Why is my bill different from my neighbours?
It often happens that customers may compare their electricity bills with their neighbours'. Sometimes, they are similar, but at other times, they are not. With differences in size of premises, number of family members and their ages, quantity and brands of electrical appliances, usage pattern, etc., considerable variances in electricity consumption are often noticed.
Reasons For A Higher Than Normal Bill
- Does your high bill include previous amounts you haven't paid? - Did you receive your last bill? Did you pay all of it? If you didn't receive a bill, or you only paid part of it, this high bill probably includes an amount you still owe. If this has been happening for a while, the amount you owe will be building up. If that's the case, you should contact us to arrange a payment plan to pay it off.
- Appliances left running while away on vacation - Consider unplugging clock radios, microwave ovens and those appliances with "instant on" features, for example your television, or appliances with built-in clocks. These continue to use energy if they're just switched off.
- More occupants - Were you entertaining visitors or did the number of people living in your household increase?
- Aging or faulty appliances - A faulty thermostat, or refrigerator or freezer with a poor door seal can lead to a surprisingly high electricity bill.
- Seasonal appliances - Did you use your air conditioner to cool your home?
- Previous estimated bill - If your past bill have been estimated, your current bill may be adjusted to reflect the actual usage. Examine your previous bill to see if they say "estimated" or phone Global International Meter Services straight away for assistance.
- Variation in billing days - In a monthly billing cycle, the number of days may typically range anywhere from 28 to 34. That's a possible difference of six days from one billing period to the next and the billing cycle may include five weekends, a time of increased electrical use for many households.
- Additional appliances - Did you purchase a large screen TV, a larger refrigerator or freezer? When buying new appliances, make sure they're energy efficient.
- Tariff increase - Every year NERSA (National Energy Regulator of South Africa) approve the new tariff charge to be implemented towards domestic as well as in the business sector. Usually these new tariffs kick in on the 1'st of June (in winter time) every year. This change in tariff in the beginning of winter were customers make use of more heating appliances could also cause your energy usage together with the higher tariff rate per kWh to spike abnormally.
To figure out why your electric bill is "so high", the first thing you we need to do is to figure out what's normal. If your bill has spiked recently that's easy: Just look at your old bills and see how much your usage has gone up. Look only at the amount of electricity you used in kWh. Don't look at the cost, because the cost could have gone up for other reasons, such as an increase in the price of electricity itself.
If your kWh usage is similar but the cost is now higher, then the answer as to why is on your bill. Maybe the price of electricity went up, or maybe you're being charged for additional service charges (portion of the street lights outside as agreed apon by your body corporate).
Maybe your bill hasn't gone up but you just think it's always been too high? In that case the first thing you can do is to compare your usage to what's normal. A typical South African family uses 460 kWh per month. If you're anywhere near that you're normal. Normal doesn't mean good, though, since most people waste lots of energy.
Let's say you still think there's an unknown reason why your electrical usage has been so high recently. In that case the next thing you should do is to verify that your meter isn't running gratuitously. Shut off all the breakers and see if the meter is still spinning. If you do not have access to your meter you may request Global International Meter Services to help you with this part. If it is then your meter is broken. It's highly unusual, but it's possible. In that case Global International Meter Services will replace the meter at no cost to you.
But your meter is probably not broken. Assuming it isn't then the next step is to make sure the meter doesn't run when everything is turned off. That way when we start turning appliances back on to measure their use, we can be confident that we're measuring only that appliance and not some other appliance as well. To do this turn off every light in the apartment and physically unplug every appliance from the wall (simply turning it off isn't good enough for some appliances.
The water heater might be hard-wired without a plug and in that case you'll have to just make sure it's turned off. And of course you can't unplug a central AC system so just turn it off. Once everything is turned off and unplugged, flip the breakers back on one at a time and verify that the meter still doesn't spin. If the meter still spins and you're 100% certain you've turned off every light and physically unplugged every device, then try each breaker one at a time to see if multiple breakers cause the meter to spin or just one of them does.
Lowering Your Energy Bill
Like many of the resources your business relies upon every day, the cost of electricity power is on the rise. One thing is certain: the less power you use, the lower your bill will be. In light of South Africa's rising electric prices, energy efficiency is worth a second look. Climbing energy costs have the effect of increasing the value, and quickening the payback, of any investment you make in energy efficient products or processes.
