Get Smart With Your Smart Meter!
By: Canadian Budget Binder
Everybody’s got ’em, some have ’em working already, others will be starting in May 2012 and most already hate ’em. You guessed it, I’m talking about the new TOU (Time Of Use) Smart Meters. Although not a new concept in the grand scheme of things, they’re here whether you like it or not.
There are other countries that have had a variety of “time of use” schemes for years. I can remember as a child in England me mum always had the hot water on a timer coz of “Economy7“.
Having cheaper electricity at certain times of the day has been natural for me, but for the Canadians I know it’s quite the sore point. What’s the problem? Well the Canadian climate for starters isn’t exactly stable, where swings of 70 degrees Celsius between summer and winter exist. Heating and Cooling the house is a major player in the bills department.
What did I do?
For starters I got rid of my old Mercury switch thermostat and replaced it with a 7 day programmable. I can set the thermostat warmer for when the fans kick in on cheap rate, then have it lower during expensive rate. The idea being that the residual heat from cheap rate inside the house gets us through to the next cheap rate time slot. I’m not entirely sure there’s any scientific merit in this strategy, but I’m always open to theories.
During the Weekend and Stat Holidays (Bank Holidays to us Brits) it’s different, it’s cheap all day, so if you leave the clothes washing til either the evening (after 7pm) or the weekend you’ll be on cheap rate.
Timers are another great idea if you want to run electrical equipment, set them up to only come on at cheap rate. Some electrical items may need to be left on all the time so you may have to research what you want on a timer.
In the summer when we need the air conditioning (A/C) on we try to wait it out for the cheap rate to kick in. Using the dehumidifier with the A/C dries out the house faster and aids in making it feel cooler and uses less electricity as you’re running the A/C for shorter periods of time. On cool nights I open all the windows and run a single fan…..one fan can actually get the house down to 16 degrees on a cool night.
Some people have suggested using the ceiling fans in conjunction with both the heating and the A/C……haven’t seen a great deal of difference to be honest. We always have the blinds shut in the summer months to reflect the sun’s energy just so it’s not heating up the house. We keep the blinds open during winter days to let warmth in but closed during the night.
The hot water is gas heated (same price all day) but you might want to think about yours and how you use it if it’s an electric water heater. Lime scale build up on the element won’t do it much good either. We have hot water cylinder jackets in the Uk but haven’t really seen them here. They’re basically a duvet for your tank to keep the water you just paid to heat up warmer for longer.
We have electric washers and dryers, they only do their required job on cheap rate.(yes we have 2 of each, long story) The clothes dryer however is rarely used as 99% of the time the clothes are hung especially in the summer months, coz sunshine and a warm breeze is free. A badly furred up exhaust line will cause your drier to work harder (not to mention it’s a fire hazard) and you’ll get to the point where it’s struggling to dry your clothes.
TIP– Do yourself a favour and clean it out.
I also upgraded the bathroom extractor fans to 150 cfm super quiet (energy star) instead of the builder grade 50 cfm noise polluters and fitted a timer with each. I know I have to run the bathroom fan, but I don’t wanna run back 2 hours later and turn it off coz I forgot about it !!!
All light bulbs in the house are of the Compact Fluorescent type, except those on the exterior of the house, just because they don’t do cold very well. If LED bulbs came down in price we’ll be swapping to those.
Even the TV’s in the house use less electricity, they are either LCD or LED rather than CRT (cathode ray tube) and unplugged from the wall when not in use.
Don’t use anything more than you have to, if it can wait until cheap rate then wait and do something else instead. I even plug the cell phone in on cheap rate and the rechargeable camera battery goes on cheap rate too.
I tape/sealed all ducting with metal tape (not duct tape) including the return air side, this increased the efficiency of the furnace by actually pulling cold air from the entire house (you can actually feel the suction on the return air registers). The 3 months following the tape job I changed the furnace filter 3 times due to the amount of crap it sucked out of the ductwork. It now heats/cools the house faster saving me money coz it’s on less.
Don’t boil more water than you need in the kettle. I even measured out cups/mugs and marked the amounts on the side of the kettle. This way I’m only boiling enough for 1 or 2 cups/mugs at a time instead of boiling twice the amount and leaving the rest to go cold again.
Think about when you’re boiling the kettle, are you up in the morning at 7am? Wouldn’t it be cheaper for you to get up 10 minutes earlier and run the kettle or the coffee maker before 7am, or use a timer or maybe the coffee maker has a built-in timer.
Running the oven on a standard sized range (30″ wide) is expensive especially if your only cooking something small purely because your paying to heat up a larger space than you need to……there’s a small convection toaster oven on the kitchen worktop in our house and is great at cooking small amounts of food. We watch what we cook and when we cook, in-fact, a lot of the time it’s cheaper for us to run the barbeque at 5pm and cook than run the full size stove.
Take advantage of the great Canadian summer and send your man into the garden and cook caveman style and get him saving money in the Budget !!
Old appliances can wallop your electricity bill due to being inefficient, if your unsure how much your appliances are using try using “Kill a Watt” usage meter, there available from most local Libraries (normal cost approx $60). The meter will tell you how much electricity you used with whatever was plugged in to it.
You’ll have to do the conversion to cost yourself, as an example here’s the washing machine on a cold load……..
- 0.24 kw/h used according to the usage meter
now add-on the adjustment factor (found on your electricity bill) and we get
- 0.249696 kw/h
now times that by the amount you pay per kw/h
- 0.249696 kw/h x 6.2 cents = 1.5481152 or 1.55 cents per load
compare that to expensive rate
- 0.249696 kw/h x 10.8 cents = 2.6967168 or 2.7 cents per load
That doesn’t sound a lot but it all adds up, remember 1.55 cents is based on 1 wash on cold and we have a gas-fired water heater running on cheap rate. If you want a warm wash at 5pm (expensive rate) and you have an electric-powered water heater you’ll be paying at least $0.54 cents (that’s almost 35 times the cost). Note that the water usage/cost hasn’t been added in which is another world of ludicrously expensive bills.
Environmentally unsound as it may seem I have a Petrol (Gas) driven lawn mower that doesn’t really use much fuel, probably fill the little tank 3-4 times over the growing season (small lawn). Imagine what it would cost me if I had an electric mower?
The days of endless cheap energy in North America are gone. The long and short of it……it’s gonna cost ya, just depends on whether you want to adapt to the way we use Smart Meters or not.
What do you do to save money with the Smart Meter?
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Photos by: Canadian Budget Binder.. If you would like to use them please ask first.
Some photos by:Copyright (c) <a href=’http://www.123rf.com’>123RF Stock Photos</a>