For the last few weeks, the importance of reducing energy use in the home has been a focus for many families across the UK as the cost of living dramatically rises. It has been reported that a 1 percent reduction in thermostat use across the UK (and Europe) may reduce the use of fossil fuels by 23 percent. Changes like these could have big impacts on a global scale as well as a personal one. Like many others, our family was inspired to make a change; so what did we need to know to reduce costs? The biggest question was which information sources could we trust, and effectively implement.
Zero Carbon Yorkshire
Seeking out local suggestions made sense, and led us to Zero Carbon Yorkshire who are doing invaluable work communicating and networking to help us unravel sensible, wise steps to reducing energy and saving money.
In their March newsletter, Zero Carbon Yorkshire shared that electrical items on standby do use electricity. After a mere ten minutes surveying the home, we located six standby devices that we could turn off saving approximately £60 per year. The devices in question were the television, DVD player, the HiFi system (only used once a week), the hearing aid charger, the walkie-talkies charger, and a socket timer in the greenhouse. None of these items required a standby mode and undertaking this challenged eased us into making significant energy consumption changes.
Energy use calculations – not a clear winner!
Finding the ‘energy use calculator’ seemed to answer our prayers – it proposed to guide you specifically on which devices were using up energy per day or year and the cost of running them. Unfortunately, like all great finds it was not quite perfect. The calculator turned out to be catered for the North American world reporting costs in dollars and was more in tune with an average American household’s energy use than British. Living in the US and Canada over the last 40 years gave us personal insight into how the enormity of appliances rocketed up energy use so we knew the calculator wouldn’t translate well to a British household.
However, the energy use calculator helped clarify the range of energy consumption in the different devices we owned, from laptop to fan to iron. This helped build a rough picture of our energy usage and allowed us to approximate costs – even if it was in dollars!
Unsurprisingly the air conditioning units notably upped our energy use. In comparison, we have a ceiling fan in the hottest room in our house which is highly effective, cheap on the pocket and low on energy use. The calculator also helped us to determine that the ironing now happens three times per year – an enormous relief for the household and the clothes.
Zero Carbon Yorkshire’s tips and tricks
More from Zero Carbon Yorkshire which shared a useful list of household energy reducing tips. Through this we discovered the value of doing 90 percent of our laundry at 30°C with a teaspoon of soda crystals to ensure the washing came out clean. Often the sheets just need a refresh and every month instead of fortnightly; the world of less effort and lower costs certainly seems attractive!
The thermostats for the central heating system and the hot water tank seemed a real area to save and so we reduced the central heating by 1°C to 18°C. Ultimately there was no noticeable difference in temperature and we actually felt better. By reducing the thermostat by 1 degree, you save 10 percent on your fuel bill and conserve a lot of CO2 – 300kg!
Lower room temperatures may be concerning for vulnerable people but there are products available to combat this. A UK made heated seat pad retails at £100, supplementing the body heat of the person sitting upon it and using almost no energy. A rough cost comparison looks like this: 10–45 watts per hour = ½ penny, versus 1 kilowatts fire per hour = 15 pence. They seem to be a rousing success with older people as long as the dog or cat doesn’t get there first!
The Energy Savings Trust can support
What also proved useful was exploring another trusted source of information: the Energy Savings Trust. They determined that our elderly neighbour was eligible for a grant that would purchase and install new insulation in their roof – it is no secret that proper insulation helps to keep costs down dramatically. Sharing the information and support that the Energy Savings Trust can provide with our friends and family may benefit a vulnerable individual this year bringing their energy costs down and helping them to stay warm at home.
Daily changes to conserve energy
By keeping focused, we reduced from 30 kilowatts per day to 24 kilowatts usage which covers all our energy needs including the electric car and the cooker. We generate four kilowatts per day from solar panels, which offsets the use of a ground source heat pump and brought us down to 20 kilowatts per day.
We have tried to travel less reducing our diesel usage and have combined a vegetable delivery to the village with our neighbours, which is also saving on energy use. Eating a meat-free diet can make a real difference and so within two weeks of this challenge we opted to eat an 80 percent vegetarian diet, which we continue to follow.
We used a CO2 calculator to uncover our household’s CO2 emissions and see what we could change. Our report was less than half the average UK CO2 emission and it seems doable that many homes in the UK could move to less CO2 emission with small steady changes. We discovered we were responsible for just under 6 tones of CO2 emission each year and were gutted by the emissions from one air flight return from UK to Spain, 1.25 tonnes. Our lack of awareness means the train is now booked for the next trip abroad in Europe. Here is the CO2 calculation sheet, it makes one very curious and it is easy to make a shift, be it food, fuel or travel.
There are multiple benefits of energy use reduction. Here in the UK many are facing rising gas and electricity prices causing strain on families across the country. At the same time, there are Ukrainians suffering with only candlelight in bomb shelters across Mariupol and elsewhere. The changes we have outlined in this article not only help us here at home, but assist those in Europe too. If everyone could reduce their energy use by a just 1 percent we could make a positive difference across the globe. The small and persistent steps we have taken have been easily doable and highly rewarding – discover your own potential to make change!