Saving energy at home

There is much chatter about the increasing costs of energy, apparently Ofgem will announce a new price cap on Friday. The situation is epitomised by Martin Lewis’s video spitting bricks about the issue.

It’s clearly going to be a big issue for a lot of people. Something that puzzles me about this is that I recall power prices being pretty damn high in the past, and my recollection of current (post April, pre-end of this month) power prices is that I have seen this movie before. I remember power costs being high in the early to mid-2010s in real terms, it felt like they were higher. Some of this is because that was a period when I was trying to save money, firstly to load enough into the stock market to retire early, and secondly once I had retired to eke out the period before getting hold of my SIPP savings for as long as possible. However, I wasn’t shocked by the March changes, because I remember real prices being higher.

Undoubtedly projected costs are going to be higher in real terms than they were before, after all going to war generally damages the economy, plus there is the cleverness of Brexit, which seems to be dragging its feet on delivering the promise of making us all so much better off. In an attempt to substantiate this recollection, I inquired of the ONS, which sadly only goes back to 2015, with something called the energy price index.

Energy Price index, from those nice fellows at the ONS

Turns out gas is currently (up to the end of this month) still cheaper per unit than it was in 2015, in real terms. The dotted line is when the price cap mechanism was instigated. It is electricity that is much dearer than it used to be per unit.

This is deliberate – most of the green crap has been loaded on the cost of electricity. You are paying for other people’s solar panels (thankfully the subsidy on that has been dramatically reduced – if you think solar panels on a domestic basis is such a terrific idea then pay for this frippery yourself). I hate green crap subsidies with a rabid vengeance, because I don’t want to pay for middle-class homeowners’ virtue signalling. I have nothing against renewables – I invest in wind, solar and power storage, as well as oil, because I am shameless, but I think poncing about on a domestic level is bonkers. As David Kay says, every big helps.

Making the poor pay more for their power just so you can tell your middle-class rugrats that you are doing your bit is really rather ethically dubious. That is because ever since Thatcher raising income tax has become anathema, so these subsidies come from indirect taxation, raising other people’s electricity bills by 25%. Britain generates much of its electricity using gas, so there’s no good reason for the divergence between electricity and gas unit prices, this is the extra loading on electricity because it’s harder to live without electricity than gas, plus many households don’t have mains gas.

There’s an argument than I can afford to subsidise your green tossery, but I don’t want to. However, I can’t fight Government policy. I collect my share of my and other people’s bills via the renewables inducements to UKW and its ilk rather than on an itty-bitty scale, repossessing the subsidy loading on my power bills through the stock market, but it’s still a rum way to do policy. Resistance is futile, you have to join in. Unlike middle class eco-warriors limited by their south-facing roof area and domestic consumption, I can collect far more subsidy that I could on my own consumption. Your average solar installation costs £5-7k, you can invest a lot more than that if you are minded to.

IMO the reason there is more hullabaloo about heating costs now than seven years ago is because government policy has been immiserating the poor through a punitive approach to benefits on the bottom end. Higher power costs makes more difference now, because it’s a larger part of a smaller available income pie at the low end. And, quite frankly, it seems that the current wannabees don’t giveashit, and in 2019 it was clearly more important to more people to have some grandstanding and Get Brexit Done by an established liar than give a shit too. We are where we are because we wanted to believe in magic. Were you asked by the grandstander in chief whether power bills of £6000 p.a. were a price worth paying to stop Putin’s tanks? Me neither.

Under Johnson, the UK also appears to have taken a gamble on an almost complete break with Russia, at least so long as Vladimir Putin remains in power. There is nothing from London, as there is from Berlin and Paris, about keeping channels open to Russia, because Russia will still be there when the war is over.

At least BoJo acknowledged the issue in his valedictory grandstanding photo-op

Comparing the costs of Russia’s war, he said: “If we’re paying in our energy bills for the evils of Vladimir Putin, the people of Ukraine are paying in their blood.”

Neatly making this issue the next PMs problem. Never one to stick around and pick up the pieces, our Bozza, or to answer awkward questions. Contrast BoJo’s apparent inspiration, who had the cojones to front up the cost of war in his first address to Parliament

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

while observing sotto voce to his generals

Poor people, poor people. They trust me, and I can give them nothing but disaster for quite a long time.

Not quite the same as have your cake and eat it, eh? Sometimes you do have to experience privation to defend something more important, but Putin isn’t shit for brains, and he is no doubt counting on resolve withering somewhat. General Winter has fought on the Russian side before, against Napoleon and Hitler, and now Putin is hoping he will fight against the decadent and softness of the West, even if they aren’t physically marching on Moscow. I don’t really know where I’d place my bets.

Given the level of inflation I am happy to take my chances in the stock markets on energy to defray the extra costs, though I am glad I made most of my push before July, I’m not able to work out if the bonkers mini-rally is in fact the £ falling down the toilet or the return of irrational exuberance. Perhaps it is the froth blowing off the top before the monster that has been rising from the deep finally breaks the surface.

You can do something about this

You could join the Don’t Pay campaign.

We are a movement against the rise in energy bills

Yeah, I take a principled position against poverty, war, dogshit in cities, and all sorts of things I don’t like. Doesn’t mean to say they don’t happen. You may as well be against the sun rising. Magical thinking at it’s best. Martin Lewis doesn’t officially approve.

Readers of this probably have too much to lose with don’t pay. It is surprising to me that suppliers are obligated not to pull the plug on non-payers, previous generations didn’t have such scruples 😉 However, they can send the heavies round.

More practically, you can try and use less. This is another example of the Sam Vimes Boots theory of socieoconomics, because the options open to homeowners, including those who don’t actually own their house but have a mortgage, are far wider than those who rent.

I managed to reduce my electricity consumption by 20%, and given the loading on electricity that punches well above its weight. It’s the financial equivalent of reducing gas consumption by ~40%, which would be a very noticeable detriment to lifestyle in winter and much harder to do.

The big picture

Most of the wins in domestic settings are to do with anything that is designed to change temperature. If you run an industrial process involving big changes in temperature, like a bakery or a cement works, then you are out of luck, because your product is about to get a lot dearer into a market that has less disposable income and you aren’t protected by the energy cap. I have no idea what to do about that, but at home you have options.

In general drive down waste before making any capex. In the UK that means loft insulation and draughtproofing. The good news is that the materials are relatively cheap and this is an entirely unskilled DIY job that any reasonably able person can do. It’s an unpleasant job – fibreglass insulation is irritating to handle and work with, though it has the advantage of not catching fire and apparently not being particularly attractive as rat nesting material. You can use other materials, mainly made out of plastic, but remember a lot of wiring is up there and plastic fumes are nasty 😉 This used to be subsidised, I recall paying less than £2 a 5m roll when I last did that job in the old house, but these days it looks like B&Q will hit you up for £25 a roll, which bites. It’s not the greatest fun you will have of a weekend, but apart from a large crawlboard and a big pair of scissors there’s no specialised equipment or hard to learn skills. JFDI

If you have cavity walls and for some bizarre reason there is no insulation in the cavity then that’s the next step, though it is a professional job it will pay a return in a reasonable time. Double glazing which also addresses most draughtproofing is another professional install that has a reasonable payback, after that you are in the wilderness, because insulation gets difficult for solid walls, it’s probably easier to move 😉

The next thing to understand is that the unit price on electricity is much higher than that of gas. So focus on anything that reduces electricity consumption, and favour heating with gas. If you heat with gas, you will use more energy in kWh, because heating is the biggest annualised load, but you may pay more for electricity. As an example, over the last year I used half the energy kWh in electricity as I did in the kWh form of gas, but paid twice as much for that electricity, near enough. Before Putin’s antics I investigated the feasibility of generating electrical power with gas as well as considering changing over to cooking with gas, basically to cut off the government-attached hangers-on. I concluded the risk wasn’t worth the reward, but it would have paid back in the medium term, given the boundary conditions at the time 😉 The antithesis of that is, of course, the heat pump, which does a heating job using electricity that can perfectly well be done with gas.

Heat pumps? Eh?

In order to save 75% of electricity energy that costs three times as much you get to make a big capital expenditure and change your radiators. On the upside, in some rare cases1 you may get air conditioning, and of course the warm fuzzy feeling of being a greenie doing your bit. On the downside, that 75% efficiency doesn’t hold at the coldest time, you’re paying three times as much for the energy and you are potentially carrying a lot of poor people’s bills on your back. I could see the sense if you used bottle gas or oil for heating, but against mains gas this sucks. Electricity is a highly concentrated form of energy and is best used for what it does well.

I struggle to see heating as falling into that category, in a country that generates a third of its electricity using gas, losing 50% (roughly estimated from the heat -> mechanical power of the steam turbine and distribution losses) of the calorific value in the process it seems a little bit mad, though I can see that some things may make sense in where we want to be in future. But don’t be an early adopter unless you have a specific reason to carry the baggage. Not all countries have this disparate taxation in electricity and gas costs, a heat pump may be a perfectly reasonable proposition under a different cost regime or generation mix. If you don’t believe me, take a look at what Her Majesty’s Government have to say under five reasons to get a heat pump

Moving to a heat pump means you can avoid the volatile prices associated with gas and oil. If you are using oil, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or electric heating, you could see a reduction to your energy bill if you move to a heat pump.

They are very careful to avoid saying you can save running costs compared to mains gas, because it’s not true in the UK 😉

There is one specific exception to heat with gas. Even if you have a gas cooker, use an electric kettle for your tea, because the close coupling of the heating element with the water, and, with a glass or plastic electric kettle, the better insulation, all tend to beat out the losses to the air, heating up the metal gas kettle notwithstanding the gas energy cost advantage of a third of electricity.

An Ermine’s journey to reducing electricity consumption

It’s a little bit embarrassing2 that the inspiration for this, other than high electricity prices, is an American. OVO energy have a listing of average household usage across selected countries3.

