Tag: efficiency

Saving money: Energy bills Part 2

Make our home more energy efficient.

Energy efficiency

Part 2 Energy Efficiency

At first glance around our house we knew there were plenty of improvements that could be made to maximise our energy efficiency, despite not having a great deal of knowledge on the what and how.

The key consideration was how do you achieve these home improvements on a limited budget without borrowing any money on these government green schemes? Well first step was to work out where we stood.

Where did we start?

To get started, we decided not to worry about the ‘what and the how’, but to look at what we currently had ‘installed’ and the state of disrepair. To keep things simple we took an A5 sheet of paper, drew a couple of straight lines down the middle and scribbled down headings for Gas and Electric with the following key: [P] = Priority | [R] = Repair.

We then went on to list what home improvements we had written in each column and alongside each item we made a note of its status using a simple number key:

  1. Good condition – Has years of life left
  2. Ok – Will last a few more years
  3. Poor – Needs urgent repair
Quick sketch of our plan of action of what we could improve

Quick sketch of our plan of action of what we could improve

With an EPC this process was much quicker

Our EPC certificate

Our EPC certificate

As we had not been in our new house for very long, we had both a property survey and an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) report outlining where we could make future improvements to our home. Unfortunately for us, there was plenty we could do, with our house being 100 years old; it is not very energy efficient compared to modern builds.

Taking both our initial visual inspection and the items highlighted on our EPC report, we set about ordering them in priority for which would yield the greatest return on investment, both financially and for time spent.

Here are the top ten improvements we identified

To date we have not implemented all of these, though we hope to gradually make most of these improvements as our budget allows over the coming months.

First six are for Gas heating

    1. Loft insulation

      Ours was incredibly thin, well under 6 inches when the recommendation is 12 inches minimum. We were going to do it ourselves, but in the end we got ours for free. (will explain in more detail in a later post)

  • Double Glazing

    This was the one thing we did not have to do, as the previous owners had replaced all the windows only a few years ago. Though we know there are better, more efficient options available that we may re-visit in the future.

 

  • Draught exclusion

    In addition to door draught excluders, we went round the door frames with the draught tape and silicon sealant on the windows frames/gaps to remove all those cold draughts. We filled in wall cracks, holes around external pipework and the gaps around the loft hatch. All this meant we were able to turn our thermostat down (for extra savings)

    • Investment required: Prices can vary, but typically:
      • Tape per roll: £5 (we used two rolls)
      • Silicon sealant: £5
      • Door brush: £5-£10 (or you can make your own below)
      • DIY door excluder: free
    • Savings: This can save on average £55 per year, plus potentially another £65 per year for a lower thermostat.
    • Further reading:

 

  • Boiler

    Our boiler is certainly not the most efficient model and it is getting quite old, so this is something we will upgrade one day when we have budget available (or it packs in).

 

  • Floor insulation

    A potential future home improvement, though this looks quite expensive unless you do it yourself.

  • Wall cavity insulation

    Being that our property is so old, our walls were not built with cavities, so this is not an option for us. We have heard of some expensive techniques where the internal/external walls are thickened with insulation layers.

    • Investment required: Free with British Gas (though typically £400-£500)
    • Savings: This can save up to £140 per year.
  • Further reading:

 

The last four are for electric

    1. Energy saving light bulbs

      Yep certainly a no brainer, though the prices have come down considerably and over the duration of their life expectancy, they are well worth the investment.Depending on the size of your home, the savings will vary but it can save on average £55 per year in electric.

  • Appliances – Economy Mode

    Again this one is quite obvious, if your white goods have an eco-mode, use it! It might take longer than some of the other settings but it certainly cuts back on power and water consumption. Plus do full loads in your washing machines/dishwashers, turn down the wash/drying temperatures.
    You can also turn the temperature of your fridge/freezers up by a few degrees, keeping them within the safe limits to keep your food preserved. The temperatures do vary slightly depending on how full/empty they are, but ideally the warmer they are the less energy they use. There is a great deal of advice online and they all vary slightly (depending on the country), but on average this is what we have found and what we have done.

    • Fridge: Ours is at 4 degrees (recommended 1-5 degrees)
    • Freezer: Ours is at -15 degrees (recommended -15 to -21 degrees)

    The energy savings will depend on each appliance, which makes it hard to quantify and I have not found any useful links to add here that give us an average saving in terms of money saved.

 

  • Standby devices – Turn them off

    We all know on standby they are using power, but what we don’t realise is that all these devices left on standby together are cumulatively drip draining power and over a year it all adds up.

    Nearly everything gets turned off, though for our Sky TV box we use a simple low energy plug timer, so that in the evening it turns on power to the socket so it can record any TV shows, then turns off at midnight.

