With Europe pitched into energy uncertainty and some Belgians braced for annual bills of up to €9,000 from September, households are keeping a watchful eye on their energy usage.
With some experts predicting that the price of gas will more than quadruple in Belgium next year and with electricity prices also on the rise, even the smallest of household appliances now comes under scrutiny. Smart decisions, such as forgoing our towel heater or switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, can really make a difference.
Using average household energy consumption rates in Brussels and the wattage of some of the most common household appliances, The Brussels Times crunched some numbers to reveal the real costs of our daily energy use.
Calculations reveal the single-use cost of each appliance (ie. one boil of a kettle, one period of heating, one day’s use of a fridge-freezer). The findings reveal how surprisingly expensive some appliances are, even for short periods of time.
Editors note: The single-cost use of central heating (6 hours) is calculated using a smoothed yearly average household consumption. In reality, during peak consumption during the winter heating period, the cost per use may double to nearly €3.
As if the increased price of groceries wasn’t enough, cooking them may make you think twice about that Sunday roast you were planning. Based on our calculations, using an electric oven for just one hour comes at a cost of around €0.77 under current electricity prices.
Interestingly, cooking on a gas stove is currently more economical than on an electric hob. 30 minutes cooking on gas will cost around €0.12; the same duration on an electric hob is around €0.42.
With ovens and stoves proving fairly energy intensive, consumers might find microwaves a cheap and speedy alternative. A three minute zap in the microwave currently costs just €0.02.
On the other hand, fans of slow-cooking may need to adapt their meal preparations: running a slow cooker for three hours can add another €0.16 to the total cost of the meal.
Will tidy homes be a victim of high energy bills? Not necessarily, but some savings can certainly be made. One intensive load of a dishwasher now costs up to €0.59. Yet although heating water for handwashing dishes may save on energy, it is likely to be less efficient in terms of water use.
Vacuuming the floors for an hour costs around €0.15 with a mains-operated vacuum cleaner.
When it comes to washing clothes, prices are significantly higher than in previous years. At €0.84 for an hour and a half cycle, it is still more affordable than going to a laundromat, at least for smaller loads. An efficient tumble dryer will add another €0.18 to the cost of keeping your clothes clean.
Other appliances risk becoming luxuries when the costs are factored in: an electric heated towel rail will cost €0.37 for just 40 minutes of use.
Some daily utility items, such as Wifi and lighting, we certainly cannot do without. Thankfully, the price of running a Wifi router all day is relatively low, costing just €0.07 a day. For lighting however, Belgian consumers can make significant savings by switching to energy-efficient alternatives.
Running 10 60W bulbs for five hours each day can set us back up to €0.84 with today’s energy prices. By switching to energy-efficient bulbs (especially LEDs) this falls to just €0.15 per day. As such, changing to more efficient bulbs could lead to massive savings in the long run.
After a long day of work (preferably in the office where Belgians can save big on energy bills) you may be tempted to kick off your shoes and play a video game or watch TV. A 2.5 hour playtime on a new Playstation 5 should cost around €0.09 three hours of TV will cost around €0.07.
Charging a laptop for eight hours – roughly a full charge – is still relatively cheap, costing just €0.07.
Heating is by far the single largest expense for the Belgian household. Even with an efficient heating system and a reasonably low annual consumption, six hours of gas central heating can cost the typical household an eye-watering average of €1.44 at current prices.
Plug-in electric heaters, which Belgians are rushing to buy as an alternative to central heating, are not much cheaper. For just one hour of use, an electric heater can cost €0.25 and only heats a much smaller area than traditional heating systems.
The calculations above only account for the single-use power draw of many appliances. But some household items, such as a television, continue to draw energy when on standby mode. Each year, the European Union wastes 43 terawatt hours of energy to standby power: roughly equivalent to 9 million tonnes of C02 per year.
Switching a device off completely, even if this means pulling the plug, is an easy way to save on energy and ensuring that no power is wasted on stand-by mode.
Worst is yet to come
Editors note: The 2023 single-use central heating price forecast relies on smoothed annual household consumption averages. At the start of 2023, during peak winter heating hours, the price for central heating could peak as high as €16.80.
One energy expert predicts that the price of gas in Belgium will reach €0.70 per KWh in 2023, which would push prices far above the already high rates seen currently.
The price of heating the average home with gas (assuming that the government's recently announced emergency measures are not extended into 2023) will reach an average of €8.15 per six-hour use throughout next year.
- Over 60% of Belgians fear not being able to pay energy bills
- Poor becoming poorer in Belgium, lower middle class increasingly struggling
If the price of electricity rises slightly to €0.30 per KWh, the impact will also be felt on other household activities. The cost of operating household electrical appliances will rise by around 7-8%.
As the war in Ukraine rumbles on, there seems to be no end in sight for the energy woes of ordinary Belgian households. This winter looks likely to be cold, and costly.