Category Archives: House

Save energy — 19 free energy saving tips

Today I received the following 19 free energy-saving tips (click image for original article).

I quote the article here with my own observations.

Saving energy isn’t just about helping you to save electricity or be more energy efficient — it’s also a great way to save money.

We all know we could do more around the home to save energy, but where to start? While some of the biggest energy savers require time and money there are still plenty of lifestyle changes you can make that will save energy, and money.

With just a few simple changes to your lifestyle and your home, you could be saving hundreds of pounds on your heating, gas and electricity bills.

So, if you’re looking for ways to cut down on your spending, try these 19 free energy saving tips.

How to save money on heating

  1. Stay warm, cut costs. Turning your thermostat down by 1°C can save you as much as £60 per year. Also, keeping your heating on constantly on a low heat could potentially save you more money than switching it on and off for big blasts of heat. This is where getting to know and understand the timer settings on your thermostat will really pay off.

That I can see both ways. On the one hand not stressing a condensing boiler too much can keep it in condensing mode, and thus increase its efficiency. However keeping the home unnecessarily hot will increase the heat loss to the outside world (which is proportionate to the temperature difference between inside and outside) so an unoccupied house at an elevated temperature will increase heat loss, but might make heat more efficiently.

Also for many people, timers and thermostats are two different components and the use of the timer turns the heating on and off – not between two alternative temperature set points.

Our own smart heating does in fact switch between a high and low temperature (not on and off) but at 10C the low temperature is such that room temperatures don’t generally fall to the low temperature before high temperature is demanded again.

  1. Get cosy. Wearing more jumpers, socks and slippers around the house, and putting an extra blanket on the bed means you won’t be tempted to turn the heating up.
  2. Turn the pressure down on the power shower. A high-pressure power shower is a great luxury to have but you’d be surprised how much water they use – sometimes even more than a bath.

Be efficient with cooking

  1. Save time and stock up. If you’re going to use the oven, bake a few meals at a time to get the most out of having your oven on. After all, oven’s don’t allow us to heat one shelf at a time so why waste your heat?
  2. Heat your home with cooking. Leave the oven door open after cooking to let the heat warm your kitchen. The oven might give off enough heat for you to adjust your thermostat, a far more efficient use of that stored heat than throwing it out of your home with an extractor fan.

Heat from the oven after cooking certainly does heat the kitchen, but personally I would wouldn’t leave the oven door open which provides too much of a heat rush – I prefer to leave the door closed and allow the same heat to move into the room more slowly.

I wouldn’t adjust the thermostat – it’s goal is to control to a comfortable temperature. Does the comfortable temperature change when you’re cooking? If you’re too hot when cooking the thermostat (potentially a TRV in the kitchen) will already have turned the heating off.

As to extractor fans, their purpose is to remove steam from boiling pans and save energy by significantly reducing condensation. Turning off the extractor fan while generating steam is a false economy.

  1. Let the dishwasher do the dirty work . Avoid pre-rinsing the dishes in hot water. Save water and energy by just scraping the dishes before they go in.
  2. Make things easy for your fridge and freezer. Keeping them full means they don’t have to work as hard and therefore they use less energy. Empty space in your fridge or freezer wastes not only space but energy too.

Again not so sure about this one. In general the energy to run a fridge or freezer will be a function of the temperature difference between inside the freezer and the room in which it is found. I can have assume that this point relates to the frequency at which the door is opened where an empty upright fridge or freezer will rapidly dump cold air into the room, whereas a full fridge or freezer has less cold air to dump.

  1. Use the right ring for the right thing. If your cooker has a small ring, use a small pan. You might only be heating up a small meal, and doing so in a big pan wastes a lot of energy. Conversely if you try and heat a large pan on the small ring you’re more likely to end up heating for longer than saving any money or energy.

Be efficient with washing.

  1. Shrink your bills, not your clothes. 90% of a washing machine’s energy expenditure is spent on heating the water, so if you wash your clothes at 30-40 °C you’re saving significant amounts of money.
  2. Hang up your laundry. Air-dry your laundry rather than tumble drying it, particularly if there’s warm or windy weather. What’s more nothing smells better than air-dried clothes.
  3. Save yourself ironing time. Take your clothes out of the dryer before they’re completely dry – they’ll iron much quicker and you’ll use less energy on your drier.

