Fit low energy light bulbs. They can cost a little more than their high-energy counterparts but pay for themselves fairly quickly. Over their lifetime each bulb can save up to £100. There are a wide range of shapes and sizes available. LED technology is improving all the time. LED down-lighters can provide the same light as a 35W halogen bulb but consume 4W. And remember to turn lights off when you leave the room.
Washing and drying
Wash clothes at 30C. This uses up to 40% less energy than higher temperatures. Use a washing line outside when fine. If replacing a washing machine or tumble dryer, choose an A+ rated appliance for long-term savings.
Monitor your electricity use by installing an Owl Monitor or similar. These devices are easy to use and can display cost, units consumed, and carbon emissions. A monitor will quickly help increase your awareness of the impact of leaving lights and electrical equipment on. You’ll soon spot things like your freezer kicking in every 20 minutes and using 100s of watts, and will be able to track down appliances that are secretly, and sometimes constantly, gobbling power. Many such things, from televisions to washing machines, can simply be turned off.
A monitor will also reveal appliances like ovens that use 11-20W on standby, simply to power their own needless clocks. Or microwaves that use 5W simply to display "0". These watts all add up and could be costing you significant amounts of money each year. Apparently 1W on standby costs roughly £1 a year.
Leaving appliances like televisions on standby consumes almost as much energy as keeping them on. Use the off button. Or fit an intelligent mains panel to your computer and a powersaver for audio-visual equipment. Avoid the "phantom-charge" - even when shut down and not on standby, PCs and appliances like washing machines can use 5 watts or more simply by being plugged in. So turn off at the plug, not just at the appliance switch.
• Change your energy supplier to one that supplies green energy from renewable sources
• Some TV settings can allow you to reduce 150W to 80W with no reduction in picture quality – e.g. by using cinema mode instead of dynamic
• Many broadband routers don't need to be on constantly, and neither do Sky boxes or freeview tuners (though apparently some will play up if turned off)
• If you can afford it, consider photovoltaic solar panels to generate your own electricity
Fridges and freezers
Try to avoid bringing frozen goods into the heated spaces. Or get a double-win by thawing food overnight in the fridge (you help keep the fridge cold through defrosting the food).
Keep freezers in an unheated space or at least keep them away from heating appliances like radiators and ovens. Follow the manufacturer’s guide regarding allowing sufficient air circulation around them. Keep appliances running efficiently, e.g. defrost regularly and avoid the build-up of ice inside; check for damaged door seals; don’t allow the condenser coil on the back to get dirty or to be affected by obstructed airflow over it.
Don’t open the fridge or freezer door more often than needed and don’t keep open for longer than necessary.
Purchase 'Energy Saving Recommended' domestic appliances when replacements are needed. These use less energy. A+-rated freezers will cost a little more, perhaps £100, than a C/D-rated freezer but people have reported annual energy savings of around £60 a year, so they quickly pay for themselves.
Sometimes it is more energy- and cost-efficient to replace appliances that are over 10 years old.
Reducing home energy use
Want to make a little green space through reduced energy use? Here are some ideas for how to reduce your household CO2 emissions and save money too.
Of course you must use your own judgement as to what works for you and your home. And it is important to remember that some people, including the elderly and children, need to keep warmer than others.
Insulating your home to retain heat should be a priority. Loft and cavity wall insulation is not very expensive and you may qualify for a grant - check with your local authority, or contact the Energy Saving Trust.
Front and back doors can also be a major source of heat loss. If your house does not have a draught lobby, heat can be lost through the door edges, letterbox, keyhole or through glass or thin wood panels. Fit a heavy curtain over the door (you can get simple devices that allow the curtain to fold back with the door), a draught strip on the bottom of the doors and brush seals on your letterbox.
• Draft-proof areas of heat loss including windows, doors, loft hatches and areas round pipes
• Consider insulating under floors
• Fit double or triple glazing on windows
• Hang thermal curtains or line existing curtains
• If you have a conservatory, install doors between it and your living space
• Reduce wind cooling of your house’s external walls through planting or a shed
• Fill up unused cat flaps with insulation
• Install thermal plasterboard to significantly reduce heat loss
Check your heating programmer/thermostat is correctly set up. For hot water cylinders, 60C is the minimum recommended temperature.
Turning down your central heating thermostat by 1 degree can save up to 10% of your heating bill and cut CO2 emissions. 18-21C should be comfortable, but rooms may need to be warmer for some people, such as the elderly or young children.
Fit thermostatic valves to radiators. These sense the surrounding air temperature and regulate hot water entering the radiator. Set them at a temperature appropriate for the room’s use, turning down or off in low-use rooms.
Set the heating to switch off 60 minutes before you regularly leave the house, rather than for when you leave. Radiators will keep generating heat for that hour. And regularly check the heating pattern of your heating programmer so it stays in line with the current occupancy of the house - don’t leave it on ‘constant’ by mistake.
Fitting a modern condensing boiler could lead to major savings. Some people claim that they have reduced their gas use by about 25% by installing a condensing boiler.
• Use separate time clocks for heating and hot water
• Don't overheat little-used rooms
• Use a hot water bottle
• Exercise. It’s good for your health, improves circulation and can help you acclimatize to lower temperatures
Fit a solar thermal panel on your roof and benefit from free hot water for much of the year. There are several types to choose from but evacuated tube panels are almost certainly worth the extra money as they are the most efficient. They could also represent an investment in your home.
• Have showers instead of baths
• Share a bath with your significant other!
• Aerating shower heads can reduce water and energy use in the shower by 40%, by mixing the water with air
Food and drink
Microwaves use less energy than ovens, so will a bread making machine. Slow cookers use about the same amount of energy as a traditional light bulb - and make even cheap cuts of meat deliciously tender.
• Boil only the exact amount of water required, filling your kettle using the cup you’re going to use
• Fill your freezer; half-empty freezers cost more to run than full ones
• Use a lid on pans when boiling water, and make sure the pan is the right size for the hob
Little Green Space January 2016