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Save money by cutting down your electric bills

Posted in economics, Energy by moneymanagement on July 18, 2009

Ever gasped at the huge electric bills that seem to climb up constantly. Your electricity bill is a recurring expense which could bring a substantial saving in your monthly budgeting.

Make a good choice in lighting

Lighting contributes to nearly 30% of the consumption of electricity and if we work at improving the lighting in our homes we can achieve a fair bit of energy efficiency.

Florescent light consumes much lower electricity than the bulb.  The newer innovation is Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) which looks like a white bulb. They are long lasting and about 5-6 times more energy efficient than the regular light bulbs. Thus, using them in place of bulbs can result in substantial energy savings.

According to Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) a 15-watt CFL produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt bulb.
BEE also rates CFLs with stars to show their energy efficiency. A 5 star rates CFL will gives out the best light per watt of electricity consumed.

Although a single CFL costs more initially, over the life of the bulb you actually save money. Here’s a comparison on the energy consumption to make you sit up and think before you buy a bulb again.

CFL Incandescent or Bulbs
Energy Input (watts) 13 60
Light Output (lumens) 810 830
Useful life (hours) 10,000 1,500
Electricity Used (kilowatt hours) 130 600

To make the most of the natural light available in your home, you need to know how to use it.

There are several ways to maximise your natural light. You can hang mirrors opposite windows. Take down unnecessary window dressings and replace with filmy materials, such as voile and muslin, to diffuse light. Trim trees or bushes that overshadow windows.

Cooling the bills

Cooling accounts for 11% of home energy usage, an Energy Star-rated cooling system can help reduce electric costs by hundreds of rupees. Don’t constantly move the thermostat up or down throughout the day because this wastes energy and money.

Consider setting the thermostat as high as comfortable in the summer.

Make sure your central air conditioning unit outside your home stays clean and free of debris.

Use ceiling fans to assist in cooling.  In the summer, blades should rotate counter-clockwise when viewed from below.

Make sure furniture and draperies are not blocking cooling outlets. Blocked outlets restrict air circulation, overwork the cooling equipment and increase operating costs.

The refrigerator

The refrigerator alone accounts for 7% of an average home’s total energy usage. What’s more, refrigeration efficiencies have come so far in recent years that anyone with a unit more than five years old should consider investing in a new refrigerator.

Defrost food in your refrigerator, this helps cool the refrigerator, easing energy requirements, and it is better for the food than defrosting in room temperature.  Keep refrigerator full so that it is cooling less open space (water jugs make good fillers).

This article has been written by me for MoneyLife magazine

Viable Solar Power

Posted in Energy by moneymanagement on July 8, 2008

The Mckinsey Quarterly has an excellent article on  Economics of Solar power

The highlights are as follows

The solar sector includes a diverse set of players, including the manufacturers of the silicon wafers, panels, and components used to generate much of today’s solar power, as well as the installers who put small-scale units on individual roofs, utilities and other operators setting up enormous solar collection systems in deserts, and start-up companies striving for breakthroughs such as lower-cost thin-film technologies. All are operating in a dynamic environment in which long-held assumptions—subsidies, the primacy of incumbents, and the predominance of silicon-wafer-based technology—are being eroded.

But the sector’s economics are changing. Over the last two decades, the cost of manufacturing and installing a photovoltaic solar-power system has decreased by about 20 percent with every doubling of installed capacity. The cost of generating electricity from conventional sources, by contrast, has been rising along with the price of natural gas, which heavily influences electricity prices in regions that have large numbers of gas-fired power plants. These regions include California, the Northeast, and Texas (in the United States), as well as Italy, Japan, and Spain.

As a result, solar power has been creeping toward cost competitiveness in some areas. California, for example, combines abundant sunshine with retail electricity prices that, partly as a result of the state’s policies, are among the highest in the United States—up to 36 cents per kilowatt-hour for residential users.1 Unsubsidized solar power costs 36 cents per kilowatt-hour. Support from the California Solar Initiative2 cuts the price customers pay to 27 cents. Rising natural-gas prices, state regulations aiming to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to build more power plants to keep up with growing demand could push the cost of conventional electricity higher.

The road ahead

The extent and speed of this emerging sector’s growth will depend on its ability to keep driving down the cost of solar power. No single player or set of players can make that happen on its own.

• The necessary technological breakthroughs will come from solar-component manufacturers, but rapid progress depends on robustly growing demand from end users, to whom many manufacturers have only limited access.

• Utilities have strong relationships with residential, commercial, and industrial customers and understand the economics of serving them. But these companies will have difficulty driving the penetration of solar power unless they have a much clearer sense of the cost potential of different solar technologies.

• In some regions, regulators can accelerate the move toward grid parity, as they did in California and Germany, but they can’t reduce the real cost of solar power. Poor regulation might even slow the fall in prices.

Although these considerations make it difficult to predict outcomes and to prescribe strategies, certain economic principles do apply.

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