28 February 2014


Published by The Star 26th February 2014

Ways to reduce electricity consumption at home

In this first part of a 2-part series on reducing electricity consumption, we concentrate on the home. The next part will look at reducing electricity usage in the workplace.
How much do you pay for electricity every month? If you lead a simple lifestyle, maybe your bill is only RM50-60 a month. But if there are several people living in your home, using numerous electrical
appliances, you could be paying a few hundred ringgit every month.

If the latter describes you, the recent hike in electricity tariff will have hit you hard. But the truth is, a tariff hike is inevitable, with the way gas prices are increasing worldwide. Malaysia’s reserves of this once-abundant resource are rapidly depleting, we have begun importing gas, and we have to start conserving what we have left for our future generations.

Let’s begin by making simple changes in our daily routine to keep energy usage low. It will cost us nothing in terms of money and effort, but the rewards are plenty.

Switch off, but beware the power vampire

The simplest way to reduce electricity consumption is to follow the mantra: “switch off when not in use”. Lights, air conditioners and fans need not be left working when you are not in the room. For televisions, the wider your screen, the more electricity it consumes.

But why not take a step further and switch them off at the source/wall plug – even better, unplug the  appliance. What we call the “power vampire” sucks out energy even when appliances are on standby mode. Any indicator lights and digital displays are all signs of electricity being drained and are added to your bill.

Making things more efficient

Air-conditioners: Ideally, temperatures should be set at 24-26°C – a comfortable temperature without resorting to sweaters and blankets. Also, air conditioners should be installed away from direct sunlight,  serviced regularly and be of a horsepower suited to the size of the room. This will make sure they perform optimally. Close windows and doors when the air-conditioner units are in use.
Air Conditioning Sizing

Refrigerators: Make sure that it is not located near a cooker, stove or oven and not exposed to direct sunlight. There should be adequate space above, behind and around it for air circulation. Adjust its temperature according to the contents load – never pack contents tightly in a fridge. A suitable temperature is 15°C and for the freezer compartment, - 18°C. Never let the frost build up to exceed 6mm and always switch off when defrosting. Ensure that all excess water is removed before restarting.

Check that door gaskets are in good condition – use a sheet of paper, if it can be removed easily from the door when closed, then the door gasket needs to be replaced. The same goes for the door gaskets of ovens and microwave ovens. Inspect them regularly for signs of wear and tear.

Irons: Steam irons use more electricity than dry irons, because of the extra element of water which has to be heated up. Ironing clothes in one big session is also more energy efficient than ironing them piecemeal.

Washing machines: If you have a washing machine, run it only on a full load, but do not overload. Avoid  using the hot washing cycle, whenever possible.

Lights: Change your lights to energy efficient ones. And if you can afford it, change your bulbs to light  emitting diodes (LED), as they last much longer; consume less energy; are eco-friendly; durable; light up  instantly; and can be switched off and on frequently without affecting its lifetime or light emission. 

Look for energy labels 

Look for energy stickers on certain appliances, such as air-conditioners, fans, refrigerators and televisions. The number of stars given (1-5) indicates how energy-efficient the appliance is (more stars mean less energy used). The sticker should also tell you how much energy you can save with this appliance, compared to an average 3-star model. 

Understand your electricity bill 

Your electricity usage is calculated in kilowatts per hour (kWh). The kilowatts used depend on the size and amount of electrical appliances used in your house (ranging from small items like lights and phone chargers to large appliances like refrigerators). The more appliances you have and the bigger the capacity, the more electricity you will use.

The ‘hour’ in kWh is calculated on the duration that the electrical appliances are used. Obviously, the longer they are turned on, the more electricity they consume.

Do your own energy audit!

Find out how much electricity your home appliances use. All you need to know are:

  1. Power rating / energy usage of the appliance
  2. Number of hours you use the appliance
  3. The electricity tariff
Below is an example of an energy audit for a 300W TV set used for an hour a day

If the TV is used an hour a day, the cost for a month is RM1.80.
If it is used for 5 hours a day, the cost will be RM9.00.
The example on the TV is from the National Water and Energy Consumers Association (WECAM), an NGO dedicated to implementing the sustainable use of water and energy. Contact them if you need any  information on energy conservation and energy efficiency:



email: general@wecam.org.my

Tenaga Nasional also has an energy audit calculator on their website:


Saving electricity improves the bottom line

In the second piece of a 2-part series on energy conservation and energy efficiency, we will look at reducing electricity consumption in the workplace. 
It’s not looking good for your business, your accountant tells you. Operational costs are increasing, the employees are asking for a wage increase and the recent electricity tariff increase is cutting into your profit margins. 
So you have decided that from next week onwards, the office will be undergoing an austerity drive. The air-cond will only be turned on for four hours a day, staff are to work beside the windows so that lights can be turned off and no computers will be  allowed – everything has to be handwritten.

