Although I am pretty inactive on Facebook (ya I know, I am a tech dinosaur and weirdo who finds no utility in posting pics/status updates and obtains no euphoria if I ever obtain a “like”), I have enjoyed being part of some Facebook groups. And one of the most useful has been my BTO facebook group. I still recall a few years back, some nice folks will regularly post updates of the construction progress and more importantly, during the past year, many neighbours shared renovation contacts/tips. Some of us even benefited from the bulk buys!
As most of us have moved in, the topics have also shifted towards the sharing of the joys and (mostly) woes of owning a house. One of the common grouses is the “high” utility bills that many newly weds have had to contend with. From my understanding (which can be totally skewed and biased), the typical household is spending easily $150 to $200 on their utility bills, which is also easily twice our expenses in this category. Plenty of fat to cut down on, eh?
Even though our utility bills are made up of electricity, gas and water charges, there’s little doubt that electricity costs make up the bulk of the bill. And since I strongly believe that we need to understand what we are spending on in order to learn how to reduce it, here’s my analysis of the main factors/appliances that form the bulk of electricity costs:
Electricity tariff = $0.2608/kWh
Firstly, some background. kWh is a common billing unit for energy and 1 kilowatt-hour is equal to 100 watt hours or 3.6 megajoules (courtesy of Wikipedia). Electricity tariffs have remained fairly stable in this country and over the past 4 years, it has increased by about ~10% (from ~$0.23 in Jan 10 to $0.26 in Jan 14). Admittedly, there’s a large spike to $0.28 in the middle of 2012.
But if we compare with other countries like the US, our rates can be considered somewhat high. But I guess it more or less equals out after accounting for the U-Saves provided by our local government.
Next, let’s look at some of our larger and more common energy needs/demands in Singapore in greater detail.
Cooling our rooms – Since nobody needs a heater in their homes in this island, it’s really all about lowering the temperatures in the room. And most of the time, people turn to air-conditioners for this purpose. Assuming one stays in a 4/5-room flat with 3 bedrooms and purchase a multi-split (system 3) inverter model with 1 compressor, it would require around 1.2 kW to power the aircon for an hour, which costs around $0.30. If one uses it for 8 hours everyday, this adds up to more than $70 in a month. If one is serious about reducing the utility bills, perhaps the aircon should be switched on for less hours and on fewer days. The fan, a much cheaper substitute since it only uses 0.075kW/h, should come to mind. Using the fan will cost less than $5 in a month and result in some significant permanent monthly savings.
Cooling our food – Even though families are getting smaller, refrigerators are getting bigger. A large fridge (>500 litres) with an ice dispenser would cost $0.55/day to power whereas a medium one without an ice dispenser would set one back by $0.30/day. Yeah, an ice dispenser is more convenient but is it really worth an additional 20% of energy required to maintain it? And why would 2 people who don’t cook (most young families) need such a large refrigerator just to keep soft drinks and ice-cream?
Washing & drying our clothes – I was surprised that the washing machine was actually pretty cheap to run. A typical model uses 0.3kW/h and assuming a wash every other day, this would hardly amount to $3 a month. So from the cost angle, I would really unlikely be advocating anyone to hand wash their clothes or wash less frequently in humid Singapore. But using the dryer to dry our clothes is another thing. The dryer consumes 4.5W/h and costs ~$0.80 for each use. Easily $12 in a month if you use the dryer every other day. A more energy-efficient and cheaper method would be to air-dry your clothes using a clothesline or drying rack. Nothing beats using the sun to dry your clothes.
Heating your showers – First thing first, it’s showers, not baths. 😛 I am actually not sure if a storage heater consumes more electricity compared to an instant heater even though it requires 1.5 times more energy. That’s because normally, we only switch it on once a day for 15 minutes. The hot water in the tank is able to keep its heat for a few hours at least. Since there’s 4 of us, generally, it costs $0.10 for each individual to take a nice hot shower. A small cost for such an enjoyable luxury.
The above generally takes up about 75% of the electricity bill and you can conduct your own energy audit over here. Have fun!