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My top five energy saving tips

Posted by Adrian Wright on 3 November 2011 at 3:03 am

1) Insulate!!

Insulation is a no brainer. Why allow all of that expensive heat to escape through your walls and roof when you can receive grant funding from energy suppliers to have your home professionally insulated?  Enact Energy can now do this for you completely free of charge* so there really has never been a better time to get your home insulated.  Cut your heat loss by up to 50% and save up to £135** per year on your heating bills with cavity wall insulation and £175** with loft insulation.

*Free cavity wall insulation and loft insulation if your home has less than 60mm of existing insulation.  Some additional charges may apply to larger than average homes or where extra works are required such as scaffolding or ventilation etc. ** source Energy Savings Trust

2) Ditch those halogen bulbs!

Halogen downlights are an obsession of mine, just ask anyone I work with. The scourge of noughties, most homes didn’t escape the evil 50w halogen bulb whether it be a kitchen downlight or in a chrome light fitting.  I am not sure whether to blame B&Q or BBC Changing Rooms. They are cheap to buy, and nice and bright, but you will pay dearly through your electricity bill.  

When I moved into my home a few years ago I found a kitchen with around 20 halogen bulbs in.  I calculated that if I had them on for 4 hours a night, that was 4 hours x 20 bulbs x 50w which in electricity terms adds up to 4kWh a day.  At 12p per kWh that is 48p a day or a whopping £175 per annum just for the kitchen lighting!  I installed low energy versions which at the time were around £12 each (but recently saw them on sale for less than £2).  An 11 watt compact fluorescent downlight is almost as bright as a halogen but almost 5 times cheaper to run, a saving of £136 per year in the example of my kitchen.  

LED replacements are getting cheaper and now you can get the equivalent light output of a 50w halogen from just a 5 watt bulb.  Dimmable versions are also available but not easy to source in mainstream DIY sheds.  If you have a large number of halogens you want to replace I would recommend sourcing directly from China, I recently negotiated a price of around 7 US dollars (circa £4.66) for a bulb which here could easily cost £30.

Clearly you need to vet the manufacturer by asking to see their CE and ISO certification, and you will need to factor in import charges and carriage, but if you have 10 or more bulbs to replace you will still be quids in.

3) Switch energy supplier

One of the quickest and easiest ways to save on your energy bills is to switch supplier.  You could save up to £458 a year* without having to pay out a bean as long as your existing tariff has no exit penalties. Go to Consumer Focus for a full list of approved independent energy bill comparison websites, and have a copy of your existing energy bill or annual statement to hand.

*source uSwitch

4) Install an energy monitor

Whilst an energy monitor does not in itself save energy, you will find that a glowing display which tells you your home’s energy usage has gone into overdrive will focus your mind and you will find yourself becoming healthily obsessed by standby energy usage on your appliances.

I recently installed an Alertme monitor in a temporary house we were renting (around £49) which came with an online web interface and I was shocked at the base load of electricity that was being used and the huge peak when the electric immersion kicked in. Nothing makes you react more quickly than seeing your money draining away to your electricity company in real time!

5) Install solar PV (electric)

Yes, yes I know, the feed-in tariff has just been cut by 50%, but dither any further and you will see it cut again in 2013, so buy now before this happens and before electricity bills jump up again.

While the feed-in tariff rate on a 4kWp system will now only generate you an income of around £735, based on RPI inflation at 2.5% and annual energy bill inflation of 5%, this will still give you a pay back on your investment within 10 years and a total 25 year income (including energy bill savings) of circa £37,000 based on a system which should now cost you less than £10k. Not a bad return on investment?

Now let’s assume RPI inflation stays at its current rate of 5% and energy bills continue to leap up by 10% a year (which is not impossible). Now your payback is more like 8 years and your total 25 year benefit jumps to nearer £57,000!

Don’t be put off by the new lower feed-in tariff rate. By all means kick yourself for missing the pennies from heaven 43.3p rate, but don’t end up kicking yourself again in just over a year's time when you realise you should have installed solar PV while the going was still good.

Photo: stormpetrel1

About the author: Adrian Wright has more than 20 years experience in the energy efficiency industry and acts as a consultant to Enact Energy.

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

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7 comments - read them below or add one


CrishmartinComment left on: 20 October 2012 at 11:25 am

I live alone in a small apartment. Just by unplugging everything not in use, I lowered my bill by $20. Thats a lot, I can imagine people that live in big households…you can save much more. Thanks for sharing this great post with us.

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ZCarlComment left on: 24 November 2011 at 7:51 pm

Thanks for the great tips as I can apply all or include it in my building regulations list.

And by the way before I forget, building regulatory board has newly lunched a new building regulations.

"the lower the U-value the slower the heat loss, thus it helps a lot to minimize your energy consumption" 

ZCarl from Building Regulations Watford 

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 5 November 2011 at 10:30 pm

I've tested a variety of meters including Alertme and Wattson. My favourite is the Wattson solar, which had a very simple system of lights to show when the system was generating more than was being used in the house, or not. However, the data system was much more complicated, and involved doing calculations, which I'm not keen on. However, my understanding is that they are in the process of updating and improving it's interaction with the solar, and relaunching it quite soon. I hope to get another to try and will review it if I do.

Unlike Adrian, I wasn't so keen on the Alertme. It didn't tie in with the solar, and the bit that showed visually how much electricity I was using needed to be plugged into my router, which was up in my office, not in the kitchen where it would have been much more useful. But then, if I'd had a snazzy iPhone app I might have thought differently!

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Adam W

Adam WComment left on: 5 November 2011 at 7:34 pm

I have spoken to alertme and they say that they are considering developing a monitor which can distinguish import/export.

uSwitch expect to have a product to sell from Watson Energy by December. Has anyone heard of this company?

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@adrianenactComment left on: 4 November 2011 at 3:16 pm

Hi Adam

GEO do a neat monitor which reads the flashing LED which should be on the front of most standard PV generation meters. This wont unfortunately tell you how much of the electricity from the system you are using, just what you are generating.  I am not 100% sure that you will get what you are after without having a full smart meter installed.  BG are installing some now but I doubt you would be able to request an install before the main Smart Meter roll out starts.

For a straight energy monitor I would recommend Alertme for their fancy iPhone App and simple user interface. Monthly subscriptions are required however.

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kenwComment left on: 4 November 2011 at 12:12 pm

I had an EON supplied monitor but after my PV installation it was useless. It can only measure the flow along the cable but it does not know in which direction.

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Adam W

Adam WComment left on: 3 November 2011 at 10:17 pm

Do you know of an energy monitor which is suitable for use after solar PV has been installed? All the ones I have seen cannot differentiate between imported and exported energy.

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