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Tips to reduce your monthly utilities bill

In Feb 2019, the average monthly utilities bill (inclusive of gas) for a 4 room flat was $147.35. Being a family of 4 and living in a 4-room flat ourselves, we have managed to consistently keep our monthly utilities bill for the past year to less than $70, less than half of the national average. However, this does not mean that we cut down excessively on utilities consumption to the point where it compromises our quality of life and living comfort - we still cook almost every meal at home, and use the air conditioner as well as the washing machine. We hope the simple tips below can help you enhance the efficiency of your utilities consumption, and reduce your utilities bill.

Reduce/optimize consumption of air conditioner

In hot and humid Singapore, it can be very difficult to avoid the use of air conditioning at home. Even our 3 year-old will sometimes ask to turn on the air conditioner at night when she sleeps, having gotten used to the air conditioning in the childcare centre. There is a tendency to either set the aircon temperature too low, or leave the air conditioning on for too long. The optimal temperature for maximum energy efficiency is 25 degree Celsius. If this is not cooling enough, you can run a normal fan at the same time to help distribute the cool air around the entire room quickly.

Another way is to make use of the timer function of an air conditioner. Running the air conditioner for about 1 to 2 hours before it automatically switches off can help reduce unnecessary electricity consumption. Installing curtains in the room can also help to keep out the morning sunlight and keep the room cool.

No air conditioning

It is inconceivable to many people, and also often impractical, to not have air conditioning at home, especially during night time when we sleep. However, if you do decide to totally do away with air conditioning, you can try the following ways to still keep your home reasonably cool and comfortable.

a. Install ceiling fan instead of standing fan

A ceiling fan will cool a room better than a standing fan, due to the larger fan blades and stronger air circulation. Of course, the electricity consumption by a ceiling fan will be more than that by a standing fan, but the higher electricity consumption will be negligible compared to using an air conditioner.

b. Invest in a good curtain

As mentioned earlier, a curtain will help to keep sunlight out and keep the cool air within the room. This applies even without the use of an air conditioner. Without a curtain, light can stream in through the window, causing a mini greenhouse effect and raising the temperature in the room.

c. Avoid opening the window near the aircon ledge, especially if living on higher floors

When your neighbors living in units below switch on their air conditioners, the hot air emitted from the aircon compressors, which are commonly installed at the aircon ledges, can flow through your window near your own aircon ledge. This is why for people using the same air conditioner models and having similar aircon usage patterns, those staying on higher floors will have higher electricity consumption compared to their lower-floor neighbors. So bottom line is, avoid opening the window near your aircon ledge, so as to prevent the hot air from coming in.

Educate your helper (if any) to save on utilities consumption

Often, people will tend to waste or over-consume what they are not paying for. The only time where our monthly utilities bill went higher than normal was during the month where we engaged a confinement nanny immediately after the birth of our second child. We observed quite substantial wastage of utilities by the confinement nanny, from keeping the lights on for too long when not in use and leaving the tap on unnecessarily. It is the same thing we observed with helpers whenever we visited our friends or relatives’ homes. Your helper is the one staying at home most of the time, and his/her consumption of utilities can make a big difference to your utilities bill. If your helper is not disciplined in using utilities, and without educating him/her on utilities consumption, you will be paying unnecessarily high utilities bills, regardless of the use of energy-efficient appliances and devices.

Avoid unnecessary electrical appliances

Not all electrical appliances are equally useful or essential. For example, a humidifier does not serve much use in a wet and humid place like Singapore. While a dry environment can cause discomfort such as dry skin and sore throat, on balance a humidifier may still not be necessary in a country with humidity of 70% - 80%, especially if the use of a humidifier can lead to other problems such as the growth of mould spores. Using a humidifier in an air conditioned room will also increase the energy consumption of the air conditioner, with the air conditioner having to dehumidify the room even more as part of its normal function.

If you must use a humidifier, you can try getting a small one and placing it near you, instead of getting a big one and placing it far away. This can help to save on the electricity consumption.

Another example is the electric thermal pot. For parents with kids who are drinking formula milk, it is not uncommon to have an electric thermal pot, so that hot water is ready whenever needed. However, an alternative is just a good thermal flask, which can be a much more cost effective way in the long run of keeping the water hot.

Use energy-saving appliances

A good example of an energy-saving appliance is the magic cooker. It works like a thermal flask, and you can use it to cook various types of dish without using any electrical power or gas. Instead of boiling over the stove for 2 - 3 hours or in a slow cooker for 7 - 8 hours, you just need to boil your dish over the stove for 10 - 15 mins, transfer the dish into the outer thermal pot of the magic cooker and leave it to do the rest of the cooking without any electrical power or gas.

Another example will be changing traditional light bulbs to LED light bulbs, which are more energy efficient. According to energystar, the estimated energy cost saving per year for each LED bulb, compared to a traditional light bulb, is $4.76. This amount may seem insignificant, but when there are around 12 light bulbs in a typical 4 room flat, you can actually save around $57 every year just by switching to LED light bulbs.

Reuse water if possible

There are many ways to reuse and recycle water. For example, if you have a baby at home, chances are you will shower him/her in a bath tub. Unless he/she poos or pees inside the bath tub, the water is generally not that dirty and can be reused to flush the toilet bowl. Another way is to get an integrated 2-in-1 basin and toilet bowl design for your washroom, whereby after you have washed your hand at the basin, the water will be transferred to the toilet bowl and stored for flushing.

The above are just some of the more practical and easier ways to save on your utilities bills, which we have found useful for our family. There are many other ways to save on your utilities bills, such as switching to a different electricity retailer under the Open Electricity Market (but please check carefully and clarify on the terms and conditions of the contract before you sign up on any electricity plan with a retailer). We hope this article will not only help you to save on your utilities expenses, but also help everyone play a small part towards saving the environment.

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