The importance of electricity in present day life needs no explanation. For living, entertainment, learning, and what not, electricity plays a vital role. We cannot even think of a moment without electricity, especially for the city dweller. All are worried about the escalating electricity charges. But how many are aware of the optimum utilisation of the domestic appliances? Can we enjoy a better life style with much reduced consumption of electricity? Are there leakages of your hard earned money as current charges without adequate returns? Do you feel that your electricity bill does not commensurate with total appliance used and the level of comfort enjoyed? ? Is your family budget affected by the power tariff? If the answer to any of the above questions is "yes," you urgently need "Energy Audit"". The term Audit brings to our mind the commercial audit in our office to find out any irregularity committed. The energy audit is also used in a similar way. This is a scientific method to find out and avoid waste of energy, to ensure better utilisation of available resources, there by increasing profit. In this fast modern life, even an educated housewife (house executive!) seldom bothers to explore avenues to reduce the electricity charges. Here are some useful tips that can be tested easily at home and would give amazing results.

What is one "unit "of electricity? The Power consumption is measured by the unit "kilowatt-hour" or simply the "unit". It is the energy consumed by an equipment having a rating of 1000watts when used for 1 hour (or a 100watts appliance for 10hrs.The tariff for domestic and others are different in all parts of the world. The commercial consumers are charged highest whereas the agricultures the least.

The three major current consuming devices in a middle class family are Lighting, fans, and refrigerator.

1. Domestic lighting

A major portion of domestic consumption of electricity goes to meet the lighting .A well-designed house would look shabby if not pragmatically and functionally illuminated. The main source of light in our home is the ordinary bulb, unfortunately happens to be the main culprit in wastage of electricity. Only 5% of the electricity used by the bulb is converted to useful light and the majority to heat. This bulb has not varied much from the original one as envisaged by Edison! This has the least efficiency .The only merit is the low initial investment. The average life span is about 100 burning hrs.

Fluorescent lamp is a much better source of light, which would give more than 50 times more light in comparison with an ordinary bulb of same wattage. The ballast used along with a tube light would consume another 20watts. (We can experience heating of this choke when in use) For better illumination and life, electronic chokes (consumes 2-watts only) are now a days widely used .Of all type of lights, this one is the most pleasing and can be used anywhere in a house. In work area and storeroom, tube light of 20 watts (2') is sufficient. The average life span is about 8000 burning hrs.

Compact Fluorescent light, popularly known CFL would give more light with much reduced electric consumption. But this type of lamp should be avoided in study room, laboratory etc where strains on eyes are also to be considered. In a broad and spacious dining room, one or two CFL of 12watts would be sufficient. CFL is recommended for in kitchen where the light has to be switched on for 5-6 hrs. Here the rating of 18 watts is good. CFL is also recommended for portico, TV room, prayer room, etc. In short, a CFL would give the same light as that of an ordinary bulb with only 15% of energy consumption and recommended for lighting of long span. (i. e. when lights are to be kept on for long periods say 2 hrs or more) The life span is about 15000 hrs. Use task lighting rather than whole room lighting when a small amount of light is required .The best way to control is to turn off light when no one is in room. 10% of average home's electricity cost can be controlled with the flip of a switch.

In many houses, there are decorating lamps, serial sets or " zero watt"bulbs displayed on photos. These are lighted through out the day and night. Remember, there is no zero watt bulb. It's only a pet name given to low wattage bulbs. Though looks harmless, the longer duration of operation -usually 24 hrs of the day--may cause damage to our, a single "zero watt bulb"displayed on a photo would consume 7-10 units/month. If 5 such bulbs are used, it may consume 30 units/month. So is the case of aquarium lamps, which would consume about 15 units a month if used throughout the day. Hence such bulbs may be switched off when no one is in room or when go to bed.

At the time of finalising the plan and sketch of a building, there should be clear idea about the lights inside. The location of window and ventilator should be such as to maximize the utilisation of natural light. (E.g. ventilator opposite to a door would give enhanced light rather than just above the door!) The plan should be such that no artificial lighting would be needed during daytime. The colour selection of inside wall, ceiling, curtain etc should never be dark. The location of light should be about 2-2 1/2 Mts. above from ground for better results. The shades of lamp and reflectors should invariably be cleaned once in a month and feel the difference.

2. Fan

A ceiling fan in operation thro'out night in bedroom will gobble up 22 units in a month. There is a wrong notion that fan at more speed would consume more current. Fan running at slow speed would waste energy as heat in the regulator .The ordinary regulator would take 20 watts extra at low speed. (If we use 5 fans in a house, it as good as using another 100w bulb also!)The energy loss can be compensated by using electronic regulator. Old fans when in use produce unwanted noise. This may either be due to faulty bearing or loose top, which need attention.

