What Producing My Own Energy Has Taught Me About Consumption

Finding ways to reduce our energy consumption are often portrayed to us using large statistics or personified in the form of small actions, like of swapping out light bulbs or switching appliances off at the wall. It wasn't until one month ago, when my household switched to solar, that I learned the true volume of the power we consume.

Previously, the impact of our energy consumption only hit home with the price tag that was attached to our energy bill, and to be honest this was the main reason we chose to make the switch to solar. We constantly played a game of trying to reduce our consumption by changing our habits, turning off lights that weren't in use and not using the dryer by using the clothes line. Even with these important endeavours we often didn't find the minimising impact on our consumption that we hoped to see - we couldn't pinpoint where we were using power the most.

We chose to get solar to mitigate our consumption, but what we didn't realise was that it would also help us reduce it. Our installation of panels came linked to a nifty smartphone app (yes another app), allowing us to visualise our production of energy from the sun, but more importantly, it allowed us to compare it to the energy being used by the household. Being able to compare power in with power out, began to have the most impact on how we viewed the amount of energy we consumed.

Having the ability to see our energy use in 15 minute intervals became very empowering, especially for the nighttime hours. Not having a battery installed with our system, reducing our consumption during the hours without sunlight has become a big, yet rewarding challenge. Being able to see a huge spike would make us take an audit of what we had just used and changed our habits accordingly.

Image: MyEnlighten App

This educational exercise allowed us to find that our biggest consumers weren't where we had been looking. Our biggest surprise came when we noticed our rice cooker made our energy levels go through the roof (the nasty spike right about 6pm), needless to say it is now cooked on the stove and each time we had a cup of tea our kettle was having a similar impact. Pinpointing that our households energy guzzler was obviously the kitchen was really empowering - allowing us to change our habits and knowing exactly how much energy we were saving.

Becoming savvy about using our electricity in the sunlight hours, washing our clothes during the day or baking dinner to be reheated at night, has given us an appreciation for the power that the sun can provide us.

Understandably not every household has the ability to switch to solar, especially those renting or increasingly living in apartments. But given the choice, it is one that has changed our perception of power, beyond the price-point of the fossil fuel power provided by our energy supplier. As my households continues to find ways to reduce our usage to minimise our reliance on the grid, the most important lesson learnt was one of awareness. Pin-pointing where your power eaters are around your home is an important exercise, whether you're producing your own power or not.

Banner Image: Shutterstock

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