Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Is Grinding Flour Cheaper Once You Count Electricity? Calculations

I love having a grain grinder and being able to grind my own flours cheaply and not needing to pay exhorbitant prices for gluten free flours. The thing is though- grinding flour is really messy work! Grains somehow end up on the table and the floor, flour gets in the air and settles onto the stuff around the grain grinder, and flour, of course, ends up spilling all over when I transfer the flour from the grinder and into the storage containers.

Because of the mess that happens when grinding flour, I need to first clean up the dining room table entirely so that I have a large work surface that can clean easily. And since getting my dining room table clean is an astounding feat, once I actually have it ready to go, I try to grind as many pounds of flour as I can store easily, so I don't have to pull out my grinder for another little while.

Sunday was on of those grinding days. A grinding marathon, that is.

I ground 6.5 pounds of brown rice flour, 4.5 pounds of white rice flour, 4.5 pounds of sticky rice flour, 4 pounds of raw buckwheat flour, 3 pounds of chickpea flour, and 4.5 pounds of millet flour.
My grinder was running for nearly 2 hours, just with a few breaks in between different types of flours as I transferred the ground flour to their storage containers.

At the end of those two hours, I posted about my marathon grinding session on Facebook, saying, jokingly, "I do not want to know how much electricity I just used..."
A friend replied saying "Yea, its a lot of electricity, but you save even more by making your own flours than you spend on electricity."
Me- "Yea, I know, that's the reason I grind my own flour. Because even with the electricity it works out to be cheaper."
Another friend asked me if I was sure it really was cheaper, because the price of electricity has gone up and is set to go up even more.
I said "Of course it's cheaper."
And then I had to think about it.
Was it really?

I mean, we got our electricity bills down really low. And then in the past few months they've gone much higher, and despite doing what we could, we haven't managed to lower our electric bills significantly.
The only things that really changed in the past few months was getting a new washing machine and getting the grain grinder. Is the grain grinder the reason why my electric bill is so much higher than it was before?
I doubted it, but the only way to know for sure was to do the calculation.

The price for electricity in my country now is 17 cents per kilowatt hour.
What is a kilowatt hour?
Well, electricity is measured in watts (that's one measurement anyhow), and 1000 watts is called a kilowatt.
A kilowatt hour means something using a kilowatt of electricity for an hour straight.

In order to figure out how much the electricity I was using cost me, and then to figure out how much I ended up spending on the homemade flour vs the store bought, I first needed to check how many watts my grinder used- 1200 watts, or 1.2 kilowatts. (On the bottom of most electrical appliances, or on or near the plugg, it should have a number next to the letter W, as well as a number next to "Hz". The number next to the W is the watts.)
And since the motor of the grinder is running constantly when it is on (unlike a refrigerator that turns on and off and on and off), its easy to figure out how much electricity I used-
1.2 kilowatts times 2 hours ends up being 2.4 kilowatt hours.
Since electricity costs 17 cents per kilowatt hours, I now know that my marathon grinding session cost me the huge amount of 40.8 cents.

Now you see that that amount of money is insignificant. Because I ground 27 pounds of flour. Which works out to be 1.51 cents of electricity for each pound of flour.
And since I save so much more than that on making my own flour...
For example, rice flour costs me 61 cents per pound to make instead of the $2.40 it costs to buy ready made, even if I need to add that 1.51 cents to the pound of rice flour, making it 62.51 cents per pound instead of $2.40, it is still very worthwhile.

So yes, even though it uses a "lot" of electricity, grinding my own grain is definitely worthwhile, and I recommend that anyone who is on a gluten free diet save up to buy their own Blendtec Kitchen Mill Grain Grinder, as it works very well and is the cheapest quality one out there, and it ends up saving you lots of money in the long run.

So what IS making my electric bill higher? Probably my new washing machine, which always heats up the water in every load- its "coolest" cycle is about 100 degrees F, and heating and cooling is the thing that uses the most electricity...
I miss my old washing machine in a way... But this one works so much better, and was free, so really, should I be complaining about the difference in my electric bill?
Hey, at least now I don't have to worry that I made the bill go higher with the grinder.
Because assuming I grind flour for 10 hours a month, and that is exaggerating, because it never is that much, the most electricity I'd be using would be 4 dollars and 8 cents... Not too bad...

Have you ever done any calculations how much money something is costing you to run? Have you discovered that it was cheap to use that item, or more expensive than you thought? How much does electricity cost where you live per kilowatt hour?