Energy efficiency and electricity saving tips for your appliances

  1. Switch it off and save. Unplug all the appliances that you aren’t using regularly – even chargers continue to use electricity when they aren’t charging. Also, make sure you’re not leaving appliances on standby: it may be easier but it’s also a guaranteed way to waster energy compared to turning things off at the socket.
  2. Get the kids involved. Play energy-saving games with your kids. Get them to spot the areas in the home where energy is being wasted and where lights, switches or appliances have been left on.
  3. Let the sunshine in. On a sunny day, opening your curtains will let warmth into your house, but when it’s colder or the sun goes down don’t forget to close them to keep that heat in.

Be efficient with your whole home

  1. Get free cavity wall insulation. There are now government-backed full and partial grants available to help you pay for insulation if your home has cavity walls. Getting this done could save you around 15% on your fuel bills, so you could be saving on average £98 a year. Even if you don’t receive money from the government insulation is still worth it in the long run.
  2. Get free loft insulation. Because heat rises, as much as 25% of the heat in your house could be disappearing into your loft space. What’s more, even older properties that already have insulation in place may not have the recommended levels, particularly if it was installed in the 1970s or 1980s. If you apply for a loft insulation grant, you could save about 19% on your fuel bills – which works out at an average of £128 per year.
  3. Get free solar panels. Having solar panels installed on your house could save you as much as a third on your electricity bills. What’s more, thanks to the government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme solar panel installers get paid for the energy generated, so they may install them for free.

Indeed they might install them for free, but they do so because they get a good return on their investment via the feed-in tariff. If you have the capital available pay for it yourself, get the feed-in tariffs for yourself, and avoid any legal issues with rent-a-roof if you choose to sell your home in future.

  1. Apply for an energy-saving grant. There are plenty of energy-saving grants available to help with the cost of home improvements.

Don’t overpay for the energy you’re using

  1. Compare gas and electricity prices with to make sure you’re on the cheapest tariff for you. It only takes a few minutes.

Annual Energy costs

I was reading a newspaper article earlier which highlighted a 3 bed semi with annual energy consumption costs of £500.  Our net energy consumption costs for my early ’70s 4 bed detached in 2015/6 was £400.  That includes charging my electric car.

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The house has:

  • A-rated gas boiler (Dec 2015),
  • A-rated double glazing throughout (prior owner),
  • C-rated hot water cylinder with bottom-entry immersion heater and all accessible hot pipes insulated (Dec 2015),
  • 7 day timer (prior owner) with Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs)  throughout (except hall and 2 towel rails – Dec 2015),
  • Standard cavity fill and 4″ loft insulation (prior owner, now nearer 10″ but Oct 2016 installation outside 2015/6 data window),
  • Almost 100% low energy bulbs (mostly Sep 2015),
  • 4kWp solar panels (Sep 2015) with energy management system (Sep 2015) with remote monitoring (Mar 2016) directing surplus PV to car charger (Apr 2016) and/or hot water cylinder (Dec 2015), and
  • Economy 7 electricity (Oct 2015).

I spent £1,000 on gas and electric in 2015/6 which was partially offset by £600 revenue from my solar PV giving net costs of £400. Given that some of the above were introduced during the year, a full year’s use should reduce consumption further.

 

 

We have moved

Well, after nearly 20 years in the previous house the time came to move. What had started as “One man’s journey” became a couple’s journey and then a family’s journey and eventually the point was reached that enough was enough, or rather non-enough was not-enough when it came to space. A journey that started with my wife proposing a new conservatory (opposed by yours truly) ended up with a significantly larger house about a mile closer to the station. So far for the good news.

EPC scaleThe bad news is that our new-to-us 1970s detached house was rated E52 (on the UK’s scale of A100 to G1 for environmental performance) on the seller’s Environmental Performance Certificate. Fortunately it did have a full set of 2-year-old double glazing but not much else – including it turned out an arthritic boiler that couldn’t heat all the radiators but did manage to heat both expansion tanks in the loft.

So, over the last few months, we’ve been sorting out a few things to improve our environmental credentials and, at the same time, reduce the energy costs estimated at £2,114 per annum (£176 per month) on the EPC.

