Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

How to Reduce Electricity Useage

"Reducing the Footprint"

Last issue we met a Grumbling man with the world’s biggest feet.
“There’s not enough power and THEY should do something about it.”

Whether we believe in Global Warming or not it is a good idea to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. Not only will it reduce the negative affect on your pocket but it will also take some of the load off Bali’s severely overloaded power grid.

Recent calls we have received suggest that the predicted crisis facing PLN in supplying Bali’s power is really started to bite. Increasingly people are suffering dropouts of power from their own circuit breakers while the rest of the street still has power. People are also noticing that electronic equipment is starting to do strange things.

Let me explain. PLN are not able to supply sufficient power to satisfy the rapidly increasing demand in Bali. As a result the voltage is dropping. Until recently it was common that the standard voltage of 220 volts would dip to 180 volts but recently it has started to drop as low as 150 volts.

The power you use is the voltage multiplied by the current so when the voltage drops your electrical equipment will draw more current to get the same amount of power. It is current not voltage that trips your circuit breakers so even if you are well within your PLN power allowance your main supply circuit breaker might drop out.

What can you do?

1. Reduce the power you are using.

2. Once you are well within the power allowance for your property you can install a voltage regulator to boost the voltage back up to 220 volts but remember the PLN supply is still at the lower voltage and will draw more current through the PLN breaker this is why you must reduce your power consumption.

3. Try and persuade the people of Bali to support the development of Geo thermal power on the island. Here we are sitting on hot volcanoes and we are burning coal for power.

How much energy are you using?

Generally speaking the electrical items we use in our houses that use most power are appliances with heating elements such as toasters, electric kettles, washing machines and rice cookers or equipment that produce physical power such as freezers, water pumps and air conditioners. Probably the most inefficient item you could imagine would be an old fashioned electric cooker but these are very rarely seen here. Lighting and electronic items tend to use less power although it can add up.

Electricity is great for lighting but very inefficient for heating. Think of the process of burning coal to produce steam which drives a turbine to generate electricity which is transmitted down an overhead cable to your house plug socket which then heats an element to heat your water. At each stage of this process there is loss due to inefficiency. Directly burning fuel at the point of use, eg. your water heater, is far more efficient so use gas for heating where you can.

Wasted cooling effect of air conditioners is a major issue. Unlike cool climates, where people are very conscious of drafts or heat loss, People in hot climates seem oblivious to “cool loss” (heat entry). All the same principles apply of using insulation, draft exclusion and even double glazing to reduce the energy needed to keep a room cool.

So where do we start? Well we can throw away the electric toothbrush and buy a set of razor blades. Here are some further steps you can take to reduce your electricity consumption.

Saving energy use on lighting

1. Change your lightbulbs to low wattage bulbs – Philips tend to be the best both in terms of brightness and longevity. You may prefer the “warm” bulbs that have a similar glow to the old incandescent lightbulbs.

2. Avoid spotlights which tend to use a lot of power and blow out easily. Miniature 50 watt spotlights look great and have become very popular but are notorious for not lasting very long in the unstable voltage of Bali.

3. Think about whether you really need those extra lights particularly the 150 watt spotlights or quartz halogen lights on those tall palm trees.

4. Separate your security and ambient lighting systems so that when it gets late and the guests have gone home you can switch off those expensive floodlights and just keep low wattage security lights on through the night. Bright “motion sensor” lights can substantially reduce power for security lighting while chasing unwanted guests away through their “surprise” effect.

Saving energy use on Hot Water

1. As a first preference use a solar hot water heater, second preference use gas. If you do use an electric water heater turn the temperature down and use one with a small element.

2. You might consider using a “demand” water heater rather than a “storage” heater. Demand heaters heat the water as you need it, they don’t run out of hot water and they don’t suffer constant heat loss.

3. Don’t let the kids hang around under the shower for an hour at a time.

Insulate and shade your house

1. Shade, paint or insulate large areas of outside walls of your house. If you have an outside wall that gets direct sun it is a good idea to shade it or paint it shiny white. I painted a west facing wall in my house with white paint, the neighbours thought I was crazy. Local people like dark grey or dark brown for outside walls but these are the worst colours possible. The temperature in my house fell by at least 4 degrees C.

2. Strategically planted trees can be very useful to keep direct sunshine off your walls and your car.

3. Insulate your walls and ceilings.

4. If you have air conditioning stop drafts particularly around doors and windows/

5. Do you have skylights? They can make your house like an oven. Either shade them to keep direct sun off the glass or install double glazing or a 60% mirror solar film (as used on car windows).

Saving energy use on air conditioners

1. If possible use natural ventilation or fans to keep your rooms cool.

2. Switch air conditioners off when you are not at home.

3. If you use air conditioners reduce places where heat can enter rooms. Use glass (not plastic) over wall and door vents. Make sure the hole (usually in a wall) where the air conditioner piping enters the room is sealed up. Insulate ceilings. Put sealing strips along the bottom and jambs of doors to prevent drafts or heat entering. Keep doors closed while the air conditioner is on. Set the air conditioner to switch off in the night as the temperature falls.

4. Turn the temperature of your air conditioners up to 24 degrees C. Every extra degree cooler considerably increases the work your air conditioner has to do. Even better try to avoid using your air conditioner. Get used to using a fan or natural ventilation.

Saving Energy Use in Swimming Pools and Fish Ponds

1. Swimming pools can use a huge amount of electricity. Don’t leave the pool pumps running night and day. Most pools can survive quite happily with a few hours circulation each day.

2. Water is very heavy stuff, a cubic metre weighs a metric ton. While aeration is needed to oxygenate water for fish you don’t need to move a huge amount of water and you don’t need to lift it very high to make a splash.

Saving energy cooking

1. Use gas.

2. Don’t leave the rice cooker on all day.

3. If ever you come across an electric cooker do the world a favour, buy it and put a sledge hammer through it.

Saving energy washing clothes

1. Washing machines with electric heating elements use a large amount of power. Most washing powders in Indonesia are designed for the vast majority of people who do not have the luxury of hot water. Generally speaking these powders work well.

2. While there may be justification for hot (or at least warm) water for washing there can be little justification for hugely power consuming tumble driers. In this wonderful climate clothes dry very quickly without electrical assistance.

As a final suggestion you may consider getting an electrical audit carried out to determine how much power you are using and how this may be reduced.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

8 February 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gg Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia
Telephone: +62-361-288-789, Fax:+62-361-284-180