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 passively from the natural environment.

The sun is the most important source of renewable energy and we can capture this energy 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 270mm. Consider cavity wall insulation, insulating beneath floorboards and draught proofing. Use rugs/carpets on uninsulated wood/concrete floors. 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. 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! Buy a hybrid or pure electric car which you can charge directly (or via a battery) from your solar PV system!

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.Turn off appliances when not needed. Don't overfill your kettle.

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.