Not everybody in the US is that profligate. Mr Money Mustache has got his power drain down to 300kWh a month, which is about the same as mine, though I note he doesn’t mention cooking, and the furnace blower (as opposed to the furnace4 itself) as an itemised load implies to me that he heats with something other than electricity; if it’s gas I presume he cooks with that rather than electricity. In a followup in 2015, MMM says he used 2MWh over 15 months, coming out at 133 kWh pcm. That is less than half my power drain, and a serious source of embarrassment to the Ermine fur. It should be noted that I cook with electricity, so some of the difference is due to that.

MMM’s followup is more succinct than this ramble. This is more a walk-through of my journey, which may help walk some folk through what you need to do. Go to MMM for the short-form version 😉 I worked as an electronics engineer for a couple of decades before moving to IT. Although electrical engineering is a different discipline, the electronics background has many of the concepts in common. Everybody’s energy usage is different, but so far I managed to reduce my electricity usage by 20%, and I haven’t finished the job yet.

You have to be able to see what you are doing – knowledge is power

I commissioned an efergy engage whole house system, reusing some components from my old Efergy elite monitor5, that died of causes unknown but wasn’t obviously fixable when I took it apart.

I loathe software as a service and subscriptions with a vengeance, but sucked it up in this case because the price of entry is the hardware rather than a subscription, and in the end this is a service I can live without OK if efergy does bust or decide to do a hive. Some folk will say why not just take a smart meter, but with my old-skool rotating disc meter they will have to bash on the door and look me in the eye to cut me off, rather than some oik in a call centre going clickety-clack. That’s worth paying £70 to do the smart monitoring job myself. If they teach me how to save £70 worth of power by the time Efergy goes titsup then I am in the black, power saving is a gift that keeps on giving. If you do have a smart meter, knock yourself out and save £70 if it offers you the charting thing with a resolution down to 1 minute.

Go for the big wins first – anything that heats

I installed Efergy early in March. And got to see this

The second ratty lump at 6pm around 2.5kW is roasting a chicken in the old electric cooker. But look at the shower hit in the morning, oy vey. Now this sort of monitor needs to have a decent time resolution, arguably that was something the old Efergy Elite Adobe Air software didn’t offer. A stupendous load of 10kW needs a finer time resolution than the oven at 2.5kW, because it matters four times as much. In many ways the summarised kWh split by hour display is more useful to me.

Same thing, aggregated into hourly boxcars by kWh

Which shows the shower takes about 2.1kWh, whereas the roast chicken takes 4.78kWh. The difference is, however, that we roast a chicken once a week, not every day. Having the oven on at 200 for an hour and a half is a shade over twice as much energy consumption6 as the shower. And it’s pretty obvious that roasting a chicken is going to take a shedload of power, because the kitchen gets warmer. In March that’s not such a terrible thing, though in a July heatwave not so much. So guess what, we didn’t use the oven in the heatwave. Simples.

I switched back to the gravity-fed shower, heated by gas. This will mean using a little more gas, particularly as I don’t have an instant-on boiler.

energy usage in monthly boxcars

March is a little bit short (because Efergy wasn’t tracking through the whole month) but April is representative of previous months on the old Efergy system, so pulling the shower saves me 26 kWh a month. Assuming this holds across the year that is £88 (at 0.283 p/kWh), which isn’t bad for an hour’s work with a spanner and a capex of 50 sods for a new showerhead and hose. The cost recovery time will be shorter if the price cap raises electricity prices again at the end of this month, which seems to be expected. It will be offset by the gas consumption going up a little. I will look for that on a year on year basis.

The next upgrade was to get a modern cooker with an induction hob, rather than this old-skool sort of hob element.

the sort of previous hob elements

Photo copied off some auction site, it’s not my old cooker. You need to book a temperature change two minutes before wanting it, usability sucks.

Mrs Ermine uses an antediluvian piece of kit called a Moka pot that makes coffee which can do double duty as battery acid, and this involved heating up the old hob and filling the chamber with boiling water from the kettle, then waiting for it all to rise with a menacing sound. A barbarian way of making really harsh coffee IMO, but each to their own.

Mrs Ermine’s Moka pot

The classic Italian Moka pot design is an aluminium casting which isn’t going to work on an induction hob but Mrs Ermine had a purge on aluminium cooking equipment a few years ago, so her Moka pot was induction capable from the get go.

Efergy told me in early April with the old cooker doing this with kettle plus hob rocks in at about 1kWh, though I should knock off the static load which was 0.28kWh just before. That now shows at maybe 0.6, less again nearly .3 static. There’s no need to boil the kettle first, and overall the coffee happens much faster, as the induction hob heats the metal in this thing directly. The same applies with pretty much everything – the power control on an induction hob is much closer to the response time of gas. Usability is greater, and efficiency improved, because you don’t have to heat up a great big lump of steel hotplate. The induction process heats the pan, standing on a ceramic insulating surface, so the lag is the same as gas, which also heats the pan in an insulating medium (air).

How does that do with the chicken? This is an electric fan oven, but it is the same basic tech as the old cooker – resistive elements in some ceramic thing on the sides and a blower fan to circulate the air. However, in an electric oven you can gain efficiency by sealing the container better.

Comparing this against the old oven, bearing in mind it looks more dramatic because the mahoosive heave-ho of the shower is absent in the morning and the chart auto scales, there’s more wait in the heat up, wait, heat, wait, heat. The peaks after 19:00 are the dishwasher. Apart from the peak load being lower, looking at the corresponding hour block chart the total used to roast a chicken is 2.44kWh, half the previous amount and a shade over the erstwhile shower. This isn’t surprising, since the kitchen gets less warm, and indeed when you open up the oven to baste the chicken or finish up, you get a serious faceful of uncomfortably hot air that steams up your glasses, and I have become used to opening the door and leaning away to let that rise. This translates to more efficiency through not letting the heat out into the kitchen for most of the 90 minutes or so.

A gas oven can’t do that, or at least no domestic gas oven I have seen. That’s because there is a burner in the back and you can’t starve that of oxygen and recirculate the hot air, so by definition there has to be a steady leak. Apparently you do get fan-assisted gas ovens, but for most domestic usage a gas fan oven is a gas hob with an electric fan oven unless you go seriously upmarket. I did consider switching to gas for the cooker, which I did in the previous house, but it would have needed some awkward civil works. If we had redone the kitchen that may have been the way to go, but that’s a big outlay. An induction hob is a much better way of doing the hob thing electrically that the old style hotplates IMO. But yeah, in an ideal world, don’t heat with electricity. The Guardian, in their usual hissy fit about air quality have a down of cooking with gas, but I confess I didn’t notice the difference in the last house. The Ermine presumably has a coarse constitution about this sort of thing, whereas Guardianistas are delicate vegans who get a fit of the vapours when Tesco waxes their lemons, so I will treat their prognostications with skepticism.

Then start to hit things that cool

Fridges have improved over the years, and it’s easy to wreck them through cack-handed defrosting, in a previous version of this movie, I had a Zanussi fridge freezer that consumed more than 4kWh/day. A fridge freezer shouldn’t do that. I think I knackered the thermostat defrosting the ice with a blunt knife, so that’s not Zanussi’s fault. Commenter Jam had this problem too, though in all fairness that freezer was 31 years old so it doesn’t owe them anything, nor were knives misused as far as I know – they can just get ratty of old age.

The replacement is still in service, though the magnetic seal lost its potency over time. A bunch of 1mm thin neodymium flat magnets from your favourite auction house can fix that for you.

Neodymium magnets fix a weak fridge seal

Don’t use too many, about five or six will do, else you will unseal the other side of the magnetic strip that should remain attached to the door. Geeks can get suitable magnets from the actuator of old hard drives. I have tested its power consumption and it isn’t anything untoward.

Into the long grass – background power drain

These are the big wins, the next target is background power drain. Success is probably easier for adults than for a house full of children. In the past I have used standalone energy monitors, but they are tiresome to work with, and certainly the ones I have used were particularly poor at low power drains, which makes it hard to see what you are doing. Many modern devices have a time varying power drain, pulse charging batteries for instance. I suspect older meters didn’t sample loads often enough meaning you miss useful detail.

Brennenstuhl power meter

They are also poor at low power drains with a bad power factor, like lightly loaded transformers and induction motors – domestic customers aren’t charged for poor power factor, only real power used. These tend to over-read with a bad power factor. I was somewhat cynical about the value of chasing low power drains, until I did the arithmetic. David MacKay is on the money when it comes to power generation – every BIG helps, which is why I am cynical about microgeneration, unless you really are off grid. When if comes to the power load in your house, however, it’s not just the whoppers that matter. The vampires add up because they are small but numerous and they keep coming night and day.

Take the electric shower that incensed me so much in March. You are charged for energy, not power, so a static load of 2100/24 = 88W drawn all the time would be just as bad as the shower’s 2.1kWh a day. Turns out that getting rid of 88W of background load is hard. Canning the electric shower was easy – an hour with a spanner and job done. Arguably the cooker will also save me a fair amount of power, though that’s hard to quantify, except in the case of the chicken, but I suspect the bigger saving will be in the hob. Again, that’s simply the question of finding the £700 and getting someone to install. The next savings are tough, because of the sly and diffuse nature of the enemy.

A thousand cuts – the myriad of small gadgets and gizmos

Modern houses contain far more electronic doodads than your grandparents’ house did, ever since China started making lots of handy this and thats at low prices. At the same time you started to get soft switches appearing, to save money. These didn’t isolate the incoming mains, but switched the low voltage side of the equipment leaving the power supply connected and wasting some power. Soon after that, the power supply migrated out of the equipment box into wall warts made by generic manufacturers, which saved the equipment maker all the mains safety testing and UL certification by outsourcing it. The problem, however, is there’s no economic way the power switch on the gizmo can switch off7 mains power at the wall wart, so it’s on all the time, even if the load is in standby. Centrica recently claimed you could nut a fifth or more of your power usage by canning these vampire loads. There was some pushback on Centrica’s assertion of the possible win, because of the EU. Centrica had used an American study.

One of the things that the terrible EUSSR did when Britannia was chained under its oppressive yoke was mandate some energy efficiency standards, including that functionally switched off electronic gizmos draw no more than 1W8. Clearly energy efficiency is a terrible thing, and these directives caused upset in Blighty because we are hard men and want to spaff energy as much as we like, because it makes us feel all macho inside. Energy efficiency is only something milquetoast Remainiacs worry about, Real Men drive V8s and if they deign to run a vacuum cleaner, they bloody well want them to draw more than 1.6kW,9 because, well, more power, mo ‘betta.

