In January 2021, the Institute of Energy Policy & Research (IPEre) released a study on “The Impact of COVID-19 on Electricity Consumption in the Residential Sector”. The study, which was the outcome of 1,482 survey samples distributed across Malaysia in 2020 concluded that not only did Malaysian households experience a significant increase in Household Electrical Appliance Consumption Levels (HEACL) during-the-MCO, but that the pattern of increased usage continued after-the-MCO, due in part to acclimatization to a new lifestyle and continued closure of external entertainment centres and eateries.
While the likelihood of a return to complete normalcy is what most of us hope for, the reality is that our homes need to be well equipped for prolonged usage of electrical equipments in the event of extended MCO’s due to future potential outbreaks or merely a natural transition to full time work-from-home conditions.
So how exactly do we go about assessing the energy consumption of our home and what defines an “energy efficient home”? Here, we look at several steps that you can take to conduct a “home audit” and develop energy conservation measures best suited to your home conditions.
Step 1: Understand Your Electricity Bill
To do this, extract energy consumption data from your electricity bill and write it down on your audit checklist. Record the consumption, kWh and usage cost, RM. This step is very important to help you analyze the reductions later on.
If available, record increment in electricity consumption between pre-WFH and during-WFH periods. This will give you an idea of the impact in electricity consumption due to Covid-19 lockdowns.
Step 2: Analyze Equipment Power & Usage Patterns
Make a list of all energy consuming equipments in your home and their corresponding power ratings (the wattage is usually stamped at the bottom or back of any appliance or on its nameplate) and log the usage pattern for a couple of days to determine a typical usage pattern for each appliance in your home.
As you prepare this checklist, make a mental (or actual) note on the equipments that may be left on standby mode frequently and also identify age and condition of equipments.
Sum up the total kWh consumption of all appliances and compare the total with the consumption in the electricity bills. Its unlikely that the numbers will be exact, a 10-15% difference should be expected. The more detailed the checklist, the more closely it may reflect the actual bills.
Here are some samples images of power rating stamps on common home appliances:
If attaining power ratings for each equipment proves difficult i.e nameplate doesn’t show power rating or if appliance is too old that there aren’t any data available online, you may opt to purchase a digital electricity usage power meter for a small investment of under RM40. These meters merely need to be connected to the appliance plug to measure energy and power consumption.
Step 3: Identify Opportunities for Improvements
Based on the checklist developed in Step 2, create a breakdown of energy consumption to determine the items that consume the largest bulk of energy. In the case of the checklist in the image above, this would be the AC units which consume 40% of the total energy consumption.
Once this is done, create a simple list of potential energy reduction strategies, keep in mind that minimal reductions on big ticket items like air conditioning stand to provide largest impact on energy reduction.
To ease the process of implementation, consider strategies in order of its potential cost impact – ranging from no cost, low-cost and high-cost investments. This will give you an idea of “quick fixes” that can be implemented on the spot whilst creating large impacts, and ones that might take a bit more planning. Figure 5 shows a quick summary of some of these strategies.
Some common no cost efforts that can be considered include:
Adjust AC temperature to 24deg
Close all windows and doors when the AC is running
Ensure AC units are serviced and cleaned, avoid dusty air filters
Use daylight instead of electric lighting
Turning off lights when not in use
Unplug unused gadgets and appliances when not in use
Ensure equipment’s that run for long periods such as refrigerators are well maintained and serviced frequently as required. Refrigerators consume energy every minute of the day and provide a large opportunity for energy savings at no added cost.
Common low-cost improvement that one could take to reduce consumption include:
Replacing incandescent lights with LED
Seal leaky edges of windows to avoid heat from coming into cool spaces for air-conditioned homes
Introduce more trees and shrubs surrounding the perimeter of your home to reduce heat gain and prevent long AC run times
With a small investment of under RM80, you can get a remote control switch to ease the process of switching off appliances when not in use. Appliances like TV, Internet routers, Astro decoders, and chargers left on standby mode can consume between 10% - 30% of the total operational power rating and shorten the lifespan of these appliances. The remote control allows the user to switch off appliances from a distance i.e in bed, at the exit door etc.
Repaint dark surfaces like external and internal walls to prevent heat absorption and increase reflectivity of these surfaces with lighter colours.
If your AC and/or refrigerators are due for replacement, make full use of the Save 2.0 programme by SEDA to purchase new & energy efficient systems (but don’t do this if your home does not need an AC).
INFO: The Sustainability Achieved Via Energy Efficiency (SAVE) 2.0 is a program which grants a RM200 e-Rebate to domestic households that purchase energy efficient air-conditioning units or refrigerators with 4-star or 5-star energy efficiency labels from the Energy Commission (ST) in 2021. (Source: http://www.seda.gov.my/saveprogram/)
Mid or high-cost home improvements or renovations that could provide more significant returns on energy bills and a much more conducive home working environment include:
Installing a layer of roof insulation greatly reduces the heat transmittance from the roof directly into the house which in turn allows a cooler indoor environment for landed properties.
Installing motion and daylight sensors which trigger lights to turn on and off only when there is not sufficient daylight or when people are not present in a space, this feature is perhaps more applicable to larger homes or homes with many occupants where lights in bedrooms and toilets are frequently left on.
Smart home systems such as energy monitoring and smart metering systems are also available for those who are keen to take the next level in managing their home energy consumption.
With a significantly lowered energy bill from any of the previous mentioned efforts, you might even be capable of turning your home into a Zero Energy home by offsetting the remaining consumption with renewable energy sources. The NEM 3.0 Rakyat Programme which took effect in February 2021 and will run till December 2023 provides homeowners with a rewarding opportunity to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the rooftop of your homes. The energy produced from the PV panels offsets the energy consumed in the home and significantly reduces the total electricity bill.
A quick calculation using the SEDA NEM 3.0 calculator for a home with a monthly electricity bill of RM400 shows that with an estimated upfront cost of approximately RM26,000 for a 6kWp solar PV system, the electricity bill could be reduced to only RM77, with a 6.7 year payback period.
Step 4: Analyze Energy Savings
Track improvements in energy bills every month from the time energy efficient efforts were deployed. Analyze the reductions to help you keep track of the impact that has resulted from every effort. Revisit the energy reduction plan and revise it from time to time based on changes to your lifestyle and additions to your home appliance list.
The most rewarding part of putting effort into energy savings at home is to reap the benefits from a reduced energy bill the following months but in addition to that, being able to experience a comfortable indoor environment during WFH periods or otherwise and knowing that you have done your part to reduce the environmental impact from daily routines is an added benefit that you could sit back and feel good about!