Energy saving tips and tricks
With heating systems turned on full blast and energy costs shooting up, there are still many ways to minimise consumption and ensure household bills stay under control, writes John Cradden
The bitterly cold snap we have experienced here and the continuing harsh economic winds may well have combined to draw your attention to the cost of heating your home.
You will not be alone in worrying about the shock of your next scheduled heating bill due to increased use of gas, heating oil or even electricity in order to keep warm during what is proving to be one of the longest and coldest winter spells in many years.
Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) runs the 'Power of One' energy-efficiency awareness campaign, which aims to show how households can reduce the use of energy in the home.
Energy-efficiency awareness campaigns are often perceived to be all about reducing your usage -- but during this cold weather, few of us may be inclined to switch off heating for periods during the day, even in the name of saving energy.
"Despite the current cold snap, the important thing is to learn how to make your home comfortable with the minimum amount of heat by using the heating system and controls that you have," says Aodhan MacPhaidhin, a spokesman for the 'Power of One' campaign.
"In fact, there can be a tendency to overheat the home simply because it is colder outside," he says.
Households will always use the largest percentage of its energy consumption for space heating, so it follows that making efforts to reduce this will have the potential for the greatest savings.
"If you are going to be away from the home for a protracted period it can be a good idea to have the heating come on for short periods at a low level to prevent pipes from freezing or to avoid a build-up of cold or damp in the home," says Mr MacPhaidhin.
A big part of the 'Power of One' message is a simple 'five-step energy-saving plan', which aims to show householders how to manage their own energy use at home more efficiently.
"The five steps include actions on heating, hot water, lighting, appliances and cooking, all delivered in manageable bites resulting in a much more efficient, cost-effective and comfortable home," says Mr MacPhaidhin.
These are steps that cost nothing to implement. For example, you can save up to €100 a year by setting your heating system timer to turn on the heating 30 minutes before you get up and turn it off one hour earlier in the evening.
Turning down the heating in living areas to 20C could save you another 10pc off your annual heating bill, while the temperature in hallways and bedrooms could be cooler, say 15-18C.
A further €100 a year can be saved by being smarter about hot water. The bottom line here is not to leave the hot water running unnecessarily.
Smarter use of your appliances represents another potential €100 off annual energy costs. For example, a full load in the washing machine is far more energy efficient than two half-loads, while setting the lowest water temperature possible is also recommended.
Switching off small appliances when not in use, such as TVs, PCs, DVD players, printers and games consoles is likely to be a piece of advice you have heard many times before, but it can take a while to learn the habit.
Choosing a more energy-efficient appliance when replacing them is another easy step, particularly now as all appliances are labelled to indicate their energy consumption and are rated from A to G with A being the most efficient.
There are other energy-saving measures that can be taken which require some investment, but should pay for themselves over a relatively short period of time.
"For example, by fitting attic and wall insulation, a high-efficiency boiler and heating control upgrades, it is possible to reduce your heating costs by up to €800 per year," says Mr MacPhaidhan.
You can offset the cost of the more expensive projects by availing of one of three grant programmes that are administered by SEI: the Home Energy Saving Scheme, the Greener Homes Scheme, or the Warmer Homes Scheme.
Check out the 'Power of One' website, www.powerofone.ie, for more information.