Getting the parasitic background load of one of these wall wart power supplies to less than 1W is a remarkable achievement, and wouldn’t have happened without such dirigisme. I have noticed that more recent ones do get less warm on and off load, so those Eurocrats seems to be doing something right. I will scrap some of the older though functional ones. One of the devices I pulled was a small transformer for a long deceased Numark DJ mixer, doing ‘owt.

Numark mixer wall wart, doing nothing for half an hour, up to 41C on a roughly 23C ambient
Vampire loads are tough to get under control

There are a lot of them, none is that huge, and let’s hope that you got these electronic doodads because they do something useful for you. If not, well, listen to MMM on the subject of video game consoles and toss the sucker out.

The first weapon in the fight against these is the overall switched power strip/dis board.

Overall switched distribution board/power strip, your ally in the fight against vampire loads, better than garlic and a wooden stake

There’s much to be said for the humble switched dis board. You get ones with individual switches and ones like this which pulls the lot with one switch. Each have their uses. I have an individually switched one for the chargers, because you don’t usually want to charge all of the things all of the time. But the Ermine award for power saving excellence goes to the one switch to rule ’em all type. The advantage of the one switch is that you can isolate all downstream gubbins with that one switch. UK socket outlets often have a switch, but bizarrely, unlike Europeans or Americans who tend to put outlets at waist height, we put them down near the floor in easy reach of toddlers so they can poke things in without standing on a chair, which means adults have to bend down to switch ’em off. I am with Technology Connections here, the socket switch isn’t that useful in practice. Nudge theory says you need to make this easy as pie, so get the switch at hand level and in yer face, like on a power strip on top of the computer table. The advantage of using a switched power strip is a lot of nasty static load is IT gear, and it’s tiresome to switch off 10 things. Ice the lot at once.

For my computer I have a dis board that senses when the computer is on, only bringing up the other sockets with the monitor, audio system and USB hard drives when the main unit is drawing power10. That works OK for me in that position, but elsewhere I use the standalone switched power strip/dis board. For instance in the lab the light, the soldering iron, the audio gear and the radio are all on one switched dis board. If I’m not there, I don’t need any of this gear, so throwing the switch means no static drain from any of it. If the light is still on, that’s a handy reminder I have forgotten to switch it all off. I fit a 5A fuse in the plug on the power strip cable that goes into the wall socket, because I take the line that if IT gear is drawing > 1kW then some part of it is on fire, I’m not mining bitcoins. If it’s on fire, I don’t mind an unscheduled shutdown 😉

When I was at work, plugging dis boards into other dis boards was frowned on, you got a serious bollocking from the safety office for doing that. The reason is that the accumulated fanout load could end up more than 13A. But if the first in line fuse is 5A, and the plug is labelled as such, I don’t see there is a problem11, and IT gear tends towards dis boards off dis boards because you never have enough sockets.

I’m not a fan of smart power strips or mains sockets with USB outlets. The trick to getting vampire loads down is to be intentional, if you want a USB 5V power supply then plug one in where you want it rather than put 20 of ’em of random quality around your house drawing vampire power all the time, to mitigate the terrible problem that you might have to get off your butt and find the charger where you last left it. Seriously, just how hard is it to find a USB charger and plug it in the wall? They also make it slightly more of a pain in the arse for your electrician to do an insulation test. You’re also making yourself a hostage to fortune12, because you change your mains sockets a lot less often than they change the USB power delivery standard, leaving you stuck on overnight charging when the new kids on the block charge their phones in fifteen minutes. You can get power strips with USB charging ports, but really, just how hard is it to plug a USB charger into one of the sockets FFS? There’s much to be said for the Unix philosophy in this area. Do one thing and do it well. I know the smartphone has made us favour the jack of all trades and master of none philosophy, but USB chargers belong in the socket, not next to the socket IMO.

Similarly with smart power strips, an honest old-skool mechanical switch will definitely isolate all the downstream crap and not add a vampire load. However, I do see the point of wifi remote control sometimes, and once again, DOTADIW. Somebody recently introduced me to this fine Chinese product.

Wifi remote switch/power meter (amazon link)

Which converts any dumb power strip into a smart one. You still don’t need more than two or three of these in any one house, because the solution to vampire loads isn’t to add loads more of them, but they have their uses.

Ignoring the Alexa connected home side of things, and acknowledging that this has the same problem as Efergy engage in that it is a data leak even without Alexa on the job, what these things seem to also be good at is measuring low power drains reasonably accurately and reasonably often. Reasonable – the manual is silent on accuracy, probably being +/- 50% at < 5W and reasonably often being twice a second or so, presenting the result via wifi to an android app. You don’t get a chart like Efergy. Yeah, I know, a violation of DOTADIW. There’s a smartphone involved. These things pollute everything with their filthy Jack of all-trades mentality.

Screen on
and screen off. I had to be snappy about opening the flap and getting this picture before the next sampling period, which was tough

It is sensitive enough to spot the power drain of my tablet through a charger and some other odds and sods. That goes up from 4W with the flap closed and display off to 6W with the screen on, but it also integrates the power drain, and the app shows you the cumulative power used over a day as well as the current power consumption. It is not sensitive enough to tell me how much that wall wart was drawing that got up to 41C, but an unloaded transformer is probably very inductive so the power factor was likely crap.

You can set timers, and there is a switch on the side to override them. It will use some power itself, natch. This is where I am grateful to the Eurocrats who saddled us all with this damned energy efficiency claptrap, because it uses a bistable relay13 and doesn’t get warm, on a package like that I conclude it probably uses less than 2W, I can’t see it on an old-skool power monitor. Unlike your mechanical timer, it sets the clock from the Internet with NTP, so it handles power cuts with aplomb14 if you set it to come back on the last state.

I chased a few other static loads, and turned off the hifi and Humax Foxsat PVR, still in service after 10 years, barring the hiatus when I didn’t have a TV licence. Turning that off is a bad move if I am going to record something, but that’s not so often, so I can accept the slight grunt of waiting for it to power up.

Efergy Engage has the resolution to show you how you are doing, but the SmartHome gizmo and power meters helps zero in on them. I have one smarthome thing in the lab in the garage and another in the Ermine den. The one in the lab lets me pull the soldering iron if I have left the bugger on, as well as monitoring general load, the one in the den I use to charge all my gizmos, and that is set to a timer 8-11, so nothing is charged when I am asleep. Which is cool.

TV tribulations

Something that caught me out was my Philips TV, which is recent enough to have been restrained by those pusillanimous Eurocrats with their pesky power-saving poncey proposals. And yet this dang thing was drawing 17W on standby, which is half of the power I had saved by retiring stacks of wall-warts consolidating them onto my CCTV power supply of which more later. WTAF?

I suppose the TV knows it is in the UK, so it may have switched onto the national preference that we are Real Men who don’t giveashit about namby-pamby power saving, so it has shunted a resistor across the mains input to reward us for Taking Back Control and being able to waste power without interference from Brussels. I went into the setup menu and selected ECO settings to max, which was off before. I suspect this impairs the picture to reduce power usage, or perhaps to fudge figures on test in a dieselgate sort of thing. I only use this a couple of times a week, and I don’t really give a toss if it uses 100w or 200W, or what the hell, go full Jeremy Clarkson/Daily Fail and draw 500W for all I care, a movie is only two hours long! What I would like eco mode to do is reduce the power drain while I am not using it, preferably to Eurocrat <1W standards, as I must admit, I simply assumed was the case. Surely the manual was not speaking with forked tongue when it quoth this

consumes very little, eh? We’ll see about that. Trust but verify fail on my part

Which is somewhat at variance with this

Brennenstuhl say Mr Philips’ Piotr speak with forked tongue. This TV is has been on standby, max ECO mode for three hours now, and the firmware is up to date

If that is true, then my assumption that this TV was drawing Eurocrat-mandated <1W in standby has cost me £40 over two years at historical power rates. That’s not a lot of money, but it’s a needless waste.

Geek Alert. Electricity is dangerous. It can kill you15. You shouldn’t really let it into the house. Be very afraid. It can make your children grow two heads. Take off rings, watches and jewellery. Keep one hand in your pocket. Wear rubber boots. Leave anything to do with exposed mains terminals to a qualified electrician. You will know if you are qualified because it will have cost you a load of money to get your sparky ticket. Do not do this at home. Lock up the dog in another room, send the kids to Grandma’s and put the cat out. I am not recommending you do anything like this. Do as I say, not do as I do.

