Thoughts for Friday – 13th March 2015

Apologies to my regular readers who might have been expecting a post this time last week from me, I had some things to attend to outside of the blogging sphere which meant that I wasn’t able to put together another rambling post about the meandering nature of my life. Truth be told, it’s a wonder that anyone finds my wittering interesting at all!

super-nerd-intervieweeSome of you who have had the misfortune to know me well will be aware that I often spend far too much time in the left side of my brain, the side that deals with logic, sequences etc. ‘Analytical’ is a term the could be used to describe me, mainly because the first two syllables sum up how I come across at times – a bit anal.

Fear not, I am not going to subject you to a post about back-passages, although now I come to think of it, I’m sure I could come up with some puerile humour on the subject…

This week’s post is actually something far more exciting, I am going to talk to you about the wonderful new addition to my living space – a smart meter.

What do you mean that backsides are more interesting?!  What I shall speak of is of great importance when considering my own carbon footprint, as well as my electricity bill.

Although we’ve had it fairly easy compared to my fellow blogging pals in the US, the winter months in the UK aren’t exactly the warmest time of the year. It’s cold and it gets dark early, which in turn causes temperatures to drop even further.

2014-10-12 16.24.07

Condensation running down my wall

I moved into my current property in the summer of 2014, it wasn’t until the temperatures started dropping in late October/early November that I realised I had a big problem. The front door to my property is on ground level, while my living space is on the upper level with no door to separate the two areas. This has left me with a significant cold spot in the property and an open invitation for condensation to take up residence in my hallway/stairwell.

For those who are unfamiliar with this most annoying of phenomenons, listen closely to Heather B Costa’s science tutorial:

Condensation occurs when the physical state of matter changes from a gas phase to a liquid phase. Condensation typically occurs when a vapour is cooled or condensed to its saturation limit. In terms of condensation in properties, condensation is most often caused by warm air meeting cold surfaces, the water created by the change of vapour into liquid (i.e. water) causes the droplets to settle on these cold surfaces (i.e. your walls, ceilings, windows etc.)

*End of science lesson*

2014-10-12 16.24.16

Mould spores caused by condensation

I’m pretty sure that even the least scientifically minded of us knows that heat rises. When air vapour gets heated and then hits a cold surface (such as the coldest area of my property) its molecular properties are changed into water droplets that just so happen to love clinging to my walls and ceilings. Not only does this look unsightly, it can also caused real damage to the property and the spores created by mould can also by harmful to a person’s health.

Like any good tenant, my first port of call was to complain to my landlord that I had an issue. To give him due credit, he sent a roofer to my property within a couple of days. I had been convinced that the issue was a leak in the sloped roof, the specialist was convinced that the water running down my walls had been caused by condensation. I shall save us all a lot of time and trouble and cut to the point – the roofer was right, it was condensation.

My landlord agreed to pay for extra insulation in the roof and once the work had been carried out, I assumed that my condensation woes would be nothing more than a bad memory.

It turns out that I was wrong.

Cue another visit from the roof specialist who advised me that I needed to keep the stairwell at an equal temperature to the rest of my living space. This is easier said than done when you have no central heating to speak of. That only left me with one option: buying electric heaters instead.

This seemed like an easy fix to my condensation issues and also had the added bonus of keeping me warm and comfortable throughout the winter. The freezing temps be damned, I had overcome my condensation woes and fended off the cold. Victory was mine!

electricity_bill_182371cUntil I got my electricity bill through a few weeks ago.

I had racked up a frightening amount of usage and yet I couldn’t work out why. Just what was it that ate up electricity like a cop in a donut shop?

Thankfully for my bank balance, my utility company were offering to install a smart meter in my property which would enable me to actively gauge how much energy I was using, when I was using it, and how much it was costing me. I had the meter and monitor fitted last week and since then I have been like Donatella Versace with a cosmetic surgery brochure.

Imagine the fun I had walking around my property switching appliances on and off and watching the monitor spike wildly. I was alarmed to discover that the light bulbs in my property cost more to run than my TV and games console combined. Appliances such as the microwave and kettle also use an alarming amount of electricity compared to my cable TV box and wireless hub.

smart_meter_2I counted the amount of bulbs I would need to replace all of those in my property and decided that the initial outlay was worth it when compared to the amount it would cost me to keep the old energy-guzzling ones my landlord had provided me with. I have literally spent the last week skipping around (walking, actually) my property with my energy monitor in one hand and a pen and paper in the other, determined to save myself every last penny.

Where I had racked up nearly £100 worth of charges each month for the last three months (that’s electricity alone), I have now spent a measly £6 this past week in electricity usage and this will save me the best part of £65 each month compared with those previous. Bizarrely, trying to scrimp and save on every watt of electricity is actually rather fun, believe it or not. I think this may be the start of a new obsession for me – I can see spreadsheets and graphs in my future…

And yes, it was those damn electric heaters that cost me so much money. Next winter, I’m becoming an Eskimo.

