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Energy in the home

Here are some hints and tips about energy use in the home and suggestions of potential cost effective ways to make savings. We’re trying to incorporate this info and more into an interactive display at Tipping Point. Come take a look – your input appreciated.

In the Kitchen

From basics like the oven, kettle, fridge and washing machine, to extras like a dishwasher, microwave and juicer, the appliances in your kitchen are big energy eaters. But you can take steps to reduce your consumption and bills.

• Only boil as much water as you need in a kettle. If you’re not sure,  consider using a flask.

• When cooking, use an appropriately sized pan for the hob and for the amount you are cooking. Always use a lid when boiling water.

• Cooking with gas is generally a much more efficient use of energy than electric ovens. Microwaves are more energy-efficient than conventional ovens.

•  Half-empty freezers use more energy than full ones. You can efficiently fill empty spaces with blocks of polystyrene or plastic bags stuffed with bubble wrap. If your freeze is mostly empty, do you really need it at all?

• Washing clothes at 30C uses up to 40% less energy than higher temperatures. Using cold water reduces your washer’s energy use by 75%. Many washing machines also have a ‘short wash’ programme which also saves energy. Avoid small loads, or cramming in way too much – neither is efficient.

• The most energy-efficient clothes dryer is a washing line. If you really must have a tumble dryers the gas ones make better use of energy than electric ones. Be sure to clean your clothes dryer’s lint trap after each use.

If you need to replace an appliance, go for an energy-efficient model. Look for the Energy Saving Recommended logo, which guarantees that the product is the most energy-efficient in its category, will cost less to run and help lower CO2 emissions.

Even if you’ve got an old appliance it can sometimes be more energy and cost-efficient to replace it. According to the Energy Saving Trust, if your appliance is 10 years old or more, then replacing it will save CO2 and running costs. For example, they claim that replacing an old fridge-freezer with a new ESR model will save around £39 and 140kg of CO2 a year.

Around the house

Water.

1% of the UK energy use goes into abstracting, pumping and treating the water delivered to our homes. Reducing the amount of water wasted is a good idea for many reasons but isn’t going to make a massive impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The main impacts related to water come from heating it. Most families on standard gas spend £150-£200 a year heating hot water and that’s not including heating water for cooking or hot drinks.

Using appropriate size pots when cooking,  filling the kettle with only the amount of water you need, fitting a ‘hippo’ in your cistern, taking shortish showers rather than soaking in the bath etc. these are all ways you can make useful savings.

Showers account for 2/3 of your water heating costs. Cutting your showers in half (length or number) will reduce your water heating costs by 33 percent.

Install low flow showerheads – If you do not already have them, low flow showerheads and faucets can drastically cut your hot water expenses. Savings of 10-16 percent of water heating costs.

Grey water & rain water flushing

Grey water recycling systems redirect old bath and washing machine water to supply toilet flushes. Reusing grey water could save 18,000 litres per person a year, or a third of daily household water use.

Rain water harvesting redirects water run-off from the roof into a secondary tank which is then used to for toilet flushes. This saves masses of clean water – assuming there is rain.

The average UK household water bill is £342 per annum and rising fast. If your water use is not metered yet there will be no cash savings to you but you’ll still be saving water and energy and therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions to some degree.

Water tank lagging

Insulating your hot water cylinder is one of the simplest ways to save energy and money. Fitting a British Standard “jacket” around your cylinder will cut heat loss by more than 75% and trim your about £40 off your annual fuel bill. If your cylinder already has a jacket, check it’s at least 75mm thick. If not, treat it to a new coat. A hot water cylinder jacket costs around £12 and fitting one is an easy DIY job. It will pay for itself within four months.

Reduce hot water temperature. Savings are 7-11 percent of water heating costs. Insulate the first five feet of pipe coming out of the top of your water heater or the whole length until the pipe goes into the wall if that is less than five feet. Pipe insulation is available from your hardware store and is easy to fit..

Heating

For every degree you lower your heat you’ll save up to 5 percent on heating costs. Wear warm clothing like a sweater and set your thermostat lower during the day and evening, health permitting. Set the thermostat back to its normal position or off at night or when leaving home for an extended time saving 5-20 percent of your heating costs.

Put heat reflective foil behind radiators and if you have curtains overlapping then tuck it in behind otherwise you heat the air space behind the curtain rather than the room.

