MAIN STORY: Winter is getting severe by the day. Soaring firewood price is also leading to kerosene shortage.
But there are options galore to heat homes. There are electric blankets and heaters. The thing is: electric bills at the end of this month come in scary numbers.
Living in one of the condensed neighbourhoods in Changzamtog is Sangay Tshering, 35. It is so cold that an electric heater doesn’t heat up his house. Frustrated, Sangay Tshering tried every possible ways from buying the expensive electric heaters to smoky kerosene heaters to keep his family warm and cozy in the cold season.
At the end of the month, however, Sangay Tshering must face the electricity bill. Winter is difficult for many people like Sangay. So the Bhutan Power Corporation has listed some basic tips about how to reduce electricity bills every month.
It all boils down to making home energy-efficient. Apart from such basic tips, there are plenty of other ways to retain heat inside and use electricity in an efficient way. There are energy-efficient heating appliances.
If you hear an eerie whistle and a rush of cool air blowing in through the gaps in windows or doors, your first intuition would be to block the openings or else the heat escapes through these openings.
There are plenty of options available in hardware stores to insulate the drafty windows and doors such as window insulation films, rubber sealing, layered curtains or hand-made fabric tubes that are placed on window sill and under a door to prevent cold air from creeping in.
There are other parts of the houses such as floors and ceilings, through which heat is lost as well.
Architect with Thimphu Thromde, Jigme Loday, offers essential tips to keep our home warm using electric heaters as less as possible.
Jigme Loday recommends installing storm windows or making sure that the windows at home are airtight by stuffing it with towel or any piece of cloth in between leaks. One can also use cheap shower curtains or clear plastic sheets over the windows that receive sunlight to keep the cold air out and retain the warm heat inside the house.
Also, one can ensure that sun hits the house as long as possible. One can do this by clearing obstructions such as plants or sheds that might keep the sun’s rays from reaching the house. One can also remove items leaning against the walls on a sunny side of the house and put them back again at night for additional insulation.
“You can also close off any unused rooms to stop air from circulating, which reduces heat loss. You can put down rugs and carpets to prevent heat loss through the cemented floor,” Jigme Loday said.
A lot of heat escapes through the attic, as warm air rises and cold air shrinks. Make sure that the attic has enough insulation.
“You can also do 20 minutes of vigorous exercise that can warm you up and keep you warm well after the exercise session. Plus, a healthy body is generally more tolerant to cold,” he said.
Architects blame the lack of willingness to spend on energy-efficient buildings.
There are several problems associated with traditional and modern concrete houses in the country. There is no thermal massing and insulation during the course of construction. Especially, air escapes from the roofs, walls and floors designed by Bhutanese. Openings like windows are not constructed with double glazed glasses to retain heat.
Traditional Bhutanese homes use good insulation materials, but there are just too many gaps through which air flows. The modern concrete houses lose heat as fast as it absorbs, Jigme Loday said.
|Tips to reduce electricity bills
• Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) reduce electricity consumption substantially.
• Do not put hot or warm food in the refrigerator.
• Insulate your home properly with the use of thick curtains, appropriate drapes, etc.
• Iron clothes and linen all at once.
• Do not keep your heaters, rice cookers, water boilers, geysers turned on more than necessary. All these equipment consume a lot of electrical energy.
• Keep refrigerator doors closed as much as possible.
• Avoid washing dishes under hot running water.
“One can also try putting a layer of Styrofoam under the carpet to insulate the floor,” he said. “Boxing the geysers and filling the gap with rock wool or insulators also prevent heat loss.”
A government employee, Pema Dorji, who lives in one of the traditional houses in Olakha, too has some tips on to retain heat in homes.
Pema Dorji uses a simple mixture of sawdust and adhesive like fevicol to fill up the gaps between wooden floorings. Sawdust is a good insulator. Since traditional houses also have single windowpanes, he uses double glaze windows in all the windows.
“Adding another glass to the window creates a gap and traps air between the two glass panes and helps retain heat. Same can also be done in the modern homes as well,” Pema Dorji said.
Pema Dorji also uses energy-efficient heating gadgets such a radiators and heaters with thermostats. He replaces old bulbs with fluorescent bulbs and uses sawdust briquettes instead of firewood.
“One will surely find a difference when the electricity bill arrives every month,” Pema Dorji said. “It is really good to have warmer homes and pay less for energy.”
By Thinley Zangmo