We’re constantly being told to cut back on our energy usage these days. Climate change is an ever present spectre, energy prices are heading through the roof, and the typical Irish household has less money to play with, making efficient energy usage more of a priority than ever.
I know these tips are hardly ground-breaking, but I do think they’re worth revisiting as we enter the colder months.
Easy steps to improve home energy efficiency
Insulate your home
Insulating your home properly is perhaps the single most important step you can take to reduce your energy consumption this winter.
- Insulating your attic effectively can save up to 20% of your annual home heating costs according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. If your insulation is less than 200mm thick, consider adding layers.
- Fit a lagging jacket to your hot water cylinder if you don’t have one — it will keep your water hotter for longer, and will typically pay for itself within 2-3 months.
- Fit a factory insulated cylinder if you’re replacing your existing one — the insulation is more effective and durable than a lagging jacket, and can’t be knocked out of place.
- Insulate behind radiators, especially on external walls. Use reflective foil to direct heat out into the room.
- External wall insulation can often be improved — the most popular options are insulated dry lining on interior walls, blown mineral, cellulose fibre or polystyrene beads into the wall cavity, or rigid external insulation.
Light energy relief
Lighting is one area where a small alteration in behaviour can have a big impact on energy consumption — particularly if we look at the bigger picture across the country. Think about it. How many times have you popped out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea or coffee, and returned to the living room, leaving the light on behind you.
You’re not alone. A walk around the block on a dark autumn night soon reveals the extent of the problem. How many of your neighbours leave lights burning in empty rooms around the house? That’s happening right across the country. Turn off the lights when you’re not using them!
Another way to improve the electricity consumption of our lights is to replace traditional incandescent bulbs with energy efficient CFL equivalents. These are easier to get hold of than ever, have come down in price significantly, last much longer than normal bulbs and use a fraction of the energy. Why would anybody not use them?
Heat only what you need to
Let’s start with one of the main energy hogs of the average Irish kitchen: the electric kettle. Heating water to boiling point takes a lot of energy, and the Irish are very fond of their cuppa… which makes the humble kettle a prime suspect in the race against energy waste.
I’m not suggesting that you forgo your cup of Barry’s… but try to only boil as much water as you need. Boiling a full kettle for one or two mugs of tea is literally throwing money and energy away. Another way you can save, if you have a wood burner or solid fuel stove, is to use a stove-top kettle on the hotplate to boil your water for free.
The rule of heating only what you need also applies to the living spaces in your home. Only heat the rooms that you’re using.
- Use your zoned heating system if you have one. There’s no point heating the bedrooms when everybody is in the living room watching The X Factor.
- Fit thermostatic valves to radiators and heat each room according to its usage — remember that bedrooms don’t need to be anywhere near as warm as the living areas of the house.
- Turn the thermostat down a degree or two. This usually won’t affect your comfort level, but it can have a big impact on your household energy consumption.
Those are just a few, easy to implement tips you can use this winter to help you save energy at home. You’ll find more information on saving energy, and grants available to help Irish households with the cost of implementing energy-saving work.