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Observer Ethical awards Winners 2011

YouGen Blog

Energy measuring brings highs and lows

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 11 May 2009 at 11:27 am

I find energy use and carbon emissions difficult to get my head around. You can’t see them or touch them. A monthly direct debit or quarterly bill are distant from the actual use you make of gas, electricity or oil.

However, I’ve found a way to make them more visible. I’ve been measuring my use of gas and electricity every week now for six months (see this previous blog, for earlier thoughts on it), using imeasure from Oxford University. It’s fascinating, slightly addictive and thoroughly frustrating.

In April I was on a high, as I got a carbon rating (average emissions per person in the household that week) of B for the first time. I’ve just entered my figures for last week to find that it’s slipped down to C again. Even worse, our electricity use rose last week and I can’t work out why.

What’s great about this monitoring is that it gives me some perspective on energy use. By comparing our use with other households it puts it in perspective. We can tell whether we’re frugal or guzzlers, and whether there’s potential to use less. Whether your motivation is to save money by reducing your bills, or emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it’s a brilliant tool.

I compare our carbon emissions with other households of two people, and am annoyed if I don’t beat the average. I also look at the average carbon emissions for all people using the site, whatever their house type, and number of occupants. If I’m better than that overall average I’m really pleased.

By some strange coincidence my electricity bill arrived as I was writing this, telling me that our household’s average daily consumption of electricity in the past three months has declined by nearly a third compared with the same period last year. Our direct debit has just been reduced by nearly 50 per cent.

As well as the comparative data I'm already mentioned, I can also see our weekly gas and electricity use mapped out on a graph (you can tell when the cold weeks were this winter), and detailed tables of weekly amount spent (and carbon emissions associated with it). There’s also a forum where people share tips (particularly interesting is where people who’ve reached the elusive A standard say how they got there).

Although not yet an A grader, here’s some of what we’ve done to reduce our usage.
  • Got curtains for all the windows that didn’t have them and draw them at dusk
  • Installed a room stat in the kitchen, and set it at 18 degrees
  • Turned off radiators in rooms unless we are actually using them
  • Changed all our light bulbs for low energy ones.
  • Only put the hot water on for an hour in the evening. This gives the solar panels maximum chance to heat the water
What are your top tips – we’d like to know.


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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