Electric kettles use power. LOTS of power.

I have an electric kettle. It’s pretty fast to boil water, but wow, does it burn up electricity.

Here you can see our live electricity meter thingy on the fridge. On the left, a couple of lights are on, as well as the fridge and I think a computer was on as well. On the right — the kettle is boiling as well.

Power consumption - On the right is when the kettle was turned on

Conclusion: Put just the water in the kettle that you need; don’t fill it up every time if you’re only making a cup of tea or two. It’s not just quicker, but it uses a lot less power.

Update Wednesday 9:30pm: Some information from an Origin Energy insider (they are my power provider, and supplied the meter), in reply to the post and some of the comments.

The comments on your blog are correct. Almost all electrical appliances should have a power consumption label in an inconspicuous place that will tell you the maximum power consumption. Kettles are normally around 2200W. It’s interesting to see how much energy heating and cooling systems use – even ducted gas heating and evaporative cooling which require powerful fans to propel air through the house.

Your energy monitor will continue to work if you leave Origin BUT it may not show your energy costs accurately. It will stop showing costs completely after (I think) six months, because they didn’t want out of date energy costs being shown indefinitely. Your electricity consumption in kW will continue to be displayed indefinitely.

If you do a factory reset though it will lose the connection with your smart meter and Origin will have no ability to reconnect it, as only the current electricity retailer can do this. However, if you are in the United Energy or Jemena distribution areas you can use their ‘Energy Easy’ portal to reconnect it (you should be in the UE area?) You would love the Energy Easy portal anyway as you can do all kinds of number crunching on your electricity consumption (but not see it in real time).

Standing on the inside looking out – graphing my house temperature in the heatwave

So, how did my old wooden house cope with the heat?

It’s not brilliant, but it’s also not unbearable.

I was at home most of Tuesday, and graphed the temperature rise. Inside temperature from the thermostat / Outside from the BOM Moorabbin Airport readings.

Inside vs outside temperatures in my wooden house, 14/1/2014

Unlike last time (2010), the overnight temperature had been a lot warmer, and thanks to this being just day one of a four-day heatwave, in the evening it didn’t drop off allowing the house to cool down.

The roof insulation that we have now made a little bit of a difference I think, but undoubtedly we saw the inside temperature slowly rise across the day. Better window protection is what’s really need to fight off the heat coming in, I suspect.

The additional fans we have make a real difference to comfort levels, even if they don’t seem to affect the temperature reported by the thermostat. Ceiling fans in two main rooms (plus a third in one of the bedrooms) plus portable fans help make it bearable.

Overnight Wednesday/Thursday the outside temperature dropped a bit more — down as low as 24 at midnight — allowing us to cool the house just a little from outside. As I write this, the thermostat reports 28 degrees. But to really cool the house will have to wait for the cool change on Friday afternoon.

And, in time, I’ll keep considering further house upgrades such as external blinds, window glazing, wall insulation, and the dreaded evaporative cooling and/or air-conditioning.

(By the way, if anybody had an appointment at the mobile Blood Bank in Bentleigh this week, they’ve cancelled the session due to the heat.)

Power consumption

Meanwhile, some interesting reading:

– Stuff like this makes me ponder that it’s a little unfair that some areas likely to see power cuts caused by the stress put on by those with juice-hungry air-con, but which affects everybody — whether or not they have air-con, and whether or not they are offsetting their grid usage with solar. Surely in the age of smart meters, they could limit everybody to X kilowatts off the grid?

Anybody else getting dodgy texts about a United Energy power surge?

Has anybody else had one of these, possibly dodgy, texts?

Possibly dodgy text from an alleged United Energy contractor

This is the second one I’ve received now. After the first I replied “Wrong number” and got a “Sorry” back, but the guy is persistent.

Something smells fishy. Note the supposed pick-up date, which is last Thursday, three days before the text was received.

When I mentioned it on Twitter last night, Marcus Wong noted that there was a power surge around that day (actually on the 11th if the 3AW article is accurate), on the Mornington Peninsula.

United Energy is a distributor, not a retailer — many people in Melbourne’s south-east are connected via them, even if another company is the one sending them the bills.

Of course, it could just be a wrong number plus poor record-keeping. The number of emails I get for someone, who apparently shares my name but has no idea of their own email address, is amazing.

