With the commencement of summer, we usually see a major surge in our electricity bills. And as the climate keeps changing and the world keeps getting hotter, the usage of air conditioners and coolers will only rise! While the increased usage of cooling appliances can often increase the utility bill, there are a number of ways to check and reduce energy consumption.
Some of these ways are structural and require planning at the construction stage, e.g. protecting your building/showroom from sunlight heating it by using reflective outside surfaces. Furthermore, embed insulation in the walls, especially the roofing, to help. Remember, air is an excellent insulator, so a cost-effective way is to embed clay “kullhars” (clay cups) in west facing walls.
Or, plant trees and shrubs for shade. These take a while to grow, so this is a long-term strategy, but carefully placed shady trees and shrubs can join hands with your drapes and keep the hot sun from interfering with your air conditioner.
Some structural measures can be adopted immediately too. For example, if you have a balcony, use bamboo/cane screens (heavy roll-down curtains) to prevent overheating during afternoons. Windows that face south and west must have dark, heavy drapes too.
There are a number of behavioural measures that can make a difference as well. The best part about these is that, you won’t have to sacrifice your comfort in any way to lower electricity bills.
- Keep appliances that are not in use, unplugged, i.e. turn off the wall socket switch. The appliance itself, when turned off, will still draw energy if you don’t unplug. Anything with a light, clock (set-top box, computer, ac, ‘phone charger) quietly sucks energy in standby mode. Plug them in only when you use them.
- The most significant behavioural change is to do with the air conditioner setting. When you enter a hot room, you probably set the temperature at 18° for a quick chill. Instead, go for a cold-water shower and change into loose, light clothing. If the conditioner continues to be at 18° throughout the night while you cover with a quilt, it can spend a lot of energy! So, set it at a comfortable 25°— the room will cool down optimally and your bill will be reasonable.
- Buy appliances with high energy efficiency. Nowadays, all appliances have a star rating marked on them. So, if your AC is 5 years old, know that it has lost much of its efficiency. You might have to replace it. Studies show that when an old AC is used for five hours a day, the approximate bill in a year can be Rs. 27,372, while an inverter AC will cost you only Rs. 16,670. Hence, by using new or more energy efficient AC, you will save more than Rs. 10,000 annually.
- A refrigerator accounts for 15% of a household’s total power consumption. You can make it more power efficient by placing it in such a way so that ample air circulation happens around it. It should be at least 2 inches away from the wall. Do not expose it to direct sunlight as it will need more power to function. Don’t stuff your fridge completely, as there won’t be enough space for air to circulate inside, reducing the efficiency of the unit. Again, go for a four or five-star rating.
- Light up your home efficiently and upgrade to LED bulbs. They use 75 per cent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Plus, they emit less heat, which means less work for you AC. Don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave a room.
- Use ceiling fans more often, as the airflow they create makes you feel cooler. Instead of the AC, turn on the fan early in the evening and early morning. This is another behavioural change that can help instead of using AC all through the day.
- Save energy while using washing machine. Instead of standard settings of heating, spin-drying in automatic machines, during summer, make use of the weather to dry your clothes. Set the machine for cold-water wash and less rpm of spin-drying (say 400-600). Load your machine fully as a half-load consumes almost the same energy. You can delay doing laundry by a day if you don’t have enough clothes for a full load.
In most towns in India, power failure is common and households have an inverter set up. Go for a brand like Genus that has inverters offering pure sine wave output. They are extremely efficient and minimize conversion losses, keeping your utility bills low. If you have only appliances like fans, microwave, or lights to back-up, then there are modified sine wave inverters which are less costly, e.g. the Thunder model of Genus.