Why we should change our ways
Our planet’s fossil fuels will not last forever. The World Wildlife Federation has estimated that only 2.7% of the electricity used in the UK comes from a renewable source. If we carry on at this rate, our oil reserves will only last for another 40 years at the most, with supplies of coal running out in 200 years.
Make small changes
It is surprising, but even such a small change as only boiling as much water in a kettle as is needed can make a difference. It will take a shorter time to boil and will expend only the energy required wasting very little. Also, descale the kettle regularly, especially if the area has hard water. Limescale makes a kettle element work much harder to heat the water.
New models of washing machines now feature what they call ‘Eco’ cycles or washes, which use less energy to do the laundry. Older machines may not have these, but it is simple enough to wash clothes at 30°C rather than 40°C, and this will reduce the energy consumption by as much as 40%.
When the washing is done, it is tempting to throw it in a tumble dryer, but these use an enormous amount of energy. If the weather is good, do it the old-fashioned way and hang the laundry out to dry, but if not, and the tumble dryer is unavoidable, conserve some energy by not over-drying the laundry.
Turn lights off if the room is not in use, and use timer switches to turn lights on and off for security when the house is empty. Also, change the bulbs to the energy saving versions.
Make big changes
There are some high capital cost changes that can be made in the home that will return a saving over time. The most obvious place to start is with the windows. A great deal of heat is lost through windows, even if they are double-glazed. Consider replacing old windows with new vinyl or fibreglass frames, which are designed to insulate better, and there are even special window glass types available that retain heat and cut down on UV light.
Even window dressings can help to reduce heat loss from a room. Hanging curtains so that they touch the window frames will form a barrier, trapping heat inside the room rather than letting it bleed out. An even better window solution is to install custom made shutters. These are designed to fit right into the window frame, leaving no space for draughts, and they have the added benefit of being the best window dressing for the summer as well, as they help to regulate the light and the room’s ventilation.
Solar panels are another big outlay, but the sun is a free, renewable resource and it seems ridiculous to ignore it. Studies have revealed that some households with the panels fitted have managed to reduce their energy bills by 37%, with many saying that they have reduced costs by as much as 50%.