  1. Does your washing machine have an option to not heat the water? Mine has a few settings where it seems to heat by default, even if I tell it not to on the temp button (warm wet clothes at the end are a bit of a giveaway) so I stick with the basic cold washes. Everything is line dried which kills germs as well as hot water.

    Electricity here is 20c off peak (11pm-7am and all weekend) and 35c peak. I wash and vacuum on weekends or early mornings mostly.
    I have a power meter, which is good fun (also useful...)and I've used it to check the standby and power use of almost everything we have. The cordless phone, for example, 6 watts, plugged in 24/7, about $14.50 per year. Mobile phone charging, twice a week, $5 a year. The iron, 1/2 an hour each weekend, 1200 watts, $6.20 a year. Except I pretty much only iron school shirts, so less than that! It does help put it into perspective, which items you should be thinking about - a newish smallish flat screen tv, using 48 watts on standby overnight for 8 hours would cost me $28 a year. Not much, but that's just the tv sitting there at night, not including daytime peak standby use, and assuming it's that efficient. Some plasmas will use 200 watts or more on standby.
    Sorry, my last job was energy auditing, so it's a soapbox subject for me. I'm guessing you already turn everything off anyway, but if everyone did...

    1. I'm sorry but you're wrong about TVs: a small LED TV will use 50 W *when on*. In standby, it's around 1 W. A large plasma will use 200 W (or even 400!) *when on*. In standby it's also around 1 W
      (standby power is more or less the same for more or less every device in a house, no matter it's size, it's about electronics)

    2. LED Tvs are awesome - it's why we have one and their standby is about 1W. It depends on the tv, but I spent 6 months in hundreds of houses, checking peoples tvs and other appliances and yeah, they can use 48 watts on standby - it was looking at the power meter that convinced people that turning the thing off at night wouldn't be such a bad idea!

  2. Hi Penny. We aren't G-free here (I'd totally consider getting the grinder if we were) but we do sometimes use g-free flours for anti-inflammation recipes. In case anyone wants to know, you can make your own oat flour by grinding old fashioned rolled oats in a coffee grinder. It takes a while but we only use small amounts in our recipes. I think you can do the same thing with instant rice or any other grain that's been steamed during packaging, though I haven't tried yet.

  3. It would also be interesting to know at what point your grinder has "paid for itself", that is, when your total savings adds up to the cost of new grinder. And how long it takes you to get to that point compared to the length of the manufacturers warranty.

    1. I can't tell you straight out at what point, because I don't count how many pounds of flour I've ground so far. However, what I can tell you is that the grinder and converter cost me 364 dollars total... So I'd need to have saved that much to make it worth it financially. What I do know is that I went through 2 50 lb sacks of green buckwheat which I made into flour, and 1 50 lb sack of millet, and combined, the two of those alone saved me $249 dollars. And thats not counting the rice i ground- brown rice, white rice, short grain white rice- or chickpeas or other legumes... which also adds up to quite a lot, since brown rice flour is my staple, and I usually buy 25 lbs of brown rice at a time to grind... My guess is that I've also ground at least 150 lbs of brown rice flour ($278), and 50 lbs of short grain rice flour ($92), and 40 lbs of white rice flour ($85)... So my rough guesstimate is that I've ground enough to save me over 700 dollars, and my grinder, etc... cost me half that amount.

    2. So your true cost of milling your own flour is the cost of the grain mill divided by the total weight of flour milled, plus the cost for the grain, plus the electricity. Sounds like it still works out to be less expensive than purchasing pre-milled flour. (Sorry to be so exacting. We've just finished calculating the cost-benefit of replacing our windows, so life-cycle costs are on my mind.)

  4. Hi. I know this is an older post, but can I ask why you grind so much of your flour ahead of time? The grain begins to oxidize and lose nutrients once it is ground, so I usually grind right before I bake. Another bonus is that I only need storage space/containers for grain, not flour. I do end up with small amounts of extra flour, which I toss in the freezer and use for rolling out. Also, it looks like you have a K-Tec / Blendtec style grain mill, which may be why it is so messy. Your readers might be happy to know that a Nutrimill or WonderMill is far less messy, and in the USA a Nutrimill retails for only $20 more than the Blendtec ($220 vs $200).

    I'm really enjoying your blog!

    1. Thanks!
      The reason I grind mine ahead of time is because, quite frankly, I find flour grinding annoying, so prefer to do it in larger bunches. Maybe because I also need to take out my super heavy converter to grind my flour, or clear my counters... But I find it much more time efficient to grind at once.


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