Filling The Green Gap

The PM has recently been criticised for a lack of leadership on green energy issues. He has publicly stated this week that the UK must now focus on prioritising green issues.

The Green Deal scheme launched in January this year promised much with enticements of cash back, loans for participants and job creation, but so far seems to be delivering little, with only a handful of homes signing up for it.

Some homeowners have felt cheated by the upfront fees they have had to pay in order for inspectors to approve them for the Green Deal, sometimes being charged up to £180. There has also been criticism of the fact that the Green Deal stays with the property, and if you move into a new home you will take on the payments until the finance is paid off.

While there can be no doubt that the government has its intentions firmly in the right place, there are still a number of kinks in the system which need to be worked out. So in the meant time, what steps can we as homeowners take to improve the “green-ness” of our home? More importantly, what can we do that won’t cost us money? Here are a few suggestions to boost your green credentials and keep your cash in your pocket at the same time, all without having to switch your energy supplier.

Tips for staying more energy efficient

Thermostat

Turning your thermostat down by just 1°C could save money on your energy bills. If you’re going out at night or away on holiday then turning them down will save on heating bills. It may take a bit of getting used to initially, but you will get used to it and the savings will give you a warm glow!

Lights 

This might sound obvious, but only use lights when you need them. There are a few people in my house who have a bad habit of leaving a room and leaving the light burning when they go. This is costing me money and that’s not good, so they need constant reminders (i.e. nagged) to switch them off.  I also leave battery powered LED lights on the staircase at night, they’re handy if you need to get up in the middle of the night as they take away the need for you to go stumbling around for the light switch and waking everyone else up in the process.

Appliances 

  • Kettle: This is one I used to be really guilty of, overfilling the kettle. If you fancy a cuppa try to fill it with just the amount of water that you need and don’t fill it up to capacity. Not only will this contribute to your savings but it also means you have less time to wait for a cuppa!
  • Cooker: Your cooker is no friend to your meter. Whether gas or electric, chances are it’s responsible for a high chunk of your bills. Another one I used to be really guilty of when I’m cooking is opening the oven door to check on food. You wouldn’t leave open the back door to your house at regular intervals and let the heat in the room out, so why do it with the cooker? If your oven has a glass door then just use that to check on your cakes, or roasts, they’ll cook quicker if you’re not opening the door every 10 minutes or so. The only downside here is that it’s an incentive to clean your oven regularly and god knows that’s a miserable job!
  • Fridge: This one might pose an interior design problem and I am a stickler for everything in its right place, but don’t put your fridge next to your cooker for the simple reason that they’ll fight for top dog status. Usually it’s the cooker who’ll one cos it’ll make sure that the fridge has to work much harder if the two of them are in use at the same time. Like a petulant electronic snowman the fridge doesn’t much like direct sunlight either, so try and place it out of the sun’s rays as again it will have to work harder to compensate.

Laundry –Men, listen up! Washing machines don’t bite! If you treat them right, they will be your friend and you may even get to like them (yes, I realise that may be a long shot, but I’m an optimist). Washing machine are hungry souls, at least the one in my house is, they don’t like a small snack, they like a full meal, so try and ensure that you put a full load in when you’re using it, that way you’re getting the most efficient use. If you have to do smaller loads then try to wash at 30°C as this will help to reduce your electricity prices.

Leisure – I had a small dig at men in the last list item so I’ll even the score and say hands up ladies, how many of us have left the house in a hurry and then worried about leaving a hairdryer or worse, straighteners plugged in? Aside from the safety issues with this, appliances like these should be unplugged after use.  Chilling out after work as well is still costing you money, we all go home and switch on the TV, watch a DVD or use a games console, and when we go to bed what do we do? Hit the standby button and forget about it. This is one of the worst culprits for adding to the cost of your energy bills, some TVs can use up to 90% energy in standby mode, so even though you think you’ve switched off, your wallet is still open!

Some of these tips may verge on the obvious, but if you can say that you remember to do this all the time, not only are you fibbing, but you’ll probably have cheaper energy bills than me, so keep it up! If you don’t then just take a minute and remember to switch off, turn down and most importantly, start saving!

Julie Millar contributes to number of blogs on green and environmental issues for a number of UK energy suppliers.

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