 

  • Computer equipment – Power saving mode

    Unless you need the extra horse power for doing any processor intensive tasks, switch your computer(s) into power saving mode. This will power down devices (Hard drives, Network adaptors, USB hubs etc) into sleep that are not in use after a period of time and the entire computer if you should be away from your desk for any duration. Computers power consumption will vary depending on what you are doing; gaming for example turns a med/high spec computer into a power hungry rabid beast!

    • Investment required: Effort mainly
    • Savings: The cost saving will vary depending on your computer and what you use it for. We have found that typically our two computers which we have running every day during working hours were using around £50 per month, which we cut back to just under £25 per month.
    • Further reading: A great guide on how to calculate your usage:

 

All this work, did it make a difference?

Yes we believe it has, even though we cannot quantify exactly how much we have saved for each item, also as were reducing our energy usage it also made it difficult to calculate with any level of precision. All things considered we have cut our bills back considerably;

  • GAS consumption reduced by: 40% (we saved £288 per year)
  • Electric consumption reduced by: 50% (we saved £360 per year)

Based on many of the average savings listed in our top 10, from the information we have sourced from these parties, there is a potential to save anywhere between £900-£1290 per year. We have personally found that we are saving on average £648 per year, but we have not (or cannot in some cases) implement all of the above improvements. This figure also includes us cutting back on our general usage.

Plenty more to learn and implement

I am sure there are other things we could do to also make our home more efficient, if you have any ideas or contributions to add please leave a comment below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Slashed our water bill by 57.3%

water bill

Our annual Water bill

A year ago we were looking at ways to reduce our water bill and after rummaging around the web we found a few online calculators to gauge our annual estimated usage. Of course for these to work and have any level of accuracy we had to answer as honestly as one can, in some cases slightly over estimating the amount we generally consume. It’s better to overestimate to receive a nice surprise of a slightly lower bill, than to underestimate and receive a much larger bill at the end of the year.

So the first step was to work out if a meter was the best way forward to cutting back on our bill by calculating our average usage. More than likely it will be in litres or referenced as units, which a unit is:

  • Unit = 1000 litres OR 1 cubic meter (1M3) OR 220 gallons

So which water calculators did we use?

Well as we are in the Thames water region, we personally found the Thames Waterwisely calculator a really useful tool. They provide a drop down menu with 16 counties, plus there are additional regions available if you live outside the UK upon which they base their calculations.

Here are some of the available calculators in our order of preference; the ones at the top are much more detailed and are easier to use. (each opens in a new window)

  1. Thames Waterwisely
  2. Yorkshire Water
  3. CSG Network
  4. BBC News
  5. South West Water
  6. Consumer Council for Water

Note: If you know of any other good calculators to add to this list, please let us know in the comments below.

Since we first calculated our usage we have noticed that many of the calculators have changed but they should all still help to get an idea of your household usage, especially if you are considering switching from rates to a meter. It does not matter too much if the calculator does not cater for your region; you just want to find out your average usage first.

Why would I switch from rates, when we could end up paying more?

Unless you have a large family and are heavy users, you are more than likely paying too much on your rates. We live in a three bedroom house and there are only two of us, we were paying on average £35 per month (£422 per year!) When we calculated our usage, we found that on each of the three calculators we used, each reported that we were “low water users” and once you then multiply your usage in litres/units to local water cost per unit, the result being roughly what you would expect to pay on a meter.

If you own your own home, then if you switch to being metered within the year you can switch back without any fuss. Just to be clear, at the time of switching, this was Thames Water’s policy on reverting back to rates. (Please check your local supplier’s terms)

Before we switched this was something I wanted to be clear on, as I wanted to retain the choice to switch back if it ended up costing us more.

How much did we actually save?

We went from a whopping monthly median of £35 per month (£422 per year) to £15 per month (£180 per year) by simply switching to a meter and changing the way we use water in our home.

Here is the old annual bill for £422 for a year.

water bill

Old annual water bill on rates. For some reason they take 7 monthly instalments, instead of 12 monthly payments.

Now checkout the NEW metered bill!!!!! (we are so chuffed)

Metered water bill for half a year!

Metered water bill for half a year! We assumed the next 6 months would be the same.

We will go into more detail in later posts how we reduced our daily usage but for the meantime we will cover the main points we undertook.

How did we manage to save so much?

I know many of these seem obvious, but it’s shifting that mental perspective of understanding what should be done, to physically doing and adjusting your lifestyle. These changes should not seem daunting; it can all be done by making small daily changes and getting into a new routine. Here are the first five things we did:

  1. We switched from rates to metered
  2. We improved the efficiency of our taps & toilets with water saving freebies
  3. Installed several water butts in the garden
  4. Cut back on our water usage by changing our daily habits
  5. We found simple uses for recycling the grey/waste water

Moving forward we have read about some great ideas to utilise grey water/rain water for toilet flushing, watering household and garden plants with a little plumbing knowledge from a friend.

If you have any great tips or ideas please let us know

I am sure we have only just touched on a few water saving techniques and there are plenty of other wonderful water saving ideas, does anyone know of any I can add to the list?

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