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19 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

19 responses to “Thoughts for Friday – 13th March 2015

  1. Electricity is sooooo expensive. I once had an electrical heater for my recreation room in my basement. Stopped that quick as well. Glad you have that smart meter. I had no idea how they work. o_O

    • The smart meter works by communicating wirelessly with the utility company and also the hand-held display monitor that you’re given as part of the installation.

      The smart meter is constantly sending information so that you can track your energy usage in real-time, which is handy when it comes to finding out which appliances cost the most to run.

      I am definitely going to be insisting on my next flat having gas heating! 🙂

      • Are you thinking of moving?
        We have smart meters attached to our houses which feed information to the utility company. We don’t have hand held ones though. Might have to buy separately and pay for out-of-pocket am not aware of that here. Good idea, though: the hand-held device.

      • I am thinking of moving later this year now that I’ve got a promotion at work and a hefty pay rise to boot 🙂

        The smart meter and handheld device were offered free by my utility company and so I thought, ‘why not?’ and decided to get it installed.

        The handheld device is fantastic for getting real-time readings of just how much energy you’re using and how much it’s costing you.

      • Our utility company doesn’t give anything away free. Sounds this device is handy.

      • It is a very handy device 🙂

        I am sure that I read somewhere that the British government was offering financial benefits to utility companies who made a significant effort to become more transparent when it comes to energy and how much it costs the regular consumer.

        Utility companies are also being pressured to reduce the country’s carbon footprint and conserve fossil fuels, so it makes sense that the government would incentivise them to do so.

        What my current utility supplier is losing in revenue from energy-savvy customers, it is more than likely making up for in tax breaks….

      • We have a similar situation. We have guidelines to not use resources at peak times or the cost is more. People started taking these times to heart and were doing laundry and dish washers (the machine) off peak times. There was a drop in profits so they found a way to raise prices again. A large factory went bust and they cried foul and raised prices to make up for the shortfall. Grrr.

      • Unfortunately, these situations are indicative of the type of world we live in these days. The rich get richer, and the rest of us go bust.

      • Yeppers. Isn’t that the truth!

  2. Ugh, that can’t have been fun! But saving all that money is kind of good thing to come out of it 🙂

    • My electricity bill nearly gave me a heart attack when I read it. I was expecting it to be higher than normal, but nowhere near the region that it ended up costing me.

      Sad as it is, I’ve found it fascinating to discover which appliances cost the most to run, and some of the results have been pretty surprising…

  3. Spreadsheets??!!! No!!!! 🙂 Great post, and you really got into the process big time. But now you have to write one on back-passages too.

    • Ahhhh, I’ve already written a post or two on my love of spreadsheets, but perhaps I will spare you those for now…

      You should know that I am never one to turn down a challenge, expect a post on back passages in the near future… 🙂

  4. Only you can make electricity, condensation and mold interesting! Funny post! And please ignore the Snakes guy above me – no back passages posts, please. He doesn’t realize that you will take him at his word! Oh noooooo! *grin!*

    • I shall take your comments as a compliment, Kate 🙂

      ‘Snakes’ has set me a challenge, and you know I’m not one to turn down a challenge. Expect a post about back passages very soon!

  5. We used to have one of those until it gave up the ghost – you’ve reminded me how useful it was. As for condensation, we have a glass roofed dining extension to our kitchen and had got sued to mopping up condensation. Enter our Aldi bargain – an under £30 dehumidifier. Bye bye condensation … but maybe we should get another smart meter – after all, dehumidifiers don’t run on gas …

    • Thanks for commenting and apologies on my tardy reply, things have been hectic this week! 🙂

      Condensation is a real issue in the property that I currently live in and I have two small dehumidifiers that stay on 24 hours a day and that I have to empty at least 2-3 times a week.

      The good news is that they cost only a few pence per day to run, unlike the electric heater which ate up electricity like it was going out of fashion.

      Smart meters are definitely worth having, I’ve cut my electricity spend down even further this week 🙂

  6. Adan Ramie

    You’ve just stumbled upon one of the things I have obsessed over for years. Electricity and water use (and bringing them down!) are both high priority items for me. I can’t tell you how often I go behind my wife and children, turning off lights, changing the temperature, closing doors, checking for cracks around doors and windows… They hate the nagging, but no one seems to mind how much money we save on a monthly basis.
    Good luck, Heather — and keep an eye on that mold!

    • Thanks Adan! 🙂

      I am running the dehumidifiers constantly and have done all winter and so I don’t think my landlord can expect much more of me on the condensation prevention front. It is a design fault of the property that it has such a cold spot and it simply costs way too much money to run electric heaters as well.

      Apart from a front door, I don’t actually have any doors in my property, which makes trying to battle condensation a real nightmare. I’m one of those people who visits others and ends up switching their plug sockets off and turning off unused lights! 🙂

      Together, you and I will save the world (and our bank balances) one unit of electricity/water at a time! 😆

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