Frank and Maureen Heffernan and daughters, Maria, Paula and Anna took part in the 'Power of One' Street Challenge, a nationwide public awareness campaign that encourages people to become more energy conscious about their day-to-day lives.
They live in a detached home outside Dublin. One works from home two to three days a week, while another works part-time. The others work from 9am to 5pm and use most of their household energy at evenings and weekends.
They looked at making improvements in insulation, lighting and central heating. They installed a new boiler and a more efficient computerised central heating system that included thermostatic controls to every radiator.
"We believe it has had a positive effect on our heating bills but it's impossible to give an accurate calculation of this due to varying oil prices and differing weather conditions since we have installed the system," says Maria.
One of the cheapest and most useful items they installed was the electricity-use meter or smart meter, which displays energy usage in real time.
They also adopted some energy-saving efforts that cost nothing to implement, such as closing curtains and doors to retain heat, leaving the oven door open after cooking to use the residual heat, and only boiling enough water in the kettle for their needs rather than filling it up every time. Other changes included only turning on radiators in rooms that are in use, not leaving computers on overnight, and hanging clothes outside to dry instead of tumble drying.
"We saved €763 on our yearly energy bills by implementing purely behavioural changes," says Maria.
Did everyone pull their weight in contributing to the overall energy saving effort? Yes, says Maria, but "at the beginning we found it difficult to remember to stick to our new habits".
"As an added incentive we imposed our own carbon tax of a few euro every time someone slipped back into their old ways."