The best starting point for trying to reduce the amount of energy you use is to be aware of past use so you can compare your use post any actions you have taken. The best way to do this is via meter readings rather than estimated bills; this can be done by taking direct meter readings or, if available, using the online data many suppliers supply via their websites. You can then inform those taking part that their actions are having an effect by producing results – people tend to lose interest unless they can see their actions are having a positive effect.
Then you will want to communicate your plans to your family / employees so you can get everyone on board and think about setting an initial achievable target (say 10% reduction) together with some sort of incentive for participants. You may even decide to have a small fine for those caught leaving items on, like a swear jar!
The easiest and cheapest way to reduce use is to cut out waste first, ensuring that lights and appliances are turned off when not in use, doors and windows are closed in cold weather, taps are turned off and leaks are fixed. (Even if you are not on a water meter yet, it still takes energy to produce our water and meters are being rolled out in our area.) And don’t forget to include fuel for vehicles – adapting your driving style alone can reduce fuel consumption by up to 40%. Using your car less, lift sharing and planning journeys better will help you save even more.
If you have a smart meter or plug-in energy meter, you will be able to find out which are the most energy-hungry appliances in your home by switching one on at a time and seeing how much energy each uses and then you can make some big savings quickly – remember every saving, no matter how big or small, adds up. It is estimated that the UK could cut energy use by 20-25% just by cutting out waste!
You may qualify for a grant or free energy-saving devices. Speak to your gas, electricity, water supplier and local council. Some will at the very least be able to advise you on cutting use and you may get loft insulation, water-saving devices or low-energy bulbs for free!
Once you have been trying for a couple of months and have an idea how much money you have saved and will save, you can reinvest those savings into items that are more energy-efficient than those you already own. If you are planning an extension or home improvements, factor energy saving in to help you future-proof your home.
Staff at Hemel Hempstead Fire Station have cut electricity use by 54% and gas use by 65% in a period of 5 years by following the simple steps outlined here, helped by the County Council reinvesting some of the savings in new boilers, LED lights on sensors, double glazing and insulation. This has saved the taxpayer almost £37,000 and reduced CO2 emissions. It’s a great example of what can be achieved.
Getting together with other neighbours / businesses to share best practice and ideas is also worthwhile. Transition in Kings (TiK) ran a trial of “Transition Streets” with 34 homeowners in Kings Langley that on average saves over £500 a year for each household, saving money and helping to protect the environment, as well as social benefits such as helping people get to know their neighbours better. Each group of up to ten neighbours had an initial meeting with a facilitator, then met every month or so to work through a handbook supplied by TiK which is crammed full of good information to help householders cut use and get grants. Some of those groups met after completing the workbook and in the feedback said that they felt much better informed about energy saving, environmental matters and felt a greater sense of community after taking part.
A new round of Transition Streets will be starting in the autumn so, if you think you would enjoy taking part, keep an eye out in this magazine and Parish noticeboards or pop along to TiK’s open meeting at the Parish Council offices in Charter Court, Vicarage Lane on the second Saturday of every month 10-12 am.