Slash High Electricity Bills:
SAVING POWER: KITCHEN
Dishwasher energy consumption can be reduced by turning off the dishwasher after the final rinse and before the drying cycle. The clean dishes can then be wiped with a dry cloth.
Fill the dishwasher completely before operating. Partial loads waste electricity and water. Short wash cycles, rinse-only cycles, mid-cycle turn-off, and other features are designed for energy conservation as well as convenience. Connect your dishwasher to COLD water supply unless otherwise directed. Normally only one wash and one final rinse cycle requires hot water which is heated by an element in the dishwasher. The dishwasher filters must be kept clear of debris. A blocked filter reduces efficiency and wastes energy.Proper loading is important for the dishwasher to work efficiently.
Choose a refrigerator of a size based on the needs of your family - a refrigerator operates at peak efficiency when filled. Do not overload your fridge, excessive products in your fridge will lower the quality of the food and use more electricity - as much as 10-20% more for each extra product.
Do not set freezing temperatures lower than necessary, it wastes as much electricity as excessive heat. Thick frost on chilling panels reduces cooling ability. If you do no t have a frost-free model, defrost your refrigerator when frost is between 0,6 to 1,3 cm thick.
Do not open your refrigerator door needlessly. By getting into the habit of removing and replacing several articles at once, you will reduce the loss of cold air. Let hot foods cool down before placing them in the refrigerator. (To prevent bacterial growth allow about 20 minutes standing time).
Be sure the seal around your refrigerator door is intact. (Close the door on a piece of paper: if you can pull the paper out easily, the seal should be replaced).
Remove all heavy wrapping from food before storing it in the refrigerator.
Cover all liquids stored in the refrigerator (especially frost-free models). Foods should be placed slightly apart on refrigerator shelves to allow the cooling air to circulate.
Exposed condenser coils/panels (usually at the back of the unit) MUST be kept clean and dust free. When cleaning you must be careful not to damage the panels.
Do not place the refrigerator near the stove or against an uninsulated wall that faces the sun. Allow adequate space around the refrigerator for free air circulation. The air carries heat away from the fridge - if air can not circulate, the fridge can not work properly. Switch on the energy saving switch, if one is fitted to the refrigerator. Switch off, empty or clean your fridge, when taking an extended holiday.
Freezers and refrigerators operate most efficiently when filled to the capacity recommended by the manufacturers. Never forget that only one-tenth of a freezer's capacity should be used for freezing of fresh food at any one time. The freezer must work harder to remove heat, and uses more power. Example, 28 litres (one cubic foot) will store 12,5 to 15 kg (25-30 lbs.) of frozen food and will freeze about 1,5 kg (3 lbs.) of fresh food at a time.
Food to be frozen should be placed in contact with those parts of the freezer that contain the refrigerant tubes, usually the sides of chest models. Defrosting of chest type freezers should be done once or twice a year. For upright models, defrosting should be done two or three times a year. NEVER allow frost build up to exceed 0,6 to 1,3 cm.
By keeping a list of the location of foods in the freezers, the freezer can be kept open for a minimum of time, preventing the loss of cold air. The freezer should be kept as full as possible to prevent heavy icing. On all models keep condenser panels at the rear of the freezer clean and dust free for maximum efficiency and conservation of energy. A second freezer should only be operated when necessary.
In a single door unit, it is essential that the separate freezer compartment has its own door intact. Otherwise the unit will tend to operate the whole of the refrigerator as a freezer - this can be expensive.
Use cooking utensils with flat bottoms and tight fittings covers. Be sure pots and pans completely cover the stove plates. Take advantage of the heat sensing control for stove plates. It allows the stove plate to cut of the electricity supply occasionally while still cooking. It does not affect the food, only your bill. Use a pressure cooker to conserve energy when cooking foods that take a long time, such as pot roasts, stews and steamed puddings. Do not overcook foods, especially vegetables. Overcooking destroys essential nutrients.
