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  • Writer's pictureRick

10 Practical Tips to Save Electricity & Your Money

Since July 2018, the tariff for electricity in Singapore had been raised gradually from $0.2215 per kWh to $0.2413 per kWh in October 2018. A rough calculation will show a hike of 8.9% in 4 months! Apart from going green and be environmental friendly, the cost of electricity is another reason to cut down on electricity usage and save some money.

For 5 full months since moving into my new house, my electricity bills averaged about S$17 per month. To most of my friends, my electricity usage is considered far lesser than theirs. It is not because I stayed by myself, but the ways I save on electricity from careful selection of electrical appliances to using them appropriately. Yes, the key to reducing usage of electricity starts at the acquisition stage.

In this post, I will share all the tips that I applied from selecting my electrical appliances to reducing electricity usage.

1. Refrigerator

The only electric appliance that seldom get to be cut off from the power source once usage begun is the refrigerator. So, trying to save electricity consumption of a fridge is not by switching it off but getting an energy-efficient model. For most households, that may be the only way to reduce electricity consumption.

In my case, I bought a small 220-litre 2-compartment refrigerator — which is adequate for households with 1-3 pax — that consumes far lesser energy than bigger models regardless of the energy-efficiency ratings. I even adjusted the temperature settings in both the freezer (to -10°C) and refrigerator (to 3°C) to prevent them from over-chilling and thus using lesser electricity.

Other measures that I have taken include:

  • When choosing a refrigerator, get a 2- or 3-door type so as to reduce exposing the freezer to warm air whenever the door is opened. Moreover, bigger fridge has bigger door, so it will lose more of its cold air when the door is opened.

  • Avoid opening the doors unnecessarily or for prolong period to prevent warm air from entering and causing the fridge to work harder to cool down the interior. Avoid putting hot food into the fridge too.

  • Reduce obstruction to air flow in the fridge. Use small-size food containers to store food stuff instead of large ones so cool air can circulate easily. Place items away from air outlets and not overstuffing the fridge with too many things.

  • When cleaning the refrigerator, switch off the power at the wall socket. But keep cleaning time as short as possible or else the refrigerator will use more energy to cool down its interior after power is restored.

2. Air-Conditioner

Singapore's weather can be hot and stuffy outside the monsoon seasons and air-conditioners are heavily relied on to keep the rooms cool. But an air-conditioner, and it’s condenser unit, consumes more electricity than any other appliances in the house — especially when running it though the night. Most people will set the air-conditioner to run at low temperatures of around 18-21°C and get under a thick blanket. It does not make sense to be paying for electricity wastage this way.

In my case, I set my air-conditioner to run at 25.5°C and the timer to switch it off after 2 hours on normal nights. On very warm nights, I will set it to 24.5°C for 3 hours. The objective is to use the air-conditioner to cool down the air temperature in the room in the few hours and then keep it that way till morning with all windows and door closed. I do not have a blanket, but put on some light clothing made with ultra-light materials. On cool rainy nights, I will off the air-conditioner completely.

Also, I installed just one air-conditioner in my bedroom and use an electric fan in the living room. When it becomes too warm to be staying in-house during hot afternoons (usually on weekends), I will go windows shopping in shopping malls nearby.

Other tips when using the air-conditioner:

  • When the weather is not so warm, use an electric fan. However, note that running an electric fan through the night may consume more electricity than operating an air-conditioner for 2-3 hours.

  • Make sure the room is properly sealed to prevent cool air from escaping and warm air from entering the room when the air-conditioner is operating.

  • Maintain the air-conditioner and clean the filters for better efficiency.

More about using air-conditioners when travelling:

3. Washing Machine

I wash my worn clothes once a week and I will use “Quick Wash“ or the shortest-time mode on the washing machine. There is no need to wash clothes for longer than is necessary. For really dirty clothes, the best way is to soak them in water with detergent prior to washing. So keeping to “Quick Wash” mode for dirty laundry is still a possible means to save electricity.

I work in an office environment, so my clothes are not as dirty as those of soccer players or construction workers. Thus, choosing a wash mode that took just 20 minutes beats the 50-minute “Standard” mode that I was using at the start. The reduction in my electricity bills was quite significant after switching over to the least-time mode.

My washing machine has a "Soak" function too, but keeping the electricity on when the clothes are being soaked is wasting electricity, so I never used it.

4. Vacuum Cleaner

I vacuum-clean my whole house once a week, usually on weekends. And keep all windows closed when I am out of the house to keep dust away, but they will still come in when the windows are opened. So, cleaning the floor once a week is seldom enough.

On Wednesday nights, I will use a wiper instead of using the vacuum cleaner. A wiper stick ($4) and a pack of 45 pieces of wiper sheets ($2) costs only $6 from Daiso and it can last 45 weeks — that's more than 10 months! So long as the stick doesn't break, I will just need to spend $2 for subsequent replenishment of the wiper sheets and last another 10 months. Just imagine how much electricity I am saving!

Here are more tips about using vacuum cleaner:

  • Do not get a robot vacuum cleaner that needs to be charged for hours but works only a couple of hours a day. There is a price to pay for being lazy.

