Tomorrow is the start of
Energy Saving Week!
The Energy Saving Trust has a list of things you can do to reduce your energy usage, and I have compiled a top ten list of my own tips below.
The reasons for trying to reduce your energy usage are many-fold. Firstly, by reducing energy usage, you reduce the amount of fossil fuels that need to be burnt to produce electricity. Fossil fuels, when burnt, produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which have the effect of heating the world’s atmosphere.
Of course the effect that one household can achieve by reducing their energy usage is tiny; but the cumulative effect of millions of people changing their habits can prevent millions of tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere each year.
The second reason is economics: saving energy also saves you money!
There are also a multitude of knock-on effects: fossil fuel burning also releases gases such as sulphur dioxide which cause acid rain; and acid rain damages buildings, kills trees, and raises the acidity of rivers and lakes (which affects the plant and animal life within). For more information, see Wikipedia.
I’m splitting this top ten into two top fives; one list of things that you can do immediately and without an initial outlay of money. The other five are things that you can do which require some purchase, but which will save money and energy after ‘earning back’ the initial investment. Click below to see the top 10.
‘Free’ energy saving:
1. Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. Light bulbs are of low to average power consumption (for example, 60 Watts), but are used for long periods of time. Reduce the time your lights are left on and you reduce the energy you use. Simple.
Let’s look at this in terms of money:
Electricity bills are calculated in ‘units’; each unit is, in scientific terms, one kilowatt hour. My electricity costs 9.02pence per unit.
Taking one 100Watt light bulb, I would have to leave it on for ten hours to use one unit of electricity.
Now think of how many lights there are in your house, and collectively, how many hours of usage they get each day. Multiply that by the number of days in a year, and you start to see how much the humble light bulb can add to your energy bills.
Here’s an example using my one 100Watt bulb: say I use it for 5 hours each evening (I’m out during the day). That makes half a unit of electricity per day. Times 365 days = 182.5 units. At 9.02p per unit = £16.46 a year. For one lightbulb!!
for a more graphic explanation.
for a more graphic explanation.
2. Don’t overfill your kettle. Kettles are high power devices; meaning they use a lot of energy in a short amount of time. For example, I just checked my kettle: it uses 1850 Watts. Compare that to the 100Watt light bulb – even though kettles are not used for as long a period of time, they expend energy much faster. To use one unit of electricity, I would have to boil my kettle for 54 minutes. Unlikely, but us Brits are a tea-loving race. 5 cups a day at 5 minutes boiling time would bring you up to the half a unit per day that you get from your 100Watt bulb being on for 5 hours.
By reducing the amount of water you boil unnecessarily, you reduce the length of time needed to bring the kettle to the boil, and hence reduce drastically the energy expenditure.
3. Not in the home, but a lifestyle change nonetheless: change your driving habits! Simply by accelerating and decelerating at a slower rate (braking earlier) you can use up to 35% less fuel! Other tips can be found here , showing that you don’t need to buy a hybrid to do your bit.
4. Turn your thermostat down; put on a jumper instead! Research has shown that you can reduce your heating bills by 10% with just a one degree decrease in temperature.
5. Turn electrical equipment off at the socket… standby is bad, mm-kay?
The tiny amount of power that devices use on standby will soon add up; especially considering the number of hours involved, and the increasing number of electrical gadgets we all own.
At a cost of only a few pounds per bulb, they will save you far more money over their lifetime than you would initially save by buying your average bulb (at a cost of, say, 50p). A 100Watt normal bulb can be replaced by an equivalent bulb of only 25Watts. Looking back at my previous example, this efficient bulb would only cost you a quarter of what the normal one would: £4.12 per year. You’ve already saved the cost of the new bulb several times over!
Additionally, energy saving bulbs tend to have a much longer lifetime than ordinary ones… the savings just keep on growing.
The more efficient you buy, the more energy and money you save. Though remember, it is better still to reduce your usage of electrical devices in the first place!
Actually, microscale production of energy is still not a particularly viable method. The costs of installation and maintenance, combined with the small amounts of power actually produced, mean that you would be generating electricity at a cost to you of about 15p per unit. This is not competitive with the large electricity companies; and red tape is also a deterrent and part of the reason why uptake of these technologies has not been great.
However, the costs are coming down each year as the technology develops, and some well designed buildings can become entirely energy self-sufficient – even selling excess energy back to the grid! I think that in the future, micro-generation at the domestic level will become an essential part of our energy economy. If you want to be part of the forefront of the green wave, some grant money is available to help you: see here and here for more information.