3. Refrigerator

Domestic fridges are the cause of waste of electricity in majority of houses. An ordinary single door 165 lts fridge would consume 30-35 units a month .10 years or older fridge would consume 1 1/2 times more energy and require immediate renovation or replacement. Fridges with glass wool or PUF (Poly Eurethene Foam) are not showing any significant reduction in consumption over a period of time. But frost-free refrigerators consume more energy. A 250lts frost-free refrigerator would consume 90-100units a month. If the fridge is not closed properly, the temperature inside may increase and make the compressor work more. Hence open the doors only when required and keep them open as briefly as possible.

There is a simple method to detect the improper closing of door. Place a lighted torch inside the fridge and close it as usual. If the light of the torch is visible from outside it can be understood that the closing of door is improper. The rubber beeding or the door sealing needs immediate replacement. Hot food items, after cooling only, should be put inside. When moving out of station for 1-2 days, it is better to switch off the fridge. But switching off during every night time is not recommended as it would reduce only 15% of consumption. Overloading of fridge also consume more energy. In a middle class family, of total consumption of about 200units a month, 40% of it is attributed to the fridge alone. Hence, while purchasing, only energy efficient refrigerator may be considered and very old and noisy fridges are to be replaced or renovated.

4. Electric Iron

Before going to office, the chief of family irons his pants and shirt, after a while the eldest child irons his uniform followed by the next one at his habitual time. The housewife does the same at her own leisure time. Each time electricity is wasted considerably. A practice has to be cultivated in family to iron all the cloths once in week. This would save not only electricity but also time during rush periods.

5. Television &DVD

Television has adversely affected our culture and caused deterioration in our social life. There are housewives who glance at her favorite serial even while cooking and washing. Even during dinnertime, the TV is on without any audience. Though this has become a part of our culture, it requires some restriction. The practice of 'viewing the TV when we like' when changed to switching on the TV when we like' would save a lot of electricity .It may be noted that a 10 hr TV viewing a day cause the current charge to increase by 30 units a month. Turn off TV and DVD at the switch itself rather than just using the remote control. Unplug the appliances that are not used. Most idle appliances like TV, CDplayers etc. continue to consume energy, though very small when switched off by remote.

Luxury items like air conditioner, washing machine, hotplate etc. are current consuming appliances.


6. Air conditioner

It is the size of room, number of occupants etc determine the capacity of the AC. A 1-1/2 tonne AC unit consumes 2-2.5 unit electricity even for one hour! If the air holes are hermetically sealed off, the consumption can be considerably reduced. Higher level of insulation of rooms especially those provided below the roof, reduces the heat entering the house and makes any cooling system more effective and efficient. AC should not be allowed to perform with faulty thermostat as extra energy is required to bring down the temperature.. If the AC is fitted with timer, it would switch off after a particular time and the remaining chill and humidity would be sufficient for a comfortable sleep! . Use fans to create cooling breezes. When planning for a new AC, get one with timer and remote.

7. Washing machine

Loading of dirty linen to washing machine is such that it should fully utilise the capacity. Time as well as power is wasted when we wash small quantity each time. Before applying the drier, see that water is fully drained off and clothes are well spun.. The level of water should be as specified by the manufacturer, the more water the more will be the current consumption.

8. Computer

Computer is not a current intensive unit. It is the monitor which consumes the electricity most. Music lovers listen to the CDs for hours together in multimedia computer. The monitor can very well be switched off at that time or set the computer to sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity. 

Among household consumers, another significant loss is due to the leakage of electricity. Old wiring, frail and damaged insulation., leaking concrete and tiles,etc help electricity to flow to earth. The electricity meter doesn't know whether this is the actual use of the consumer ,but would register it as usual.In some other houses when we touch wall,fridge,grinder,pipeline etc, there will be feeling of numbness. This is a very grave indication of leakage of electricity and popularly known as "earth". This is mainly due to the low-grade wiring materials, nailing on the wall causing injury to insulation, unnatural bend, and persistent presence of moisture. Installing ELCB (earth leakage circuit breaker) will help to detect the leakage to some extend.. An electrical engineer can pin point the origin of the leak Drawing of multi circuit from a single plug point using adapter would cause loose connection causing the wire to be heated up. This is another source of leakage of electricity. If the tester shows power supply in all the holes of a plug point, it can be presumed that the electricity is wasted there. If the electricity meter is functioning even when all switches are off except the main switch, the leakage can be confirmed.

In short, unneeded illumination, dirty lamps and shades, never-switched off lights, aged fridge, rotating fans in unoccupied rooms, television without any viewers etc are the origin of wastage of electricity. As said in the beginning Energy audit may be conducted from the family itself .The energy meter reading may be taken down every day at a particular time and observe the variation and realise where we spent more.