Energy challenge: Eight ways to save energy

Continuing my mission this week to conserve more energy around my home, I’ve been picking the brains of Richard Lloyd, the Energy Saving Trust’s regional manager for the East of England. He was kind enough to give me the following  tips for our 1960s-built terrace (which already has cavity wall and loft insulation installed).

1. Double glazing is expensive but it’s a great draught excluder. “It depends on what you want to spend,” Richard tells me. “But one thing about 1960s-built houses like yours is they have massive windows. You could get modern double glazing – that should be enough to exclude the draughts. But it’s a big cost.” Fortunately we got our home double glazed four years ago when we moved in as the windows were in a terrible state.

2. Invest in thick curtains and draught excluders. “A lot of the things people can do are very low cost,” says Richard. “Like draught excluders for doors. They’re very effective at keeping heat in. Closing your curtains at dusk also prevents heat escaping. The thicker the better. Nice big velvet ones are better than those cheese cloth things.” I think he means ‘voiles’!

3. Lag your water pipes. “Have your water pipes been lagged along with the other insulation you’ve had done? If not then the loft will be colder. But you can easily lag them yourself.”

4. Turn down your water tank’s thermostat. “One thing people don’t think of is turning the thermostat down on the water tank,” he explains. “Many of them turn the central heating thermostat down, but not the water tank one. If you have an airing cupboard it will probably be on the side of the tank. It doesn’t need to be as high as 70 degrees. I’ve been to some people’s houses where the water is red hot and you don’t need it that hot. Also, make sure the water tank is properly lagged.”

5. Use a dishwasher. “Everybody has heard about washing their clothes at 30 degrees to save energy. I was pleased when I heard that a dishwasher is more efficient than washing up in a sink – as long as it’s used properly. The flipside is that when you first get one you usually find you need to buy more plates!”

Unfortunately the only dishwasher in our house in me!

6. Find out if you qualify for Government grants for cavity wall and loft insulation. “Many people don’t qualify for Warm Front free insulation grants unless they are on benefits, have children in the house, are over 60 or earn less than £16,000 a year,” says Richard. “But there are still a lot of people out there who do qualify but haven’t applied for a grant.” So it’s worth checking.

One reader from Wales has been in touch with me. He was turned down for an insulation grant because his home is stone-built. Richard explains that the Warm Front programme doesn’t cover stone-built properties. “Unfortunately stone-built houses have no cavities in the walls so it’s impossible to do cavity wall insulation,” he says. “There are other techniques, such as insulating the walls from the inside, but they’re expensive and not covered by Warm Front. But there’s no reason why his roof couldn’t be insulated, although there are some homes where it’s difficult to access part of the roof."

7. Remember small changes can make a huge difference. “People often think saving energy is about some big bold statement – like putting a windmill on the side of your house,” he says. “But it’s [the small changes] that make a real difference. If everyone in the UK switched their light bulbs over to energy efficient bulbs, within a year we would save enough electricity to light our streets for five years.”

And many people are making changes. “Six months ago we got a few calls from people saying they wanted to help the environment and save money,” says Richard. “But now we’re getting a lot more calls from people saying ‘this is costing me more money’ and they’re surprised that it’s not big measures that they need to take.”

8. Change to a condensing boiler.  If you watched my video yesterday you’ll know I have a Baxi back boiler which is old as the hills, but I’m reluctant to change it because it still works. However, Richard thinks it would be worth switching to a condensing boiler. “It is worth doing it,” he points out. “As a rule of thumb you’d save a third of your heating bill by changing. But even doing something smaller such as adding an accurate heating control to it would save you 17 per cent on your bill or individual room thermostats. Given how much energy prices are, it’s now more relevant for people.”

If you have any other questions for Richard let me know and I can put them to him for you.

For more information on saving energy, contact the Energy Saving Trust’s Advice Centre for free on 0800 512 012.

MSN’s energy saving guide has some useful tips too.  Here are some energy tips and advice on heating your home from Jessica Bown at MSN.

