How to survive (and thrive) with high electric costs

How to survive (and thrive) with high electric costs
Photo by Thomas Kelley / Unsplash

If you're anything like me, you may have gotten whacked in the face by a recent electricity bill which contains an unfathomable amount of money and all you can ask yourself is: How?!

It's simple really. We're just over the yearly mark of an energy crisis; more specifically the war which is going on between Ukraine and Russia. Since then, electricity providers across the globe have elevated their prices to astronomical rates. Gone are the days of a 40% discount policy with your provider, never mind a 'cheap' kwH unit rate. The reality is certain right now: prices have been hiked, and what you spent on electricity just over a year ago just isn't feasible any more. Your income is likely the same, but your bill is higher. What to do?

Before we dive into tips on how to save, let's understand the following from my own experience. When all this price-hiking began, I decided to take action myself and start understanding my bill and what I really consume. If you already know what all of this is and just want to know how to save, and what I consume (as a self titled 'low end electricity consumer') scroll past the next section.

What is kwH?

A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a measure for energy consumption. Despite the name, it doesn't mean the number of kilowatts you're using per hour. It's a unit of measurement. 1 kilowatt hour is the amount of energy you'd use if you kept a 1,000 watt appliance running for an hour. Electricity providers charge their customers a unit rate for every KwH. In my own personal case this is 44ct, meaning for every KwH I consume, I pay 44 cents. Electricity bills are calculated in units, and thus a price is worked out at the end of a billing period. (monthly, once every two months)

Let's go through two real life scenarios to understand how you consume and then pay for your electricity:

  • A lightbulb runs at 40 watts (W) for an hour (this is bulb which uses a lot of energy). This means the total consumption within the hour is 40 watts. Simple right? This equates to a consumption of 0.04 kwH. To work out the cost you multiply 0.04 by 44 cents which equals 0.0176ct - on first sight, not a lot of money; however lights run a lot during the day so this an easily add up.
  • A microwave runs at 1000w for an hour (for those moments when you are really hungry!) which means it has a consumption of a full kwH in that time period. This would then cost a full kwH unit, ergo 44ct. All make sense? Great.

By understanding the above two scenarios, you will start seeing how your consumption works and you will be able to roughly work out how much your appliances use up. In my case, I have access to my electricity meter and can see how many units are used in a day so I always have a good overview of how much is used. I consider myself quite energy conscious, therefore my daily units consumed is about 5.5 a day, which equates to €2.4 a day. Be aware this does not contain the national standing charge. (5.5 units x 44c). I quickly became obsessed with seeing this number go down day by day, the more I understood how much different devices consume and how I can tweak my daily usage up or down. There is no need to check your meter every day like I do, however it will help you monitor your usage much better if you keep an eye on it week after week.

Now, to what you're really here for, these tips helped me reduce my bill the most

  1. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use: It's easy to forget to switch off lights and appliances when leaving a room. Make a habit of turning off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use, even if it's just for a short while. I personally always check that all appliances and lights are off when I leave a room, the house or go to bed. You may think these amounts of consumption are neglible, but they add up really quick over the year.
  2. Use energy-efficient bulbs: LED bulbs use less energy compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. Consider replacing your traditional bulbs with energy-efficient ones. You might be scared off by the up front cost, however energy saving bulbs are super cheap nowadays and are worth it in the long run. Older bulbs run around 40W of consumption, whereas modern ones can go as low as 10W (or even lower) while still maintaining the same brightness. Life hack right? With your newly acquired knowledge through the scenarios above, you should be able to calculate the difference in cost when used. Try it, I'll wait!
  3. Use your appliances efficiently: Use your washing machine and dishwasher only when you have a full load. Avoid over-drying clothes in the dryer and use a colder cycle when washing clothes. In my own experience, I noticed n0 difference when I dropped my cycle from 60 degrees celcius, to 40. (besides in my electricity bill)
  4. Speaking of efficient: for the love of god, don't fill your kettle up to the max when you're only making a cup of tea or coffee. Use what you need. In general, most cups hold between 250-350ml of liquid. You'll thank me, as your bill will look prettier, and you will be waiting shorter for your cup of choice.
  5. My favourite of them all - Heating is one of the biggest energy consumers, and one that we arguably need the most, BUT; you don't need to heat every hour, every day. If it's not actually that cold but you're just a creature of habit, refrain from flicking that heating switch, walk to your wardrobe and put on a thicker bit of clothing. It feels weird to wear an outside jacket inside the house, but once you get used to it, it's great knowing that you're saving money by doing it; I promise. For reference, I have a 1.5kwH heater in my home office, which when ran for 2 hours barely makes a difference. (cost equals to €1.32 for running it at max for two hours) I don't know about you, but I 'd rather save that money and instead put on a jacket with a hot water bottle under it.

So, in reality how much do I actually save compared to the average consumer in Ireland?

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) states that the average Irish household uses 4,200 kW/h of electricity, which at my current unit price is €1,848 per annum. (this is excluding the standing charge which everyone in Ireland pays, which is around €200 a year for me)  I live with one other person, and we consume roughly 2,007 kW/h a year. (this may vary YoY depending on climate)

So, in short: With the above tips, I manage to save a good chunk of money with my bill being around half the cost of the average household in Ireland coming in at €883 a year (again, excluding standing charges). Saving to this extent isn't for everyone, I get it. Some people prefer to sit inside at all times of the year in a t-shirt, which is totally fine - whatever floats your boat. If you are like me, and like to maximise your savings where you can, try out some of the above, and keep a close eye on your bills and consumption throughout the year, I'm certain it will make a difference.

Let me know in the comments what YOU do to save on your electricity bill.

Until next time