Today’s bathrooms are filled with all sorts of things that plug in and turn on to help us prepare for the day ahead; hair straighteners, light up makeup mirrors, hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, heat lamps, electric shavers; just to name a few.
Written by Anne Armansin
All these appliances generally enhance our productivity or comfort (or at least play to our vanity) but something we probably don’t think about is how they all impact our energy bill, no matter how small they seem.
In our house, we’re very aware of the often hidden and ongoing cost of appliances. We try to factor these costs into any purchase we make, in our quest to find ways to save energy and reach our savings goal.
Also, there are times when there’s an opportunity to tackle the big ticket items.
Start with your hot water
Studies report hot water is responsible for over 20 percent of annual household energy consumption,1 making it the second biggest user of energy after heating and cooling in Australian homes.
A number of years ago we replaced our broken 250 litre storage electric hot water system with an electric heat pump. The new system works like an air-conditioner in reverse, using ambient air to warm compressed gas which in turn heats water stored in a tank situated in the garden.
Our daily energy consumption lowered from an average of 8 kWh per day to around 2 kWh per day and we were ecstatic. Then a couple of years ago, our household increased by two adults who shower twice a day and our average daily consumption is still less than half of the old electric storage system!
The new heat pump is now over seven years old and has more than paid for itself in energy savings. I encourage you to plan to invest a little more money when replacing your old units with energy efficient solar or heat pump technology – it really does make sense.
If you’re not looking at swapping your old hot water system over just yet, be sure to check the temperature setting on your existing one and have it adjusted by a licensed technician if it’s too high. You most likely won’t notice a few degrees lower, but your energy bill will!
As you’re often in a state of undress in the bathroom, heating should also be high on your checklist, when you’re looking at areas you could shave some money off your budget.
Thanks to modern technology there is a large list of heating options to choose from including under floor electric heating, radiant heating, heat lamps and heated towel rails. Ideally, under floor heating should be connected to an off peak tariff; radiant heating must be installed at least 1.8 m away from any water source; and like heat lamps and heated towel rails should be used sparingly as all appliances with heating elements have the potential to use a lot of energy if left on for lengthy periods of time.
For example, two 275 watt heat lamps would cost you approximately $13.86 per quarter,2 if used for one hour per day, whereas a 1,000 watt radiant heater, used for 1 hour per day for a quarter would cost a household approximately $25.20.3
And while it might be luxurious to dry off with toasty towels from your heated towel rail, these could set your household back a pretty penny: to run four rails for 24 hours a day during the winter period (they are usually left on for the entire day to dry towels) would cost a household $48.38.4
Keep it quick
You’ve all heard it before – a short shower is a good shower. Try and keep your showers short, four minutes or under is ideal, and not only will you be saving water, you’ll also be saving energy (and therefore, money) as you won’t need to heat up as much hot water.
If you can also swap out your old showerhead, for a new three star rated efficient one, then you could reduce your hot water consumption by up to half. And don’t forget the other faucets in your bathroom – the bath and sink taps can also be switched to more water efficient options. While you’re there, give everything a quick check to make sure there’s no leaks or drips. A simple two tablespoon leak per minute turns into 40 litres per day, 280 litres per week and15,000 litres a year, so it makes sense to turn off and save.5 Every little bit helps!
The smaller things
If your bathroom is like a department store for appliances, there are a few things you can do to reduce the impact of these items on your energy bill.
Make sure you choose a power-board that has individual on/off switches to each socket and turn these appliances off when they are charged and not in use.
Remember that just because something is on standby, doesn’t mean it’s not using energy. Small appliances can add as much as five percent to your home’s energy bill over the year.
Always think safety first. Water and electrical appliances will NEVER be friends.
Time to upgrade your appliances? Check out comparison websites and magazines. Often appliances are tested for energy efficiency, covering everything from price and safety, to performance and warranty.
About the author
Anne is Origin’s Energy Expert and has over 15 years experience providing practical advice on energy efficiency to millions of households across the country.
- Department of Industry 2013, Hot water service, Your Home.
- The figures are generated by using the following calculation- 2 x 275 W IXL heat lamps (.55kWh)* 90 days)*0.28 (average peak domestic electricity rate inclusive of GST exclusive of supply charges as at 15.6.15).
- The figures are generated by using the following calculation- 1000 W radiant heater (1kWh)*90*0.28 (average peak domestic electricity rate inclusive of GST exclusive of supply charges as at 15.6.15).
- The figures are generated by using the following calculation – 80 W*24hrs*90 days*0.28 (average peak domestic electricity rate inclusive of GST exclusive of supply charges as at 15.6.15).
- The Department of the Environment 2013, Your guide to water efficient taps.