According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), 40% of the UK’s energy consumption and one fifth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions stem from powering and heating homes and other buildings.
Significant changes, including urgent legislation and well targeted financial support from the Government, are therefore arguably key if the UK is to achieve its climate change goals by 2050.
For example, around 90% of UK homes rely on gas boilers to provide heating, with a widely suitable and cost-effective alternative not currently obvious. Options ranging from electric boilers to heat source pumps can cost anything from £2,000 – £20,000 and aren’t suitable for installation in many homes, particularly those that are poorly insulated, and the UK lags behind most of Europe on this front.
Successive governments have introduced grant scheme after grant scheme but in truth they’ve barely scratched the surface. Most recently, the now defunct Green Homes Deal helped to insulate fewer than 6,000 homes against a target of 600,000.
Combine this lack of progress with the need to tackle the climate emergency, soaring energy prices and a cost-of-living crisis and looking hard at ways we can reduce our energy use and bills has to be a worthwhile exercise? Here are some suggestions to get you started…
If your home hasn’t been well insulated or your windows and doors are decades old, you could be wasting lots of energy (and money!) generating heat that is quickly being lost. If you can’t afford to directly address these bigger issues, ensure that your radiators are operating efficiently and consider adding a heat reflective material behind them, insulate water cylinders and pipes, cap and safely seal any open chimneys, invest in thick curtains, use draft excluders, cover cold floors with rugs, close internal doors to keep the heat where your need it, place seating in the warmer areas in rooms and capture heat by leaving your oven open after use.
A study by a leading comparison website found that 10% of the UK routinely set their thermostat to at least 25°C, whilst in the UK the average is 20°C. Reducing that by just 1°C to 19°C could save the average household at least £80 a year. We need to use our heating a little more sparingly – remember to dress warmly at home during colder months, keep a throw or blanket handy and maybe even a hot water bottle.
If you have a condensing combi boiler (that provides your heating and heats your water), you could save up to 8% on your gas bill just by turning the flow temperature down, according to the Heating and Hot Water Council. Always consult your manual to ensure you use the correct minimum setting.
Don’t get in a spin
Up to 90% of the energy consumed when using a washing machine comes from heating the water. According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing at 30°C rather than 40°C reduces your energy consumption by around 60% per cycle. A cool wash setting can save you around 25% more energy than using ‘eco mode’. Aim for a full load or remember to use the ‘light load’ setting.
On the line
Around 60% of UK households own a tumble dryer but, worryingly, a single cycle can produce nearly 2KG of CO2 and use 4kWh of energy. Incredibly, if every tumble dryer owning home in the UK instead hung and dried just one extra load of washing in a year, over one million tonnes of CO2 would be saved. Try to live without a tumble dryer – dry clothes outside whenever you can and inside on a clothes line if not.
Fridges and freezers account for up to one tenth of our home energy usage. Generally, the fuller they are, more efficiently they will run. Fridges should be set at between 1°C and 5°C – don’t have yours set colder than you need and don’t leave doors open for longer than needed.
Standby for savings
From TVs to games consoles, laptops to kitchen appliances, don’t leave them on overnight and when not in use. The Energy Saving Trust’s research suggests that up to 16% of our home energy is used to power devices in standby mode.
Speaking of appliances and devices, when the time comes to replace any in your home, always aim to buy those that are at least A-rated and therefore the most energy efficient available.
Similarly, don’t leave any lights on around the house. Also, switch to LED bulbs which can last for decades with any luck and use up to 90% less energy than other alternatives.
Depending on how seriously you want to take things, if you haven’t moved for more than five years, consider having your home assessed and getting an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) done. It will show you how energy efficient your home is and may provide helpful suggestions as to improvements you could make. And, consider a smart meter if you don’t already have one so you can track your energy usage and identify further changes you can make.
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