Energy Savings Start at Home
Carl Hunter, Chairman of the Sustainability Committee of the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, shares some energy saving tips
There are many ways to enjoy your power use without compromise to your lifestyle and still keep energy dollars in your pockets. The way to go is to first have awareness of what costs what and second, to form good proactive habits to help you minimize a waste of power and water. But for that to happen, you need to be aware where such a waste may occur.
Let’s start with the cost of electricity. We currently pay around EC$1.00 per kW/H (Kilowatt Hour) – A Kilowatt Hour is the usage of power (watts) over a period of time. Example: An Iron uses about 1000 watts of electricity while heating so if used for 1 hour you would have used 1000 watts for one hour I.E. 1 kW/H you can also look at it as 10 X 100W light bulbs used for one hour each also equals 1 kW/H so we now know that we are billed based on how much wattage we consume for our power needs over how many hours we use that power. The solution to reduced bills is simply to reduce the amount of watts you use. How can we do this?
There are three good examples of how to achieve this:
Lighting – traditional lighting in St Lucia has always been the old style incandescent light bulb – They are cheap to buy and give good quality light. The issue with these lights is that they use only a quarter (25%) of the watts they consume to make light the other three quarters (75%) is consumed to make heat. This should not surprise anyone who has touched a light bulb that is on.. They are hot!.. The word incandescent actually means “light from heat”. For every $1.00 you spend on energy for an incandescent light you are only getting $0.25cents value of light and a huge $0.75cents value of heat.
The next time you have to replace a blown bulb do not buy an incandescent bulb. Replace it with either a compact fluorescent bulb or a LED bulb. Why? Because what you want when you buy a light bulb is light and what you get when you buy an incandescent bulb is 25% light and 75% heat and the last thing we need in our living and working spaces in the Caribbean is more heat.  
The second reason for buying Compact Fluorescent or LED lights is that they save a huge amount of energy verses incandescent lights.
The new LED bulbs and the less-new but also great compact fluorescent bulbs produce light with minimal heat therefore what you want from the dollars you are spending – LIGHT
Example of cost saving by using a 60watt incandescent light V’s a (60watt equivalent) 13watt compact fluorescent bulb.
Part 1 – Cost of the bulb:
·         An incandescent bulb has a life of 1000 hours in use and costs approx EC$4.00
·         A compact fluorescent bulb has a life of 8000 hours in use and costs approx EC$32.00
Because you would have to replace eight (8) incandescent bulbs to get 8000 hours of light at EC$4.00ea you would for 8000 hours using light, pay a total of EC$32.00 or 8 X $4.00. Therefore the ‘actual” cost of the compact fluorescent bulb equates to the same as you would have had to spend on replacing eight incandescent bulbs. Essentially therefore there is no difference in the cost of the actual bulb over 8000 hours using light.  
Part 2 – Cost of energy:
60Watt Incandescent Bulb used for 8000 hours.  60W X 8000 / 1000 = 480 kW/H. at EC$1.00 per kW/H the total energy cost is EC$480.00
(60watt equivalent) 13watt compact fluorescent bulb. 13W X 8000 / 1000 = kW/H. at EC$1.00 per kW/H the total energy cost is EC$104.00
By choosing to buy a compact fluorescent bulb when your light blew you keep EC$376.00 in your pocket you would have paid to LUCELEC and that’s just ONE BULB! How many light bulbs can you change in your home?
Hot Water:
Many households and businesses still use electricity to heat water. An average household of four people using an electrical water heater would consume conservatively EC$5.00 per day of electricity. That’s EC$150.00 per month and EC$1,800.00 per year. In our environment there is no need to be paying for energy to heat water as Solar Hot Water systems heat with the sun’s energy. In addition the solar water heaters now being sold and installed have evolved to use evacuated tubes and not flat-panel collectors. The benefit of this newer approach is that you get hot water even on cloudy & rainy days.
Consider this argument – You can choose to pay LUCELEC EC$150.00 per month for your water heating forever, or at the beginning of the year choose to invest around EC$2,000.00 in a solar hot water heater. The investment of EC$2,000.00 would be returned to you in less than 14 months and as a Solar Hot Water system has a life cycle of 15+ years you would for a further 14 years keep EC$1,800.00 in your pocket every year that you would have otherwise been paying to LUCELEC. Better still is that the Government of St Lucia recognizes Solar Hot Water Systems as a benefit to the island and have legislation in place that allows for 100% of the equipment cost to be claimed back against your income tax return. In other words the actual equipment cost is free as you can claim the full amount back from the government. 
Phantom Power:
Phantom Power is power you use and are paying for without any benefit to you. This can easily be upwards of EC$100.00 monthly if you are not aware of the causes and are being proactive in controlling the phantom power use in your home.
The main culprit that causes phantom power to exist is transformers. A transformer when plugged in consumes power even if you have nothing using the output power connected to the transformer. Some examples are explained below and you will note that to control phantom power and keep your dollars in your pocket YOU and your family must be aware and take action. The simple way to eliminate all phantom power use and therefore expense ifs to switch it off!
Transformers – We all have 110V devices in our home. Most of us have small transformers in our homes that provide the 110V power to these devices. Some homes even have very large 110V transformers that provide a second set of 110V outlets throughout our homes with power. The simple way to control this is to switch off or unplug your transformer/s at the outlet where they are energized when not specifically being used.
TV’s – ALL TV’s when plugged in to a live connection EVEN WHEN OFF are consuming power. This is termed as “stand by power” and is being used 24/7 when the TV is plugged in even when the TV is off. The reason TV manufactures make TV’s this way is so you can see the image (picture) within a few seconds of turning on your TV set. If (like me) you can accept waiting up to 20 seconds after plugging in your TV to get a picture then you can save a lot power that’s being used all day to keep your TV ready just to give you a quick image. Amazingly if you only watch your TV for 1 hour a day the other 23 hours it is off but plugged in and therefore on “stand by” mode you pay more daily for your TV to be off than you do to watch it for 1 hour.
Microwaves, DVD’s, Computers & Stereo Sets are all powered by transformers and have degrees of “stand by” power consumption. Even the flashing timer on the Microwave & DVD player consume power for no good reason unless you actually use them as a clock. Consider only plugging in these devices when you are about to use them and also remember to unplug them after you have finished. In the case of a computer it consumes in “sleep mode” power that has a cost to you with no actual benefit.  
Best Practice:
Lastly I want to touch on good habits. If you apply the information above to your home environment and as you receive your lower bills and keep more money in your pocket, consider then how impactful you could be if you take your new good habits to work with you. The best way to control unnecessary power consumption is through “best practice”. Be assured that if it works for you at home then it works in the work environment also. So help your colleagues understand how they can personally benefit and encourage workplace participation in power savings too. Best practice, no-cost awareness of power use and being proactive in controlling it will amount to a general reduction of up to 15% from your home and your workplace energy bills.
In our next article, we will look at water consumption and ways to reduce and also some useful tips and tricks as to how you can find locate and cure leaks.