Boilers account for around 60% of the carbon dioxide emissions in a gas heated home. By replacing an old G rated boiler with a new A rated high efficiency condensing boiler (which should last around 15 years.) you will significantly cut your home’s emissions and could save as much as £235 a year.  Condensing boilers works on the principle of recovering as much as possible of the waste heat which is normally wasted from the flue of a conventional (non-condensing) boiler. High efficiency condensing boilers convert 86% or more of their fuel into heat, compared to 65% for old G rated boilers.

Windows

Depending on the many other considerations, on average, about 20% of heating energy can be wasted through single-glazed windows. Double glazing means having two layers of glass (or plastic) with an air gap between them, or a near vacuum filled with an inert gas to make them even more efficient. Double glazing also cuts down external noise and can reduce condensation.

On purely financial grounds, ignoring added comfort and lower emissions, paying to have new windows fitted will have a long payback period unless you know how to fit them yourself. Like most things, the best time to fit double glazing is if your windows need replacing anyway. There is certainly no point in refitting single glazing – that would be a false economy.

If you are not a home owner and on a tight budget but wanting to save money and cut emissions then you can still fit secondary glazing. At it’s simplest this can be a clear plastic sheet, taped on the inside of your window frames with double sided tape or gaffer etc. to create a trapped air gap of an inch of so before the glass. Yes, this really does work. There are commercial kits available to do this.

Cavity wall insulation

Cavity wall insulation is so cost effective that it will pay for itself over and over again. The better insulated your home, the less energy you need to keep it warm and the more money you’ll save. By insulating your cavity­ walls you could cut your annual heating costs by up to 15%.

If your home was built after 1920, the chances are that its external walls are made of two layers with a small gap or “cavity” in between. Filling the cavity­ cuts your fuel bills by around £160 a year and saves around 800kg of CO2 per year from a typical­ three-bed, gas-heated, semi-detached house.

Filling cavity walls is not a DIY job. Installation must be carried out by a registered installer. Find out how to get the job done at energysavingtrust.org.

To help with the cost of installation there are a range of grants and offers available from the government, local authorities and energy suppliers. You can take up grants and offers from any of the energy companies, regardless­ of who supplies your gas and electricity. Most energy suppliers provide grants for cavity wall insulation for free to anyone over the age of 70 or those in receipt of certain benefits.

With current government subsidies, the cost of filling cavity walls in a typical three-bed semi is around £250. With annual fuel bill savings of around £160 a year, installation therefore takes less than two years to pay for itself. To find out whether you are entitled to a grant, and for details of registered installers in your area, call your local Energy Saving Trust advice centre on 0800 512 012 or go to energy­savingtrust.org for free advice.

Standard materials used for filling cavity walls are: mineral wool spun from rock or glass; urea formaldehyde foam; and expanded polystyrene beads. A more environmentally friendly option is Warmcel 500, which is made from 100% recycled newspaper. If you opt for this, you’ll be using a material that also has a lower carbon footprint.

Loft Insulation

In an uninsulated home a quarter of your heat is lost through the roof. Insulating your loft is a simple and effective way to reduce your heating bills and you can even do it yourself.

If you have no loft insulation and you install the recommended 270mm depth you could save around £150 a year on your heating bills and 800kg of CO2. If you already have some but top up to the recommended 270mm depth, you’d still save up to £45 a year and 230kg of CO2. These figures are provided by The Energy Saving Trust and are based on a 3 bedroom semi-detached property heated by gas. If everyone in the UK installed 270mm loft insulation, we could save around £520 million and nearly three million tonnes of CO2 every year.

Grants are available to completely cover the cost of having loft insulation professionally installed in your home. If it is not free for you it is certainly the cheapest home improvement available today. You’d be insane not to get this sorted.

* If you’d like help finding out about grants for insulation then pop into Tipping Point.

* Also see http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Home-improvements-and-products/Home-insulation-glazing/Loft-insulation

Windows

Double glazing good, double-glazing salesmen bad. Does that statement stand up to scrutiny? Depending on the style of your home, some 20% of heating energy can be wasted through single-glazed windows. Double glazing offers a twin layer of glass panels, the gap between them usually filled with argon gas for a second buffer against the cold.

Double glazing also cuts down external noise and can reduce condensation. Windows should come with a thermal efficiency rating – A is best, G not worthwhile. An A-C label wins Energy Savings Trust approval.

