We test power saving tips as power prices and cost of living soar
Don’t leave all those devices on standby
The cost of living crisis has led to a whole host of suggestions for energy savings. One of the main ones we keep hearing is British Gas’s claim that you can save £110 ($194) a year by turning off appliances on standby.
It sounds far-fetched, but it bases this figure on the fact that “Brits were able to save 23 percent on their electricity bills every year by turning off their vampire electronics.”
To test the validity of the claim, I outfitted myself with a newfangled £20 ($35) power meter.
It plugs into a standard electrical outlet – plugging the electrical item under test into the meter. Then I see how much electricity the device uses.
I start with my phone charger plugged into a wall outlet in the kitchen of my home in Hertfordshire. The meter tells me it uses 6.3 watts of electricity without charging a device.
If I left this charger idle for a year, it would cost me £16 ($28.25) in electricity.
As a family of four and with chargers coming out of our ears, I estimate we spend at least £60 ($106) on chargers that do nothing but use electricity most of the time.
The cost of living crisis has led to a series of suggestions for energy conservation. One of the main ones we keep hearing is British Gas’s claim that you can save £110 a year by turning off appliances on standby.
I then try the TV that spends its days and nights on standby. It puts out a value of 27 watts meaning it costs me £70 ($123) a year to be on standby.
Then my pride and joy sits in the corner of the lounge – my stereo. When on standby, it consumes £80 ($141) a year in energy.
It seems British Gas has underestimated the savings I can make, it’s more £210 ($370). Perhaps my family is more addicted to new technology than most, but the findings are a surprise.
Boil just enough water for a cup
I’m tired of hearing from my wife to fill the kettle with just enough water to make a cup of tea. She tells me that the Energy Saving Trust believes using less water in the kettle will save us £8 ($14.12) a year.
This is based on the average home-cooking kettle half full 24 times a week – three times more than is needed for a cup of tea or coffee.
After shaking the kettle to see if there is water in it, I hit the switch – suddenly it says 2,226 watts on the meter. At this rate, three minutes of cooking comes out to about 3p (6c). Maybe my family is thirstier than most, considering we boil the kettle half a dozen times a day. When it’s empty – and no one is looking – I fill it right away and calculate that it will use £66 ($116.52) worth of electricity in a year.
If I boiled enough water for just one cup – and didn’t fill the kettle any higher – I might save £32 ($56.49) a year by using less energy. Surprisingly, this is four times the size of the industry. I’m not going to tell my wife.
I’m tired of hearing from my wife to fill the kettle with just enough water to make a cup of tea. She tells me the Energy Saving Trust believes using less water in the kettle will save us £8 a year
Switch to energy-efficient LED lamps
At night our four bedroom house is lit up like the Blackpool Illuminations. I don’t need a meter to tell me to turn off a few lights, but it still comes as an unpleasant surprise to find that a traditional 100 watt bulb running for five hours a day uses £53 worth of electricity a year .
The Energy Saving Trust claims I can save £13 a year if I switch to energy efficient LED bulbs. It bases this calculation on the light that burns on average for 562 hours per year (about 90 minutes per day). So by replacing all four dozen light bulbs in my house, I could cut £624 a year off my utility bill.
But Paul Collins, chief of engineering services at the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting, recommends a different approach. He says: ‘You don’t have to replace the lamps until they are broken, because they cost money to replace and you don’t want to create unnecessary waste.’
Is it really worth insulating your house completely?
The Energy Saving Trust says that ‘investing in professional draft-proofing and insulation’ could save the average household £405 a year – about a quarter of my annual energy bill.
But before I get too excited, the literature explains that most homes first need to spend £1,905 on cavity wall and attic insulation plus draft insulation to make such savings. Then I’d be left with £1,500 for the first year – so no thanks.
I enlist Robert Tiffin, a surveyor at Eco Tiffin, to see if he can offer other solutions for my drafty rural property.
He says: ‘Cold bridging – a term used for insulation gaps – is where work is needed and I’m afraid it will cost you hundreds of pounds to fix it.’
No more tumble dryers – A clothesline is free
Energy companies such as SSE are falling over themselves with ‘washing tips’, such as ‘Let your washing machine run as much as possible at 30 degrees Celsius’.
No savings figures are given – and I do that anyway. But despite it being sunny, I can hear the tumble dryer spinning in the utility room as my daughter just got back from college with bags of dirty laundry.
I grab my energy meter and make a rough calculation. The dryer uses 4.5 kWh of power to dry all her clothes in an hour – for £1.31. Our family uses the dryer four times a week and uses £274 of electricity a year.
A clothesline outside would dry our clothes for free. The Energy Saving Trust focuses on buying a tumble dryer with the highest energy rating to save £640 over its 13-year life span compared to my older, inefficient model – which equates to a saving of £49 a year. Sorry, but no dryer at all is much cheaper.
Energy companies such as SSE are falling over themselves with ‘laundry tips’ – such as ‘Run your washing machine at 30 degrees Celsius as much as possible’
Is it time to give up luxurious long BATHS?
An immersion heater in the tumble dryer provides us with hot water – but I have to fight my way through blankets and towels to discover it’s a 125 liter 4 kWh tank. It takes about an hour from cold to heat up enough hot water for two showers – or one bath – for £1.17.
The rest of the family prefers showers, but my idea of a good time is spending an hour in the bath with a favorite book and a few beers. If I ditched these everyday luxuries in favor of a shower, I think I’d cut £213 off our annual utility bill.
The Energy Saving Trust offers a ‘quick tip’ for individuals to ‘take a four-minute shower’ to help the average household save £70 a year. That won’t happen anytime soon in this house.
The rest of the family prefers showers, but my idea of a good time is spending an hour in the bath with a favorite book and a few beers. If I ditched these everyday luxuries in favor of a shower, I think I’d cut £213 off our annual utility bill