For full efficiency from radiant stove plates the stove plate reflectors (underneath the stove plates) should always be kept clean. Bring foods to the boil quickly on the "high" setting, then turn the heat down to simmer to finish cooking. Do not use the grilling compartment to make toast - it is very expensive. Do not use the oven to heat the kitchen - it is very expensive and far less efficient than a heater. Keep oven doors completely closed until food is cooked. Every time the door is opened, the oven temperature drops, and the heat must be replaced. Use the oven to prepare an entire meal - main course, vegetables and dessert. Remember to plan meals that cook in the oven at the same temperature. Allow free circulation of heat within the oven. Place pans and containers so that they do not touch each other, or the sides of the oven. To keep food warm place in a 66℃ (150℉) or 82℃ (180℉ )oven. Do not leave it too long or your meal will be very dry. When buying a new stove, choose one with a convection oven. This type of oven uses less energy than conventional ovens and cooking time is substantially reduced
Defrost your food in the refrigerator instead of the microwave oven: it is more economical. Use your microwave oven to cook small to medium quantities of food. To cook larger portions of meat, it is better to use a conventional oven. Some microwaves do not heat up foods evenly. Wrap foods in plastic to hold in the steam, this will help to give even heating. Be very careful not to cover the foods too well, steam can burn you badly when you open the packet, so leave a flap open for the steam to escape. Cooking time is an important factor when determining energy efficiency levels. Compare cooking times when you cook the same food in the microwave, in the standard oven, on stove top elements or in a pressure cooker. You will easily see which method of cooking is more efficient depending on quantity, volume and food types. Follow the Manufacturers instructions to ensure that food is cooked correctly. Keep in mind that microwave recipe books give the cooking times required by the appliance used by the authors. Adjust cooking times to suit your micro- wave rating. Never turn your microwave on when it is empty, you could damage it. Keep the edges of your microwave door and its hinges clean. To wash the inside of your oven, boil a cup of water in it and then wipe the sides with a damp cloth.
Using small kitchen appliances instead of the stove can save energy. Toasters, electric grills and skillets, slow cookers, electric coffee pots and bottle warmers usually require less energy than the stove when used correctly. Use an electric kettle to boil water, not a sauce pan or a microwave. When vacuuming, empty or replace the dust bag frequently.
A faulty appliance will not work efficiently and can waste energy. Repair or replace them promptly
You will save energy, money and eye strain by lighting your home properly. Follow these guidelines: The wattage of a bulb is not a measure of the amount of light it gives, but rather the energy it uses. For instance, a 100 watt bulb gives 50% more light than four 25 watt bulbs. (Image on Slide: Use Electricity Wisely - in the Bedroom). Fluorescent lamps give five times the light and last up to 10 times as long as ordinary bulbs. Fluorescent lighting is more economical - Watt for Watt than incandescent bulbs. They use less energy and can last about 10 times longer. (Image on Slide: Use Electricity Wisely - In the Bedroom). Never confine lighting to one part of the room. Avoid heavy contrast by using lamp shades that direct light both up and down. Try not to install multiple lights (lamps or lighting fixtures) on a single switch. Above all, turn lights off whenever possible because, they use electricity while they burn. Clean your lamps and bulbs regularly, because dirt decreases the amount of light given out. Dimming switches allow you to regulate the light level and reduce electricity consumption to some extent. Use lampshades with a white liner. Liners should be sufficiently dense to hide the bulb but should transmit soft, even light. Use low energy lamps for exterior lighting.
Air conditioning circulates the air and makes your home more comfortable. It maintains the temperature at a suitable level, dehumidifies, and removes dust and particles from the air, Here are some ways to increase its efficiency: Clean and inspect filter screens regularly. This will keep electricity consumption at its best and eliminate dust and pollen from conditioned air. Use light coloured curtains to reflect sun and heat outward.
Set the air conditioning unit to re-circulate cool air instead of drawing in warmer outside air. Protect the outdoor cooling units from the sun. Place them on the south or shady side of your house. Be sure your television, radio and stereo are off when no one is watching or listening.
Generally, you should turn your heating/cooling system off when the space in unoccupied. You can use a time-clock to turn them on prior to occupancy again if you like. Do not heat storage and unoccupied areas, like the basement or garage.
SAVING POWER: LAUNDRY
Buy a washing machine, which offers a variety of water temperature settings. A front loading washing machine uses less water and costs less to operate even though the purchase price may be higher than a top loader.
Use warm and cold water setting as much as possible in order to cut down on energy needed to heat the water. Take advantage of special features on your washer that can save money. For example, soak cycles remove stubborn stains in one wash cycle. The automatic washing machine uses the same amount of electricity for a full load as it consumes for a single item. Save dirty clothes until a full load has accumulated. Never overload your automatic washing machine. Overloading will reduce the cleaning action. (Varying the size of garments in a full load improves the cleaning action by allowing free circulation).