OTOH the ermine has been messing around with electricity including mains since I was 7 (surreptitiously when I was an ankle biter, though my Grandad showing me how to a modify a mains gizmo started the rot). And since you’re reading this, I survived the dodgy practices and learned something. But really, don’t do this at home 😉 For the record, I am a chartered engineer, not a qualified electrician, so really, don’t listen to me, particularly if you are thinking of inviting m’learned friends if the electricity you let into your house kills you doing anything like I did. Geddit? I am NOT a qualified electrician so I know jack shit, it’s a wonder I survived to retirement age 😉

It’s possible Brennenstuhl is lying to me and Philips is really sipping < 1W power as Brussels ordered them to, and for some reason Brennenstuhl is getting confuzzled. I first tried a Fluke current clamp meter attachment, but this is designed for 20A full-scale, which would be 4.8kW before the fuse failed. I am looking for a signal 1/200th of that, and couldn’t see anything useful, advantage Philips. I have multimeter envy on MMM’s clamp meter, which is no longer to be had, although you can get a noname equivalent for £12. What you have to ask yourself, however, is given the one CPC sells for this usage is £50, whether you can rely on the results. MMM has an easier task because American 110V systems mean currents are twice as large for a given power. The trouble with current measurement is you have to break the circuit or at least get a loop of just live or neutral for a clamp meter. Which isn’t helpful chasing small vampire loads, so I chose to break the circuit. The whole reason you buy a power meter like the Brennenstuhl PM230 I used is so you can break the circuit in a relatively safe way. But I need a second opinion. Here be dragons, read the geek alert, don’t try this at home…

So I broke out the series lamp limiter. This is a trick from your grandfather’s TV repairman’s days – back when we used to fix TVs when they broke rather than throw them away. In a TV repair shop, a commonly encountered fault was sets going short due to the main smoothing caps going phut, which blew the fuse or set the workshop on fire, which jarred the boss off. A series lamp limiter stops that. If the lamp lights brightly, the set is a short. I used this because my DMM is only rated at 3A, and TVs tend to have a heavy inrush current for a few seconds, nowadays from the switchmode power supply rather than degaussing the CRT. As indeed was confirmed with this TV, where the lamp lit medium, flashed five times then glowed dull orange and Brennenstuhl reckoned it was drawing 30W, dropping after a minute to 19W, at which point I was unable to see any glow from the lamp. I measured the AC current directly, because the fuse in UK plugs makes that easy to get at, obviously provided you have taken the precautions regarding locking up the dog, kids and cat in another room, and are prepared to poke things into mains sockets like your parents told you not to. The trick here is to use a dis board as the socket, and only plug it into the mains after you have finished setup and poking into places you ought not to. A nightlight on the power strip to remind you this thing is hot would be a nice touch.

do NOT do this. Anyway, the TV is drawing 63.5mA after a few minutes. In standby. Advantage Brennenstuhl This is an UNSAFE way to use mains power!

I left this lot to stew for a quarter of an hour, so that nice Mr Philips’s control computer thinks to itself this TV has been off for 15 minutes, I am instructed to go FULL ECO mode, let’s go – power down all the things. Brennenstuhl now tells me I am running 15.5W and the DMM tells me I am drawing 63.6mA, which as any A-level physics student kno means P=I x V so 15.3 W in my case. Advantage Brennenstuhl16, epic fail Philips. It is possible current is out of phase with voltage, for instance if there were one of these bad boys across the mains, in which case I wouldn’t be charged for that 63mA, but I recall those damned Eurocrats had something to say about requiring power factor/harmonic correction in switched mode power supplies > 75W. If this thing is really drawing a Eurocratic 1W and pulling 19VA then it has a power factor of 0.07 which is a bit shit.

I’m at least an order of magnitude off where this should be. I have no idea if Philips chose to whistle a dancing tune and just sign17 that they met EU regulations or if there is a fault here, which does not manifest itself in any other function of the TV or even an honest burning smell, but ECO mode saves me ‘owt of the vampire drain, so I will switch it back off in case it impairs the picture when the set is running. What to do, eh, a static load of 15W costs me £37 a year at current prices and is about 131kWh, the equivalent of a horse on a treadmill running flat out 24/7 for a week. I don’t get anything for that money, I’d rather spend it on red wine. The Carbon Trust tells us the UK grid electricity runs at 0.233kgCO2e/kWh so this is a needless 31kg of CO2 discharged. While I don’t feel strongly about this it’s a little bit rude to do that for no good reason.

I know. You shouldn’t, but it’s such an elegant fix to the dismal failure of Philips to fit a proper power switch

I can’t exactly work out how this fine Chinese gizmo made in Shenzen contravenes the IET Wiring regulations BS7671, but the fact ISO9001 suppliers like Farnell don’t sell something that useful implies something is considered dodgy. There seems to be danger money in companies associated with Brits flogging these things for £21 rather than £6. But you can’t argue with the power of a mechanical switch. So I got them to put two of them on the slow boat from China for me.

I wish I’d known this before putting the cable in trunking, because I would have put the inline switch in myself, but I can’t face pulling that out now.

The scrag end – the background load problem

Scraping the bottom of the barrel, I asked what is the background load, ie when we are on holiday? Sometime, soon after I got Efergy engage in March, this was the story.

Static load about 250w. After isolating a bunch of parasitic loads I got it down to
Static load about 150-200W.

Easier to take the daily energy use qualifying chart

Where I am running about 3.77 kWh background load a day. At 28.41p /kWh engage displays the cost at about £1.10 a day for electricity. Tragically, that’s not the whole story. I have to carry the load of bailing out all those Bulb customers and their ilk who played the game on cheap power tariffs and found their suppliers went titsup when as Warren Buffett would say, the tide went out and they were swimming naked. They should have lost their direct debit outstanding amounts, lined up at the back of the queue like other creditors and started again Hello World on the standard variable rate or whatever some other firm would give them. That’s the normal answer when a private company goes bust – the customers get to line up at the back of the creditors’ queue and lose their money. That’s the free market for you. Ain’t capitalism’s every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost a beautiful thing? No? Somehow we have ended up with a bastard child of the free market running off with the profits and dumping the losses on the taxpayer. See water for another worked example. Well done us.

Plus all the green crap, to subsidise middle class punters 18 to stick solar panels on their roof to tell their kids they’re all right and saving the planet. That is 51p per day, so half the cost of my deadweight power usage, so I am getting into the long grass of diminishing returns here.

The oddball chuntering you see in the static load is the fridge freezer cutting in and out intermingled with the freezer (a separate box) tripping in and out, and from 8 to 9 the heating pump coming on to heat the water (with the gas boiler, which isn’t shown here in kWh). It’s tiresome to live without refrigeration, so some of this I have to suck up.

There appears to be about 150W of load underneath all that, I am still thinking about whether I can pull more of that. The obvious way to reduce is to turn some of these off, but I start to get more inconvenience for that.

I suspect this is IT gear – I have a 24-way network switch, a Synology NAS, a couple of Raspberry Pi servers and other odds and sods. I can probably shut down some of this clobber for 8 hours a day, which could drop my aggregate static load by 50W. I have three Raspberry Pi servers – one is a sensor network, one a radio APRS decoder and one is a music server, which also uses a Synology NAS. I am beginning to warm to the idea of the humble CD, which you can switch on when you want to play it, as opposed to eating a 24/7 load, because running a server-based system can easily eat a good part of the 88W standing load. I’m not doing Spotify or anything using a mobile phone, because I don’t do ads, I don’t do lossy compression and I don’t do subscriptions. However, the common file storage on the LAN and being able to locally encrypt before using cloud backup keeps that NAS worth having for now.

One way to reduce that background without losing functionality – consolidate power supplies.

Any wall wart consumes some deadweight power running itself, as well as some losses proportional to power delivered. These days most gadgets settle on DC power supplies of 12V and 5V, though there are many exceptions. Most DC barrel plugs are 5.5 by 2.1mm or 2.5mm, again with exceptions19, and the great majority but not all are wired with the centre pin +ve. In an ideal world we would have settled on 2.5mm for 5V and 2.1 for 12V because you can’t plug a 2.1mm DC barrel plug (which is sort of female…) into a 2.5 mm socket (which is sort of male…) and the insulation on the end has some chance of keeping the +12v out of the appliance. But it didn’t happen that way. I managed to wreck a 3V battery charger putting 12V into it, but otherwise I have avoided grief here.

With 12V you can get a CCTV power supply, which in my case provides nine 12V outlets each limited to 2A, and I have done what this fellow did, for much the same reasons. Mine came with the IEC socket, and uses PTC current limiting rather than fuses, but does the same job as his. 2A is enough for most IT gadgets, where 1A isn’t, the BT HomeHub wall wart is rated at 1.5A for instance. My CCTV supply runs the Synology NAS, a few sensors, a network switch and a CCTV DVR and some cameras, along with the broadband hub. The previous incarnation was an array of wall-warts.

Wall-wart power supply information panel

You can read the specs here – the figure circled in yellow is the output voltage, which MUST MATCH for any items you are going to share off one power unit. This is 12V, so I can power this BT Home Hub off the 12V CCTV power supply.  If you are in any doubt whatsoever, don’t share the gizmo or power supply, as using the wrong voltage or polarity can wreck the gadget, and overloading a wall wart can cause serious problems since the scummy cheap end often doesn’t have overload protection.

One of the pros of the CCTV power supply is the overload protection on each barrel outlet, so if the 12V gizmo does fail short, the CCTV supply won’t try and set the gadget or itself on fire gamely trying to maintain 12V in the face of overwhelming odds.

The horizontal bar with a dotted line underneath like a dodgy = sign tells you this is a DC output, if it is a twiddle ~ then it is AC and cannot be substituted or shared. These are rare nowadays because the Eurocrats banned the tech with their 1W standby requirements. The figure circled in red is the maximum output current, which may be either in A or, like in this case in mA, in which case divide by 1000 to get 1.5A. You can power the attached device with a power supply offering more A, but not less – this is how I know my 2A output CCTV power supply connection can run this, and that a 1A CCTV PSU would probably not.

Finally the symbol circled in green tells you the DC barrel connector polarity is wired with positive to the centre, which is the most common. If this is the other way round, DO NOT SHARE that supply or the attached gadget with anything else. Voltage and polarity you can easily measure with a digital multimeter which Amazon will sell you for less than a tenner.

You can do similar with USB chargers – a 6-way charger with six things in it will usually draw less power than six individual USB chargers. A six-way with one thing it it will normally draw more than a single-outlet charger, so you need to colocate these USB loads to get the most use of it. You can also get splitter leads that break out one USB outlet to two devices, though watch these with mobile phones and tablets with USB OtG ports, else when you turn the charger off you can find your mobile phone powering the other device and running the phone battery down. A multiport charger shouldn’t do that between its ports, even when off.

It’s a hard slog getting anywhere with this, but it did save me 40W which is 350 kWh p.a. This is only £98 a year saved, but there is the added benefit of reducing the fire hazard of the array of plug in supplies. The CCTV power supply is a frame power supply inside a metal box and with a local fuse appropriate to the power supply. I have had a few wall warts fail in service, generally they failed open circuit rather than catch fire, but the quality of these low-end Chinese products is variable. I retired this little lot.

