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Saving electricity - off isn't off!

The quiescent power consumption around here is approximately 90 to 91 volt amps (VA). To make life easy, just assume a VA is equal to a Watt.
It isn't...the Power Factor depends upon whether the device is an inductive load such as a switch mode power supply, or a resistive load such as a kettle, but you can see how quickly things can get really complicated, so let's just assume VA is similar to watts.

What I have running is the Pi, the Vonets WiFi gizmo, some fans, and a network switch.
What I have plugged in, but off, is the PC, monitors, and various power bricks (mostly for phone charging).

All in all, ~90VA. Which if we consider we are billed in units which are equal to a thousand watts (more or less 1000VA) for an hour, means it's a pretty small amount of consumption.

But, alas, the price of electricity has risen sharply in France. It used to be about €0,1013 per kilowatt hour. It is now €0,1374 (not quite €0,14). A little over three centimes on ten? That's a third.
Note that the prices I am quoting are literally as written on my bill. They are the raw kilowatt hour prices without tax (20%) or service provision (about €25 inc. tax).

Now on the face of it, there is little justification for this as France only has something like 8% of its power generation being from gas. The majority is nuclear.
The change came in sort of at the beginning of February after a government approval process (things like this are still regulated in France) so Russian gas didn't have anything to do with it. Rather, I think the price hike is partly due to Covid and the knock-on effects of that, and also because somebody wants paid back for all the rewiring and smart meters that have been installed in recent years. It's a huge outlay. For me, alone, not only the smart meter but several concrete poles and a half kilometre of suspended wire, four cores (three phase), plus the complete removal of the existing setup that had been around since 1968. Repeat that for the thousands of other semi-remote properties, plus all of the work in extending and rewiring the higher voltage (11kV-20kV) parts to better balance things out as consumption these days is not what it was in the previous millennium. It all adds up to quite an expense.
The government has opted for a "tariff shield" to limit the rise in the price of electricity to 4% in 2022. According to the CRE (Commission de Régulation de l'Energie), the rise would be about 44.5% without it. So I'm not sure quite how the price can rise by a third. That's hardly 4%.

So with this in mind, it can't hurt to see if there are a few simple things that can be done to economise.

The fridge consumes about 80VA when it is running. It doesn't run constantly, and since it's keeping my food cold and thus preventing me getting ill, I'll leave it.

Most of the bulbs (all of the ones I use) are now LED bulbs. They burn 6W instead of 60-75W.

The Livebox is quite power hungry. Consuming 22VA, it alone counts for around a quarter of the consumption. Not much that can be done about that, it's either working or it isn't.

Likewise, I would imagine a similar amount is being claimed by the Pi/Vonets/etc. This server is always on, so it'll stay that way.

I tried unplugging the inkjet printer. This saved me about 3VA. Oddly, it uses around 2-3VA when switched on (yes, it seems it can use less than when it is off!) rising to around 7-8VA when actually printing (squirting ink, plus moving the head and feeding paper using motors).

There is a small power strip in the living room with three switchmode power supplies. One is for a Livephone handset (which was charged), one a USB charger with nothing plugged in, and the last a dinky little thing for running the weather station. It doesn't take a lot of power for that, it runs perfectly well for months on three AA cells.
Flipping the switch on that made no discernable difference to the VA reading on the meter; as at that time both the USB and the Livephone would not be supplying any power to anything.

The PC has a power supply that is always generating a tiny bit of power. The power button is a software button, not a hardware one, and the machine can (in the BIOS) be set to do stuff like Wake-on-LAN. Physically unplugging the PC and its monitor caused a drop of about 14VA...which is actually pretty bloody horrendous when we consider the ADSL router, fully active, is only taking around 8VA more than two things that are supposed to be "off". I would imagine it's the PC, not the monitor.


Thus, by properly unplugging three things, I have saved about 17VA.

Electricity consumption
Electricity consumption.


There is more to do. For example, there is something at the back of my room that consumes around 10VA, with a fairly high (~40VA) startup surge. Is this the VCR? I thought I unplugged that. I'll need to move the boxes and stuff and go look... some time. Not today. ☺

The Pi's monitor is pretty efficient. It appears to consume 1-2VA when off. Getting a power strip with individual switches is on the agenda, but this isn't a "must do it now" option.


Still, I have already cut the consumption down to around 73VA, and it looks like I may (when I get around to it) be able to reduce that further, to around 62VA. That would be a third less. Just by leaving the essentials running and physically disconnecting everything else.


Longer term plans. There's only me here now. I do not need a 200 litre hot water heater. The one that is currently fitted is rusty and old, so at some point it might make sense to switch this for a hundred litre one. That should mean it'll take half the time, and power, to heat water for a bath.

Also worth considering is to see if there is an arrangement like we had in England that had a small secondary heating element at the top of the tank. Thus, if you only wanted a shower, you'd switch that one on and heat the top third of the tank rather than the entire thing.

