Over the last couple of years we made an effort as a family to cut down on how much we used the car – and a couple of months ago we finally went car-free.
In 2012 we’ve decided to work on a couple of other areas which account for a significant amount of our carbon footprint – our energy use at home, and the food that we eat.
I’ll blog about food in the next few days but let’s look at energy use first. Over the last ten weeks I’ve been taking weekly gas and electricity readings to get a better idea of how much energy we consume at home. You know how it is, you have a broad idea how much you spend (probably less of an idea of how much energy you consume – or how that’s changed over time), so I thought it’d be useful to keep an eye on it.
I also joined the Energy Group at Roundhay Environmental Action Project – a local organisation which, amongst other things, runs the monthly Oakwood Farmers Market. Their Energy Group consists of a small group of people who are working on issues to do with domestic energy use – encouraging people to insulate their homes, sharing information about solar panels etc.
Through the Energy Group I found out about a useful website which helps you to record your weekly energy consumption – so I’ve been adding our weekly readings to this. Here’s a graph showing our energy consumption over the last ten weeks :
(if you click on it you’ll see the whole graph -and if you’re wondering why it drops significantly in week 10 – it was Christmas and we were away for a few days)
The stats show that over 10 weeks our average energy use in Kilowatt-Hours (kWh) was (very conveniently) just under 100 kWh for both gas and electricity (98 kWh for electricity and 99 kWh for gas). So, for ease, we’ll use 100kWh per week for gas and electricity as our reference point.
The plan is to see if we can get our energy use down significantly – by 10% to start off with. Why? Two main reasons. One – to save money – we spend £100 a month with Ecotricity for their new energy plus dual fuel tariff and clearly prices are only going one way. The second reason of course is an environmental one.
I’m all for investing in renewable energy, but I have little faith that we’ll manage to keep up with ever-increasing energy use by replacing coal-fired power stations with cleaner alternatives. I wish (and still hope) we would – but given that as a country we don’t have a great track record in terms of green infrastructure investment I’m not going to hold my breath. So, I’m more interested in reducing demand for energy – and it makes sense to start at home.
So, just as we did with reducing our car use, we’re going to attempt to reduce our energy use gradually over time. I’m genuinely interested to see how much of an impact we can have. We live in a relatively small 3 bed 1930s semi, which has double glazing, cavity wall insulation and good loft insulation. So it would seem that the obvious ways to reduce our energy use are already accounted for.
What else can we do? We’ll find out over the next three months – but here are some of the things I imagine we’ll work on (and I’m not pretending any of this is particularly clever)
- Replace lighting with LEDs and other low energy bulbs (this may have a fairly big impact as the house is full of spotlights)
- Use the tumble drier less or not at all
- Improve draft proofing around windows and doors – curtains, a draft-proofing sausage dog at the door, a better letter box etc)
- Change the boiler – it’s ten years old and we’ve been told it’s on its last legs
- Get a new thermostat – the one we’ve got is difficult to control – I’ve got my eye on one of these
- Fit the reflective radiator panels that I bought three months ago (which are supposed to improve efficiency by 20%)
- Generally, keep an eye on our energy use and reducing it where we can
So we’ll see. I’ll report back once a month as to how we’re getting on. I’m aware that this isn’t particularly scientific – there’s every chance our energy use month-on-month will drop as we move into a warmer period of the year. But I still think we should be able to identify a trend – and also keep an eye on whether specific measures such as replacing a number of bulbs make a significant difference. imeasure also has a clever feature where you can track your energy use against weather conditions – so you can see if your weekly energy use is in line with what you would expect, given the weather that week.
Of course, I’d rather not do this alone. If you’re already working on reducing your energy use – or you reckon you could do with a new year’s resolution – then please let me know by leaving a comment below. If you were interested we could share info on imeasure by forming a community on there. It’s much more fun to do things like this with other people – and clearly it’s important that we quickly get to some kind of scale when it comes to reducing our energy use.