Is your heating on a timer? I’m very unpopular in our house thanks to my decree that the central heating should only be on for 2 hours in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. It stems from the fact that I finally got round to logging an actual meter reading, rather than relying on estimates, and realised exactly how much gas we had been using! But in truth, I’m not even sure it’s the heating that’s eating up most of our energy. British Gas® are on a mission to make our energy usage much more visible, with the installation of a new generation of gas and electricity smart meters, designed to help support consumers in reducing their energy wastage, and bills. As well as showing exactly how much money is mounting up in real time – and therefore which are the biggest energy drains in the home – the meters also send automatic readings to British Gas, meaning no more estimates, and no more stumbling around in a dark corner of the garage for your meter reading! They’ve asked me to share my own tips for saving energy, and how I think a smart meter might help me save even more. How many of these do you do?
My 5 Good Energy Habits
Having a hot shower is one of the biggest energy drainers. I’d like to say that I set a timer for everyone, and that they hop out of the shower after 2 minutes and 30 seconds exactly. But that would be a lie, and I’m probably the biggest offender. I mean, after caffeine, hot water is the only thing likely to wake me up sufficiently to provide a packed lunch that doesn’t consist of only one food group. So no, I don’t scrimp on hot water. I do, however, think hard about where our energy budget goes, and make changes where they work for us. Here are my top 5 tips for saving energy:
Know how your appliances work
This is a big one for me. I bought a new washing machine last year and immediately fell into the trap of setting it for my standard 40 degree wash cycle. The only thing I ever did differently was to use speed wash because, you know, I’m generally doing everything last minute and with one eye on the school run. It was only when I came to cleaning the machine (and hence actually reading the manual!) that I discovered there’s an eco cycle that uses 66% less energy. Which is enough to convince me that I can be bothered to put a wash on while I’m getting the kids’ tea, ready to hang out in the morning, instead of glaring over my coffee at my speed cycle willing it to finish so I can peg it out before the school run. Which brings me to my second tip…
Only use the tumble dryer under pain of death!
Oh the tumble dryer – that gorgeous, white, life-saving device of the hassled mother. But don’t be fooled. Rather like that last extra martini on a Wednesday night, it seems like a good idea at the time. And then comes the wake up call in the shape of your electricity readings. Seriously, I do at least one wash a day, that takes 3 hours to dry in the tumble dryer. That’s a lot of electricity! Give it up. Instead, I hang washing out in the garden when I can, and on a clothes airer by a radiator in the winter. And did you know that your airing cupboard isn’t there to give you a nice hot towel in the morning? Stick your not-quite-dry-and-a-little-bit-cold from the garden washing in it, and it comes out nice and dry in the morning. Besides, the tumble dryer shrinks socks to the size of a baby’s bootee, and turns all your shirts yellow.
Close the doors
Leaving doors open is a classic way to allow heat – and energy – to escape. And by that I mean every door, including the fridge, and the oven. There are people in my home who leave the fridge door open while they wash fruit, butter toast and chop vegetables, and it drives me insane! As well as my fridge having to work extra hard to stay cold, it totally takes the edge off my wine! Then there’s the oven; leaving this open while you baste your chicken just allows all the heat to escape, which is fine if you’re on a mission to leave the heating off, but not so good when you’re already sweating over the family roast. And if we’ve argued once, we’ve argued a thousand times over bin night. Not because he who does the bins forgets, but because my teeth are chattering by the time he’s finished sorting the recycling. Shut. The. Back. Door!
Plan oven time
I’m pretty hot on getting the best use of an appliance when I can. Hence, if I’m baking, or planning a pudding in the oven, I try to wait until I’m also using it for roasting something for dinner. Ive heard that filling the oven means it operates more efficiently, but in any case, baking multiple dishes at once at least means it’s on for less time.
Heat one room at a time
Ok, I know this sounds odd, but I really don’t see the point in heating a whole house when there’s only one person in it. I work from home, and sitting at my laptop all day can leave me feeling chilly. I try to get out for a walk to get the blood circulating, but when I’m feeling the cold at my desk, I throw on a fleece rather than turn on the heating. Also, when I’m really in need of warming through, I’ll relocate to the living room (closing the door behind me!) and pop the gas fire on for a quick blast. It does the the trick, and means I don’t have to override the central heating settings before the school run.
How a smart meter could save even more energy in my home
There is always much debate in our family about just what eats up energy, and what’s not such a big deal. Having a smart meter would allow us to see in real time exactly how much energy each activity uses. Here’s what I’d like answers on:
- The kettle – I think my message has finally hit home about only boiling as much water as you need. I’ve heard a lot of people say you can practically see the smart meter whirring as the kettle starts to boil. We certainly used to have a full kettle at all times. Nowadays I’m lucky to get limescale dregs if I go to top up my tea after the rest of my family have made themselves a cup. *Stares meaningfully*
- Light bulbs – my mother is fanatical about turning off lights. To the point where I follow my kids around her house flicking switches as if I’m still 5 years old. But I have a feeling lights don’t use a lot of energy. And there’s that possibly urban myth that says switching on a fluorescent light uses more energy than leaving it on all day. I’d love to know, once and for all.
- Hairdryers and curling tongs – I’m frequently paralysed by the fear that we might have left home with the curling tongs still switched on. Mostly because I’m worried about a house fire. But I wouldn’t mind betting that they use a fair bit of energy too.
- Heating – I have friends who insist that it’s more energy efficient to leave the heating on round the clock, than it is to have it on a timer. Their theory is that it takes more energy to heat up a cold house every time, than it does to just tick over and keep it at a constant temperature. I’m not sure who’s right, but I’d love an answer.
- Computers – in our house, the laptop is generally left in sleep mode. I only ever switch mine off when it’s crankier than a rusty steam engine, and then it’s only a restart to get it back up to speed. I do wonder if all those charging phones and tablets eat up energy overnight too.
So in addition to energy, a smart meter could save a LOT of arguing! Do you have any tips for keeping a lid on your energy usage? Let me know in the comments. The more I can add to my arsenal, the longer I can stay in the shower!
This post is in conjunction with British Gas® but all thoughts are my own. See more energy saving tips online at British Gas®.