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Observer Ethical awards Winners 2011

YouGen Blog

How we reduced electricity consumption from 10,000 to 1,500kwh a year

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 14 December 2011 at 8:40 am

"Around the time our second one was on his way and my office at home needed to get converted back to a bedroom for his sister, I was struck by how much energy I was wasting," writes Damon Hart-Davis, one of our shortlisted contributors.

'The single biggest improvement in energy efficiency that I made at home was to replace several old servers for my home office first with a single laptop and then with a tiny SheevaPlug, going from something close to £1,000 per year on electricity to running from solar panels in my small garden. And I moved the result into one corner of a desk in the master bedroom, with no fans and no air-con needed in summer to stop things melting.  Maybe not everyone could do that, but leaving 'media servers' and big games consoles and TVs running all the time can waste similar energy.

'More domestically, we replaced our fridge-freezer with a bigger one that has more space for supermarket best-before bargains, but uses half the electricity. And as they became unrepairable, we replaced our dishwasher and washer/dryer with the most efficient ones we could find from familiar brands (and without paying lots extra). Just washing almost everything on cold or 30C with a suitable detergent probably halves the electricity consumption for our laundry for example. In fact we almost never run the dryer: we were drying on the washing line last week!

'We're also all CFL or LED lighting now (except, bizarrely, in the fridge), and our total gross electricity consumption is 1,500kWh (1,500 'units') per year, less than half the UK average for a home like ours, and down from much nearer 10,000kWh/year in the bad old days of 2007.

'By adding lots more loft insulation, blocking draughts, upgrading our single-glazed door to modern, efficient double-glazing, installing thermostatic radiator valves, and dry-lining (insulating internally the external walls of) our living room first and then part of the children's bedrooms, our gas consumption has come down to less than 1/3rd of the UK average even as the winters have been getting harsher.

'Oh, and we've plonked solar PV on the roof which gets us roughly carbon-neutral.

'We've done it bit by bit and the most stressful part was paying for solar PV while thinking my job was going to be canned in Sept 2008!

'Usually we've combined efficiency improvements with other work that needed doing, such as our toilet that leaked into our electrics last week being fixed up with a dual-flush mechanism while we're at it, so not every improvement is significant extra disruption.'

Read more of Damon Hart-Davis' low energy home renovation on his website. To vote for his story, use the icons above to like it or tweet it, comment below, or email us.

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