Hang on now! Before you make such drastic changes, how about taking more moderate and practical measures that will help to reduce electricity consumption without sending your staff back to the Dark Ages?

Just like in the home, there are many easy and cost-effective steps towards reducing your electricity bill. Saving electricity helps a company to reduce its operating costs and ultimately improves the bottom line. It also helps to significantly reduce its carbon footprint and enhances the company’s corporate image as a responsible business that cares for the environment.

Conduct an energy audit

An energy audit of the workplace will help you to assess how much electricity is being used in the office/building/facility, where energy is being wasted and what measures can be taken to be more energy  efficient.

The good news is, you do not have to specifically employ an Energy Manager to conduct energy audits. You can contact TNB Energy Services Sdn Bhd (TNBES) to carry out walk-through audits or comprehensive audits, and help you strategise your energy savings. Their main business is in green energy and their emphasis is on Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Consultancy services.

Make energy efficiency a workplace policy

Energy conservation and energy efficiency in the workplace must be embraced and practiced by all the employees. Begin by educating everyone in the workplace. Create an energy-efficient work culture and inculcate a sense of responsibility among them. Remind them that it is everyone’s duty to use less resources, help save the environment and that only a concerted effort will succeed. Encourage them to come up with new ideas to reduce electricity consumption.

Here are some measures that can be implemented to conserve energy:

Lights: Designate a person and/or leave instructions that the last person to leave a room or the office is to ensure that all the lights are switched off. Switch off the lights if you are leaving the room for longer than a few minutes, or if daylight is adequate. If you are working in one part of a room, isolate the lights to that area only. Rearrange the workspace and keep windows clean to take advantage of natural lighting, as studies show that it enhances productivity. An energy audit would have shown whether there is excessive lighting in work or common areas.
IT equipment: These gadgets and machines consume a lot of electricity. Below are some tips to use them more efficiently.

• Use energy saving features available on electronic equipment.

• Optimise energy settings on your computer, for example, shut off the monitor or put the computer on sleep mode when you are away for short periods of time. Screen savers do not save energy.

• Switch off office equipment when not in use. Make sure nothing is left on standby mode. It is a myth that frequent shutdown can shorten the lifespan of computers.
• Label equipment and switches so that it is clear how to switch something on when it is needed.

• Unplug devices that are not in use.

• Use energy efficient equipment – look for energy labels. Remember: the more stars, the better.

• Switch from desktop computers to laptops.

• Replace ageing printers and copiers. Consider replacing separate devices with a single multifunctional machine as it consumes less electricity. Choose new devices with a fast warm-up time.

Printers: The printer is one of the most used office items. You can reduce printer use by not printing copies of every version of a report or project. Save copies on your computer and print only when the need arises. Print in fast/economical mode.

Air-conditioners: These are the biggest energy guzzlers in a workplace. Position thermostats away from draughts, direct sunlight and near machinery or equipment that gives off heat, as this will ensure that they give the accurate temperature. Keep doors and windows closed when air-conditioners are in use. Make sure that the air-conditioners and/or systems are regularly maintained to save energy and operating costs. If the units or systems need renewing, install energy-efficient equipment. To ensure that air-conditioners are truly effective, keep the cool air in by adding insulation to the walls and ceilings. Coat windows with heat rejection window films to reduce UV rays that enter.

Kitchen equipment: Make sure you use the kettle, refrigerator and microwave oven efficiently. Avoid leaving the refrigerator door open for longer than is necessary. Only fill the kettle with the amount of water you need. Unplug the kettle and microwave when not in use.

Workspace: Use cubicles instead of rooms, as cubicles share light sources and air-conditioning.

Behavioural changes: Employers can motivate staff to change their behaviour by providing incentives, such as holding inter-department competitions, giving rewards and encouraging leadership in energy management.

Until December 2015, the government is offering incentives to all companies that wish to embark on energy efficiency projects in their installation. Companies have to apply to Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) and the Energy Commission for evaluation of the viability of the projects. Companies that receive approval will be eligible for Investment Tax Allowance, Pioneer Status, as well as Sales Tax and Import Duty Exemption.

Contact TNB ES to arrange for an energy audit or review for your workplace. Tel: 03 7662 5111; email: enquiry@tnbes.com.my ; website: http://www.tnbes.com.my/
  • Pan Swee Chin is a freelance writer, currently working with the Centre of Strategic Engagement (CENSE).

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