Warty warty – one supply to rule ’em all. Not all these are 12V, I had a few old ones before the exercise

Chasing vampire loads is tough – by far the most effort and time in this operation has gone into the tail end of the power drain, probably less that 80W static in total. It gets harder and harder as you go down the rabbit hole, because the background noise of the fridge/freezer cutting in and out gets more distracting. It’s best to do this when nobody else is in the house, because the loads should be lower, and you aren’t going to get earache for pulling the broadband. My ultimate aim is to get my background load (excluding refrigeration) down to 100W. That will cost me £250 a year at current rates, but to be honest, it’s nice having broadband all the time, share files and have the music on the NAS and interesting to monitor the sensor networks and the APRS amateur radio stuff, so I will suck up the cost. It’s OK to pay for something if I have asked myself the question is this worth it, it’s the casual useless drain like the electric shower and the Philips TV standby that needed to get chased out.

overnight consumption now has a background minimum of 130W

The cooling loads are superimposed on that 130W minimum bringing the lot up to about 150W. There’s still an opportunity to hit more of this, but I am running out of easy targets and out of the 80:20 zone.

My 12-year skint younger self fought down a static power drain of about 6MWh pa down to 3MWh pa. My original drain this year was ~4.3MWh and it is now down to 3.9MWh annualised, but I haven’t captured a month’s data after having shot some of the static power drain recently. The Ipswich house had a lower electricity usage because cooking was entirely gas, whereas here it is entirely electric. For a baseline, OVO energy tell me bungalows and detached houses draw about 4.1MWh pa on average. So I have managed to shift myself from being a slight power hog to being a teeny bit of a greenie relative to my peers. The difference of 400 kWh pa is about £113 at current electricity rates, useful, but not earth-shattering. I haven’t quite finished the fight yet, however.

OVO show how the UK compares internationally. The USA is the 600lb gorilla in power drain after Saudi Arabia, which is an outlier probably generating power using flares from the abundant oil 😉 Slate magazine were left scratching their heads about why Europeans don’t touch air conditioning domestically

Just one in 10 households in Europe has A/C, far below the rates in China, Japan, or the United States, where 90 percent of households have a cooling system. Why have some of the world’s wealthiest countries been so slow to adopt hot-weather climate control? It’s a question that’s top of mind once again as another heat wave bakes Western Europe this week.

Summat to do with a less hostile climate – most of Western Europe is closer to the sea and at a higher latitude that America’s aircon aficionados, though God knows what people south of the Mason-Dixon line do in summer, become snowbirds I guess. At least LA is a dessicating dry heat, I have never been anywhere near summer in Florida, which is close to my idea of hell. I once landed in LAX, getting there about 10pm in July. Being a thirty-something cheapskate I had booked a cheap motel. In the 1990s a lot of US aircon was domestically produced by the likes of General Electric, and these crude behemoths made a stupendous racket compared to the Japanese kit I’ve seen in the States more recently.

I got into bed and thought I can’t get to sleep with this earache, so I turned the bugger off. An hour and a half later I wake up sweating like a pig and think to myself I will take the earache and no sleep over being roasted in a slow cooker. For sure, the recent UK heatwaves were nasty, but they were nothing like LA in July, and there, Mr Slate, is your answer – less need, and also much higher electricity prices. Plus at the moment that fact that Vladimir Putin has his hands round Western Europe’s nutsack as far as power prices are concerned. It’s more important to us to use the limited gas reserves to heat in winter than cool in summer.

Do your bit for the war effort, the environment and your wallet. Flay wasted power like you flay fees on your index funds.

  1. I think to get aircon out of a heat pump you have to make like an American and use forced air heating (and therefore cooling) in an air to air heat pump which is extremely rare in the UK – I have never seen a domestic forced air heating system in the UK though they are common as muck in the States. For a small flat they are fine or a new build where you can accommodate ducting the EST says The ducts used by installers are designed to allow large volumes of air to be moved around the house through pipes that are slim enough to be hidden inside the ceiling voids. All that is visible inside each room is two grills mounted in the ceiling, one for flow in and one for flow out of the room. You ain’t gonna retrofit that to your Barratt house. So in practice the aircon capability of a heat pump is a chimera for Brits unless you live in a flat or a house that hasn’t been built yet. 
  2. It’s even more embarrassing because I vaguely recall giving MMM a hard time about his profligate power usage back in the early days, though I can’t find the reference. Now I get to eat his dust >:-0 
  3. I have eliminated the outlier Saudi Arabia, because as the world’s biggest oil producer they probably have free energy for all I know. 
  4. I believe that in America what we would call the boiler is called the furnace, I saw a lot of forced air duct heating over there rather than the UK penchant for hot water as the heat carrying medium, over there they apparently used steam back in the day for their steam radiators You can still sign up to ConEd steam service in NYC and this old system is why you see steam blowing from NYC streets in winter movie scenes 
  5. That did allow you to get usage graphs from locally stored information, but the process was painful, and involved a program using Adobe Air, because it had been written by Apple MacHeads. I just don’t like Adobe, in the same way as I detest Apple, overpriced but pretty and with evil controlfreakery built in – hello CreativeCloud which is the software equivalent of the World Economics Forum’s “in the future you will own nothing”. 
  6. Energy is what you are charged for, measured in kWh. Power (in Watts of kiloWatts) is what makes the dial on your meter turn faster. If that’s 1kW for one hour or ten watts for 100 hours it costs you the same 
  7. The tougher challenge here is how to get the controlled device to switch the mains back on the wall wart from an unpowered state, else you will get a Minsky useless machine whose sole focus is to power itself off ;) 
  8. Since you asked, that’s Commission Regulation (EC) No 1275/2008 of 17 December 2008 implementing Directive 2005/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to ecodesign requirements for standby and off mode, and networked standby, electric power consumption of electrical and electronic household and office equipment. In particular Annex II. Since we did tell the EU to F*ck right off and get out of our way I guess it would be impolitic to moan that in the English-speaking world we use a period . for the decimal point rather than a comma , because nobody in the EU speaks English any more to my knowledge. Whatevs. 
  9. Let’s put this into perspective. I have an e-bike which has a 250W motor, which is capable of pulling my ass up a 1:5 hill and allows me to laugh in the face of an 11mph headwind, which was the point when I used to abandon ideas of cycling to work for 7 miles each way. Readers wound up by the Daily Fail want six and a half times that much power in their vacuum cleaners, else the EUSSR was depriving them of their yuman rites to suck bigly. WTF? Are they the Pink Panther or something? 900 watts is enough for a vacuum cleaner, and if it isn’t you are doing something wrong. It’s still more than three times the power required to haul my tail up that hill, and more that the output of one British Standard Horse was good for. Get a grip, FFS. You’re one hell of a mucky pup if your hoover needs more than a horse inside it. 
  10. Usefully, it isolates the non-computer sockets when I put the PC into sleep mode, which is easier to live with over the day, and saves me a stack of background drain 
  11. You do run the risk of increasing the earth impedance which should be < 0.35 ohm for the common TN-C-S domestic configuration. I am of the view that the 5A fuse rather than the 13A will clear a Live to Earth fault in the presence of a higher earth impedance, but maybe stop at two series dis boards after your switched one. If you are actually running a bitcoin mining data centre, then obviously get a sparky to install it properly rather than run it all from a single 13A socket in the bedroom. 
  12. The USB-C PD standard permits charging at 240W, whereas your typically 1A rating of USB wall outlets limits you to 5W. Other things being equal, the whizzy new plug in USB-PD adapter will charge your i-wotsit nearly 50 times faster, and as an added bonus will stop drawing power when you switch it off at the wall. 
  13. A relay is an electrically activated switch, cheap as chips made in their millions and been around for donkey’s years. You can get them to latch by using the relay to switch itself on. The catch, of course, is in electrically operated switch and the vagaries of deriving a low voltage from 240VAC, many of which are a bit wasteful. That’s how you get electronic timers that draw less power than a mechanical motor-driven timer when they are off, but a lot more when they are on. Stick one of those on an infrequently used Eurocrat vampire of less than 1W standby and you could end up with more background load than you started with. A bistable relay is a relay whose state is electrically changed but draws no power to stay on or off. They are dearer, so manufacturers would never have gone that way if the Eurocrats hadn’t made them. 
  14. Years ago a colleague had oh-so-cleverly set his hot tub to come on night rate electricity with motor-driven timers, and was scratching his head why his power bill started to get off the scale. He was overhead fed and suffered power cuts more often than usual and the mechanical timers lost time directly proportional to the length of the power cut without him spotting it until I asked him what happened in a power cut – because I’d been had by that before. They had drifted out of the night rate zone! 
  15. I found it hard to determine how many Brits get killed per year in the home due to electrocution. It’s not many – it seems like it’s in the tens – 7 in 2017 in domestic settings. The thing you should really be frightened of with electricity is fire, half of house fires are electrical in origin, about 14,000 a year. ESF want to have a particular word wiv da yoof charging their phones with cheap anonymous Amazon specials, and since they know da yoof knows itself to be invincible they try and scare them with the damage to their phones rather than the risk to life and limb. Electrical Safety First asserts 70 people a year are electrocuted  (worldwide perhaps?) and their advice for DIYers is straight between the eyes. “If you need to look online for a tutorial, you shouldn’t be doing it yourself”. Allllriiiight – yes, Sir! 
  16. I moaned that these inline power meters were a bit crap at low power drains, but to be honest, I can’t really complain about a 1.3% error in a 15-year old power meter 
  17. Those Eurocrats requires SMPS of more than 75W which applies here to meet IEC EN-61000-3-2 and Piotr Olechowski, Quality Manager in Poland, has signed on the dotted line asserting that this product conforms to that EU standard, among others. Obviously this doesn’t apply to Brits, so I can go spin on that as far as pressing my case that this product does not meet specification. 
  18. it pleases me that the feed-in-tariff boondoggle was canned in 2019. I don’t have any objection to the SEG nor indeed the 0% VAT on capex. Domestic solar should be able to stand on its own two feet. Personally I can’t be arsed with that, it’s easy enough to invest in large scale renewables. Domestic scale is pissing in the wind IMO, there was nothing that looked quite as barking mad/stupid as David Cameron’s yacht wind generator on his London home where the TV aerial would have been. Domestic urban wind is virtue signalling – turbulence at low urban settings, wind energy proportion to speed cubed, wind speed proportional to height to the power of 1/7 so need for height and scale, Dave? It’s hardly like Central London is an off-grid island site where they have to bring your grid connection over 10 miles of empty moorland, eh? Buy shares in INRG or UK Wind or their ilk FFS, go big or go home. DIYInvestor has masses of ideas if you feel strongly about this sort of thing. 
  19. Telephony gear seems to be one of those exceptions. A BTHomeHub runs off 12V so I soldered a 5.5×2.5mm barrel plug to the end of the wire, only to find that this is a bastard 3.0×6.3mm plug which I had to order specially. I then got to do this again on a Gigaset N300 VOIP to DECT gadget. What the world really doesn’t need is yet another DC barrel plug format. 

