Sunday, 20 April 2014

Tips and tricks to reduce energy use in the home

The last quarter of 2013 saw most large energy companies increase gas and electricity prices.
According to Money Saving Expert, British Gas increased electricity bills by 10.4% and gas tariffs by 8.4% for around 7.8 million customers from 23 November. Npower put up electricity and gas prices by 9.3% and 11.1% respectively from 1 December and Scottish Power raised gas tariffs by 8.5% and electricity prices by an average of 9% from 6 December for its 2.2 million customers. For more stats and the full article click here.

In March SSE promised to freeze prices until 2016 and others may follow but for many household the cost of gas and electricity is substantial and  for some it is simply unmanageable. On current tariffs a  medium fuel user will spend around £1000 a year on dual fuel.

Leaving aside the costs there are other pressing reasons to reduce fuel consumption.  Fossil fuels still make up 87% of the world's fuel use. Resources are diminishing but our usage continues to increase. The info graphic below provides some alarming stats. See the Guardian's Live Better Challenge for more information.

From the Guardian Better Living Site

Whether you choose to make change to your energy use for financial or environmental reasons it makes sense to reduce your usage.  But just how easy is it and can one family really make a difference?

At the moment we are not monitoring our energy use on a daily basis so I have no hard stats to share. I will post an update one our new energy monitor arrives!  In the meantime here are some simple tricks:

1.Try using a slow cooker. 
According to Uswitch, cooking accounts for 4% of an average user's energy bill. Slow cookers run on a much lower wattage than an electric oven and there is a smaller space to heat. If you use your slow cooker on low the cost of cooking will be substantially reduced. As an added bonus, slow cooking lets you use tougher, cheaper cuts of meat and requires very little preparation time. There is a one off cost to buy a slow cooker - they cost upwards of £12 but I've had mine for 5 years and it has more than covered its cost.

2. Better still try a WonderBag
 A Wonderbag is a slow cooker that uses no energy. Designed to help families in developing countries it locks initial heat in and uses it to cook the food. You heat your food in a pot and let it simmer for 5 mintues for veg and 15 for meat, pop the pot in the Wonderbag, seal it and leave for five hours or more. When you take your pot out you will have perfectly cooked food having used nothing more than the initial power. I was sceptical but it worked a treat - review to follow. At around £40 there is an initial cost outlay but the fuel savings and it's versatility make it worth considering. We have a small camper van with a calor gas stove and the Wonderbag means that we can use a minimal amount of gas to make tasty meals while we do more interesting things during the day. You can read more here.

3. Fill your oven
If you are using your oven consider batch cooking a couple of dishes. If the oven is on you will be heating the whole space, take advantage by cooking two casserole's instead of one or bake while you roast. If you divide up the food and freeze any extras you will save yourself cooking time in the future - you might also save some additional money by being able to dip into the freezer for food instead of reaching for the takeaway menu.  The Slow Cook Book is the best I have found for simple casserole recipes for oven or slow cooker.

4.Turn the lights off
Turn the lights on only when you need them and turn them off when you leave the room. Simple but effective.

5. Switch your thermostat down one degree. 
This shouldn't be enough to feel a difference but will make a dent on your bills and CO2 emissions. 

6. Boil just enough water.
............or save any extra hot water in a flask and use throughout the day.

7. Turn off appliances and unplug chargers
According to Ofgem the average home spends £600 just powering appliances! Switch off appliances at the wall so they are not using power on standby. Unplug chargers, they draw energy even when not in use. Pull the plug out on hairdryers and straightening irons............I am very bad for forgetting to do this. To find out what your appliances use check out this article from Carbon Footprint Limited

8. Step away from the tumble dryer
Which data suggests that an A rated tumble dryer costs on average £43 a year to run with a C rated one costing over £100. This is based on around 148 uses a year. Line dry your clothes or use an airer and cut out this cost altogether. 

9. Wash on 30 degrees
According to the Energy Saving Trust  washing at 30 uses around 40% less energy than a higher setting - saving you around £13 a year. As a bonus the lower temperature is kinder to your clothes so they should last longer. 

10. Have quicker showers
Cutting your shower to four minutes could: -

  • give you an extra day and a half of free time every year
  • save more than 13,000 litres of water a year - the equivalent of 162 bath fulls
  • save energy and reduce CO2 emissions
 I hope this has been useful! Happy energy saving.  I'd love to hear your energy saving tips!

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