Friday, 20 March 2009

Climate Smart

There is nothing like being armed with information. We had a Climate Smart Energy Audit done yesterday. This is a service offered by the Queensland government, where they install an OWL electricity monitor, install compact fluoro bulbs if required, and replace your shower head with a more efficient one. They also perform a short survey and then send you a customised report about ways to save energy. All this for 50 bucks, its quite the bargain. This audit is a no brainer if you live in the Brisbane City Council area, as the council reimburses the cost (thus it is free)!

The OWL electricity monitor is a nifty device. It uses induction around the incoming electricity cable(s) to monitor energy usage. In my case we have 3 phase power to the property, so three induction clips are required. The clips hook into a device which then transmits the information wirelessly to monitoring panel. The panel allows one to see the instantaneous power consumption as cost per hour, kW energy usage, or carbon output. It also keeps a tally since the device was turned on for the three main settings. So now armed with this information we can be even more efficient about our energy usage.

In general we are quite good about not consuming power unnecessarily. I hate to waste, whether it has an associated economic cost or not. But there are still some areas where we can improve. Some of areas for improvement will be to use the microwave less and the gas cook top more. The microwave takes a considerable amount of power when running on its highest setting; about 1.85 kW. The toaster is another high consumption kitchen appliance, about 0.93 kW. The electric kettle is also a power hog (figure to be provided). Basically anything which needs to heat something up, chews up electricity.

Contrast the above to a 15 W fluoro bulb, which takes about 0.02 kW (of course it should take 0.015 kW exactly, and the monitor said 0.017 kW, but I rounded up so that the same level of precision is used as compared to the other stated measurements). Our fluoro tub kitchen light which takes about 0.10 kW, which is actually much higher than I would have expected.

It should be noted that one of the limitations of a device like the OWL electricity monitor, is that it monitors the consumption for the entire property, thus if comparing the energy usage for device X by turning it on and off and another device Y or Z starts using power, then your information will be incorrect. Thus it is a good idea to take the measurement a few times, just to help rule out energy usage from other devices kicking in (or out).

As we are a rural property with no town water or sewage, the base power consumption for the property will be higher than a comparable city residence. To get any water pressure, our pump must provide the pressure. To treat our waste water, our waste treatment plant aerates the waste water and pumps it out to the treated effluent field. In particular, our waste treatment plant, runs continuously.

That said, there are some big ticket items which I want to install on the property which will really save power. The first being a solar hot water heater. Now that the Federal Government is offering a non-means tested rebate of up to $1600, this is a must do item. As well, I want to install solar panels on the property so that I can start generating my own power; but that will not occur until after July 1 so that I can take advantage of the new solar rebate.

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