In recent years we’ve seen the scope of what’s to come if we continue on this path of ever-consuming energy, wasting resources and disregarding the natural world. The evidence is clear that humankind has had a detrimental effect on the environment, so we need to do something about it.
We as individuals can’t drastically alter the inexorable decline of the climate, but we can make some simple changes about the home to help reduce our footprint and our impact. As we’ve seen and heard from the recent COP26 conference – although in this instance we have world leaders using private jets to travel around the world, only to tell us to stop using our boilers – the situation is critical, so what can we do?
In the Kitchen
One of the biggest energy holes in the home is the kitchen. With a washing machine, fridge, freezer, oven, kettle and so on all in one place, it’s easy to see where most of our energy bill money goes. But the changes we make in the kitchen needn’t be too drastic.
Let’s begin with the kettle. Years ago, there was a commercial on TV asking that we save energy by only filling the kettle with the amount of water needed. According to energy experts, we could save up to £8 per year by only filling the kettle part-way, or enough for a mug of tea. While that doesn’t sound like much, take into account that if every household in the UK did this, all 28 million of them, over £224 million would be saved.
You don’t need to wash up with a bowl of hot water. Lukewarm water will suffice, and even cold water will do in most circumstances. Most folk these days use anti-bacterial washing liquid, which contain ingredients that help clean dishes better at lower temperatures. As this is the case, only half-filling the bowl with hot water, and the rest with cold will cut down a significant amount from your overall energy bill – as well as reducing your carbon use, too.
The fridge and freezer are worth taking a look at too. Make sure that your fridge is full, as this keeps the items inside colder, reducing the fridge’s motor use and work over time; the same applies to the freezer (if it’s a separate unit). It’s also recommended by those in the know that you keep the rear of the fridge and freezer clean and free from the usual dust and fluff that tends to gather there. Keeping the various coils and so on clean makes it work at maximum efficiency, saving you money in the long term.
A dishwasher, according to experts, uses around 9.5l per wash, which is roughly the same as a standard washing-up bowl. However, you need to ensure that you use the minimum amount of bowls of washing per day, as you would using a dishwasher. The advantage of the bowl, is that you can always empty the water into the garden, or into a water butt so it can be used to water the garden when hasn’t been any rain for a while.
Save energy by only using the washing machine when there’s a full load available. Doing smaller washes throughout the week may save you turning your home into the Widow Twankey’s during the weekend, but it’s using a lot of energy. As for temperature, most of us have taken the point that we can wash at lower temperatures now, even the clothes washing liquids and powders are manufactured these days to accommodate a 30-degree wash. And, if you can, letting your clothes dry naturally will save you from using the tumble dryer, which is calculated at around a £35 per year saving.
Home Lighting and the Living Room
Energy reduced lightbulbs are the norm these days, but you can also save energy throughout the home by using dimmer switches. These aren’t just for date night, indeed, lowering the light levels saves a percentage in energy use. Also, keep your receipts when you buy energy saving light bulbs. Most have a lifetime guarantee of around ten years – more in some cases – so if one dies only a year or so after you’ve purchased it, get a refund or a new bulb with your old receipt as proof. LED bulbs are said to use around 75% less energy than a conventional incandescent bulb, as well as lasting considerably longer.
Odd as it sounds, if you paint your walls a lighter colour, they will reflect light better, so you can reduce the wattage of the bulbs used in the room.
Insulation is one of the greatest factors when it comes to saving energy and sealing in the heat generated through your radiators. Although not all houses can be insulated adequately, if you’re able to, have your home inspected by an expert and see what their recommendations are for the best insulation for you.
Turn your stuff off! Don’t leave your TV on standby mode all night, or even for those few hours when there’s no one watching it. True, it doesn’t use too much energy, but you’ll save more if you turn the thing off. Saying that, if there’s no one in the room, turn the light off. Those of the certain age will undoubtedly recall their parents shouting about lights being left on: “It’s like Blackpool illuminations here!” was the one we had. It’s true, though, switch off and save.
Blocking out draughts under doors and windows will save you heating energy. It’s worth having an expert check your doors and windows to make sure they’re not leaking out valuable heat energy, and there’s nothing wrong with having a rug to keep the heat in and using a draught excluder at the foot of a door at night.
If you can, take a shower. You’ll save a considerable amount of money and energy by showing for a brief period than running a bath, lounging in it and having to top it up every so often. Okay, sometimes a hot bath is the perfect remedy, but try and cut them down throughout the year. On that note, try and time yourself when in the shower, and see if you can reduce that time about a minute. Doing so could save you £10 on your energy bills and up to £20 on water bills.
Using a cooler setting for hairdryers and straighteners will save money over time too, and if you can get rid of them altogether, as they’re considerable energy drains.
Fix any leaking, dripping taps. Over time you’ll save water. Only use the tap when you wash your brush while brushing your teeth, doing so can save you up to 8,000 litres of water per year.
And now for flushing. The old saying, if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down, still applies. A typical toilet uses around 9 litres of water per flush, if you can save off for a few flushes, then great, you’ve saved money and water.
Gas bills are rising by the minute, so save energy and your hard-earned money by ensuring that your boiler is in tip-top condition. Call in a Corgi registered expert to service the boiler – upgrade to a newer, more efficient model if you can – to ensure it’s working as it should.
If you’re able to, lower the temperature of the house thermostat by a single degree. See how it feels, and if it’s not too cold, then lower it by another degree. Keep doing so until you find a good level which everyone finds comfortable. And, as my grandmother used to say, if you’re cold, wear a jumper.
Keep your windows shut, blinds drawn and curtains closed when the heating is on. This helps retain the heat in the house for longer, so your boiler won’t keep powering up to keep the room temperature.
Log burners are getting a bad press at the moment. While they do cause some pollution, both externally and internally, they are being improved on with each new generation of log burner being made. There are experts who claim they are cheaper, and more efficient than a conventional gas boiler, and experts who oppose that view. In truth, the jury’s still out with this one, but if you own one, consider using more sustainable logs, or even use dead wood you may find on a walk – but you’ll need to store them in a well-ventilated place for at least a year before using them in your burner.
Save money, save the environment
Even if you disagree with the climate crisis, adopting some or all of the available tips on saving energy will help save you money over the course of a year. Doing more will help the environment, help the next generation, and help us. So it’s all good.