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How to: Energy-saving tips around the home

Save money by cutting down electricity usage

Energy saving tips electricity meter

With electricity prices always on the rise it makes sense to keep energy bills to a minimum. [Updated 22 May 2013: extra information on energy-saving lighting.]

You might want to invest in an energy monitor such as Efergy’s portable e2 or the same company’s Engage Hub, which displays real-time electricity usage on your web browser or via a smartphone app.

We asked Efergy for its best energy saving tips, and added some of our own to help you cut down on electricity usage and save money on energy bills. And we'd be delighted to hear your energy-saving tips if you'd like to leave them in the Comments section of this article.

(It’s also doing your bit for the environment, of course.)

Stand down Standby

The average household spends around £70 a year keeping household electronic devices on standby. That’s over 10 percent of a house’s total electricity consumption. Think about all those TVs, set-top boxes, DVD players, PCs, audio systems, games consoles. Do you really need to leave them on standby through the day and night?

Obviously it makes sense to leave your Sky box, Tivo or PVR (personal video recorder) on standby if you have scheduled programme recordings.

Consider investing in an energy monitor to keep track of your spending, and seeing real-time data on where and when you sue most electricity. See: energy monitor reviews

Computer energy saving tips

• Don’t leave your PC or laptop on all day and night when you’re not using it. If you’re going to be away from your computer for a decent amount of time turn it off or at least send it to sleep.

• Check the power settings on your PC or laptop. Most have energy saving options on them. This is a great way to reduce because it’s a one-off thing and can be really effective. Screensavers and black desktop backgrounds also help.

• Keep your computer peripherals (printer, scanner, speakers, etc) turned off when you’re not using them. Leaving devices on standby is still using electricity so keep them switched off when you can. You will probably want to keep your internet router turned on when you’re at home during the day, especially if you use wi-fi around the home. There’s no real reason for it to be on when you’re asleep, though. See: More computer energy-saving tips

Appliances energy saving tips

• Try not to leave charged appliances unnecessarily plugged in, even when something is completely charged it still uses electricity. Also it can reduce equipment life span by 15 percent and creates a needless fire risk.

Lighting energy saving tips

• Switch off all lights when you leave the house. If you leave the lights on for security, connect them to timers. If you turn a light off for even a few seconds, you will save more energy than it takes the light to start up again, no matter what sort of lights you have.

• Use long-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs in your house. This will typically save £1 per bulb changed out (for bulbs running 4-6 hours per day) and reduce heat in your home. The Energy Saving Trust calculates that if the average household replaced all its remaining old-fashioned bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and all halogens with LEDs it would cost around £125 and save around £55 a year.

• Those ceiling-based halogen bulbs look great but use an enormous amount of electricity. if you have an energy monitor just turn on a batch and watch the energy spend rocket. Or simply feel how hot these bulbs get – don't touch them, though, they will burn you. LED equivalents give off very little heat – proving that they don't waste energy in heat, just using energy for light. There are some ultra-efficient LED lights on the market, which are worth trying. These aren't cheap but will save you money in the long run. LED bulbs can have a life of 50,000 hours and reduced energy costs up to 90 percent. Look for GU10 or MR16 (GU5.3) LED bulbs if you use standard halogen downlights. 5W is equivalent to standard 35W halogen bulbs, but 4W should be efficient. If you need dimmable LED lights remember to check that the bulbs allow this.

GU5.3 (also known as MR16) reflector bulbs have two thin pins. GU10 bulbs have stubby, fatter pins. Make sure you buy the correct type.

There are also issues with some transformers requiring more power. Because LEDs use so much less power than existing halogen bulbs the transformers don't get enough power and so can flicker or not work at all.

Don't be tempted to buy dirt-cheap LEDs from eBay, as some can be dangerous. Go for a respectable maker such as Philips (its CorePro range is recommended), and check for the CE safety branding.

Don't go out and buy 30 expensive LEDs. Buy one and check that it works first. If in doubt talk to a qualified electrician.

Light output is usually defined in one of three colours, Warm White, Cool White and Daylight. Warm White is good for domestic environments and is the normal colour associated with a standard halogen bulb. Cool White is a cooler, more like fluorescent tubes in offices or retail environments. Daylight colour is a very white light, almost with a tinge of blue.

• Keep lights and lighting fixtures clean, especially if you're reducing the number of lights you use. Dirt absorbs light. Let lights cool before cleaning them and never touch halogen bulbs with your bare hands. The oil from your skin can greatly damage the bulbs. Use a small piece of paper to hold the bulb.

Heating energy saving tips

• Install a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically and maximize your energy savings. It also helps maintain a more comfortable household temperature.

• Every degree of heat turn down on your thermostat could save you £60 a year. Experiment with heat to see if you’re setting it higher than necessary.

• Caulk or weather strip windows and doors. Saving in annual energy costs might amount to more than 10 percent of the yearly heating bill.

• If you have air conditioning, set the temperature at 24-25 degrees C. It’s a comfortable and efficient temperature. Also clean the filters regularly, as blockages means the fan has to work harder.

• If your A/C unit is on the ground, keep the area around it clean and free of obstructions to maintain air flow.

Kitchen energy saving tips

• You can’t turn off your fridge or freezer at night to save money but you can cut down these devices’ electricity usage. Keep the inside of a fridge between 0-5°C. Defrost food in the fridge, as frozen food helps to cool the fridge. Keep your fridge and freezer at least three quarters full, recommends Which? Magazine. You could fill them with bottles of water to take up space – although over-filling will stop air circulating round the compartments properly.

• Washing clothes at 30 degrees C as opposed to 40 degrees C, uses 40 percent less energy and is generally as efficient, according to the UK’s Energy Saving Trust. Look for Eco cycles to further cut power.

• Don’t pre-rinse dishes before putting them in dishwasher. This can save a significant amount per year. If you have a water meter letting the dishwasher do all the cleaning is more efficient than putting stuff under a running tap.

• Use your dishwasher only when it is full, maybe every two days.

• Adjust the water level on your washing machine to match the load size, especially when using hot water. Always use a cold rinse. Also, clean the lint filter regularly.

• Try not to use a clothes dryer. Tumble dyers and the like are incredibly energy greedy! Which? Calculates that one load in a C-rated electric tumble dryer costs around 49p, compared to just 14p per load in an A-rated heat pump dryer. Switch to the old outside line method when possible or use a dry room and allow a bit of extra time for the clothes to dry. If you have to use the dryer use the auto sensor function if you have one to conserve energy by not over-drying your clothes.

• If you must use a tumble dryer wring out or spin clothes before putting them in.

• Don’t overfill your kettle, just boil the amount of water you need. Check how much energy a kettle uses with an energy monitor. You’ll be shocked at how much electricity is used making a simple cup of tea. And keep it descaled, as all that limescale makes the kettle work harder to boil.

Insulation energy saving tips

• Make sure that you have adequate insulation in your attic. This can reduce your energy heating needs by up to 20 percent. Make sure that your attic is properly ventilated. If your insulation gets even slightly damp, it can lose as much as one third of its ability to insulate.

• Keep the drapes and shades on the south side of your house open during the warmest part of the day in winter months to capture as much sunlight as possible. The sunlight will help warm your house and cut your energy costs. Close all your drapes and shades at night to keep the warm air inside your house.

• Insulating your water heater with a water heater jacket can keep heat from escaping. A water heater jacket is easy to install and can save hundreds of dollars on your utility bills over the lifetime of your water heater.

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