|| How to dramatically cut your electricity use
We all waste electricity in our homes on a daily basis - yet it's possible to identify and make easy changes which have a huge impact.
These are the 4 key stages to making a difference:
- Step 1: Find out how much electricity you use at the moment
- Step 2: Work out where the electricity is being used
- Step 3: Identify and make savings, focussing on highest priorities
- Step 4: Keep tracking your usage over time
Each of these steps is described in more detail below, along with a story of his own experience from Mark, the founder of whatyoucando.
Mark's story: "I always thought I was a careful user of electricity in the home but when I bothered to find out how much I use I was shocked. But by following the simple steps described on this page I was delighted to find how much of a difference I could make without having to change my overall behaviour or spend much money. In fact I managed to cut our household electricity use by more than half!"
Step 1: Find out how much electricity you use at the moment
In order to work out what electricity we're using and to see with our own eyes the difference we have to start by finding out how much we actually use.
Unfortunately we can't rely on our electricity suppliers for this information, because they haven't yet bothered to install the technology (which does exist) to track what each person uses - that's why all our electricity (and gas) bills are based on estimates. These often bear little relation to our actual electricity use - and incidentally may mean that we're paying more than we should on our bills!
So step one involves finding your electricity meter (hopefully you or someone in the house knows where this is!) and starting to take readings at regular intervals - either weekly or monthly is a good starting point. But it doesn't really matter exactly when as you can still work out your average use per day for any period.
Your meter should give you readings in kilowatt hours (kWh). Once you've got more than one reading you can work out your average use per day by calculating the difference between the two readings (later reading minus earlier reading) and dividing this by the number of days between the two readings.
Mark's story: the first reading I took was on 13 feb 2006 (7858) and the second was 8 days later on 21 feb (7912). So my calculation was (7912-7858)/8 = 6.7 kWh per day. This is the equivalent of (6.7 x 365) = 2,460 kWh per year.
According to www.energywatch.org.uk the average UK household apparently uses 3,300 kWh per year so my wife and I were below that total, but so we should be - there's only two of us, it's a small house and we're not at home during the day. So what could I do to reduce this?
Step 2: Work out where the electricity is used
Having worked out how much electricity you use overall, the next step is to find out where it all goes. There are some obvious heavy users of electricity (normally the fridge/freezer, washing machine, tumble drier etc) but what about all those other devices around the house?
The best way find out is to do an "energy audit" using a monitor device which allows you to see what each device is using. We recommend using this Plug-in monitor from Maplin.
For each device measure and write down how many Watts of power it uses when it's switched on or on standby (if relevant). For some devices you'll be amazed to see that when they're on standby they use very similar power to when they're switched on (e.g. set-top boxes). For others you'll find they're actually using standby power even when you think they're "off" (e.g. some computers).
Then you can use this information to produce a model of where the electricity is used in your house, based on a table like the one below:
= (C) x 60
=24 - (D)
||720 Wh |
||410 Wh |
| DAB Radio
||190 Wh |
| Hall light
||120 Wh |
Here you can see that the Kettle uses by far the most of the four devices when on (2040W as opposed to 30W for the fridge) but because it is only on for 12 minutes each day it uses less power than the fridge which is on 24 hours a day. Also, even though the hall light uses more power when on than the DAB radio and is on for four times as long it uses less power overall as the radio takes 8W constantly when on standby.
Mark's story: I was pleased to find that doing the audit only took a few hours, despite having lots of power hungry gadgets to measure (although my wife did think I was a bit strange as I crawled around behind the TV scribbling numbers on a piece of paper!).
Having completed my audit I was amazed by some of the findings. for example I was shocked to find that our gas cooker uses a crazy 2.75kW when using the oven due to the fan assisted heating. Even though we don't use it that much it still works out as the biggest electricity user, following by the washing machine and the fridge.
This graph shows the overall breakdown of my electricity use into different categories - it was a clear reminder to me that everything we do in our daily lives uses energy and it's not just the electronic gadgets that are guilty - it's the mundane things too.
Breakdown of my electricity use from my audit
Step 3: Identify and make savings, focussing on highest priorities
Having completed your electricity audit the next step is to work out where you can make savings. The best place to start by looking at the big energy users. Here are some suggestions of thing to think about:
- Have you replaced your old-fashioned light bulbs with energy saving ones which use around 20% of the electricity?
- Do you need to use the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher that much? Are you putting these appliances on without a full load?
- Is it time to invest in an A-rated energy efficient washing machine or fridge freezer?
- Are you leaving equipment on standby instead of turning it off?
- Do you leave lights on when you're not in the room?
- Are there things that are on the whole time which you only use for a few hours a day (e.g. modems, set-top boxes, chargers)?
Click here for other ideas on reducing electricity use.
Using the data from your energy audit and these questions above, start making changes - you'll be amazed how much difference they can make. You'll probably even find yourself instinctively turning things off when you've finished with them in a way you might not have before. Now you've made your first steps on a low-carbon journey...
Mark's story: I found that there were a lot of changes I could make in my house without much effort.
These are the key things I did to make a difference:
- Cut down on using our fan assisted oven. Approx saving: 0.8kWh per day
- Replaced old light bulbs with energy efficient ones. Approx saving: 0.8kWh per day
- Actively tried not to waste energy by turning devices off and not using them unnecessarily. Approx saving: 0.5kWh per day
- Put computer, modem, printer, PC amp & speakers and desk light onto single 4-way mains adapter with switch to turn off all when not using the computer, rather than leaving modem etc on all day. Approx saving: 0.4kWh per day
- Put TV and set-top box on timer switch which only turns them onto standby for hours when we're at home (e.g. 7-9am, 6-11pm). Approx saving: 0.3kWh per day
- Turned off old unnecessary fan in bathroom which automatically came on with the light. Approx saving: 0.25kWh per day
Total estimated savings: 3.25kWh per day
Step 4: Keep tracking your usage
Now you know how to track and reduce your electricity we recommend you continue regularly taking electricity readings from your meter to see how you're doing. Not only will this keep you up-to-date with how you're doing - it's also a great way of spotting if something unexpected has changed or how impact new gadgets or appliances have on your energy use.
Mark's story: I'm continuing to track my electricity use and to date it has come down from my original 6.7kWh per day to a much more efficient 2.8 kWh per day (or just over 1000kWh per year). That's a saving of around 4kWh per day or nearly 60%! Imagine the impact on reducing climate change if all of us do that...
Note: the figures don't tie in exactly with the 3.25kWh savings estimated above, partly because those are just estimates, but also because we've moved from winter to summer so lights and appliances tend to be on less anyway (although the fridge is probably working a bit harder!)
Below is a graph showing the change in my electricity usage profile so far.
My electricity savings so far
|Right-click here to download the detailed spreadsheet which shows my complete electricity audit plus the full set of electricity (and gas) readings which I've been taking.|
Have you managed to reduce your use of electricity or any other aspect of your life which causes carbon emissions and climate change?
If so we'd love to hear your story. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org