48 thoughts on “Saving energy at home”

  1. You could put all those pi servers onto one machine using containers (google docker), I have a server running 10 virtual machines/containers using up circa 35-40w. You probably already know about home assistant and esphome, sensor integration and automation. Using that to control wireless trv on each radiator.

    But like solar or air source heat pumps, it all requires capex and know how, not possible for everyone to do.

    If only our government weren’t so hell bent on leading from behind on energy and climate issues….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the tip, I need to get my head round Docker. One of the servers is PiCorePlayer and the only reason I have it is because Synology end-of-lifed logitech media server which I use for some music player hardware. I only have a gutless 214se, more modern Synology boxen will run Docker and LMS in Docker. So that could KO on Pi right away. My oldest Pi 1 runs Buster and I wrote the sensor program in Python 2. I did start converting that to Python 3 for use with a new Pi A but kept getting hit by gotchas, so I put the original back. Maybe I need to pull that and go to HA, either using an ESP32 gizmo to do the job of that Python 2 cod and the Pi or just start again. I’m quite fond of that old system retired from the smallholding days. There were sensors in most rooms which it showed me when to open and close windows and curtains to minimise the heatwave in the absence of aircon.

      A new Synology running Docker could be my friend, as it would also run Asset for the main hifi

      The APRS stuff is a pain, as I maintain a wifi link to a shed for that, and it’s 16W I could pull. It would work with a serial link, so I will try that.


      1. Heat pumps are a co2 solution, not a coat saving. However if you dig into the pricing mechanism [tip: electricity is priced from gas] that our glorious leaders have decided on you’ll see that they could actually be a cost saving proposition.

        Again, most people are screwed by the insane incentives (lack thereof)


  2. Wow, that was a marathon read! I’m a little surprised that despite all your valiant efforts to reduce your electricity consumption you are still consuming around 300 kWh a month. I seem to manage around 100 kWh as a one-person household, admittedly with no electricity used for cooking (apart from microwave and kettle) or water heating.

    As an aside, my 1970-built, two-storey, three-bedroom, mid-terrace house originally had gas-fired forced-air heating. The system was eventually condemned in 2006 after the heat exchanger cracked and I had a conventional boiler and radiator system installed. The warm-air ducting is still in place. It is under-floor (concrete downstairs) and there are two boxed-in ducts in the corners of the lounge to carry the air to the upstairs level. The manufacturer was Johnson & Starley. I think they are still around as next door (currently rented) had their system replaced by the landlord with similar a couple of years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. haha – congratulations on the 100kWh. I’d settle for 200, taking my lead from MMM and accepting that electric cooking is still going to elevate things a bit. After all, we probably run 1.5-2kWh a day on coffee alone, each moka pot is 0.3kWh a jolt and I use a coffee machine. That will be 40-60kWh a month

      I haven’t absolutely nailed whether I have still got an excessive load I don’t know about yet or it is the geekery which leaves me with more vampire hits than normal. Normal people probably have more mobile phone associated doodads but not the Raspberry Pis , the NAS and network kit, and the amateur radio stuff also costs me 11kWh which non-geeks definitely don’t have 😉


      1. I’m not sure how your Efergy system measures your power consumption – does it have a current transformer clamp on the main line connection? I had something similar once given to me by my then electricity supplier Eon. Because the power factor on most household equipment is terrible, it gave very misleading power consumption figures. Do your Efergy readings stack up well against your official electricity meter? I bought a plug-in power meter from Maplin many years ago and went round identifying the power leeches. It also displays power factor and can integrate energy consumption over time. This is when I discovered how bad the PF is on most domestic equipment (except the kettle of course!).

        I do now have a smart meter and it shows my minimum overall static consumption is around 25W, comprising my broadband modem/router, landline phone/answerphone, a couple of clock/radios, Humax PVR on standby, the smart meter in-home display (!), the boiler on standby and the fridge-freezer when not actively cooling. This naturally spikes up when the fridge-freezer thermostat cuts in. The fridge-freezer is quite modern and consumes around 1 kWh over 24 hours. Another spike occurs if the boiler fires up and its fan and the water pump operate. Everything else is switched off at the wall or with a hard switch when not in use, including the microwave as I do not need this to tell me the time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. > Do your Efergy readings stack up well against your official electricity meter?

        I did check that in the last house and it was good enough, but this is a different house and the loads may be different, so I should do that again. The Brennenstuhl PM230 plug in device does display power factor on the A range, where it agrees with the hazardous measurement of current on the TV in standby, and tells me cosΦ is a nice round 1.0 implying a genuine 16W static load that I get to pay for 😦

        You obviously run a much tighter ship than I do at 25W static load! The evidence is that it is the geekery which I am running into now – I need to consolidate some of those Raspberry Pi gizmos, I have tracked down five from various projects now. They all do something that I’d miss a little bit, but there’s further work to be done here


  3. Blimey – you’ve been busy… 😉

    I’ve taken a pretty simple overall approach, which is to employ the tried and trusted method of energy control that I learned from my parents in my youth. I call it the “Thrifty Dad” method, and it consists of:

    – roaming around the house turning stuff off at the wall if it’s not in conscious use; and
    – saying “we’re not made of money, you know” to anyone observed using energy in a
    profligate way (eg boiling more water than they actually need for the teapot).

    I did wonder whether I had made a big energy mistake by installing an induction hob a couple of years ago. But then I remembered the drudgery of keeping the gas hob and its multi-part burners clean. Some things are worth paying to not do.

    Random thought: I remember some people used to have actual gas fridges at home. Full-sized fridges on proper mains gas – not the bottled gas fridge-ettes that people put in caravans. I wonder whether they still make ’em…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I confess we love the induction hob too for it’s ease of use, quite remarkable speed and ease of cleaning. And I like the timer to turn the plate off after 4 minutes for eggs. Despite the ‘don’t heat with electricity fail’. The fan oven also scores on even-ness – compared to the old gas oven where you had to swap things around on the shelves at times.

      I knew someone with a gas fridge years ago. Delightfully quiet compared to the electric fridges of the day, though I can’t moan about the noise nowadays. Electric fridges used to be terrible for noise. I haven’t seen one for a long time. The 3-way fridge in my campervan is silent on gas, but it is a bit on the gutless side, good to pre-cool it with coolblocks from the home freezer


  4. We got a new oven a couple of years ago and the difference is remarkable. It gets up to temperature in half the time.

    Our hob is a different matter, it’s a very early model from about 15 years ago and although I can’t measure it directly from what I’ve found on the internet it is drawing about 25W on standby.

    Our TV on the other hand doesn’t register on the meter.

    Our main problem though is electric storage heaters and electric water heating. I’ve looked at heat pumps but the figures don’t add up and the reviews are atrocious. It seems there are a lot of really dodgy installers out there.

    We are going to add some extra loft insulation, equip everybody with electric blankets and keep the woodturner going. I won’t turn the heating on until my wife is screaming at me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Strange that heat pumps wouldn’t score against night storage, assuming of course you have the realestate. I’d have thought this is the one use case which would be an easy win. It’s the capital cost and civil works that’s the issue, presumably, because the efficiency gain should be a definite win, as well as on-demand control compared to night storage.

      > Our TV on the other hand doesn’t register on the meter.

      I have TV envy now 😉


      1. I think I’ll probably revisit it in a couple of years, the market feels like the Wild West at the moment, hopefully it will settle down.


  5. Great post – lots to learn! Need to dig out the smart meter.

    Just recently remembered I’m on Economy 7 and relearning the benefits of that. 50% off the price of electricity from midnight-ish to 7am. 20p kwh vs 30p in the day. So far I have shifted all washing machine use, dishwasher use to night time. Might move phone/device chargers to a smart plug to time them overnight, and wondering what else I could do overnight. e.g. Slow cookers, blankets, etc.

    All the neighbours have solar, so surely midday should be cheapest and greenest.

    Gas still 7p/kwh and small boiler is apparently 95%+ efficient. But despite all the insulation, the house is big, glazing excessive, so insulating people might be better than heating air. Mr MM did a great article on cold adaption, doesn’t take long, and might do us some good.

    I’m a habitual plug-turner-offer. Even more so after a neighbours house had a fire from cheap batteries/charger problems. Still got one of those USB in-the-wall plug socket things, might need to review if that continues to justify it’s existence. Smart TV ECO mode will be turned back on asap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Night rate is definitely worth using if you have it, although it’s puzzling if you have a gas boiler? Worth establishing what the rate would be if you go off dual rate, as I thought Economy 7 day rate is more expensive than a single tariff?

      > Smart TV ECO mode will be turned back on asap.

      That didn’t help me with mine, I still haven’t established if this is a fault or simple a deliberate lie 😉 I have at least now reasonably established that I am very likely paying for that 16W static load! until I turn this off at the wall


      1. We inherited e7 from previous owners of this house. Fully gas heated, so not sure it made sense either.

        With octopus, the regular all day the same tariff was 27p ish, compared to the 30p/20p rate on E7.

        Our simple calcs seemed to show it was just working out a being beneficial for us during the summer. Might be worse during winter evenings with lights and stuff. Haven’t done all the calculations yet. But it’s more beneficial to delay the dishwasher and washing machine as they each use around 1kwh a go.

        Trickier to use the electric oven and induction hob in those slots though.


