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Energy-saving hints

Energy-saving hints as we lockdown at home

Tomorrow (Monday) marks the start of Big Energy Saving Week (18th to 24th January). As winter lockdown keeps us at home, Dave Roberts, of the Energy Policy Team at the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, has these hints on decreasing energy use and lowering bills.

Using energy is generally bad for the planet. Its also bad for our pockets and bank balances, so there are several good reasons to do our best to reduce the amount of energy we consume and to make sure what we do use is used as efficiently as reasonably possible.

The basic issue here is we need to heat the air in our living spaces and then to keep that heated air for as long as possible before it escapes and we have to heat more air afresh.

The first thing that most people should probably consider is whether their home’s walls, floors and ceilings are adequately insulated, the home is weather proof and adequately heated.

Current standards for new built homes or substantially extensions built to existing homes requires loft insulation 270mm deep. Many older homes have much less than this or even no insulation at all. It is often a fairly simple DIY option to install additional insulation and one that will create a warmer home at reasonably low cost.

Similarly, once a living space has been warmed, you don’t want that warmth to quickly escape through gaps in the fabric of the building. Drafts mean your home has holes in it through which heat can escape. Check for drafts around windows and doors etc. and fit draft proofing where drafts exist.

When creating the heat to make a home comfortable, it is wasteful to have an inefficient form of heating that doesn’t give adequate payback in terms of heat generated for the amount of energy consumed. Typically, older boilers are not as efficient as newer ones, but their performance can be optimised by regular maintenance as can that of a radiator system which may benefit from periodic cleansing and regular air bleeding.

Think about changing your lighting as well. Modern high quality LED light bulbs can us up to 90% less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs whilst delivering the same amount of light.

The things discussed above are just a few basic home improvements that are likely to improve the comfort of a home, save the occupier money and help the planet, but there are many other home improvements that might be made at relatively modest cost when people consider their own homes and circumstances.

While I wouldn’t recommend ignoring spending money to reduce energy consumption (and make long term savings hopefully), there are many potential energy and cash saving opportunities that come for free if we are prepared to modify established behaviour or make a little effort.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • turn the central heating thermostat down slightly;
  • switch lights off when not in a room;
  • lower the hot water setting on the boiler a bit;
  • take a shower instead of a bath; or if you already prefer a shower, cut it short by a minute;
  • only boil the amount of water you need in your kettle;
  • make sure the dishwasher is fully loaded before washing;
  • wash laundry at low temperature. Modern laundry cleansers are designed to work at low temperatures;
  • if you have outdoor drying space, do laundry only on dry days, and do it early so it has all day to dry. Try to avoid using the dryer unless absolutely necessary.

The prevailing conditions which are requiring many people to work from home at present heighten the importance of being energy efficient in our own homes as the longer we spend there, the greater the need to consume energy.

These are just a few ideas. The following links have more.

Isle of Man Government: Energy advice made simple

Manx Utilities: Energy-saving tips

The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture operates an Energy Efficiency Scheme which offers grants to eligible home occupiers who wish to carry out home improvements to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. Grants of up to £1,000 are available. Details can be found here.

Big Energy Saving Week is organised by Citizen's Advice, the Energy Saving Trust and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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