As a purely financial calculation, ignoring added comfort and lower emissions, the payback period is long. The best time to fit double glazing is if the windows are on their last legs – other than some listed buildings, there are scant arguments for refitting single glazing.

Lighting

Fitting energy saving light bulbs is one of the first things that most people think of when it comes to saving energy at home. However, lighting costs are way down the list compared to space or water heating. While lighting accounts for about 21% of commercial energy consumption, at home it’s more like 12%. However with low energy bulbs typically costing £1 and using just 20% of the energy of the old style filament bulbs, you’d be a fool not to be using these throughout the house.

Note, those old ‘office style’ fluorescent tubes and the more modern ‘low energy’ compact fluorescents are actually the exactly the same technology and equally efficient. For lighting large spaces the office style tubes are the most economic and energy efficient way to do it, beyond letting in the day light.

LED lighting is advancing quickly but not currently significantly more efficient than compact fluorescents (CFL) and loads more expensive. While billed as the next big thing, at home they are only really worth using to replace those stupid halogen spotlight things so popular in bathrooms and kitchens. You can now get direct replacements which use perhaps 2 to 4 watts compared with 25 or 50 watts. They cost about 5 times the price of the halogens but will still pay for themselves in less than two years.

Gadgets

Many new TVs, VCRs, chargers, computer peripherals and other electronics use electricity even when they are switched “off.” Although these “standby losses” are only a few watts each, they add up to over 50 watts in a typical home that is consumed all the time. If possible, unplug electronic devices and chargers that have a block-shaped transformer on the plug when they are not in use. For computer scanners, printers and other devices that are plugged into a power strip, simply switch off the power strip after shutting down your computer.

Renewables at home

Unless you live in an isolated rural location or have money to burn, it makes very little sense to fit solar photovoltaic panels (PV) or wind generators to your home. Wind turbines need to be mounted high and well clear of nearby rooftops and other obstructions in order to work efficiently and they perform really bad in the turbulent conditions of the urban environment. If you want wind power you’d be better making sure you are using a green energy tariff and look into joining or setting up a community wind energy co-operative sharing a bigger wind turbine located somewhere more appropriate.

Solar PV is very expensive and has a high embodied energy in their manufacture so have a very long payback time, both financially and ecologically. In the UK it doesn’t make a lot of sense and your efforts and money are better spent elsewhere.

Solar water heating however does make sense and has much shorter pay back periods. Although for most of the year you will not get 100% of your water heating from solar, you will substantially pre-warm the water so your conventional heating system will have far less work to do.  The initial outlay is high, perhaps £3,000, but it’s a really good investment since energy prices are going to soar. With solar water heating you’ll save lots of energy, reduce your bills and cut emissions.

Top Ten Tips you can do right now…

Wear more clothes and turn your thermostat down. Reducing your room temperature by 1°C could cut your heating bills by up to 10 percent and typically saves around £55 per year. If you have a programmer, set your heating and hot water to come on only when required rather than all the time.
Is your water too hot? Do you scald your hands when you run the hot tap?  Your cylinder thermostat should be set at 60°C/140°F.
Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows and check for draughts around windows and doors. Draft excluding is cheap, easy and the most instantly effect way to reduce your heating bills.
Always turn off the lights when you leave a room. You could try making use of sunlight – get up with the sun and go to bed earlier 😉 During the day, open your curtains and let in the light.
Don’t leave appliances on standby and remember not to leave laptops and mobile phones on charge unnecessarily.  Unplug chargers, most continue to consume power even when the device is not connected.
If possible, fill up the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher: one full load uses less energy than two half loads.
Only boil as much water as you need (but remember to cover the elements if you’re using an electric kettle). When boiling water for cooking, make sure you put a lid on the pan.
A dripping hot water tap wastes loads of energy, forcing your boiler to reheat again and again. Fix any leaking taps and make sure they’re fully turned off!
Use energy saving lightbulbs. They last up to 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs, and using one can save you around £40 over the lifetime of the bulb. This saving could be around £65 over its lifetime if you’re replacing a high wattage incandescent bulb, or one used for more than a few hours a day.
Keep your doors closed and just heat the rooms you are using. Why heat the whole house when you are the only person there and you are in bed with a hot water bottle or electric blanket?
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