Energy Saving Ideas

We live with cheap, abundant energy and have taken it for granted, wasting much of it in the process. The toxic substances produced in the production and use of energy lead to warming of the atmosphere and upset the thermal equilibrium established over millions of years.

If we are to accept some responsibility for global warming we must reduce our dependence on coal, oil and gas. It is therefore logical to take steps in our own lives to conserve energy and, where possible, to extract it from the natural environment.

The sun is the most important source of renewable energy and we can capture this energy as individuals by the use of solar thermal collectors, solar photovoltaic cells and by the use of passive solar principles. As a nation we need to consider a host of renewable energy alternatives including wind, tidal, wave, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric. Collectively we must somehow drive down our demand for energy.

1. Insulation

Consider upgrading the insulation in your loft to at least 270mm. Consider cavity wall insulation, insulating beneath floorboards and draught proofing. Insulate your hot water cylinder and hot pipes. Fit double glazing. Fit thermal curtains and close-fitting blinds. Close off unoccupied rooms. Place foil-backed bubble-wrap behind radiators. Fit bubble-wrap to frosted windows. Introduce buffer zones: e.g. a porch or a conservatory to moderate the temperature difference between the inside and the outside of your property.

2. Heating controls

Consider upgrading your heating controls to give you more control over when and where your heat energy is used. This may include the installation of room thermostats, cylinder thermostats, thermostatic radiator valves, timers and even a new A-rated boiler. If you reduce your room stat by 1 degree you may save up to 10% on your heating bills. Set your hot water thermostat to 60C (Legionella bacteria are killed at 60C). Use a wood burning stove for space heating; add a back boiler to heat your water. Wear a wooly jumper!

3. Lighting

Low energy light bulbs use up to 80% less electricity than standard bulbs and last about 10 times longer. Make the most of daylight and reflect it to where it is needed (mirrors, light-coloured paints, pond and patio reflections). If possible organize your day around available sunlight and reduce your reliance on artificial light.

4. Passive solar

Try to increase your capture of passive solar energy. Large windows facing south; small windows facing north. In Spring and Autumn use the south-facing rooms more. Build a solar room or conservatory: it can be used as a heat engine. This energy can be directed around the house using natural convection or fans/vents/ducts. Close curtains when the windows feel cold to the touch. Introduce thermal mass into your property (stone, clay, water) to increase thermal inertia and so moderate temperatures.

5. Transport

Try to walk or bicycle where possible, especially for short journeys. Good for your health! Use public transport, lift-sharing and car pools. Avoid flying!

6. Gadgets

TVs, computers, radios, printers, washing machines, telephones, fridges, tumble dryers, kettles, electric showers, electric immersion heaters, electric storage heaters, vacuum cleaners, gaming consoles etc all use a considerable amount of electricity. Try to purchase energy-efficient makes/models and only use sparingly.  If you have a PV system try to use larger appliances (e.g. washing machine) on sunny days around noon (most intense insolation).

7. Water

Try to use less water in showers, baths and washing up. Use low flush toilets, low flow shower heads and taps. Consider installing water butts and/or a rainwater harvesting system. The average detached house roof can generate 100,000 litres of rainwater per year! Install a greywater system. This water is good for the garden, flushing toilets and for car-washing.

8. Plants

Introduce plants into your home to improve the quality of the air and environment. Grow your own vegetables. Use plants for shading and wind-breaks and to create a habitat for wildlife.

Feed in Tariff scheme

The FIT is a scheme in which owners of PV systems are rewarded for every unit of electricity they generate, irrespective of whether they are used on site or not. This is known as the Generation Tariff and is currently under review. Payments are also made for 50% of every unit generated by the PV system. This is known as the Export Tariff and is currently under review. These payment rates are fixed for 20 years, linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) and are tax-free. Home-owners of PV systems will be required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Category D in order to qualify for the FIT.

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Reduce your electricity bills

If you have a PV system you will make savings on your electricity bills since, during the day, you will be using some of the electricity you are producing. The amount you save will vary depending on the size and performance of your PV system and the amount of electricity you use. (Tip: if you have a PV system use energy-hungry appliances such as washing machines in bright sunshine, if possible, and around noon). Use a timer if you are not at home at noon!

Additionally it is now possible to install a gadget which directs surplus generated electricity to your hot water cylinder's immersion heater. Your PV system can therefore be used to heat your hot water!

Another idea is to purchase a low wattage bar or panel heater (200W or 400W). Switch these on if you see you are generating enough KW's!

Soon, we will be installing batteries so that you can retain even more of your generated electricity!