I was tickled to spot this week's "Money Moral Dilemma" on the Money Saving Expert weekly email. To paraphrase, it involves a shared (student) house, where one of the sharers has a boyfriend staying "every weekend...and longer" and the questioner is asking whether in fact the boyfriend should be contributing to the household (short answer: yes, of course he should, or rather, his girlfriend should be sorting this out!). the thing that *really* got me though is the line "We've just had to pay £80 extra on our electricity bill..." - now the period of time this was to cover wasn't made clear, but I'll assume because of the amount involved that it's a quarterly bill.
Our current electricity bills are coming in at around £30 a month - we pay £47 a month and that covers the higher use in the winter months pretty nicely, as a rule. that's one flat, two people, of course. If only one of us were there I'd expect that figure to fall a little - an extra person having showers, the extra use of things like computers and that sort of thing is bound to increase the costs, but at the very outside I can't see that changing by more than about £6 - 7 a month, at the most, which means around £20 a quarter. What precisely is this extra person doing to use THAT amount of electricity? It is stated that he works from home, so I presume that's a computer running for 8 hours a day, but that will only account for around 60p a day - and that only on the working days he's there. Frankly, I'm baffled!
We made it our business to know what power the regularly used appliances and equipment in the flat use - partly so we can identify the power-hungry things, partly so we can dispell myths like "It's cheaper to leave your computer turned on than powering it up each time you use it" and partly because it's good common sense to know what power something normally uses - so that if it suddenly starts using more/less, you can identify a potential problem. Our "power guzzlers" are our electric shower, and our immersion heater (around 50p for it to go on for an hour to heat the water if not done on the cheap rate overnight) and of course the storage heaters in the winter. The kettle looks to be - but in fact it's on for such a short time each time it's used it doesn't actually cost that much. The PC costs around 7p an hour at its start-up, but that drops to around 4p an hour after that, so unless you're going to be constantly switching it on and off multiple times in a day, no, it's not cheaper to leave it running, and the same applies to the laptop.
When we first started clamping down on our household costs, the electricity use was one of the first things we targeted - we've always been pretty good about turning lights off when we leave a room, and have used energy saving lightbulbs where we can for years, but it was the focus on our finances that made us REALLY think about it. Now when we go away for more than a single night we turn the immersion off, as if we need hot water on the day we return it's unlikely to be in a large enough quantity that boiling the kettle won't supply enough. When we go away for any period of time we also switch off things like the microwave and clock radio. The PC and printer stay plugged in and switched on at the wall (but off at the appliance itself of course) most of the time, but again when we go away for more than a few days, we flick the switches at the wall too. (The reason for leaving the residual trickle of power going to appliances like this is that they require that trickle to maintain their systems, internal clocks etc, and constantly turning off completely and back on again can in some cases shorten the lifespan of the power unit inside.) We try so far as possible to charge phones etc either in the car, and when I'm charging camera batteries they get put on, and then taken off charge as soon as they're "cooked" too. Little things, but it all helps to ensure that our annual fuel bills are as low as they can be. We're really cranking up the focus on trying to get that mortgage gone, but still trying to live life and get as much from it as we possibly can, and those (what no doubt seem to some) "petty" little savings are just the things that are making that possible. I've said before, we don't sit in the dark, we don't deny ourselves heat, or the TV on when we want it, or a cup of tea if we fancy one - we just try to be sensible, and not give our hard earned to anyone else who hasn't worked *just* as hard for it. And that's just common sense, isn't it?