Save energy – save money

IN these days of rising prices, when you may get no change from RM2 for your kopi c kosong, who isn’t interested in ways to save money? During this past festive season, didn’t we hit the road to chase down the best offers in the cheapest supermarkets, and wait in line to park before joining the mad scramble over red onions, garlic and ginger etc?

MONEY SAVER: Using a solar water heater can help cut down on energy use.

MONEY SAVER: Using a solar water heater can help cut down on energy use.

‘Well, ways to save money may lie no further than learning how to save energy. This is what participants discovered during a Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem) half-day workshop under the RE and Save Roadshow.

‘Jointly organised by Cetdem; the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water; Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda); and the Prime Minister’s Department with assistance from the Malaysian Nature Society, Kuching Branch (secretariat), the workshop aimed to raise awareness and understanding on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

SAVE ENERGY: Gurmit emphasises a point during the workshop. Also seen is Barbara.

SAVE ENERGY: Gurmit emphasises a point during the workshop. Also seen is Barbara.

Presented by Cetdem board chairman and founding executive director Gurmit Singh, and Cetdem staff member Barbara Bakanjim, the workshop was one of a series held nationwide.

Gurmit first ran through some basics on carbon. He then described how Malaysia administers its energy.

We learned that Malaysia:
l administers oil and gas under the Prime Minister’s Department, not the Ministry of Energy,
l has sufficient reserve power generating capacity if the power generated is used efficiently,
l has a National Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan – April 2, 2010,
l offers a Feed in Tariff programme, run under Seda, whereby people can generate electricity by installing photovoltaic panels on their rooftops (by recognised installers) and sell the energy back to the local energy authority – the programme is not operating in Sarawak yet,
l currently subsidises electricity bills.

Gurmit then focused on ways we in Malaysia can save energy. Firstly, he pointed out that 70 to 78 per cent of the energy we use is in the form of fuel for transportation (according to Cetdem studies in Petaling Jaya in 2006 and in Kajang in 2007 respectively).

The biggest savings can be made here if we explore some of the following strategies:
l plan our trips
l carpool
l use alternative transport
l walk whenever possible
l use a motorbike or cycle for short distances (cycling is most efficient for distances of up to 5km)
l use public transport
l clean car air filters
l reduce car air conditioner use during the rainy season.

Gurmit also spoke about how to keep the heat out of one’s house and install photovoltaic panels to generate electricity.

Then we moved to the humble electricity bill that arrives on our doorstep every month. Gurmit, an electrical engineer by training, revealed to us the main home electricity guzzlers – refrigerators and air conditioners. We learnt the zero-cost actions we can take to reduce air conditioning power consumption: closing doors and windows by day to stop hot air entering the house, obviously switching off units when not needed, increasing the temperature setting, reducing the blower fan speed and using a fan instead (and certainly not at the same time).

Another approach, requiring some research effort and investment, is to switch to energy-efficient appliances. Look for appliances labelled with the 5-star energy rating and a figure for average kilowatt hour (kWh) per year, and buy based on that.

Also be aware that Seda has an initiative to encourage energy efficiency by offering rebates on the purchase of selected energy-efficient refrigerators and air conditioners with a 5-star rating (depending on one’s eligibility and quota availability at

Then came the energy audit – the part of the workshop where each participant tried to work out where his or her household energy was going, based on the three latest electricity bills. We needed to figure out the average monthly usage, in kWh and then calculate the total energy used per month by getting our heads around the likely wattage of the appliances in our homes and the hours per month we used each of them. It felt like being at school all over again, except that we used the calculators on our cell phones.

I must admit that when the power bill arrives every month, I skip the bits about tariff and go straight to the due date and amount due – so as not to rack up an RM10 surcharge worth at least five coffees at the local coffee shop.

Here, the average household item power rating list provided to us was really revealing – the greediest appliances on the list were:
l electric clothes dryer (up to 3,500 watts)
l instant water heater (up to 3,300 watts)
l storage water heater – 55 litres (3,000 watts)
l air cooled split air conditioning unit (up to 2,800 watts)
l electric oven and electric kettle (each up to 2,400 watts)
l electric cooker – large ring (2,100 watts).

Other appliances to watch are the front-loading washing machine (up to 1,800 watts), vacuum cleaner (up to 1,600 watts), electric iron – steam (up to 1,450 watts) and even the humble rice cooker, which can drain as much as 1,550 watts. So mind how you go when you use these appliances, if you want to save.

Gurmit also mentioned the ‘energy vampire’ – standby capacity on the satellite decoder, computers etc, which are also continually producing heat to make your home more uncomfortable – in developed countries appliances on standby account for 7 per cent of electricity usage.

So the message is clear – let’s learn to understand what we are spending on the various forms of energy that we use, then modify our behaviour accordingly, and remember …
l close windows and doors by day to keep out the hot air
l switch off and unplug
l heat water and cook with gas rather than electricity
l dry your clothes in the fresh air
l take cold baths or install a solar water heater
l run the washing machine on full load and iron clothes in batches
l get wise to power ratings and change to energy efficient appliances.

The Malaysian Nature Society
Established in the 1940, the Malaysian Nature Society is the oldest scientific and non-governmental organisation in Malaysia. Our mission is ‘to promote the study, appreciation, conservation and protection of Malaysia’s nature heritage’. Our 5,000-strong membership, spread across 12 branches nationwide, come from all walks of life, bound by a common interest in nature. For further information on membership or our activities in Kuching, call Kwan on 019-8349499. For information on our activities in Miri, call Nazeri Abghani on 085-453185. You can also visit or

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