June 5th is World environment day and for 2019, the theme is air pollution. You may be surprised to know that one of the biggest causes of air pollution in India today is due to thermal power plants which use fossil fuels like coal to generate electricity. These plants spew dangerous toxic gases like sulphur dioxide which cause immense air pollution and damage the health of citizens. As per latest reports, 22 of the 30 most polluted cities are in India.
We can strive to do our best in monitoring and controlling the usage of electricity in our homes. This directly links to reduced load on power stations, less demand and lesser pollution.
Electricity is a secondary form of energy which can be generated by using primary sources of energy like Coal, Oil & Gas, Hydro, Nuclear or Renewable Energy like Solar, Biomass, Wind etc. We need energy to produce and cook food, light and cool/heat our homes, run appliances in our homes. Electricity is also needed for transport, industry, commercial, institutional, recreational, medical and governmental activities. Electricity is the costliest but the cleanest and highest quality energy and can be used to do all types of works which no other forms of energy can do. It is said that in future everything will be done with electricity only. Hence, we should try to learn and adopt the best practices to use electricity intelligently and smartly.
Why should we save electricity?
Electricity is directly linked with the 3 dimensions of sustainability
This makes it very important that we use electricity efficiently and judiciously. Saving electricity not only helps us in reducing our bills but also results in several benefits to the society, nation and the planet. Some of the benefits are listed below:
Electricity is produced in power plants which require huge capital investments by the government and the public. Then there are recurring expenses for fuel, maintenance, salaries etc. The losses in generation, transmission, distribution add to the cost. The country is spending more than 10 Lakh Crores per year on electricity. It costs 2 times more to generate than to save same amount of electricity. The electricity cannot be stored also ( except in batteries; which again adds to costs) it is therefore economically more prudent to use electricity smartly and intelligently.
10-15% of our population; mostly in rural areas is still not having access to electricity and they are dependent on polluting fuel Kerosene to light their homes. By saving electricity, we can share the same with the underprivileged population. The availability of electricity will help in social benefits to the rural population. Their children can get better education and health facilities. By making electricity available to them, their economy also improves as they can work for longer hours.
The efficient use of electricity will help in lesser emission of CO2 and other Green house gases and particulate matters. With more emphasis on electrification of transport sector, the pollution in cities will reduce.
From the above, we can understand how important it is to save electricity. It is possible to do so by using electricity intelligently and smartly without sacrificing on comfort etc.
How can we save electricity?
Basically, electricity can be saved in 3 different ways:
Conservation Measures- These measures require understanding of how each electricity consuming item needs to be used. There are Dos and Don’ts and certain techniques which must be explained to all family members and followed strictly.
Efficiency Measures- These measures require retrofitting of existing inefficient gadgets/ appliances with the highest efficiency ones available in the market. These measures are implemented with external help and still need to be monitored.
Renewable Energy Measures- These measures require replacing electricity consuming gadgets with solar energy based gadgets and also need external help and expert advice.
ABC approach to save electricity
It is recommended to adopt ABC approach i.e Accounting, Budgeting (Best Practices) and Controlling for maximum benefits.
Accounting of Electricity Consumption:
We should start with understanding how the billing is done and how much electricity is consumed by which item or appliance. Basic understanding of what is the meaning of a unit of electricity (kWh) and how it is calculated is very important. The billing is in two parts i.e Fixed Charges and Energy Charges. Fixed charges depend on the connected load and Energy charges are levied on actual consumption as per gradually increasing slab tariff. The step by step guide on how to account electricity consumption is given below:
Open a file to keep records of electricity bills
Safety First-understand all electricity safety measures before starting. Do not attempt anything which requires services of a qualified electrician.
Understand how the electricity meter works and start taking meter readings twice a day i.e at 7 am and at 7 pm to see the consumption pattern in day time and night time.
Make a list of all electricity consuming items in the home with their rated power in watts
Estimate the approximate hours of use.
Enter the data in an Excel sheet in the following format
Rated Power (W)
Estimated Hours of Use (Hr) per day
Consumption per day
( 3 X4)
Consumption per month
5 X No. of days
It may be noted that the items like Refrigerators, ACs, Geysers are provided with thermostats which switches off the compressor/ heating element once the set temperatures have been achieved. Further, Ceiling fans are provided with regulators and as such consumption depends on the regulator setting. Such appliances need more analysis to account their consumption. The following steps may be adopted to estimate approximate consumption of such appliances:
Switch off everything – check the meter, it should not be working.
Note down the initial meter reading
set the thermostat / regulator Fridge / AC / Fans etc at middle point
Start the appliance and keep it running for minimum of 2 hours
Note down the meter reading again
The difference is the approximate consumption by the appliance for 2 hours. Multiply it by the no of hours it is used to get the daily consumption.
One may repeat the exercise in the night hours and at different settings of thermostat for better results. Similar calculations shall also be carried in different seasons.
Coming back to point (vi) above, the estimated monthly electricity consumption thus arrived should be compared with the bill to ensure that the meter is working properly and to identify the potential electricity saving measures.
Best Practices for electricity savings:
As explained earlier, the electricity savings can be realized by the adoption of conservation, efficiency and renewable energy measures. Understanding the best practices in the adoption of such measures helps in maximizing gains. Some of the best practices are listed below:
Basic rules to ensures switching off lights/fans/ACs etc. when not in use should be kept in mind
Teach the family members about the losses due to ‘Standby consumers’ (Ghost Consumers) and instruct them to switch off electronic gadgets from main Switch instead of Remote.
Set computers on power saving mode.
Clean Lighting Fixtures, Ceiling Fans, and Filters & Coils of ACs regularly.
Make use of day lighting and ‘free cooling’ (opening the windows) as much as possible.
Ensure that appliances are used smartly and intelligently e.g.- set thermostat of Fridge as per weather conditions / load. Read the user’s instruction manuals and follow the guidelines given. Sometimes the manufacturers will give insufficient/ wrong information. Double check the instructions and adopt them to suit your usage.
Avoid using appliances during peak load hours (morning and evenings). Use during late night (after 10 pm) or early morning (before 6 am) to reduce peak demand. This will also keep your electric wiring in healthy condition.
Use ACs at a higher thermostat setting along with a Ceiling Fan i.e. 27-28 Deg.C.
Make use of Timer Sleep Mode settings for ACs and Fans (Super energy efficient fans with remote come with this facility)
Use Solar DC fan for Cooling requirements during power cuts instead of providing an Inverter.
Make use of solar passive techniques to minimize the use of electrical appliances for cooling/heating etc.
Once a system is in place to introduce all measures to save electricity, it becomes important to ensure that this is followed religiously by all members of the family. This part can be made interesting and rewarding by introducing an Incentive and penalty scheme. A piggy bank may be kept for this purpose and any member found wasting electricity may be fined a sum equal to potential loss in a month and asked to deposit that much money in the piggy bank. The money thus collected may be used partly to fund purchase of new energy efficient gadget and partly to have an outing for the family.
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