Wanting to save energy is one thing; knowing where you can start saving is quite another. Before you can get going on your energy saving plans, the first thing you need to do – whether it’s for your own home, a shared building or the whole community – is identify where you can make the changes to start seeing some real benefits.
Everyone knows about using more efficient appliances, adding insulation and changing light bulbs to low energy ones, but useful though these steps are in themselves, the real savings come from changing the way you think and act. To save energy, we need to become more energy aware and one of the best ways to start is with an ‘energy watch’ which will help you to see how you currently use energy – and more importantly, where you waste it.
The more you know about your energy use, the better, so be prepared to take some time over this step. The scope will depend on whether you’re doing this at home, at work or for the whole neighbourhood, but the basic idea remains the same – start off by checking the energy efficiency of the appliances, look at the heating system and consider the levels of insulation. It’s also a good idea to look over past bills to give yourself an idea of what you might call the total ‘energy spend’ – rather than keep looking at gas, electric and firewood bills, for example, as separate items.
Many people find that keeping an energy diary can help with getting an overall picture of household energy use. For a fortnight or so, every time you do anything with energy – whether that’s to switch anything on or off, or turn the heating up or down, write it down. At the end of the period, you should begin to see a pretty clear picture developing of how you use energy over the fortnight – when you use most and hopefully where you waste most too. If it’s a community scheme, and everyone involved has been encouraged to keep one, some interesting patterns of energy use can often emerge – and these can sometimes point you directly at ways to make savings.
Getting Some Advice
Getting external advice from the experts can often be a very useful way to identify where you can save energy. Most energy companies will give you good advice – and the likes of the Energy Saving Trust and your local authority also offer practical help and support. Particularly for schools and businesses, it may be worth considering a formal energy audit, using power meters – small gadgets that measure the electricity consumption of individual appliances as you use them.
Most DIY stores and electrical retailers have versions for sale, but if you don’t want to do it for yourself there are other people who will perform the audit for you. With the advent of Home Information Packs (HIPs) – long established in England and Wales, and a feature of the Scottish housing market from December 2008 – it has become much easier to find out a building’s energy efficiency.
Energy Champions can be invaluable in identifying where to save energy. If your community has appointed a formal ‘Champion’, then all well and good; if not and you’re looking at saving energy for anything more than your own house – in which case you are your own energy champion – it’s a good idea to find someone willing to play the role.
Having somebody in every local group, school or work-place to remind people to turn off the lights and switch off unused appliances is obviously a very practical way to begin saving energy, but a good champion is also ideally placed to spot where energy is being wasted. Once you know that, working out how to save energy becomes much easier.
In the end, it really all comes down to energy awareness; spotting how we use it, how we lose it and how to reduce both. Change those light-bulbs, replace ageing equipment for more efficient versions and beef-up your insulation by all means – they’re great ways to help – but it’s worth remembering that it’s how you think about energy that probably makes the biggest difference.