power, ie: what the big coal fired power plants get paid. However unlike you, generators can also take advantage of times when wholesale power prices are high (due to high demand) to sell power for much more that that. Also I imagine the carbon price will push up the price of wholesale power (because so much of it comes from dirty coal), but there'll be no increase for PV power to match this. Effectively this means you'll have to sell your clean solar energy for less than the big polluters get for their coal fired electricity. How's that for priorities? 

See also

Solar shame - election promise broken (Courier mail)

Can-do Campbell slashes Queensland solar PV tariffs (Renew Economy)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Transition Kenmore June 2012 Meeting: Backyard Beauties/Bushland Bullies!

This month we are very pleased to have Andrew Wills, Program Officer Invasive Species and Animal Management for the Brisbane City Council present on the topic of garden plants overstepping their boundaries.

He will inform us about the potential for Garden plants to invade, modify and threaten native vegetation communities. We will hear how such plants can be so deceptively beautiful in the garden setting, and equally can have devastating impacts on our native vegetation communities as a whole.

Thursday June 21 
7.15pm for a 7.30pm start
Kenmore Library Meeting Room

As usual the meeting will be followed by supper and conversation. Please feel free to bring along a plate to share. No need to RSVP.