Got any more tips or suggestions? Have you switched to a condensing boiler? Or got any gripes about Government insulation grants? Then get it off your chest by leaving me a comment.

Have a great weekend, Piper xxx


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16 Responses to Energy challenge: Eight ways to save energy

  1. Nicholas says:

    If you\’re a true green you should welcome high energy prices.  We live in a market economy, where supply and demand are controlled by pricing.
    Gas, in particular, has always been a luxury good, but we chose to forget that when the North Sea opened up.  Even until recently we were still commissioning large gas-burning power stations, some of them in single cycle!  And why? – Because it was cheap and the government could meet their Kyoto targets, even though this could only ever be a temporary measure, and was squandering a luxury fuel that is far better suited to the domestic sector!  But no-one complained because all the right boxes were ticked  – except long-term planning, but that box is not fashionably used in this country.
    With our North Sea oil and gas reserves now depleted (reserves that took hundreds of millions of years to mature, but less than thirty to burn), we are now at the mercy of less sympathetic leaders.  Not only this, but we have the enormous inefficiencies, expense and hazards of long pipelines and pumping stations.  Norway, on the other hand, chose to be more sensible with it\’s North Sea assets, and will be reaping the rewards for decades to come. 
    If the government was more honest on transport, it would put all extra tax on fuel alone.  Forget all your complications of toll roads, electronic surveillance, emission categories and all that; just pay for what you burn.  Could anything be more simple, direct, honest and beneficial for the environment?
    Likewise energy.  Let the prices go up!  It\’s a competitive market, so vote with your allegiance to suppliers.  If you think the producers are making undue profits, buy their shares to offset your bills!

  2. Peter says:

    Groober is right about the fuel taxes, whilst I hate having to pay more at the pump and I won\’t ever give up my car (I\’m a car nut) but I do use it less if I have to pay more for petrol (and there is a credible alternative which is quite rare!), all these new schemes such as pay as you go driving, road tolls, big brother tracking are hideously expensive, an invasion of privacy and they won\’t do the same to reduce driving like expensive petrol does. Gas prices going up will perhaps make people use less but a better thing to do is to make things more efficient so people pay less and use less at the same time. You can get free energy saving products here if you are over 70 or on benefits, which will go some way to reducing the amount you consume

  3. Christine says:

    There are a lot of sensible things that you can do – but it all takes money. And it\’s much easier if you have your own property – if you have a private landlord you probably ain\’t got a chance (especially if said landlord is worrying about the mortgage) and it\’s not much easier with social housing. For the past 10 years my housing association has been running around sorting out cavity and loft insulation. They are now trying to catch up on double glazing doors and windows along with finding the old boilers that have been missed on updating (some of these date from when Noah built his ark I believe). They have to access money to do this work and are faced with the same problems with regards to lending and funding as the rest of us. Updating the very quaint, antique kitchen units that some of us have has just fallen by the wayside. So thank your lucky stars that you have your own house and can invest in it. Dishwasher? Oh come on – there\’s just one of me here and it would take a week to fill it up. The thought of investing in a dishwasher for one person always strikes me as bordering on the frivolous. But I did buy the daughter a lined curtain and glide rail for last Christmas so that she could get the expert handyman she married to put it up inside over the front door of the house. Apparently this has cured a real problem and was far cheaper than buying a new front door. They had budgeted for a major repair on the little conservatory/cum entry vestibule this year as it was letting in rain and gales. I wonder how many people keep a check on and maintain areas like the entry hall to the old main door and the conservatory? Both of these can be heat leaky.

  4. Unknown says:

    To those of you who say put up fuel tax to force us to use our cars less, well you obviously live where there is public transport (or maybe you don\’t even work).
    I live in the South West & have to travel 21 .5 miles to work (& back again) – there iare NO buses, no TRAINS, no PUBLIC TRANSPORT – these increases eat into my families income – I have to use my car or give up work, I cannot reduce my driving! And don\’t forget, we in the SW are paid lower for the same job than the rest of the country.

