Saving money and energy at home

There are lots of ways you can save money and energy at home.

Leo Hickman, author of ‘The Good Life’ (2005), Guardian Books, provides the following top tips.

LAUNDRY:
• Wash all clothes at a maximum temperature of 40c.
• Line dry clothes – outdoors or indoors wherever possible.

KITCHEN:
• Put a lid on a pan when boiling water – it will boil up to six times faster. Once the water is boiling, turn it down as most energy is used bringing water to the boil. Match the size of the ring to the pan being used.
• Don’t open the oven door during cooking – you lose over 20% of the heat each time you open it!
• Turn the oven off a few minutes before you are due to take out the food – most modern ovens are well enough insulated to prevent any significant heat loss by doing this.
• Ensure food is defrosted before cooking
• Extractor fans are rarely effective- open the window instead!
Fridges/Freezers:
• Regularly defrost your fridge and freezer to maintain efficiency.
• Keep fridge temperature between 3c and 5c using a fridge thermometer.
• Keep the condenser coils at the back clean and make sure they are not pushed up too close to the wall.
• Do not put hot or warm food in the fridge or freezer.
• Defrost things overnight in the fridge – the cooler temperature of the frozen food will allow the fridge to save energy.
• Fill any empty spaces in either a chest freezer or an upright freezer. Use empty cardboard boxes to minimise the airflow and save energy that would otherwise be spent fanning the air.
Dishwashers:
• Turn your machine off and open the door just before it enters its drying setting. Air drying dishes this way saves significant amounts of energy.
• Wait for the dishwasher to be full before you use it – avoid using the half load setting which uses more than half the amount of energy and water.

BATHROOM:
• Use a shower (but not a power-shower!) – they save water as well as the energy used to heat the water.
• Don’t shave or brush your teeth using a running water tap.

LIGHTING:
• Use energy efficient compac fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) where possible. They save up to 80% on lighting costs and last for years.
• Don’t overlight rooms needlessly.
• Uses sensor lighting outdoors to cut back on energy wasted by permanent security lighting.
• Ignore the myth that fluorescent strip lights are more efficient if left on continuously. If you are leaving a room for more than a minute, turn the light off.

CENTRAL HEATING:
• Make sure your boiler is serviced at least every two years. Replacing a 15 year old boiler could save you 20% on your fuel bills (or 32% if a condensing boiler is installed), and up to 40% if you install the right heating controls.
• Place aluminium foil (shiny side out) behind your radiators to help reflect heat inwards.
• Lowering your thermostat by just 1c can save up to 10% on heating bills. A home should not be heated above 19c – if you have a baby, heating above this temperature is discouraged by health professionals.
• When away from home for more than a few days during cold spells, remember to lower the thermostat and readjust any timers to make your heating come on for just a few hours a day. Likewise, the heating should be set to go off when you are asleep.
• Place your thermostat on an inside wall and away from draughts.
• Regularly bleed radiators to rid them of inefficient air bubbles.
• Lag water tanks and fit draught excluders where possible.
• Turn the hot water temperature down – it’s better to have hot water at the right temperature than cooling it down with extra cold water.

LIVING ROOMS:
• Don’t leave your electrical equipment on standby. Leaving our TVs, DVD players, VCRs, hi-fis, set-top boxes and PCs on standby is estimated to waste 15% of domestic energy worldwide.
• Unplug mobile phone chargers, and any adapters that may be attached to your electrical appliances such as computers, phones etc when they are not in use.
• Don’t put chairs and sofas against outside walls where you will feel the cold and draughts the most.
• Keep internal doors closed as much as possible.
• Block up unused fireplaces. Consider replacing open fires with wood-burning stoves.
• Try not to smoke indoors – it can lead to a 50% increase in heating costs because windows are left open for ventilation.

LOFT AND FLOORS:
• Make sure your loft and cavity walls are well insulated Installing to a depth of 250mm (10 inches) can save your around 25% of your heating costs.
• Fill gaps in the floor boards and place newspaper beneath a carpets underlay for extra insulation.

WINDOWS:
• Small gaps in windows are responsible for up to 20% of a home’s heating loss. Consider investing in double glazing for your windows, but remember that double glazing requires good ventilation otherwise it can encourage damp. A much cheaper alternative to double glazing is to apply purposely designed plastic sheeting to the inside of each pane.
• Close the curtains when a room is not in use during the daytime – it will keep the room cool in summer and warm in winter.

You can also get advice from the following organisations:

Community Energy Plus http://cep.org.uk
Energy Saving Trust http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Take-action/Energy-saving-top-tips

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