  6. As part of my energy saving drive I have spent 5K ripping out 2 gas fires and replacing with wood buringin stoves (including building and stocking a 8m^3 wood store) and have just received a quote for a 6kW solar / 10kW battery system for 12K. Yes a lot of money, and payback is a while, but its cash I have spare and is falling at 20% pa in value. So taking inflation into account to me it makes sense and protects me against the future. No doubt energy prices will eventually come down, but probably not to the level we had before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 8 cubic meters, eh, that’s a decent capacity, I tip my hat! I constucted a measly 5.8m^3, though Mrs Ermine has her eye on some otherwise dead space to double that. Round these parts they seem to be backward and sell logs in tipper-truck loads, but the price is OK, and it’s Somerset wood, these guys are primarily tree surgeons. I want to first qualify the run rate over winter before doing that, as the cost of pressure-treated carcassing to make the logstore was noticeable

      I am curious, what is the pro of spending the capex on a solar system compared to a DIYInvestor spread of investment on the tech on a big scale? I do sort of get the in the hand/control aspect of this, and 12k is not an outrageous sum from an investment POV so that may be a subjective win. Of course if you’re an island site or experience frequent power outages then an islanding capable battery system has its attractions. Though I’d still personally want that battery out of the house, I really can’t see any engineering reason why it shouldn’t be 😉

      But if it’s to get hold of government pork (FWIW DIYInvestor does this out of conviction and a beautiful soul, I am not ascribing my cynical heart of darkness to him, I am in it for the pork) then a hefty slug of renewables across technologies can buy you more pork than a domestic system, coming through as a steady income with some inflation linking. GFF is also at this sort of thing (also beutiful soul/conviction I think), arguably better spread than I am though I am in it at a much larger scale (as of that post). But I may be missing something obvious.

      From an engineering POV I am still with David MacKay. Every BIG helps. I can’t see how residential domestic solar in the UK fits in with that as the best use of government resources. However, that doesn’t mean that on an individual basis it’s a bad investment if the pork makes it work.


      1. I guess it depends on how much you will be paying for grid sourced electricity. If you sized the array with battery and choice of tariff you can alter the payback through recharging from grid at night rates. It’s clearly highly dependent on individual circumstances.

        Have you considered factoring in electric car charging – quite the hefty demand again in many cases. with a smart charger you can get costs down considerably….

        Risks: National policy on pricing and subsidies. Technology improvements in efficiency

        As one of your virtue signalling middle class in an old house with little scope for insulation I’ll fork out 5 digits for self sufficiency, reduced pricing risk, and not arming despots – a small price to pay 😉


      2. > choice of tariff you can alter the payback through recharging from grid at night rates

        I sort of hear what you say, but let’s take the case of KISS with a 20p/30p /kWh differential, and economy 7 giving you seven hours of cheap rate. Take a 4000kWh load per year, that’s £800 at night rate and 1200 at day rate, a £400 p.a saving tops for the battery aspect of this. You need a battery capacity of 8kWh, possibly less as some heavy loads can be deferred. A powerwall 2 at a £9k capex will do it. Say that doubles, £800, so on a total 12k system payback is 15 years, about twice the probable service life of the batteries. Difficult to see how an electric car will change that, as presumably you grid charge it at night. A typical electric car has a 40kWh battery so on a sunny midsummer day you can recharge half of that in a day, which is probably fine as you aren’t going to be consuming the entire range every day. You can drive for free in the summer, within reason depending on you use pattern and the rest of the load.

        A typical domestic 5kW system will give 20kWh on a good summer day but an average of about 5kWh/day over the year, about half the presented load. So that’s a £600 saving, presumably the pork gets that up, say to £1000. If that doubles, gets breakeven down to six years.

        It’s fair enough critique that at typical 6% return payback to breakeven on a range of renewables investments is longer at 17 years, but the resale value of the capital asset on the stock market should hold its value a lot better than the panels screwed to the roof and the deteriorating battery pack, so I don’t really get the relative attraction.


  7. An epic post with tons of stuff to think about!

    I remember my father used to go around the house unplugging absolutely everything from the wall apart from the fridge and freezer before we went to bed each night. As a teenager if I stayed up late watching a film I was reminded to do this. He did it not because of the power usage but because of the perceived fire risk – he even unplugged electric lamps. I’m not sure if this came from electricity being considered somewhat dodgy when it must have come into increased use during his lifetime. We didn’t have smoke alarms back then. I don’t think he ever realised the massive cathode ray TV maintained a big charge even after being unplugged and could maybe have set off a fire with all the dust that collected in the back of the set. One time I remember the TV had a melt down and solder dripped out of the bottom burning the carpet, that made for a more interesting family Christmas!

    I’ve got background electric use on the smart meter down to 8w on a small property I’m sorting out. I think this is from the door bell transformer and the burglar alarm. I can’t find where the door bell can be turned off and if I turn off the burglar alarm, the outside sounder will eventually kick in when the battery in the alarm box loses charge. Not going to sweat it for 8w! The smart meter is useful as I can check for the 8w when I’m going away. If it is more than that either the fridge has kicked it up to 74w or I left a light on somewhere.

    At our other place I think the background was 45w last time I checked when the fridge or freezer are not running but that was before the new BT broadband router arrived so I need to have another check around. Pretty sure it is at less than 100w even with TV, HiFi etc on standby. I gave up running servers constantly at home, I used to do that when I worked in an office for the joy of SSH tunnelling out to my home Linux box over port 80 to alleviate some times of boredom – mainly kicking off BBC iPlayer downloads. I’ve got my computer on a UPS that is supposed to turn the monitor and USB hub etc off when the computer goes off, but the system I have is such a small load the UPS doesn’t see enough of a change to switch. Maybe I need to chuck the UPS out and get a better one!


    1. I’m in awe of your 8W background consumption – it puts my 25W to shame. Of course it is the broadband modem/router that is the biggest leech in most households. When I first got broadband (ADSL) I tried switching the router off overnight but quickly discovered that the dynamic line management (DLM) would determine that my line was unstable and throttle my already modest speed right back. Since having fibre-to-the-cabinet, the DLM seems to be less aggressive – for example it will go several months before retraining and only retrains in the middle of the night. It may be worth me experimenting again with switching the router off when not needed, such as overnight and during much of the day if I am out, and seeing if the DLM does anything untoward with the connection speed. For checking news, weather etc. on the phone, my 4G connection should be more than adequate.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Trying to get our telly to work properly after switching it off at the wall is just too horrible: it stays on standby. I have, however, as a matter of public duty, explored my computer’s sound system, a Xmas present that a SIL had connected. Lo, I found an off switch. Done. (Why do all computer and electronics manufacturers hide or camouflage off switches?)

    Showers: the answer is not to shower every day in winter, and to shower in cool or tepid water in summer. Easy-peasy. Cooking: I like a poached egg and the microwave is an excellent, economical way to poach ’em.

    Heat pumps: we have four – two in fridges and two in freezers.

    Heating: we don’t have central heating. Buy a fleece, you sissies.

    On economy with lights and kettles: impossible with my women folk and I am loathe to give them up.


    1. >On economy with lights and kettles: impossible with my women folk and I am loathe to give them up.

      This made me laugh out loud! I do hope (Mr) Ermine feels that same way about my idiosyncrasies 😉

      >Heating: we don’t have central heating. Buy a fleece, you sissies.

      You have a point. I grew up with 15 deg C being considered luxurious, but I also remember being extremely cold a lot of the time. My idiosyncrasies/extravagances include heated footwarmer (yes, the single granny boot for both feet) which I have had for years and more recently a heated electric throw – it is marvellous and makes a lower thermostat far more bearable.

      >Showers: the answer is not to shower every day in winter.
      Yeah. I may go back to this, even with the new gravity fed gas heated hot water. I still consider a daily shower an extravagance.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Great to hear from Mrs E.
        Would you say what type of heated electric throw you have – as this sounds like a good early Xmas pressie.


  9. Thanks for the energy report, this is what should be taught in schools, perhaps broken into age-appropriate modules, to prepare children for survival in the real world, if only the curriculum wasn’t crafted by the retail consumption industry.

    Very interesting and eloquent as usual, a lot to ponder on and definitely critically useful for our times. Like a tanker turning around, the masses will now get into eliminating waste only because they have to, cooking will shift in favour of microwave ovens, slow cookers, air dryers, pressure cooker pots and remoska-type ingenuity. Showers will be more functional and livestyles more natural, like waking and sleeping with the natural light as much as possible, so whisper it, logic, common sense, pragmatism are coming home again.

    One small qripe though sir, I am with your companion on the one luxury I wont surrender, the Italian coffee that single-handedly separates me from insanity on a 24 hour cycle and is still cheaper than lithium. My mocha pot survived deportation from Brexitania and balances my mood like no cakeism can, so I will continue to accept its energy extravagance as long as I can, justifying that by offsetting its power usage against all that gained from the unicorn dung I use in the biogas cooker it runs on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you have a gas hob, nothing need to be done, I imagine these were originally designed for use with gas. If using a non-induction electric hob you can improve the energy efficiency of your mocha pot in one easy win (as long as it’s not made of aluminium) with one of these. At an improvement from 600Wh to 300Wh a hit you will recover the capital cost of £40, in about 70 jolts, not of mention the stupendous improvement in speed which is a boon to any coffee addict. I think it is even faster than it was on the old gas hob in the last place.


  10. A tour de force Ermine, thank you for sharing! Very informative and helpful.

    I followed a similar, albeit smaller scale, route last year when we moved into our new house. The bill shock was finding out that the sparky had set the immersion heater timer to run for 4 hours a day! And subsequently I found that the solar hotwater array sensor had gone open circuit so wasn’t providing any solar gain — subsequently fixed and seeing a massive reduction in power consumption.

    I’ve fitted a power monitor to provide a real-time update on consumption. Very easy to fit, just an induction coupling in the electrical panel. Not sure if they’re available in the UK but the one I have is from powersensor dot com dot au. Its data aligns perfectly with the smart meter logs so I’m confident that it’s accurate.