Going solar – when should I jump, and how many panels?

Pondering adding to the solar hot water on my roof with PV panels for electricity generation.

My last electricity bill says I used up 659 kWh in 92 days, costing $187.61 (only including the cost for power and the 100% GreenPower surcharge; excluding the $76.41 service charge which I’d incur no matter how much power used)… that adds up to 2614 kWh in a year costing $744.32, or about 28.5 cents per kWh.

According to Origin Energy’s online quote (which I’m using as a rough measure, because I use them at the moment and they have a 2-years interest-free deal — obviously other companies may have better offers):

  • a 1.5 kW system costing $2315 will generate about 1971 kWh in a year
  • a 2.07 kW system costing $4315 (which includes a $250 discount because I got the solar hot water through them) will generate 2628 kWh in a year
  • a 2.76 kW system costing $5815 (ditto on the $250 discount) will generate 3626 kWh in a year

Leaving aside feed-in tariffs, and assuming for a moment that every kWh generated I actually use (which wouldn’t be the case), theoretically the 1.5 system would save me $562 per year, taking about 4 years to pay off.

The 2.07 system would pretty much save me the full cost of power every year, but take almost 6 years to pay off.

The 2.76 system would give me an excess of about 1000 kWh of power each year. The feed-in tariff is only 8 cents per kWh these days, so I’d be saving $744 plus another $80 or so, so it’d take about 7 years to pay off.

Some factors to consider:

If I cave and get some kind of cooling system, then my energy consumption will of course go up.

From what I understand, PV panels are dropping in price pretty fast. The longer I wait, the cheaper they’ll be (which is why I’m a little cynical about the ads you see on the telly implying if you don’t get in and order quickly, you’ll end up paying more).

Meanwhile, electricity prices are expected to rise only moderately in the next few years.

The bigger the system, once paid off, the greater potential in future years to make more money back from the feed-in tariff.

But I also need to check how much space I actually have left on the north and northwest-facing sides of my roof, given the solar water panel already up there.

And of course, once I jump in and switch to solar, I’ll be markedly reducing my personal emissions, which will be good!

Yallourn: impressively big, but inefficient

On the way back from Walhalla, we decided (at Peter’s suggestion) to go via Yallourn. He said there was a lookout with a good view over the Latrobe Valley, and the power plants, and the road through Yallourn was very close to one of them..

We started off by diverting off the road to a spot called Peterson’s lookout. This turned out to be a long narrow dirt road to a view which, you’d have to say, wasn’t outstanding — but reading up on it now it sounds like we needed to go a little further down the road for the real view.

In any case there was a better more-accessible view a bit further along, on the main road itself. Looking over the Valley, you could see a fair bit of haze, and many smokestacks in various directions.

(Andrew Highriser actually posted just yesterday about who owns which power station.)

We drove on, stopping briefly in the town of Yallourn North, which apparently originally opened as the romantically named “Brown Coal Mine” in 1917, and was renamed in 1947. There’s still a Brown Coal Mine Road leading into the eastern side of town, though the signs seem to have disappeared in favour of the less descriptive C103.

Big cooling towers

A little further on was the power station itself. It looms, huge, over the road. We stopped off in the viewing area, which has a picnic barbecue, powered by — you guessed it — electricity.

The cooling towers are impressively large.

Of course, they often shows these on the news when talking about carbon emissions, even though (as I understand it) it’s steam that comes out of them, not the smoke from burning coal.

Down the road a bit was an open cut mine viewing area. It’s not hard to see how decades of mining for coal has ravaged the landscape. It ain’t beautiful, that’s for sure.

Latrobe Valley power stations

But one could argue that farms of wind turbines or solar panels or dams aren’t beautiful either. You know, eye of the beholder and all that.

The real problem is the emissions. Yallourn isn’t as dirty as Hazelwood, but as this table notes, coal sits at about 1000 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour over the lifecycle of the generator, compared with about 10 for wind or hydroelectric, or 32 for solar.

Grams CO2/Kilowatt hour

In other words, even the cleanest coal is much, much dirtier than renewables.

And while there might be doubts about a single renewable source being able to provide baseload power, other countries such as Germany are using a variety of sources, with a stated aim of 35% renewable electricity by 2020, and 80% by 2050. Impressive stuff, and I bet we get more sun than they do.