Saving energy needn’t cost the earth and there are plenty of ways to do it, but it’s always nice to know what things are really going to cost you and how much benefit you’ll get, before deciding what to do. Below are a few straightforward answers to some of the more commonly asked questions to help you make your mind up about what’s likely to work best for you.
Does Turning Down My Thermostat By a Degree or Two Really Make That Much of a Difference?
Turning the temperature down by just one degree C could help you reduce your heating bills by as much as ten per cent – around £60 a year for the average house. Little wonder that this is one of the most frequently suggested ways to make a start on saving energy.
If I Change to Low Energy Light Bulbs, How Much Will I Really Save?
It depends a bit on what sort of light bulbs you’re using at present and how much you have the lights on, but as a general guide, each one should save you £3 or £4 a year – and if you’re changing from high wattage conventional bulbs or you use your lights for more than a few hours daily, the saving could be around double that.
Another big bonus is that they live for anything up to ten times longer too!
Switching Lights on and off Uses More Energy than Leaving Them on, Doesn’t It?
No, not really. Low energy bulbs do use more power when they come on, but it’s only equivalent to a minute or two of actual running time. Switching them on, off and back on again in quick succession may shorten their lives – but if you’re going to be away for more than a quarter of an hour or so, turning them off is the best thing to do.
Do Low Energy Bulbs Work With Normal Dimmer Switches?
Unfortunately at the moment there are very few that do – although this is something that a number of manufacturers are currently working to change.
Can I Really Make Savings if I Stop Using “Standby”?
Yes, you most certainly can – especially when you consider that, according to the latest figures from the Energy Saving Trust, about 10 per cent of the average UK household’s electricity is used to keep appliances on “standby”.
Our love of that little red light means that across the country, our TVs account for £116 million of electricity each year – before they’ve even been switched on – while our DVD players and videos use a further £255 million’s worth, contributing over 1 million tonnes of CO2 to our national carbon emissions.
What are the Simplest Ways to Start Saving Energy?
As well as turning down the heating, changing your bulbs, switching off unused lights and stopping relying on “standby”, there are a number of simple, cheap ways to start making savings.
Making sure your hot water system is properly insulated, for example, will probably only cost £20 or £30 – but it’ll pay for itself in savings within around a year. Staying with water heating, it’s a good idea to check the temperature of your water cylinder’s thermostat – 60 degrees C is plenty hot enough and anything more simply wastes energy and money. Finally, don’t forget that a dripping tap can waste enough hot water each month to fill up two baths – so fixing a worn washer makes a lot of sense and it’s hardly an expensive job to do!
Spending a few pounds on draught excluders – and then a couple of hours to fix them – is another low cost approach to help cut down your heat losses, though the cheapest way of all to reduce wasted heat is simply remembering to shut your curtains when it begins to go dark.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says “the longest journey starts with a single step” – and saving energy is much the same; a few simple steps really can make all the difference.