Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Changing Seasons

There was a nip in the air this weekend as the season begins to change and, if we needed it, a timely article in this Sunday's Independent serves as a reminder of some of the things we can do to save energy over the autumn and winter. The ten suggestions from the Independent are summarised below with some comments and a few other suggestions of my own:

1. Small changes - with emphasis on energy saving lightbulbs: Incandescent light bulbs are no longer available for domestic use so we should all be using low energy bulbs now or in the near future.

2. Efficient heating - ensure your radiators are working effectively and aren't blocked by furniture. Upgrading your boiler is also suggested but this can be a significant financial investment. The savings from upgrading your boiler depend on how inefficient the old one was and there may be other more cost effective energy saving investments.

3. Keep the heat in - draught proofing, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and double glazing all help to keep in heat but are progressively more expensive and take longer to pay back the savings.  If you live in Glasgow you may qualify for free insulation through the Home Insulation Scheme, which is funded through the Scottish Government's Universal Home Insulation Scheme. Other schemes may operate where you live. STOP PRESS: Some links here to free insulation schemes for all, subject to conditions:, via @TheEcoExperts. Also see item 11 below for more.

4. Stay in control - use room thermostats on radiators and avoid cranking up the temperature.  Also plan when you need warmth and hot water and set the controls to come on when you need them.

5. Monitor your behaviour - energy monitors are suggested but you can take regular readings manually or identify the hungriest appliances and keep an eye on how much you use them.

6. A greener kitchen - when replacing appliances go for more efficient models but without a big outlay there are numerous savings that can be made: only use the dishwasher/washing machine/tumble dryer when you have full loads, put lids on pots when cooking and keep the fridge door closed. For more on the kitchen, see item 12 below.

7. A greener roof - install solar panels: this is a big investment requiring careful consideration of the actual energy savings you may achieve and should only really be considered after other energy saving options have been implemented.  Solar thermal panels may give a better return in carbon terms than photo-voltaic panels but they don't benefit from preferential Feed In Tarrifs.

8. Air source heat pumps - works a bit like a fridge in reverse taking heat from outside and concentrating it inside. the run on electricity but give out more energy as heat than they consume from electricity.  The downside is that the heat is relatively low temperature and is best suited to underfloor heating or room radiators with a large surface area. Significant disruptive work would therefore be required for this option.  The Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme may offer a grant towards installation.

9. Water efficiency - using a water butt or installing a grey water recycling system are both suggested, neither if which saves much energy, certainly none from your domestic energy bills, as explained here, but more efficient use of hot water will make a difference.

10. Furnish the green way - again this does nothing to reduce your domestic energy bills; it can reduce your overall carbon footprint and reduce waste, but by a relatively small amount compared to what can be achieved through more routine activities.

The full Independent article, Don't get angry, get more energy smart, also includes some approximate figures for cost savings but these are general may be way out for your situation.

Another few ideas for things that you can easily do at no great expense to make your house greener and more energy efficient:

11. Curtains - Even draught free windows lose heat - between 4 and 5 times as much as the same area of wall on a modern well insulated house - but a set of heavy curtains or blackout blinds (or both) will trap a volume of air between the room and the glass, significantly reducing heat loss. However, if your radiator is below the window you need to ensure that the heat isn't going up behind the curtains and out of the window.  Closing them as darkness falls and the external temperature drops will save you energy. If the outside temperature is very low, 15-20 degrees Celsius less than inside, you would save more energy by closing the curtains during the day and using a low energy bulb for lighting, although it could become depressing and is not recommended. On sunny days, make sure the curtains are open on any windows that face the sun to get some free heating!

12. Set up camp in the kitchen - a room for cooking, eating and catching up with family on the day's events.  In the evenings we make the most of "waste" heat from cooking and the tumble dryer if its on and use the kitchen as the main room for doing homework and socialising.

13. Invest in some warm clothes - woolly jumpers or fleeces (made from recycled plastic bottles?) and thick socks will let us turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees without significant discomfort.

There are plenty of things that can be done to reduce our energy consumption - some are free, some need a little investment of time, planning or money and some are major undertakings - and there is always room for improvement.

It would be fantastic to hear what you are doing to prepare your home for a greener less energy intense and more sustainable winter.


  1. Hello!
    We are really tackling our food cupboards at the moment, increasingly trying to rely on more foraged foods.
    Thanks for the inspiration :)
    Taking part in the Green Blogs Meet and Greet :D

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I love the idea of foraged foods but living in a big city gives limited oportunities - it is more of an occaisional treat, especially blackberries, than part of the meal plan.

  2. I especially like #12 ... using that waste heat. We live in an apartment and our kitchen is practically part of the living room. We use a toaster oven and when we're done cooking we open the door and let any remaining heat into the room. That with several layers of clothes and we stay nice and toasty. Thanks for all the wonderful tips!

    1. In my gran's house the living room was only ever used for special guests and the kitchen was the main room for socialising - happy days!