Business

Dry your tears and wipe those bills

Camilo Thame Business Co-ordinator thamec@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012    

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Many of you may know that time of the month when you get emotional, angered, stressed or even feel urged to cry.

That's right. Your light bill is too high.

Electricity prices have been stable for the last eighteen months, but residential consumers have been paying on average of $31 and $40 for each kilowatt-hour (kWh), depending on how much is used in any given month.

The price paid for electricity is higher for those with greater appetites for energy. That's because the energy rate for each kWh above the first 100 kWh is 2.3 times the rate for the first 100 kWh — the amount of electricity needed to light up your house, run a mid-sized refrigerator and power a standard television for a month.

Getting consumption closer to the 100-kWh mark could save you a bundle.

But if the satisfaction of reducing how much you pay Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for each unit of electricity used is not enough incentive for you to conserve, there are other ways to look at it.

According to JPS, the average water heater operated three hours a day will use about 135 kWh a month.

At current rates (around $36 a kWh for the average residential customer using 200 kWh a month), that would rack up a bill of $58,000 in a year.

Simple conservation techniques, such as running the heater for only half hour in the morning and again in the evening, could save you up to $40,000 for the year.

There are many such examples.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can use around quarter of the energy that an incandescent bulb uses to give the same amount of light. In other words, using five 15-watt fluorescent bulbs instead of five 60-watt incandescent one (for four hours a night) could save you $8,000 in a year.

You can also change how you use your television, that is, don't use it as background noise or as a radio. A standard 34-inch TV cost $5 an hour when in use. That might not sound like much, but that translates into $11,000 a year at current rates if you use it for six hours a day.

What's really going to float your boat is when you realise how much energy TVs, cable boxes, and other similar electronic equipment use even when turned off.

Entertainment systems can burn up to 11 kWh a month when not in use. That's $5,000 a year.

One way to avoid that cost is to plug your electronic equipment into a power strip and turn off the power strip when leaving home, or when they are not being used.

Another thing: the louder you play your stereo, the more power you use.

The average 16 cubic foot fridge burns about 60 kWh a month, which translates to $26,000 a year, using this month's light bill rates.

Place refrigerators in cool spots, away from heat sources, keeping them closed as much as possible, cooling food before putting them in, and even organising the food for good air circulation can lower energy consumption.

But if you thought your fridge or electric water heater were costly, weren't convinced of the benefits of sun-drying your clothes, or could hardly avoid using a machine to dry them, the clothes dryer bill can get that heart racing.

The greedy appliance uses more than seven times the electricity that a similar sized washing machine consumes over the same period of time in use.

That's right. A clothes dryer rated at 10 pounds, uses about $130 of electricity each hour. A 10-pound washing machine cost about $20 an hour to operate at current rates.

Heating appliances typically require more power to operate, so not surprisingly running an average clothes iron for two hours a week should cost you about $300 a month. An average domestic hair dryer could cost you closer to $2,000 a month for one hour use a day .

But if you can't avoid owning an electric stove instead of a gas range, which is much cheaper to operate, it's better to purchase a ceramic top stove than a standard one. Using the right sized pots for burners, which need to be kept clean, can also lead to less electricity being used.

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