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Saving Energy and Money at Home: Hot Water & Appliances

We all know that we should turn off any appliance that we are not using, such as lights, television, radio, etc. Here are some more tips that will help you save money and the environment.

Use hot water efficiently to save energy

Both in hot and cold countries, hot water is one of the most expensive items on the electricity bill. I live in Sweden, and the hot water amounts to 75% of the total bill for energy and water. It costs five times more than all other electricity put together. So it is important to reduce the use of hot water for your electricity consumption. If it is possible in your country, use gas to heat water instead of electricity, it is much more economical. (For safety reasons some countries do not use gas, however).

Take shorter showers and adjust the temperature of the water to slightly less hot. Your washing and dishwashing machines also use a lot of hot water as well as electricity. Make sure you only wash with a full load of laundry and use the right temperature and program for the type of laundry. Try out whether a shorter program or a lower temperature will still yield satisfactory results. Avoid using a dryer if you can or reduce the use of it by hanging thinner clothing somewhere to dry.

It is disputable whether rinsing off dishes by hand is using less hot water than a dishwasher; I have not seen any comparative studies. But it will help a little if you colde rinse your lemonade or water glasses and reuse them a couple of times before putting them in the dishwasher. Using a water-saving showerhead also reduces hot water use, and it is relatively inexpensive.

In some countries, you can get equipment that uses waste heat to preheat your hot water. This can be a very worthwhile investment. Solar water heaters that use direct heat from the sun to heat water can also be a good investment. It depends on the price of electricity and the necessary investment.

Timers and movement sensors

In some cases, it can be worthwhile putting equipment on a timer that shuts it off automatically. Pool filters are a good example. I have known pool owners who have reduced the pool electricity use by as much as 60% by applying a timer. There is no generic rule for when this is financially interesting. I often see it on outside lights. If you are buying a new garage light, it might be handy, depending on your situation, to purchase one with a movement detector, so it turns on automatically when someone enters the garage.

Surge protectors

Simple surge protectors are a long row of electrical sockets, with one central switch. If an electrical surge occurs, it will turn off, protecting your equipment. Adapters often continue to use energy even when the equipment itself is turned off.

You can check that very simply by checking whether the adapter remains warm or hot to the touch. A good tip is to put all equipment in one corner of your room (such as the TV, DVD player, music equipment and anything in the neighbourhood that can be turned off at night) on one large surge protector, and to switch this one off at night or when you leave the room, rather than having to turn each individual switch off.


If you have equipment that is imported from another country, it may work on a different type of electricity. On my home islands, most houses are equipped with both 110 and 220 Volts, but this is unusual. European electricity equipment usually is on 220V, American equipment on 110V. Equipment on 220V runs more efficiently than 110V equipment. If you use a transformer to convert from one type to the other, you are losing at least 10%, more often up to 40% in the conversion (I have done many electricity use measurements on equipment myself during 20 years of environmental consultancy).

Cheap appliances

Cheap appliances are often very energy-inefficient. I have this experience in particular with cheap appliances from China and Taiwan in the last few years since they have been flooding the market in the Caribbean. That can be anything from little must-have gadgets to microwaves to refrigerators and washing machines. Very often, there is no energy-efficiency information available on these cheap appliances. Beware of what you buy. Do you need an air freshener that runs on electricity?

What do you think?

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