Eight tips to become more energy efficient

Submitted by: Nadia Shah, Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The rolling black outs across the country as a result of load shedding have served as a reminder of just how much our daily lives depend on a constant supply of energy. Eskom has encouraged South Africans to save electricity in order to help avoid load shedding. This article provides practical tips on how to make your office or home more energy efficient, thus saving electricity and money and helping to reduce the demand for energy.

Tip One: Monitor your energy consumption

In order to identify opportunities for saving, you need to know the amount of energy you are using and which of your appliances are using that energy. Monitoring your energy consumption is therefore key and can be done by taking an electricity meter reading at the same time daily or at the end of each month. For a more effective solution, consider installing an energy monitor that can track your usage on an hourly basis. For more information, read our article on energy monitoring options in South Africa.

Tip Two: Identify energy saving opportunities in your base load

The energy consumed in a building when it is not in use is known as the base load. The base load can be determined by reviewing data from the energy monitoring system mentioned in Tip One. For more information refer to our article on calculating base load.

As shown in the graph below the amount of energy used at home or in the office at night or whilst everyone is away is the base load. The base load represents a great opportunity for savings that can be achieved simply by identifying a list of appliances that can be switched off by the last person to leave the premises.

Example of energy consumption of building as measured by a monitoring device. The base load of the building refers to those periods when the building is not in use, in this case after 17:00 and before 06:00.


Tip Three: Target your biggest energy users

It is important to identify what your main energy users are so that you can effectively focus your energy efficiency efforts in areas which you are likely to achieve the greatest savings.  Once you have identified your main energy users, consider the various options available to improve energy efficiency in that area. For example, if you identify your geyser as a significant energy user (SEU), the most effective and most costly option is to install a solar water heater, a less expensive (and less effective) option is to install a geyser timer, and lastly there is the  “no cost” option of manually switching the geyser off when it is not needed. Once you have looked at the various options and considered the gains associated with the costs, you are in a position to decide which intervention to select.

Tip Four: Watch out for vampire appliances

Many appliances such as microwaves, chargers, TVs, decoders and music systems use power even when they are not in use. According to Eskom, appliances on standby mode use up to 50% of the electricity that the appliance would normally use when turned on. The so-called “vampire power”, also sometimes referred to as “phantom load” or “standby power” can have an impact not only on the amount of electricity a home or business uses, but also on its electricity bills.

Tip Five: Nominate an energy efficiency champion

It is important to institutionalise energy efficiency in your organisation or home so that it becomes a part of your company ethos and lifestyle. The best way to ensure that there is an ongoing commitment to efficiency is to nominate a staff or family member to be your energy efficiency champion. This person will be assigned the responsibility of implementing and managing your programme to become and stay energy efficient. Their tasks will include checking your energy monitoring system, setting energy monitoring targets, overseeing energy efficiency interventions and communicating with the rest of your staff or family members.

Tip Six: Involve everyone in the process of becoming energy efficient

Human behaviour can have a significant impact on your energy use. Whilst some people are energy conscience, always switching off appliances which aren’t in use, others may happily leave the office on a Friday afternoon with all the lights on. It is therefore important to communicate your energy efficiency targets to everyone so that they understand the role they can play in helping to achieve these targets. Give them regular feedback on energy use from your monitoring system and let everyone know when targets are or aren’t being achieved. It is also a good idea to link energy efficiency practices to key performance indicators in the workplace, especially for staff that have the most direct role to play in savings. Our article on how to conduct a successful energy efficiency campaign at work provides insight into this area.

Tip Seven: Favour energy efficient products in procurement

While it may not be affordable to implement a complete energy efficiency replacement of all your lights and appliances, it is important to include energy efficiency as a procurement consideration so that over time you are able to slowly phase out inefficient equipment.

Tip Eight: Keep checking your energy use

It is important to continuously monitor your energy use, even if you aren’t planning any future interventions or have already achieved energy savings. Continual monitoring is the only way to pick up on unexpected increases in energy use. Such increases may be indicative of faulty equipment which has started drawing high amounts of energy or could highlight the need for a recap staff training session on energy efficiency. Continual monitoring will help you identify when these problems arise so that you are always on top of your energy efficiency performance.

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