Clean the lint filter on the dryer after each operation to maintain full air flow and to maximise the drying efficiency. Dryers equipped with an electronic humidity control are the most efficient because they automatically shut off the drying cycle when the clothes are dry. Other models are equipped with electric timers which, allow you to select the length of the drying cycle. Here it is important not to overestimate the length of the drying cycle. A permanent press cycle with a "cool-down" period saves energy and dries efficiently. Compact dryers are economical provided that you only have small amounts of clothes to dry. Never overload a tumble dryer but avoid under-loading as well. Use correct temperature settings to minimize the amount of electricity consumed. Over-dried clothes feel harsh and waste energy. Experiment to find the right setting. Some natural materials such as cotton and wool should retain some moisture to avoid wrinkling. Clothes should never be placed in the tumble dryer dripping with water. They should have as much moisture removed beforehand and they should never be folded before being placed in the dryer. Dry clothes in consecutive loads where possible. The dryer will be warm already and will save on initial energy consumption. On sunny days take advantage of good weather and dry your clothes outside.
An iron consumes as much energy as ten 100 watt light bulbs. Several steps can be taken to increase ironing efficiency. Iron low temperature fabrics first to reduce warm up time. Iron large batches of clothing at one time to avoid wasting energy reheating the iron several times. Switch your iron off before you are finished and complete the ironing on stored energy. Prevent scorching and wasting energy by not over heating the iron.
Use only distilled water in steam irons. Be sure to turn your iron off if you are interrupted whilst ironing. Use the permanent press feature on your washer and dryer if it is available.
By removing clothing promptly from the dryer and folding them carefully, many items will require no ironing, or just a quick press.
SAVING POWER IN THE: LOUNGE
Infrared heaters are more electricity efficient than other space heating systems. These types of heaters can be used both for spot heating and area heating. They transfer energy directly by radiation, creating heat and comfort instantly without the use of air-circulation fans. An infrared heater will warm the people in the room rather than the space. Infra-red heaters often use metal-sheeted infrared radiation elements, reflector lamps or quartz tubes. The oil filled heater is the safest type of heater for the bedroom. A thermostat control switches the unit on and off as required, but to save energy, only use on the lowest comfortable setting. Electric blankets consume little electricity. However, the correct method of use is to switch them on to the highest setting and warm the bed just before climbing in - then switch them off. Close doors and windows when using a heater.
In parts of South Africa, during winter, the heating of rooms is one of the largest sources of electricity consumption in a home. Improving a home's thermal insulation can save hundreds of Rands a year in space heating costs and improve the home's comfort. Insulate The Ceiling:
Insulating the ceiling helps make a home a comfortable electricity efficient place. As much as 50% of heat losses in a house can be attributed to a lack of ceilings and ceiling insulation. If a home's ceiling is well insulated, heating and cooling expenses can be kept low. The effectiveness of ceiling insulation depends on the type of material from which it is made, its thickness and its density. Ceiling insulation in SA varies from fibreglass insulation to a type of insulation prepared from a mixture of paper and other materials. The latter is blown into the ceiling, sealing the total roof area. Any of the methods are equally effective and the supplier of these insulation's will be able to offer reliable information about ceiling insulation.
Seal Air Gaps In The Home:
The flow of air into and out of a home occurs inadvertently as infiltration / exfiltration and deliberately as ventilation. Air leakage into and out of the home is one of the contributors to high heating and cooling costs. Air infiltrating a house through leaks must be heated in winter and cooled in summer and this represents an additional load on the household's electricity consumption. This additional load can account for as much as 20% of heating and cooling costs. Air leakage also permits dust, noise, fumes and moisture to enter a home. Air leakage can occur wherever different materials or parts of the house meet. Caulking and weather-stripping are the ideal methods for closing the loopholes in your home through which heat escapes. Caulking simply means sealing cracks and holes in areas where air leakage can occur. Inexpensive and easy to apply, caulking requires just a few tools. Weather-stripping is effectiveness at eliminating air leakage when it fits tightly against closed windows and doors. Many types of weather stripping are available, including foam rubber, felt, flexible vinyl and spring metal or plastic tension strips.
