Energy Conservation in The Home
We all depend on energy to make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable, we use energy to heat our homes, to cook with, to power our cars, lorries & vans, to run the machinery which provides employment, it makes electronic communication possible, it lights our streets, creates employment – energy is just something we don’t want to be without. While we all recognise the vital importance of energy in our daily lives, in general we do not use energy in an efficient manner, and add to that the home is one of the largest users of energy in Ireland.
As a country Ireland depends very heavily on ”imported” energy and remains in a somewhat vulnerable position – many our primary energy sources – oil / coal for example has be delivered by ship. In addition creating energy by burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere contributing to the problem of global warming.
The future of Energy in Ireland depends on:
- Security of supply;
- Availability of raw materials;
- Conservation Measures;
- Environmental sustainability / renewable energy;
In our homes relatively small changes by each of us can have a major impact on our environment, our security of supply and will not negatively affect our level of comfort; it will however save us some money.
In practical terms we must reduce our energy usage, and where we need to use energy we must use it in the most efficient manner possible while achieving the required level of personal comfort at a reasonable cost, while at the same time minimising damage to our environment. With new sources of Oil, Coal, Gas etc. becoming more difficult to locate (and expensive to extract), and in any case these are diminishing resources, our energy suppliers must endeavour to change from a dependence on fossil fuels to renewable energy – as an island nation we have one of the richest potential renewable energy resources in Europe – wind, ocean and bio-energy (bio fuels and biomass).
Where does our energy come from?
Most of the energy we use on a daily basis comes in the form of electricity, which in turn is (in the main) generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas, wood, turf – fossil fuels which have developed over many thousands of years, are a finite resource and cannot be replenished.
The term Sustainable Energy refers to methods of producing energy which are less harmful to our environment, electricity is increasingly being generated from wind, water (wave) or generating “hydro” electricity from rivers, and indeed by harnessing the energy of the sun by means of solar architecture, the advantage of these sources of energy is that they can be used indefinitely as they are renewable sources of energy. However there are other practical environmental issues which need to be addressed relating to siting of wind generators, and wave energy equipment etc.
How can you reduce energy consumption (and reduce your fuel bills)?
Every time we flick a switch to turn on a light, the TV, or the heating system or when we cook a meal we use energy. Energy is essential for our daily lives – and in relation to conservation sometimes it’s the small things which make the largest differences, small energy conservation initiatives taken by you in the home or in the workplace will add to the collective efforts of many individuals and companies, and have a positive impact on our environment.
Un-plug it – unless it’s required for personal safety reasons – pull the plug, turn-off the switch, don’t leave anything on stand-by;
Much of our energy is wasted through simple oversight:
- Failure to turn off electrical equipment when not in use – do not leave it on “stand-by” as the equipment could still use up to 20% of its normal energy requirements it would use when fully on;
- Poor attic insulation could account for up to 15% of the heat lost from your home. Insulate your attic and insulate the water tank and any pipes to prevent freezing but the area under the cold water tank should not be insulated you also need to ensure adequate ventilation of the roof space;
- Inefficient heating and hot water systems, have your boiler serviced/maintained by a qualified person to ensure it and in good working order;
- Unnecessary ventilation – ensure doors and windows are correctly sealed, and close curtains at night reducing wastage through the windows – taking care to ensure that you leave fresh air to circulate;
Control your home heating as it can become extremely expensive if not managed:
- Turn your heating down- 18 to 20 degrees Celsius is an ideal room temperature;
- Electric heaters are very heavy users of electricity, and can be expensive to run if not used sparingly;
Kitchen / Utility Room:
Probably one of the most used rooms in any house; consequently it is one of the rooms where significant quantities off electricity, gas, and fuel are used.
- Defrost the Fridge / Freezer at least twice per annum, prevent “frost” build-up of in the freezer;
- When using a Cooker keep the pots covered, turn off rings which are not in use, don’t open the oven door while cooking – as the cooker will take some time to return to cooking temperature.
