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Making it count – great to see some interesting schemes coming to the fore

As I sit here, in my comfy home, lit by LED bulbs, lightly heated by timed, thermostatic controls, I’m thanking my efforts over the past 10 years to make my house as energy efficient as possible.

I was lucky in that we wanted to change energy supplier relatively shortly after moving into our current home in 2013. Our first electricity bill was over £100 for just under 31 days of usage. It was the largest electricity bill I’d had for a May (the date was the 6th June, the bill ran from 2nd May 2013 to the 1st June) and I couldn’t understand what we were doing wrong. I sat down and looked up at the ceiling and rushed to switch off the lights – I was looking at 8 brightly shining 50W bulbs lit above my head or 400W of power being spent every second. Hey, I thought (or words to that effect), that’s no longer happening.

I knew LED bulbs were coming so wondered up the road to our local store and bought 8 LED GU10s rated at 6W each instead of 50W – a saving of 88% though it cost (at the time) more than £130 – the plan was for each lighting ring in the kitchen to be done each month and by September, 8 bulbs were only £95 – we had enough 50W bulbs to use 1.5kW an hour and we reduced that to 150W. And then looked at every bulb in the house. The lowest rated ones were in the kitchen.

In that first weekend, I had reduced our consumption by 5kW and spent less than £100 doing that (excluding the kitchen). By the end of September, we had saved over 13kW just from lighting. The outside lights were up to 600W each, fluroscents in the garage, another 400W!

I looked at everything, the heating controls, the insulation, the curtaining. I didn’t do the work in one go – a big and expensive task, but broke it into small, timely jobs for weekends. Venetian blinds were swapped for curtains and thermal blackout blinds, starting in the bedrooms where they’d give the most benefit. Manual thermostats were swapped for wifi controlled timed ones. Holiday mode was used when we were away, summer programmes were subtly different to winter ones.

I use the microwave when I can – I am a big fan of microwave roast dinners for a fraction of the cost of a traditionally cooked roast chicken. Teamed with peak generation from our solar cells means we can cook for free and donate electricity to the grid for others to use <3.

The hob was eventually swapped for an induction one. The convection cooker for a significantly more efficient one.

One big step was the adoption of the smart meter in 2015. Like the electric vehicle, I don’t really understand why these haven’t been taken up more widely. During the summer, I time the cooking to coincide with the sun generating the most electricity and now that’s teamed that with the vehicle to grid, and our electricity bills are not only zero but paying for most of our gas use.

According to https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-63483668, people with smart meters can take part in a new scheme to help ensure we reduce the reliance on burning gas and coal – critical as gas supplies have been made prohibatively expensive by Vladimir Putin and his campaign on the Ukranian people.

This builds on the https://carbonintensity.org.uk/ which highlights when there is a glut of renewable energy on the grid against times of greatest use. We’ve been collating (and sharing) this data in the UK for a while now and canny people can use it to help reduce our carbon footprints. This allows them to capitalise on that saving through cold, hard cash.

Now, even during the summer, between 4pm and 7pm, there is a big draw on electricity in the UK. During the winter, that’s exacerbated by needing to turn on lights for the journey home and moving about darkened houses. By using microwaves and induction hobs instead of gas and electric convection ovens, we can reduce power usage dramatically. Don’t have a hot drink on turning up home in your car – instead use a flask for water boiled at lunchtime and wait a bit for that hot drink.

I hear many people talk about having batteries but there are some simpler ways of making the most of solar energy during the winter. Traditional storage heaters worked by warming “bricks” during the night time to give heat out during the day – flip that technology to solar heating and solar voltaics, and your house can be giving out heat as you walk through the door from work or school from energy stored at lunch time when there’s a glut of power from solar sources. For a much lower cost than installing a heat pump or solar thermal heaters…

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