One of the first things we added was 4kW of solar panels on our south-south-east facing roof. That wouldn’t necessarily have been my first priority as autumn headed for winter, but with a reduction in the feed-in tariffs imminent it seemed sensible to act sooner rather than later. To get the highest feed-in tariff rate it turned out that I also needed a ‘D’ so I switched to low energy bulbs (worth 2 points), fitted the panels (worth 6 points), all of which should have got me 8 points so a D60 and then ordered a new survey..

The new survey came in as a C73 rather more than the D that I’d expected. Key highlights in the different surveys were:
o Walls – from 2 stars to 4 stars as the new survey found evidence of existing cavity wall fill,
o Windows – from 3 to 4 stars after I showed evidence of the installation date,
o Main heating controls – declined from 4 to 3 stars as only 2 TRVs found,
o Lighting – from 1 to 5 stars with all my new low energy bulbs.

Subsequently we sorted out the boiler and controls, so picking up the points values of the latest EPC:
o Hot water cylinder thermostat (as we went from gravity hot water to pumped) – 3 points
o Heating controls (TRVs) – 1 point
o Replace boiler with new condensing boiler – 7 points
o Solar water heating – 1 point

That latest list amounts to 12 points which should have got us from E52 to B85.

End of 2012 Gas Analysis

Well like many UK homes our central heating and hot water is fuelled by natural gas. We also use natural gas for cooking on the stove top (the oven is however electric) and we have a gas fire in the living room, but these latter two uses are much less significant.
I’d lived here for 10 years before I started actively trying to reduce my energy consumption. During those 10 years I used an average of 562 units of gas annually.
Since then I’ve reduced my consumption by two routes, firstly to reduce heat loss so that less energy for heating was required, and secondly by replacing gas with renewable sources. It’s however also the case that my circumstances have not been constant during that time so, for example, when I started this I lived alone then 4 years or so ago I married and my wife joined me here; and now my wife is at home during the day with our baby daughter much of the time. Consequently the demand for hot water for washing and heating has increased.
The steps taken to reduce gas consumption include:

  • Having insulation installed in the cavities of the house walls. Houses here conventionally have a double skin of brick or block and, when this house was built, the cavity between the inner and outer layers was usually left as an air gap. We’ve had that gap filled with insulation as you would find in newer homes.
  • Increasing the thickness of insulation in the loft.
  • Replacing the old wooden windows with new PVC ones with higher “A” grade insulation – most easily seen by the larger air gap in the sealed units.
  • Installing solar water heating panels on the roof in conjunction with a larger hot water tank. In the summer these provide almost all our hot water (no heating is required), although at olther times of the heat they don’t provide enough heat alone for hot water they can help to pre-heat the cold water leaving the gas less work to do to achieve a usuable temperature.

We didn’t do this all at once, but if I compare the last 2 years to the original 10 year baseline then we’ve reduced average annual gas consumption by 23%. I think that the reduction would have been higher had our circumstances between constant.

Well hello..

Hello out there.

This is for the moment something of an experiment as this is my first attempt at creating a blog, so polished it ain’t but hopefully it will get better over time.

Like many people I’m concerned about the state of our planet. It would seem that those of us in the west need to make some significant changes to our lifestyles to try and stop catastrophic damage to our world. Some reports talk of global warming wiping out whole countries and creating hundreds of millions of refugees. Something needs to be done. Someone needs to do something.

Then it occurred to me, here I sit in the UK in one of the world’s wealthiest countries. I have a well paid job, and a nice home. If I can’t change my lifestyle for the better, then who can be expected to?

So over the coming months I’m going to be logging some of the changes that I’ve made. Some are quite big, and others are quite small, but among them there will be something that everyone can do, because even the longest journey is made one step at a time.

Electricity

One of the easiest things that can be done to reduce the environmental impact of your home is to use renewable energy. You could of course buy your own wind turbine or cover the roof with photovoltaics, but those are both quite expensive and may not be appropriate for all homes. However that doesn’t stop you using renewable energy.Wind Turbine at Dagenham

You might not be able to make your own, but why not buy it from someone else? Just as you can shop around to buy cheaper electricity you can also shop around for greener electricity. A service like Simply Switch can quickly find you a greener electricity supplier, and depending on who you buy your power from now it won’t necessarily be any more expensive.