- Microwave cookers generally use less energy than conventional cookers;
- Don’t overfill the Kettle – only boil as much water as you need;
- Use a Toaster to make toast rather than under the grill, and save significant energy;
- When using Washing Machines wait until you have a full load, use the lowest temperature required for the items being washed, use economy cycles;
- Try to avoid using washing machines and heavy energy using equipment between 5pm and 7pm, which is peak usage time for electricity generation;
Use low wattage CFLs – generally a lower level of lighting is required;
- Electric blankets need only be turned on approximately half an hour before you go to bed, and should be turned off prior to getting into the bed.
- Turn off (or down) radiators when the rooms are not in use;
Living Rooms / Family Rooms:
Probably the most used room in the family home – it’s here we tend to watch TV, use electronic devices, or listen to music – often in front of an open fire.
- Unplugging/switching off the TV, computer, when you are not using them – they use energy even in “stand-by” mode;
- Turn heating down when the room is warm enough;
- Generally a softer lower lighting is preferable in the living room so use CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), or lamps to light the area you are using;
Water / Hot Press / Water Cylinder:
- Dripping taps or toilet cisterns can use enormous quantities of water if left unattended;
- Hot water uses energy to bring it up to the required temperature, don’t leave water running unnecessarily – particularly hot water;
- Fit a Lagging jacket to the hot water tank or cylinder and it will keep water hotter for longer, and reduce the need to re-heat the water;
- Use a timer on your immersion heater so that you heat water only when you need it;
- Keep the hot press closed, and insulate any pipes coming out of the water cylinder;
It’s a total waste of money heating your home if all the heat is escaping through the walls, roof or through your windows.
- Check all windows and external doors for draughts, survey the areas where your house is losing heat and then get professional advice / help to address insulation;
- Check if your walls insulated or dry-lined (up to 20% of heat can be lost through poorly insulated walls – consider improving insulation in wall cavities;
- Double or Triple Glazing is essential; the area exposed by a single glazed window will allow eight times more heat to escape than a wall of the same area (double glazing reduces noise levels from external sources such as passing traffic etc.);
Sustainable Energy Ireland’s (SEI) suggest that lighting may represent up to a fifth of a household’s electricity consumption.
Do you really need a 100 watt bulb in every room?
- Use energy efficient lightbulbs, Use Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL’s) and halogen lightbulbs as they are far more energy efficient thus reducing your electricity costs.
- Turn off lights when leaving a room;
Other Energy Saving Hints:
- All lights and household appliances should be turned off when not in use;
- Set your computer to energy saving mode and switch it off when not in use;
- Check the energy efficiency label when purchasing a new household appliance – such as fridges, freezers, microwaves, cookers, washing machines, drying machines etc. – Rating A is most efficient and will use less energy and cost you less to run;
The Car / Van / Motorbike: – Use an alternative – walking or cycling;
- Cut out unnecessary journeys;
- Consider car-pooling as this would reduce the number of vehicles on the road, reducing congestion, noise pollution and save you the petrol costs;
- Make sure your vehicle is maintained, as a badly maintained engine will consume far more fuel;
- Try to keep to lower speeds (between 65 and 80 km / hr. – where it is safe and legal to do so);
- Check to ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure;
- Purchase the most efficient vehicle you can reasonably afford;
- Just because you are at work doesn’t mean that you should forget the energy saving actions you take in the home.
- Switch off lights and heating when they’re not in use;
- Turn off tools or machinery whenever they are not required, and it is safe to do so;
- Turn your computer off at night or when it is not required for more than an hour;
- Ensure that all other office or factory equipment is fully switched off at the shift end;
- Walk or cycle instead of driving a short distance to work, otherwise consider car-pooling with colleagues if possible;
If you can substitute some of your energy requirements by using renewable sources of energy such as solar energy (or even wood which can be replanted) to heat your home, this will significantly reduce your reliance on energy produced from fossil fuels like oil and coal.