Three months in to an experiment and power bills are already down

POWER CHOICES: David Watson - local electrician and solar installation expert gave insights into understanding your daily power usage patterns and the up and coming battery storage technology at the launch of Power Choices. Jane Richens (in background) one of the organisers of Power Choices event from Paterson Allyn Williams Science Hub.
POWER CHOICES: David Watson - local electrician and solar installation expert gave insights into understanding your daily power usage patterns and the up and coming battery storage technology at the launch of Power Choices. Jane Richens (in background) one of the organisers of Power Choices event from Paterson Allyn Williams Science Hub.

Do you recall seeing the electric car parked outside the CWA hall one Saturday morning a few months ago?

The car was a feature of the Power Choices event organised by Local Living Dungog and Paterson Allyn Williams River Science Hub. 

That day saw the launch of a one year project called Take Two.

Seven households in the Dungog Shire took up the challenge of trying two (or more) power-saving tips each month to reduce their electricity bills.

"The goal is to save money on your power bills compared to the same time last year," says co-ordinator Helen Rubeli.

"We keep in touch with our stories and results by e-mail."

The ideas being applied vary from switching to a more powerful nappy-washing liquid in order to save on rinses, changing bulbs to LEDs (when on special), using draught excluders to keep out winter chills rather than turning the heating up and keeping boiled water in a thermos instead of switching the kettle on every time for a cuppa.

Three months into the experiment, how are they faring?

One household's bill is lower by 1kWh per day, despite having a new infant to care for.

Another had a monthly bill that was $80 less than last winter.  They  set their air conditioning thermostat to 20 degrees instead of using a plug in oil heater. Simply switching computers and appliances off at the socket when not in use makes a small difference that accumulates over the weeks.

Some participants are making some bigger changes which will pay off in the long term such as installing roof-top solar panels and air conditioning with better insulated ducting. Clever changes such as stacking pet enclosures that needed heating over winter have also paid off. Adding timers to column heaters has also proved effective in bringing the bills down. 

There is a different theme each month posted on the Local Living Dungog blog to get ideas going and keep motivation up. 

These have included frugal fridge use, winter warmer clever heating ideas and kilowatt cutting cooking.

More ideas will be coming for the Spring change.

Here are someideas for power-efficient cooking shared by Judy Donald, a participatant in the project:

"I usually cook 3 or 4 times the amount needed for a meal when doing a slow meal, or a casserole or curry, and freeze the other portions for later use….saves a lot of power and time.

“Also prepare crumble mix for desert in large batches as well.. it freezes well, remains crumbly and can be quickly used frozen on top of fruits.

“I usually have a day of “batch cooking” on rainy days, and it’s pleasant in a warm, dry kitchen.  

Here's a recipe for my crumble mix, which has proven to be very popular for many years.  The quantity will two thirds fill 5 sandwich bags (I like it to be a bit lose so it remains crumbly when frozen, as it will be used from frozen directly when needed).  In a large mixing bowl..hopefully one for an electric mixer….put   two thirds cup of brown sugar, one cup dessicated coconut, one cup plain flour, one cup quick oats, two thirds cup almond meal (ground almonds), two thirds cup flaked almonds, three teaspoons vanilla essence, 300grams butter chopped into small cubes.  Mix…hopefully in an electric mixer as it may take a few minutes…until mixture is crumbly and evenly mixed.  Place into labelled bags and freeze. 

If making a crumble select baking dish of required size for your desert, grease, then place in fruit to about 4 cm depth.  A few great combinations are…banana and pear, frozen raspberry and pear, banana and tin crushed pineapple, drained tin plums or apricots, stewed rhubarb and apple…etc.  any mix of moist fruits…fresh or tinned. For banana and pear, or any drier fruits I add a drizzle of cream over the fruits to moisten..or water could be used also for a lighter option. Sprinkle crumble mix evenly over top to a depth of one or two cm, and bake at 180c for about 25 mins. till golden. Great warm or cool with cream or ice cream or custard."

To get tips for reducing your power bills, follow the blog www.locallivingdungog.wordpress.com

To join the experiment, contact Helen Rubeli at helenrubeli@gmail.com

Local Living Dungog is a Transition Towns style initiative that aims to increase community resilience in Dungog Shire. It is supported by the Dungog Shire Community Centre.