It all started a week or so ago, when I opened an email in which our electricity company Synergy which offered us a deal whereby, if we had a 'smart meter' we could choose to pay a variable tariff -in which some parts of the day were quite cheap and the peak times quite a lot more expensive.
Up until now, we have had only a standard rate no matter what time of day you used the power. The details of the offer are:
Between 9 am and 3pm the charge would be 8c per unit.
From 9pm to 9 am would be 22 cents per unit.
The most expensive time would be between 3pm and 9pm when it would be 0.50c per unit.
Our current charge is 28 cents no matter what time of the day we use it.
One thing we noted, was that the supply charge per day for the variable tariff has been increased from about 96 cents per day to $1.20 per day. You have to read the information quite carefully to find this out!
The aim of the proposal is to 'stabilise the grid"- Perth is a great place to have solar panels, so many days of sunlight - but they make a lot of energy during the day when many people are at work, and then when they go home and turn on their TVs and stoves and things, the sun is going down and the grid is at peak demand but without solar input. This week we got news of a problem with the grid due to a coal mine going bankrupt is here-it is only a small part of the way WA gets energy -we have wind farms and plan to get more. There are a few places where there is a local energy grid using a battery and wind farm combined with solar power for homes.
DH and I considered that we should be in a good place to do change to this tariff -we are retired so at home a lot, we have solar panels and a smart meter. As DH said, we should also be prepared to play our part in this. For decades, enviromentalists have talked about 'peak oil' and the necessary adjustments away from fossil fuels. We are all going to have to live less profligate lives in the energy sphere. Our simple living lifestyle, which we have been working on since this blog was started in 2008, should set us up for success.
We have watched with great concern about the fuel crisis in Europe and especially in the UK, we have noted that many people will struggle with a low energy future if the rent in draughty, poorly designed homes (if they can afford to rent!) or if they are sick or in need in some other ways and need to use power for life saving machinery. Practicing low energy lifestyles seems like an act of solidarity, somehow. We have the choice -which we know is a luxury- of saving money this way, and helping out our community. Over the years we have been carefully renovating our home and changing our practices to live simply.
WHAT WE DID
DH loves to work with numbers. In order to decide if we want to change our tariff, we started collecting data on our current use, and put it in a spreadsheet. DH collected the data three times a day.
The first week we did not change our habits at all.
The second week we did the following things:
1. As it is still cloudy and raining at times, we have a time switch on our solar hot water system, to boost it with electricity if the sun has not been shining enough to get the water hot for a shower. We get about 8 months of free hot water from the solar hot water system, so cost of this boosting in the winter this is not a big issue for us. We adjusted the timer to boost during the cheapest period. .
2. We have checked that there are no chargers left on during the peak period-and this is particularly true for things like tools in the shed and phone chargers in the house.
3. We adapted our cooking - trying to either cook without the oven, or make bread and use the leftover heat for other things, or cook earlier in the day. As a baker of sourdough, this means that I need to go back to proofing my bread overnight and cooking it in the morning. I used to do this but winter temperatures overnight made this impractical., and to be honest, I just didn't feel like making bread in the evening. Long hot summer evenings are much more conducive to this. The electricity company's own suggestions include:
1. Setting your washing machine or dishwasher to run during the day instead of at night, to take advantage of super off peak rates. There might also be a ‘delay’ button or timer feature on your appliances to help you to do this.
2. Charging up your consoles and other devices during the day, and switching your chargers off when you don’t need them, particularly during times you’ll be charged at peak rates.
3. Doing the bulk of your cooking or meal prep before you head out for the day, or setting your dinner to cook during the day in a slow cooker, rather than cooking with your appliances when you get home in the evening.
WHAT WE FOUND: surprising
DH found that the first week's average daily use was 16 kw hours spread pretty evenly over the 24 hour period. If we had signed up to the variable tariff this usage would be expensive -more than $1.20 more or at least $62 per year.
The second week of consiously making changes meant we used the same number of kilowatt hours, but reduced our overnight consumption drastically, mostly by changing the hours of electricity boosting. We also turned off chargers, and computers more consistently when not in use. Some things were easy enough -waiting to turn on the dishwasher or dryer is not often an issue.
Changing our cooking practices required some thought. One day I made a vegetable soup -first roasting the veggies for extra sweetness, straight after the bread came out of the oven, after 9 am but before 3. Then I put the soup together and simmered it on the induction cooktop before 3. Then I put it in our insulated hot box until dinner, when I will blend it and serve it. Most of the cooking was done on what would be the cheapest tarriff.
Another day, I planned a 'baking day" - making a quiche for dinner and some banana bread in the oven on the lowest tarriff setting.
IF we took up the variable tariff, but changed our ways and could keep them up over the year, we would save $40.
Now, in a cost of living crisis, that might be significant, but it required a lot of effort on our part.
AND what about the other seasons?
SUMMER if it is still hot after 3pm in summer and we want to use the power to cool ourselves down -won't that be expensive? We often get sea breezes, but they sometimes come after 4pm or later. Earlier this year we had a 'heat bomb' where the temperature did not drop much overnight for over a week of soaring temperatures. The evaporative air conditioner we installed this year uses a lot less power than a refrigerated air conditioner, however.
WINTER we are usually pretty active and don't use any heating until evening -and then we sit together in DH's study where a column electric heater and some rugs and quilts is enough. It could be expensive though....In winter you want warm food -and even using our insulated hot box and microwave, and the smaller than the oven convection microwave, you would still use power at the most expensive time of the day.
One of our friends said that most people would not go into the detail of the Synergy offer -I guess that is true. We did, however, and right now we are not signing up.
I am happy to try to save power where we can though.
Finally -stuff I found on the internet related to simple living!