The Bill – A forensic look at an energy crime scene…By Lish Fejer

The following guest blog post is by Lish Fejer creator of DIY website Green It Yourself…

Call me crazy but I love opening my energy bills. Love it.

I know it is not everyone’s idea of fun but in my obsession with energy efficiency I rip it open impatiently, that much-maligned ‘window’ making its hall-mark crackle, scan the results of my energy saving efforts and see how I’ve done.  How many kilowatt hours (kWh) have I used each day? Is it lower than this time last year? If not why not?

During 1 Million Women’s power-saving month you’ve no doubt been making changes, swapping hard-worn habits for energy-efficient ones and hopefully feeling confident to do a bit of green DIY around the house to make it a bit more energy efficient.  You should be approaching your bills with the same level of excitement. If you need a bit of help understanding it, sit down with a cup of tea and watch this quick GIY video on how to read your energy bill.

I’ve just got my latest electricity bill – I tore it open at the mailbox and gawped at the little graph expecting to see a reduction. But no.  It was up 20% from the same time last year. I swung into energy forensics mode. Where had that energy been used, what had changed?

Here is my super sleuthing as to where that energy was used:

  • Cold-snap: Turned on the 2kW oil column radiator in kids room for a few hours a day.
  • Gadgetry: Upgraded gadgetry in home office so that entire under-desk space is humming with enough electronic gadgetry that could land a spacecraft on the moon. I try to turn it off but have lost interest in this battle with IT supervisor so it uses 30 watts on stand-by doing nothing overnight.
  • Laziness: Blew the 11 watt CFL bathroom light so used the two 50 watt halogen down-lights for a month until we got around to getting the ladder and replacing it.
  • In-bread: Started baking my own bread therefore had 2kW oven cranked up a little more often.

These things sound painfully small; things that you mightn’t think would make much of a difference but every little thing you do, or don’t do, counts.

Think about every action and how it will affect your bills. Not to become obsessive but just to become aware so that you can reduce your use and bring your energy bills down.

So next time your bill comes in and it’s not quite what you expect, do some energy forensics and work out why. And if it’s too high and you want to bring it down, work out what you are going to start with and phase in the changes. If you go furiously into energy saving mode you might just burn out and lose it all together doing the dieting equivalent of eating three blocks of chocolate, 10 donuts and a cream bun in one sitting.

And feel free to lapse – it’s OK to turn on the dryer when your exhausted and can’t be bothered hanging the washing out over a complicated string-structure throughout the lounge-room but when you’re feeling good again, get back to the new habits.  As power bills go up, you want to make sure you are bringing yours down.

For me, my energy challenge is on again, I’m turning stuff off at the wall, cooking lots of stuff at once and realise my kids don’t need their bedroom heated at night if they have good blankets (this action alone I think will save me about $250 over winter as the 2kW oil column electric heater is a huge user).

I wait with sweet anticipation for the bill to arrive in my mailbox.

If it has come down I want to see something on my bill praising my effort. It doesn’t need to be a carbon-neutral hoopla, I’d be happy with a sticker of an erect, grinning meerkat saying ‘Hold your head up high, you’ve done well’.

Keep up the gold-star energy-saving work. I’m sure you’re doing brilliantly but only the bill will tell.

About the Author: Lish is Australia’s Queen of Green. Science communicator, presenter and energy efficiency aficionado, she is best known as co-presenter of ABC TV’s Carbon Cops. Lish has had an interest in energy efficiency ever since she realised it actually worked and is the creator of website Green It Yourself, which gives simple, step-by-step instruction to make green DIY is easy. She wants to make a green handy-person out of everyone – especially women as we are the ones who notice what needs doing and fixing around the house.

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