Over the last couple of years we made an effort as a family to cut down on how much we used the car – and in October 2011 we finally went car-free.
After seeing that this brave step yielded positive results all around, we’ve decided to tackle the next big area which accounts for a significant amount of our carbon footprint – our energy use at home.
The plan is to see if we can get our energy use down significantly – by 10% to start off with. Why? Two main reasons. One – to save money – we spend £100 a month with Ecotricity for their new energy plus dual fuel tariff and clearly prices are only going one way. The second reason of course is an environmental one.
For a start, I began to take weekly gas and electricity readings to get a better idea of how much energy we consume at home. Through a local energy group I found out about imeasure-a useful website which helps you to record your weekly energy consumption– so I’ve been adding our weekly readings to this.
One of our first great projects was the boiler replacement. Our 10-year old boiler packed in completely in mid January. As a result, we had 10 days with no heating or hot water – which does wonders for your energy use stats! Whilst it was a pain (and a big expense) to replace the boiler in an unplanned way at least it gave us an early opportunity to see if we could get our energy use down, by choosing a good boiler. The chosen boiler- a Worcester Bosch Greenstar 30si- came out top in a a Which? survey of reliable, energy-efficient boilers .
We also got a new thermostat that is easier to programme. Even though I wanted to go for one of those next generation thermostats like Nest’s Learning Thermostat, sadly they are still not available in the UK. Instead, I chose one that was recommended by many of my twitter followers- Honeywell CM907.
The other big project was the LED replacement around the house. They’re not cheap – the ones I’ve tested have ranged from £6 each to £35 each – and it all adds up if you’ve got 20 bulbs to replace. But the promised savings are significant, down from 40W per bulb to around 6W – and up to a 20 year life span.
After testing a range of LEDs, I wasn't that impressed with the cheapest ones, the mid-range ones are good enough for areas of the house where good lighting is not so crucial (i.e. the utility room or the pantry). The best ones I tested, which go for around £35 each, do produce noticeably better light and are the only ones I’ve found that come with a 5 year guarantee.
But £35 is a lot of money for one bulb which is why I’m going to opt for the less-bright version which is also £10 cheaper. We’ve also replaced the spotlights in the hall with energy efficient spots by Megaman (7Watts each). They too are not cheap and this is why we’ve only replaced a few but will replace the rest as they fail.
I got involved in a local initiative called Green Day, where people from the area who’ve had things done in their homes to reduce energy use have opened their house for others to see and get inspired.
I was keen to get involved because I’m a big believer in the idea that we change what we do when we see people we know – people who are a bit like us – changing what they do. So if I see a few neighbours growing their own veg, or taking the time to draught-proof every last corner of their house – then I’m more likely to do the same. I’m much more likely to change my behaviour that way – whereas a Government campaign might alienate me, and I might not necessarily trust someone who’s trying to sell me the latest green technology.
And even though changing a few light bulbs around the house may not sound as sexy as going solar (which I do intend to do when we can afford it), it’s important to show that changing small things in the house can make quite a big difference both for the economy and your finances.
After all the new adjustments and fittings during the past 10 months, it was time to see how we did.
The graph (courtesy of imeasure) shows promising results. Over the course of the year we’ve been replacing a lot of the bulbs in the house (most replacing spotlights – average 40W each – with LEDs– average 6W each). This will be reflected in the lower consumption levels. We’ve also made an effort to use the tumble drier less – which I’m sure will have had a big impact.
The results have motivated me to do more in the house – to see if we can get energy use (in particular gas consumption) lower – by doing some of those jobs (like extra draft proofing and putting up thicker curtains) that could make a difference in the winter.
It’s heartening to see that some of the effort (and, of course, expense) we’ve put into reducing energy use seems to be paying off.
I’m not pretending our one little household is going to make a big difference when it comes to slowing down climate change. However, I do believe that we need to do a lot more with regards to reducing domestic energy use. And I think our first few months suggest that if you make a bit of an effort, and keep an eye on the energy you’re using, you can make significant (at least at a micro-level) changes. If more of us were to do this, then all those small reductions in consumption would start to add up.
This post is exerpted from Rob's blog – read more at thesocialbusiness.co.uk