The water heater is currently on, as I'm planning on having a bath tomorrow after work. As I will have the hot water, I'll fill two and a half buckets from the hot tap and tip them into the washing machine. About forty degrees, no heating required! Granted, the machine only has to heat about 25 litres so it can do it in 35-40 minutes (roughly), but since there's lots of hot water, why not use it and save over half an hour of 2kW...well, that's a smidgen over a unit right there, two and a half buckets will save €0,15-€0,20. Plus allow the washing cycle to complete in less time as I won't be waiting on heating anything. Win!


And, so, to you.
As much as I might lament the rise in electricity prices in France, I'm well aware that it's all going batshit crazy in Britain.

  • Are you using LED bulbs? You can get a range of brightnesses (equal to 40W, 60W, 75W, 100W) and either cold white (blue like as daylight bulb) or warm white (reddish like a tungsten bulb). They consume something like 6W-11W, so you could literally illuminate most rooms of a house for the same consumption as one old tungsten bulb.
  • Do you have things plugged in that don't need to be? Most modern switchmode chargers and power bricks use very little electricity; but the older style transformers aren't so efficient.
  • Do you have things plugged in that don't need to be? No, you don't need the little glowing timer on the microwave. Unplug it, and if it blinks 00:00 when you plug it back in, it's no big deal.
  • Do you have things that are "off" when off means some sort of self-controlled standby? Still consuming something - unplug it.

This is, of course, better if you have a smart meter that provides an instantaneous readout of consumption, so you can see what effects your changes are making.

For my case, I cannot say how much I will technically save, as the intermittant things (heating, water heater, kettle, fridge, water pump) are all big consumers of electricity. However the background consumption dropping 20VA, with a potential extra 10VA to do, it's like somewhere between a quarter and a third saving, and honestly, I did practically nothing. The only hassle will be "plugging things back in when I want to use them" instead of just prodding the power button. The potential savings will outweigh the annoyance factor. And when I get switched sockets, it'll be two prods instead of one. What annoyance? ☺



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Rob, 7th April 2022, 22:31
I managed to save ~200W turning off the sockets in my spare room/workshop - this covered TV, DVD, VCR, couple of monitors and a printer. Turned off some other things, printers, etc. Still drawing ~1.2KW according to the smart-meter's display, with nothing "heat making" running. So I have further work to do, and will indeed be physically turning more things off. I might have to invest in some smart-switches to control power to some of the servers in the attic, as that will give me the opportunity to switch them back on remotely - sometimes the climb up two flights of stairs and a ladder to switch them on when needed is a bit annoying.. maybe I should look at Wake-on-LAN in the meantine. 
As for prices... I'm jealous. Even with your rise, it's substantially lower than over here - I'm currently on a fixed rate deal with EDF that has me at 17.8p/kWh plus 24.4p/day for the next year, and that's a bargain - current standard rate is 28.02p/kWh plus 42.25p/day, with promise of another major hike in six months.
VinceH, 9th April 2022, 02:13
I'm also on a fairly good fix that won't end for just over another year - 21.9p/kWh, and 21.4p/day. 
(My previous supplier went under fairly early and I realised where things were going - though if anything I underestimated how bad - so took a two year deal that was a touch higher than the one year deals I found that would be ending soon.) 
My bill is typically around £30/month in total (but billed quarterly). Per day it varies between 80p and £1.20 - the higher end if I cook in the oven. (I have an air fryer now, so there will be a lot less of that!) 
At this moment, I'm not home - I'm at my parents' house, dogsitting - so *everything* is off ATM except for the fridge freezer, and I've popped in to check the numbers. It uses 0.875kWh/day - equating to a touch over 19p/day (plus the 21.4p standing charge). 
Obviously, when not where I am now, I'm currently at home all day, usually sat in front of a computer, and there are typically other things on as well, such as the PVR. 
As for heating and water, it's a communal system where I pay a contribution with my rent, and get a statement in October-ish for my use up to the end of March. I'm £280ish in credit from March last year, but I won't know this year's figure for a while yet. My expectation is that credit will increase, but not by as much - so maybe £400-£450 in total. The reason is because the control knob on my living room radiator broke - so I've had the heating on 24/7 since October when it broke (by way of a pair of pliers) but only on low until recently. I tried turning it down a couple of weeks ago, but it feels like it's now on full, so it's probably broken inside. 
The timing makes it bearable - the communal heating will go off soon, so I won't run up a huge bill to eat into that credit, giving me plenty of time to get it fixed before it's needed again. 
Rick, 17th April 2022, 16:39
Upon rereading this, I feel I should point out that a bad offender in energy use is a satellite receiver. In order to keep the EPG correct and up to date, when you switch it to standby, it turns the indicator red and blanks the screen. Everything else is fully functional and it is still receiving data from the satellite, it's just not showing you anything. 

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