my electricity challenge

For the last 12 months I have been trying to reduce the amount of electricity I use at home. It all started in August 2008 when my electricity bill arrived and my average daily usage was 19.54 kilowatt hours (kWh)!

19.54 what? To put this into context, in 2003 the average daily usage for Victorian households was 6,398 kWh, or 17.48 kWh a day. Whilst I am certain that figure has gone up in the last five years, I imagine I am using at least (if not more than) the average daily household usage. With only two adults in my average sized home, this is excessive!

Immediately I forked out for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) to replace my energy hungry incandescent globes. I also reshuffled some hard disk drives between two computers that were on 24/7 so that one could be shut down and only powered up when needed. The last change was to replace two of the hard disk drives in my 24/7 media centre PC with one ‘green’ hard disk drive.

These changes resulted in a welcome surprise on my next electricity bill. My average daily usage was down to 15.33 kWh – a 21% decrease. By being energy conscious (switching off lights and appliances when not needed) the third bill came in at 13.47 kWh – another 12% decrease.

It was now summer 2009 – air conditioning season. I have a split system inverter air conditioner, and I decided I would monitor my electricity usage more closely to see how much it used. On the infamous Black Saturday I consumed 24.56 kWh, and probably played my part in the blackouts that followed.

Over the next few months I monitored my usage every week or so, with my average daily usage coming in around 15 kWh. After returning from overseas in July, I decided it was time to reduce my usage even more.

Using a watt meter I checked all the appliances in my house to see what was using… errr… watt. The biggest users were my media center and web server PCs (~1.6 kWh a day each), and also the fridge in the kitchen (1 kWh a day) and the freezer in the garage (1 kWh a day).

The biggest surprise came from my study, where I have a PC and printer that is rarely used, and is shut down when not in use. I estimate that it is powered up every 3 weeks, however the standby power that it consumed whilst off was high – 40 watts or 0.96 kWh a day! It is now turned off at the power point, resulting in 0 kWh a day.

Other appliances I tested included the front loading washing machine (4 watts when switched off at the machine) and the cordless phone base station (6 watts).

The final change I am making is to replace the last of my energy hungry lighting – the eight 50 watt halogen downlights in my kitchen and dining area. In total they consume 0.4 kWh per hour, or 1.6kWh a day if they are on for four hours each night. I have had two of them replaced with CFL type downlights that consume only 11 watts each as a trial, however I am already sold and will organise to have the other six replaced ASAP.

The changes I have made in the last month have brought my usage down to around 13 kWh a day. I have set myself a target of 12kWh a day, which I think can be easily achieved, will save me money in the long run, and reduce my need for the grid.

HTC Magic is coming to 3!

HTC Magic (image courtesy of www.three.com.au)
HTC Magic (image courtesy of www.three.com.au)

3 Australia have announced that the second HTC phone running Google’s Android software, the HTC Magic, is coming soon to a 3 store near you!

No date, nor plans and pricing have been announced yet, but 3 have said it will only be available in black (Vodaphone seem to have the exclusive rights to the white Magic).

You can register your interest with 3, and they promise you will be the first to know once there is more information. It will be interesting to see just how much this will cost and what the the pricing and plan structure will be. Also, I for one am hoping existing 3 customers can upgrade their handset to the Magic, and keep their old plan/cap and pay off the handset over 24 months.

The Magic is skinnier than it’s older brother, the Dream, as it is not a slide phone. This means it does not have a physical keyboard like the Dream, as it makes use of Android’s on screen keyboard. This is a big plus for me – I have a dislike for slide phones, and I have always felt the Dream was a little bit like a small brick!

Canon PowerShot SX1 IS – first look

In preparation for my first trip overseas, I decided that it was time to demote my Sony DSC-P100 (I have the fast red model) to party/fun camera, and upgrade to something a little more powerful.

Trying to decide what camera to replace it with was a world of hurt with so many makes and models and features to choose from. I wanted the ability to shoot video, SD memory card support, lots of control (shutter speed and aperture priority, among other things) and it had to cost me less than $1000.

What I quickly realised was that I was after a certain type of digital camera – a bridge digital camera.

After some research, I narrowed down my choice to the Panasonic DMC-FZ28 and the Canon SX1 IS. I won’t compare the two for you – plenty of other sites do that already, but because of the better (and stereo) microphones and the longer zoom, the Canon won the battle.

Canon PowerShot SX1 IS (image courtesy canon.com.au)
Canon PowerShot SX1 IS (image courtesy canon.com.au)

The Canon PowerShot SX1 IS

The SX1 IS packs a 10 mega pixel CMOS sensor, 20x optical zoom lens, and records movies at the full high definition resolution of 1920×1080 pixels.

It features optical image stabilisation, a 2.8″ articulated LCD (‘vari-angle’ – the LCD swings out and can be rotated), RAW image capture out of the box (the firmware update for RAW support is already applied), face and motion detection and the Dig!C 4 image processor.

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