Should you see gloomy instead of sunny faces, when walking into any one of Cortona’s bars and restaurants, don’t be surprised, the energy crisis is hitting the sector hard.
A bar spending around E.2,300 for 10,031 kWh in July 2021 is now spending E.6,950 for the same consumption. An unsustainable figure, especially when one considers that domestic energy costs have also soared. (A genuine double whammy!)
With winter looming, the ‘energy crisis’ is taking precedence in Europe. According to a RAI news article in its economic sector (25.08.2022) “it’s not just the high-intensive energy companies that are having to deal with the increase in prices (electricity has risen by an average of 138% and gas by 228%), but also those companies affected by the general rise in raw materials. From bars to food distribution, from transport to methane distributors to steel, paper and ceramic industries. All very different sectors but with one common denominator: the risk of closure.”   
People are, naturally, calling for urgent measures from the government, but given that the crisis follows fast on the heels of Covid, whatever the government does, it’s unlikely to provide a safety net for everyone.
The knock-on effect will resound with us all. Inflation is already at 8.9% in the euro zone and likely to go higher; so, the question that begs itself, is what can one DO to weather the storm? Unfortunately, there seems to be a complete dearth of information as to how to really save on your energy bills.
Presumably, this means there is actually no real way, other than to consume less or, if you’re in a position to do so, use alternative forms of energy. Do-able for some, but not for the millions of town and city dwellers living in high-rise buildings or similar.
In an article entitled Gas Crisis – how to save money on your gas bill, (RAI news online 24.08.2022) Italy’s national agency for new technology (ENEA) gives the following suggestions:
Ø  Lower your thermostat from 20° to 19°.
Ø  Use central heating for one hour less each day.
Ø  Delay turning it on at all by 15 days.
Ø  And you’ll save E.178 over the course of the year.
Every penny counts as they say, but as advice goes, it’s pretty lame. It’s also an insult to all those people who have always been frugal with their consumption because they couldn’t afford hiked energy bills, even before the ‘energy crisis’.
The article also looks at alternative heating: According to the AIE (the Italian Association of Agroforestry Energy), a wood stove - heating an area of 100 sqm - will save you up to E.900 per annum compared to the cost of using methane gas (E. 1.650).  A pellet stove – for the same area – will save you up to E.700 per annum (although with the price of pellets having almost doubled in the last year this figure is likely to be untenable for the coming winter). So, if you are in a position to install a wood stove (and even a wood-fired hot water heater), now is definitely the time!
One can be a little bit more pro-active when it comes to savings on the electricity bill.
A useful starting point, is this breakdown of the biggest energy use categories in the typical (US) home.
Air conditioning and heating: 46 percent.
Water heating: 14 percent.
Appliances: 13 percent.
Lighting: 9 percent.
TV and Media Equipment: 4 percent.
More useful still is to sound out those devices that use the same power in standby as they do when powered up. Older appliances like fax machines and answering machines are a case in point. Microwave ovens don’t draw a lot of power per se, but the clock display will significantly add to your annual bill, as presumably do the clocks on various other appliances.
It all adds up! Especially if one considers how many appliances are plugged into the mains 24/7 - coffee maker, toothbrush charger, PCs, charging phones, always-on routers, DVRs, security systems, outside lighting, baby monitors, smart speakers etc…. they all consume electricity.
The good news is that one can measure and monitor energy usage with a simple and easily available gadget called an Electricity Usage Monitor (cost anything from E.6 to E.600+). It will tell you exactly how many kWh a device or appliance is drawing…even when it’s in sleep mode or on standby. A top 10 list of monitors can be found at this link:
Timers can also be intalled – for as little as E.9 - on a number of appliances, including broadband and Wifi.
If you’re looking for some tips as to how to make your home more energy efficient here is a list - sourced from the Direct Energy website – which has some useful insights. It is designed for US energy consumption, but quite a lot of it is applicable anywhere.
Some of it is just good common sense - especially the last tip which is a gem!
General – home maintenance
1.      Air seal your home by sealing cracks, gaps and leaks.
Ø  Add insulation – it can save you up to 10% on home heating and cooling costs.
2.      Replace your windows.
Ø  If your home has single-pane windows, consider replacing them with more energy efficient windows, or adding solar shades or tinting film.
3.      Clean or replace all filters in your home regularly.
4.      During warmer months, close blinds, shades and drapes on the sunny side of your home.
Ø  If you have AC this reduces its work – if you don’t, it will anyway keep your house cooler.
5.      Open shades during cooler months to let the sun warm your home.
6.      Don't leave your electronics on all day long.
7.      Only turn on your computer, monitor, printer and fax machine when you need them.
8.      Don't leave your mobile phone plugged in overnight.
Ø  It only takes a couple of hours to charge.
Heating – A/C
1.      Install a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the temperature according to your schedule.
2.      Set your thermostat to 78F in the summer and 68F in the winter.
Ø  Every degree of extra heating or cooling will increase energy usage by 6% to 8%.
3.      Use a ceiling fan.
Ø  If you have A/C the fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort.
4.      Watch your appliance placement.
Ø  Avoid placing appliances that give off heat, such as lamps or TVs, near a thermostat.
1.      Use natural light when possible.
2.      Change your light bulbs to LEDs.
3.      Control your fixtures with a photocell or timer.
Ø  This assures a dusk-to-dawn operation of your outdoor lights.
4.      Turn off the lights when they're not in use.
Ø  Lighting accounts for about 12% of a typical residential utility bill.
Stoves – microwaves
1.      Use your microwave instead of your stove when cooking.
2.      Don't peek in the oven while baking!
Ø  Every time you peek, the temperature can drop 25 F.
3.      Turn off the oven a few minutes before cooking time runs out.
Ø  Your food will continue to cook without using the extra electricity.
Refrigerators – freezers
1.      Refrigerators and freezers operate most efficiently when full, so keep your refrigerator and freezer as full as possible (using water bottles if nothing else).
Ø  Be careful about overfilling them as this will reduce airflow and cause the appliance to work harder.
2.      Set your refrigerator temperature to the manufacturer's recommendation to avoid excessive cooling and wasting energy.
3.      Defrost your refrigerator and freezer before ice build-up becomes 1/4-inch thick.
Dishwashers – clothes washers/dryers
1.      Using dishwashers and clothes washers/dryers at night will keep the house cooler
Ø  (* in Italy, electricity is cheaper between 8pm and 8am and on Sundays).
2.      Turn off ‘heated dry’ on your dishwasher and ‘air dry’ instead.
3.      Wash your clothes in cold water if possible.
4.      Don't leave bathroom or kitchen ventilation fans running longer than necessary.
Good sense
Dress for the weather.
Ø  When you're at home, dress in warm clothing in the winter and cooler clothing in the summer to stay comfortable without making your heater and AC work harder.
Team, 14/09/2022 09:44:47

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