  • Empty the dust container in the vacuum cleaner when it is about quarter-full or when the cleaner seems to be lacking power. The accumulated dirt in the container can obstruct air flow in the cleaner, result in weak performance and longer time will be needed to clean the house.

5. Electric Kettle

No matter how many people are there in a household, don't use a small kettle. I use a 1.7-litre kettle and boil a full kettle of water every morning. With sufficient drinking water in the house, I avoid having to boil water more than once a day. And I use a thermal flask to store some hot water in case I want some hot beverage in later part of the day.

More tips:

  • Avoid using electric airpot that uses electricity to constantly heat the water — not to mention that reboiling of water may be bad for health too. Use a thermal flask instead.

  • Don't boil less than a full kettle of water. The time taken to boil half a kettle does not mean that electricity used is halved — do experiments and note the time required for different cases. As a matter of fact, having more drinking water in the house reduces the frequency of having to boil more water.

6. Water Heater

For me, I do not take hot showers unless it has been raining for days consecutively and the water temperature is lower than normal — like the 21.6°C cold spell in January 2018. But I still installed a water heater for rainy days. For 5 months since moving into my new house, I had used the water heater only twice — first time was to test the heater after installation and another time to wash the shower curtains with hot water. So, I have almost negligible usage of electricity for the water heater so far.

Some tips to share:

  • When getting a new water heater, get an instant-type instead of a storage type. The latter uses electricity to keep heating up the water in the storage container.

  • Try to take cool or warm showers during the day instead of hot showers at night when the water temperature is cooler. Also, there is no need to switch on the bathroom light when showering during daytime.

  • Always switch off the water heater at the power source when not in use.

7. Lightings

To start saving electricity on all lightings in the house, switch to using LEDs, which is already a standard practice by now. LED lights consume far lesser electricity than traditional lightings and have 10 times longer lifespans.

However, a LED by itself provides lower intensity than an incandescent bulb or a fluorescent tube (requires a light starter), which is why a LED light usually uses multiple LED “bulbs” to be sufficiently bright. So, although LED lights consume lesser energy in comparison, there is still a need to avoid unnecessary electricity wastage.

The most effective way to reduce electricity consumption of lightings is to sleep early — and rise early. Apart from the health benefits in doing so, it cuts the length of time needed to on the lights for staying up till late hours. In short, try to do work or household chores in the day, relax at night and sleep early, so there is no need to keep the lights on for longer than necessary.

I sleep at around 10pm regardless of weekdays or weekends, unless I am out of the house. And woke up at around 7am every morning.

Other tips to save on lightings:

  • Use lower wattage LED bulbs, or battery-operated ones, in areas where reading is not required, such as in the bathroom, storeroom and maybe the bedroom.

I seldom on the lights in my bedroom since it is mainly use for sleeping. In my "storeroom" (the household shelter) and bathroom, I fixed some main lightings but added battery-operated LED lights for short uses. In other words, I do not switch on the main lights when entering the storeroom or bathroom for just a minute.

8. Desktop Computer

Comparing the energy consumption levels between a desktop and a laptop, it is easy to guess that the larger size desktop will use more electricity. The laptop has more energy efficiency when it comes to doing work that does not require fast speed.

My desktop has been with me for 6 years and it is now used mainly for surfing net, writing posts on my blog and watching variety shows. The electricity consumption is pretty high since it used to be my gaming station. So, I switch to using my laptop for most of the online activities, using the desktop mainly for watching shows on my television.

I am waiting for Apple’s keynote on 30th Oct before deciding whether to replace my bulky desktop with a Mac Mini, which will reduce my electricity consumption as well as to free up some space.

More tips:

  • Don’t get a high-performance desktop just for surfing the Internet. Choose an appropriate one to meet the need in order not to waste electricity.

9. Rechargeable Devices

If a rechargeable device has been in used for years and requiring more frequent charging than before, it‘s high time to replace the battery or get a new one.

I have been using my iPhone 6 for 4 years and the original battery had gone into a state where 2-3 full charges were required every day. In August, I took up Apple‘s battery replacement offer and had the battery changed. Now, my iPhone can go for 2-4 days without charging.

This tip is applicable for all rechargeable devices such as laptop, electric shaver, portable mobile devices, portable power bank, etc. However, take note of charging-vs-usage efficiency ratio too, some devices need many hours to charge but can be used for less than an hour — it is a specification rather than deteriorating battery.

I have not replaced the deteriorating battery of my laptop yet. Once I do that, my electricity bills may go down even further.

10. Other Electronic Devices

Switch off electronic devices when not in use, do not just set them on standby or to sleep mode, especially television, TV set-top box, laptop, WiFi, router, electronic fan, etc.

Notice the small LED lights that are lighted up when in standby mode? The voltage converters are still working to supply electricity to these LEDs and the infra-red receiver circuits are waiting for incoming signals from the remote controls. So, they are consuming electricity when they should be "sleeping".

This factor may not be a big contributor to electricity wastage as compare to all the above in a single bill, but they do become significant when consolidated over several months. As the saying goes: “the ocean is made up of tiny drops of water”.

To succeed in saving energy, a "green" plan is important:

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