    I know this is a finance blog but… if anyone is interested in the players, playing pieces and the chessboard I thoroughly recommend this blog by an ex-diplomat (M. K. Bhadrakumar). He knows his stuff and provides a clear-eyed view of the geopolitics that explains things like why Europe’s nutsack got placed in Vlad’s hands.
    indianpunchline dot com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Prior to replacing my warm-air central heating in 2006 with a conventional system, I had to use an electric immersion heater for hot water. I did at one point install an immersion heater timer switch but it did not last long, presumably because of the large currents it was constantly switching. After I went back to leaving the immersion heater on all the time I did not notice a significant increase in my electricity bills. The hot water cylinder I had back then was not pre-insulated but I had fitted an accessory lagging jacket to the standards then in existence on top of the original thin lagging jacket. This must have reduced the cylinder losses to a level where leaving the heater on all the time and relying solely on the thermostat had little impact on consumption.

      I’m surprised that your power monitor tracks your smart meter well. You must have a lot of consumption at unity power factor (such as your immersion heater) that dwarfs the consumption from your electronic and motor-driven equipment.


    2. Thanks for indianpunchline, I enjoyed the read, and it’s good to look through other regions’ eyes every so often.

      Powersensor looks like an integrated form of the Efergy cable clamp solution I use and the wifi plugs. It’s good having both presentations together, a neater solution than mine. Home Assistant could integrate these for me, but I don’t need another server static load, so I will stick with the hard way


  11. I’m at just over 100kWh a month, which I guess isn’t bad considering I’m WFH. Heating will continue to be off during the day in the winter as I’ll make do with wearing extra layers and I have my hot water bottle. I Will continue to use the gym’s shower facilities when I go for a workout, seeing as it’s all part of the membership fee in any case! I do use my oven quite a lot so think I may need to rejig my meal planning so I only use it at weekends.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Epic post – such knowledge and wisdom. I particularly love ‘tackle waste before spending capex’.

    In my (quarter hearted, compared to you) hunt for vampire load, my NAS and CCTV emerged as bigger culprits than I’d expected. My 4-drive ReadyNAS claims to consume 50w, i.e. 36 kWh a month, and my CCTV runs a chunky base unit with fan / hard drive you name it (and monitor, which I have turned OFF) – I imagine this is at least 100w i.e. 70+ kWh a month, and that’s before the cameras (7 of them, I assume 5-10w each depending on day/night). This lot is adding up to half an average home’s electricity, if my maths are right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. > my NAS and CCTV emerged as bigger culprits than I’d expected

      Same here, I found the CCTV DVR and NAS to be dreadful passive loads. I have moved the NAS to the CCTV power supply, it is only a 2-bay unit. While I thought I might be taking the piss using a 2A supply it is absolutely fine and no restarts.

      The DVR I have powered off, because for the power drain at October+ rates, within a year I can recover the costs of a pair of Reolink solar power (PIR triggered) wifi units. I don’t feel I have a major security issue, but it’s nice for the minor deterrent effect, and knowing what goes on.

      I will eventually think about injecting a 60W solar panel into the DC end of the CCTV supply to reduce the load when there is sun – I can probably recover the £60 outlay in a couple of years. Initial investigation with a Raspberry Pi shows the idea is feasible, if I use a buck converter set to ~13.8V output to improve efficiency at low light levels.

      The significance of the number of lowish static loads are the biggest surprise out of this exercise. This is probably much worse in my case through the interest in tech. I am shamed by Weenie, DavidV and Bill. However, early results indicate I have brought 360kWh/month down to 240. That’s still high compared to MMMs 133, but it save £60 a month post October. I still can’t get electricity costs into parity with gas, but I’m getting there.


      1. Depending on the set up sometimes hard drives can be made to sleep to save power. SSDs always better but cost and wear rate might be a problem.

        I buy second hand server grade SSDs from ebay – still approx £100 for a few hundred Gb…. :/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Never really thought about SSDs, since my NAS uses two retired HDDs striped against single failure. But Synology do power ’em down, I can hear them spin up and observed the initial delay when I start the music player after inactivity. I will investigate

        Wear rate is probably not so bad for me, as the bulk of the data is a music server and some web and photos stuff. These don’t change often.

        Of course, back in the day we used to have music storage that didn’t consume power just sitting there, called LPs and CDs 😉 I shut down my classical music server which was on the old Synology after this exercise after coming to the conclusion that locating classical music on a server is a worse UI that finding the CD on a shelf. I don’t normally listen to classical in shuffle mode.


  13. I love our induction hob too, direct heating just seems to make more sense as with a microwave. One thing that bugs me is we have a cutlery drawer underneath it. I’ve noticed that the steel teaspoons almost directly underneath the ring I usually use get quite warm. I’m not sure if this heating is from a cooling vent underneath or it is being directly inducted. Either way, it is a loss reducing the efficiency. I think the power control electrics – thyristors or whatever can get quite hot? Maybe next time I will take the cutlery out and put something non-metallic in there and see how warm that gets.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks, a really good read. It has inspired me to get my little power consumption meter out and use it on the remaining devices I had not yet used it on.

    It really does remind me of the same sort of effort in minimising platform and fund costs, as your last sentence says.

    No, no knives were used on my freezer, it just had the thermostat stuck in the on position. The new freezer was such a great upgrade, using much less power and so emitting much less CO2 that I decided to upgrade my fridge to match it a couple of weeks ago. That too has been a really good power and CO2 saving, so much so that I would recommend everyone to consider doing this. The manufacturers’ claimed power consumption figures seem very accurate, despite my cynicism. (thanks VW!)

    Since I take power readings monthly for my supplier it will not be until next month that I see the full benefit, but the saving from the freezer did show up last month.

    I know this is massively off topic, so hope you don’t mind, but I have been quite ill lately. I went into a private hospital for a simple operation, normally done as a day case. (The NHS were brilliant and quick in letting me know what I had was not a dread disease, but after that, it was going to be months to see someone before I could even get onto a waiting list, so private it was). I only stayed overnight in hospital, due to living alone and needing someone to keep an eye on me for 24 hours just due to the anaesthetic. The op seemed to have gone well, but I suffered a massive bleed overnight and needed a second emergency operation the next day. I ended up in hospital for a week! I am on the road to recovery, slowly getting better, but I still think it will be months before I am fully back to normal.

    There are a couple of lessons: Always book the overnight stay even if you do have someone at home. I really wouldn’t have wanted to rely on an ambulance coming and may have ended up calling it far too late, not realising how serious it was. The fact there were doctors and nurses there at the first sign of trouble potentially made a big difference to the outcome. Secondly, always ask for a fixed price quote when going private. I just wanted to limit normal costs, but it also meant I didn’t have to pay any extra for the extra week in hospital when there was a serious problem, that hadn’t really been something I had thought about.

    Wishing you all the best.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry to hear about the hospital stay, and wishing you all the best over the convalescence. There does seem to be a creeping privatisation going on, they may blame it on Covid but the NHS isn’t safe under a Tory gov.

      I hope to well, firstly avoid the need, but if it happens then I’d go the same way, good tip on the fixed quote.

      > of the same sort of effort in minimising platform and fund costs

      The effort is very similar, along with the price of victory being eternal vigilance. I should have caught that TV earlier.

      all the best for your recovery!


  15. Thank you. Yes, I totally agree with you about the Tories and the NHS. It isn’t safe in their hands.

    In terms of cooking, I always get microwaveable rice. It doesn’t taste any different to me, but the preparation cost of a couple of minutes in the microwave, compared to boiling a pan of water and cooking it yourself is apparently huge.

    Not sure if the same applies to a whole chicken, which you can also get pre-cooked. Although you don’t get the lovely smell, or contribution to space heating, which is always useful in winter.


  16. @Al Cam
    >Great to hear from Mrs E.


    The electric heated throw is a Dreamland “Relaxwell Luxury Heated Throw” (who comes up with these names!?) – sssshhhh, don’t say it too loudly, my Mr Ermine may also have one now as it is indeed a great gift for people 😉


    Thank you for sharing your story, and I wish you a swift recovery xxx


  17. @ermine, Looks like your survivalist preparations are timely given that Larry-the-cat (senior servant at No. 10) is now forced to face his fourth clown prince in as many years, bouncing with enthusiasm and salivating at the opportunity to use the already ravaged country as a chew toy.

    Given your lack of a European passport, you can’t simply saddle up your brexit-opportunity unicorn and ride into the sunset accompanied by a beautiful musical score. Can you even still console yourself with seafood knowing why it is that British grown (in conjunction with the water monopolies) grow faster and have a unique flavour? What can the new PM offer a grizzled ermine, will they sell off your beloved historical stones in a last-gasp honour to Thatcher, the stonehenge Walmart lightshow festival perhaps? Can Sir offer us any hope at all in these doomporn times?

    What I see is another card spat out from a dog-eared, marked deck that can only continue the same old game, so the same winners and losers, I can’t get out of the room and I’m not looking for the patsy at the table because I already know it’s me.

    The whole replacing of a nominal leader drama is like looking closely at the change of guard within the swarming flies hovering over a fresh cowpat when you walk past too close. There’s some chaos initially and the confines of the layers within the holding pattern of circling flies are broken by a few ending up lower or higher than before once the excitement dies down. Only the lucky ones then settle on the surface of the resource cake to fill their stomachs. For all the rest, they go back to dreaming in their numbed endless circling, waiting for the next disruption, sustained only by the hope that maybe, just maybe, the next time it could be them that join the 1% in power and paradise.

    NHS., it was good while it lasted. Viva thick Lizzie and that.


  18. A great read as ever. I fear nothing is safe under the Tories including the NHS, though unfortunately the right wing press continues to bamboozle. In USA at moment and there certainly seems to be no regard to going “green.” Have been using my electric fire stove while WFH when cold to heat my little back room office. Didn’t realise electricity was so much dearer than gas. Just debating if it woukd actually be cheaper to heat whole house with my gas central heating rather than just the one room. I don’t pretend to understand half of your post when it got technical, though the take away message for me is to turn off all unused sockets. Agree with Mrs Ermine my Dreamland heated throw has been one of my better buys. I also bought the heated poncho from Lakeland for WFH but even I had to send it back as I looked so ridiculous in it. Remember my nana’s friend had a single heated slipper 40 years ago, though she forgot she was in it one day and fell and broker her hip.!!!

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