SAVING POWER: BATHROOM
Make The Most Use Of The Home's Thermal Mass:
Thermal mass is a term used to describe any material that absorbs and releases significant amounts of heat when a temperature difference occurs between it and the surrounding air. Concrete, brick and tile contribute to the thermal mass of a home. Thermal mass can be taken advantage of to substantially reduce the use of heating and cooling appliances. As the air in a house cools and falls below the temperature of the thermal mass, the thermal mass slowly releases its stored heat, keeping the home warm for longer periods. This process of absorbing and releasing heat helps your home maintain a comfortable temperatures range. The value of thermal mass increases when it is exposed to room air, rather than covered by materials that hinder its heat absorbing and releasing effects. For example, a concrete floor covered by vinyl performs much better than a floor covered by carpeting.
In order to ensure that cold air outside the geyser does not increase the heat lost by the water inside, installing a geyser blanket can be very effective. A geyser blanket may cost in the region of R150, but the pay-back in electricity efficiency and electricity savings make it a good investment. It should take less than an hour to install a geyser blanket and over twenty years it may save you over R2 500 (in 1997 terms) in electricity bills (at an electricity price of 22,5c/kWh). To optimize electricity efficiency, geysers should be located as close as possible to the points where hot water is being used. Insulated hot water pipes maintain their temperature at constant levels and prevent heat loss. Pay special attention to the insulation of the first 1.5 to two meters of hot water pipes nearest the geyser. Water pipes can be insulated with ceiling insulation material, or through the use of pipe insulators that wrap around the pipes. This can save well over R1 000 (1997 terms) in heating costs over twenty years.
Water heating tips
It is likely that a home's single largest electricity expense is water heating. This typically accounts for about 30% to 40% of the electricity account. By taking a shower instead of a bath you can save hot water. Normally, you use less hot water for a shower than a bath. In a bath 12 cm of hot water represents half the content of a 3000 Watt geyser, about 4 kWh of electricity is needed to heat it costing about 60c. Get the family into the habit of plugging the water basin when washing or shaving. Allowing hot water to pour out of the taps and down the drain is wasteful. Do not set the thermostat too high. A setting of 50-60℃ is recommended.
Food preparation and storage efficiency
A lot of the energy in your home is used in preparing and storing foods. The following tips will help you to conserve energy while meeting your daily food-related needs. Cook your food at the highest possible volume while still retaining the basic nutritional and health requirements. Cook at a longer, lower temperature as opposed to a higher, shorter one. Slow cooking retains more of the nutrients in food and transfers less heat to the air around it - so you loose less heat energy and save more money in the long run. Follow the manufacturer's strict guidelines while heating and pre-heating your cooking equipment. Heat your equipment only to the highest temperature needed - do not heat higher to pre-heat quicker or cook food faster, it will only waste energy. Do not turn every appliance on in the morning out of habit. Turn them on only when they are needed and going to be used. Draw up a cooking schedule. In knowing what foods need the same cooking temperature in advance, you can do them at the same time. Fill your oven to capacity and save on time and electricity. Learn how to use your oven's thermostat and timer. You can avoid continuous opening of your oven door while your food is cooking and thereby conserve the heat that is lost. Warming drawers and plates are not cooking appliances. Excessive heat will dry out food so use them only as intended.
Keep your cooking equipment clean; it will last longer and use less electricity if well maintained.
SAVING POWER: OUTSIDE
For houses with swimming pools, the swimming pool filter pump is likely to be amongst the largest consumers of electricity, possibly accounting for 20% of the home's electricity consumption. Reduce The Pool Pump Operating Time. Reducing the swimming pool filter pump operating time can save significant amounts of electricity. The pool pump operating time can be reduced by resetting the pump control clock to activate the pump for only those necessary for keeping the pool clean. Covering your pool when it is not in use will reduce its water losses. A cover will also ensure that the pool need not be cleaned as frequently and the pool pump can be operated less often, for example 10% of the time. The pool's filter should be cleaned as recommended by the manufacturer to obtain maximum efficiency. This will enable you to operate the pump for shorter periods. Also use a wall brush and leaf skimmer regularly and remove foreign materials from he pool's strainer baskets. In general, your pool manufacturer should be in a good position to advise you on how to optimise your swimming pool's electricity efficiency and should be consulted. Check with the supplier of the swimming pool to establish the correct operation of the filter. Operating the filter longer than necessary can be very expensive, because it wastes electricity.