Tips From Our Experts

Susie asks: My electricity bills have almost doubled this year, causing me lots of stress. I am interested in solar or any other sources of power which can help reduce my bills.

Energy Costs of an Apartment

Susie asks

I own and live on the top floor of a 3 level apartment block ‘flat roof’ and my electricity bills have almost doubled this year. I have an electric hot water service that may be using too much power. We also had smart meters installed in September 2012 but my electricity bills have been around $369 per quarter which is too high for one to 2 people in 32 sq metres of space. Everything is electric. Please help as the costs are unsustainable and causing me a lot of stress.

I am interested in solar or any other sources of power which can help reduce my bills.

Thank you for your help.

Our expert’s answer

Thanks for your enquiry.

There are a number of options possible but it may hinge upon whether the roof space is considered “yours”.

Solar PV is one as is Solar Hot Water – as you have identified, it takes quite a lot of energy to heat water. If your hot water unit is indoors, you could look at adding extra insulation around it making sure that the outlet pipes are also insulated. What sort of heating do you use? A good quality split system heat pump unit can help as they can be very efficient – look for CoP/EER over 4.5 – meaning for 1kW of input power you get 4.5+ kW of heating/cooling. Set the thermostat to 18°C in winter and 26°C in summer – each extra degree costs an extra 10% on your bills. Shade your windows in summer to avoid heating up your home unnecessarily.

While we’re talking about heating/cooling, ceiling insulation is a must. You get a great return on investment from insulation; as you do with draught proofing – avoiding draughts can reduce your heating/cooling bills enormously. Check your local hardware store for the options there (hint: use an old cassette tape – if you have one – rip out a section of tape and, on a windy day, go around the house with the tape near windows and doors – it will flutter like mad highlighting where your draughts are. If you don’t have an old cassette, you can use a lit incense stick.

Also make sure that any equipment that is plugged in, is turned off at the switch when not in use – 5-10% of all domestic electricity use comes from standby or “phantom” loads. Older appliances especially TVs can be really bad in this respect. This also includes “push button” washing machines and driers – if you can, dry your clothes outside or consider indoor clothes airers. Your local council may have an energy meter you can borrow to check your appliances – give them a call and see.

Cook meals in bulk and store then re-heat the leftovers – it adds little to the costs to cook in bulk. Make sure you allow the food to cool before refrigeration/freezing.

John Knox

John Knox

The technical advice provided by the Alternative Technology Association as part of the ‘Ask an Expert’ forum/website, in relation to home and building sustainability improvements, is general in nature only. The impacts of specific energy or water saving or sustainability products will depend on how and where the are used and located, and particularly for larger investments, we would always suggest users seek a specific assessment from an appropriately qualified building designer or service / product supplier.

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