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Energy saving

Introduction to energy saving

Heat loss

Heat loss

Heat loss from British homes and offices is very high, and it is one of the main contributors to high energy bills. It also means that lots of us sit shivering and cold, rather than turn up the thermostat on the central heating.

Measures to stop the heat leaking out of buildings are an investment in warmth and comfort; as well as a way of reducing your future energy bills. As we rely more on imported gas, and oil prices continue to rise, it makes more and more sense to reduce the amount of electricity, gas and oil we need to keep warm.

As energy bills are only issued four times a year, after you have used the electricity / gas /oil, it is very difficult to get a clear picture of what uses most. As a result many people don’t prioritise the most cost effective measures.

A classic example of this is someone moving into a new house, and immediately replacing all the windows with double glazing. In terms of warmth and bill-savings, this is one of the more expensive measures, and gives a relatively small return. The heat loss diagram above helps explain why (click on the image to enlarge it).

Cost effective measures

Some energy efficiency measures pay for themselves in a very short time, through savings in heating or electricity bills. Others will increase warmth and comfort, but never repay the initial investment. Below is a list of the measures that are most cost effective. All the costs are based on Energy Saving Trust figures. Some may be available free through the energy companies obligation (ECO), or available at no upfront cost through a green deal plan.

1.    Loft insulation (270mm deep)
Cost: free - £350;
Approx saving per year: up to £175;
Time to pay for itself: immediate – 2 years

2.    Cavity wall insulation
Cost: free - £350;
Approx savings per year: £135;
Time to pay for itself: immediate – 3 years

3.    Draught proofing
Cost: c. £120 for DIY; £240 to get a professional in;
Approx savings per year: £50, but as draught proof homes are comfortable at lower temperatures, you may save another £60 per year by turning down the thermostat.
Time to pay for itself: 1 – 2 years DIY

4.    Low energy lighting
Replacing a traditional, incandescent lightbulb with a compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb will save about £3 per year, or £55 over the life of the bulb.
Replacing a 50w halogen downlighter with a 6w LED (light emitting diode) you will save £4 a year;

5.    Take control of your heating
There are two ways to do this. One is to make sure you have at least the basic controls of a timer, a room thermostat and thermostatic valves on each radiator. If you don’t already have one, a room thermostat will save about £70 a year; turning it down by one degree can save around £55 a year.

The other way is by doing things differently. Instead of just setting the timer and forgetting about it, you can play an active part in managing your heating. Turn off radiators in rooms that aren’t in use, and over-ride the timing controls: for example, if you turn the heating off when you are out for the evening you will use less fuel for heating.

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