  5. Nicholas says:

    Yes, no-name, I do sympathise about a lack of public transport.  But what are any of us going to do when oil supplies dwindle?
    A high fuel price incentivises you to keep considering alternatives: smaller vehicle options (moped?); car-sharing; anticipatory-driving; working from home; finding a local job; lobbying for a bus service; using the car less outside of commuting.  You only get real improvements by applying real pressure.
    Also, you are paid less, but your property prices are considerably lower.  You probably have more spending power than many city dwellers!

  6. Chavy says:

    Thanks for the tips! It\’s great!I do have consolidated the tips here at drop by and visit :)Cheers,

  7. ron says:

    I am over 70 and applied for a grant to update the lagging already in my loft on inspection i was told that houses with integra  The arel garages were not covered by the warm air system and as my house was this type the area not lagged ( ie the area of the garage and immediate surrounding area ) did not need sufficient lagging to be in a poition to recieve a grant. The garage area and the house roof in my view are part and parcel of the house there is no division between the two

  8. Unknown says:

    This is a response to Groobler\’s comment yesterday at 17:48
    1. Oil supplies are not dwindling as you seem to think – vast oil fields with enough oil (at present consumption) are in the Kazakhstan/Caspian Sea region – enough reserves for another 50 years, Alaska as yet untapped!
    2. You assume I drive a large vehicle, most days I use a motorcycle to work & only use the small family car in inclimate weather.
    3. There are no local jobs for me – even the postmaster has recently become unemployed!
    4. You have obviously never been to the SW – buses only run on major routes, not through the rural villages – we have a bus to our village once a day at 10:00, returning 14:00, no use for commuting to work – the bus service is hardly going to run a bus for a few passengers – think how much extra wasted fuel that would be!
    5. As for cheap house prices, dream on!
    6. As for more spending power, you are obviously not aware that the average salary in the SW is less than £15000 per annum, yes per annum
    I suggest you find out the facts before you make unsubstantiated comments – most people in the SW have no choice but to use their own vehicles, and no, we don\’t need or want extra fuel taxes! Put up congestion charges where public transport is available.

  9. Joan says:

    Hi   I had cavity wall insulation done , but how do you know that they are doing it properly , my house was built in the 50 s and it has air vents in the bedrooms so when it was windy i found the insulation blowing in also when i went into the loft some of the insulation had spilled out up there ,and how do you know it is distributed properly i dont find the house any warmer than before i had it done.

  10. Kerri says:

    I was at Homebase today (taking advantage of their 10% day – as apparently were the majority of the rest of the town I live in – I\’m still to decide whether my savings were worth the sharp rise in my blood pressure trying to manouvre through people, large trollys and unsupervised children in the car park… ) anyway, I digress – they had BOGOF on their Space Blanket loft insulation (plus 10% off) and I swear, I have never seen so many people snapping up the stuff – seriously, every other person must have walked out with some… I\’m not sure if its the rising cost of bills, the time of year, people becoming more energy/environment consious or just that it was a bargain offer. I on the other hand didn\’t take advantage of the offer since I live in a ground floor mainsonette and have insulation in the form of my neighbour above, who might be a bit miffed if she came home from work to find me up in her loft! lol!!

  11. robbie says:

    Here`s an easy way to save on heating bills. so far this year i have saved about 70 quid, just by only putting the heating on between 7-8am and 7-8 pm. the rest of the time if we need to get warm, especially at night, we use that long forgotten favourite the  HOT WATER BOTTLE. Ok my wife and kids think im as tight as scrougers arse for not using the heating, but it makes a difference and if everyone did it the robbing energy companies would have to rethink there prices

  12. Leanne says:

    Robbie, that\’s all well and good but what about those people who need to leave the house at 7am to get to work and so are forced to have the heating on from 6am-7am (peak times) in order to make sure they don\’t wake up with icicles (sp?) hanging from their nose?

  13. Christine says:

    You\’ve all shown that what works for one person does not work for another. It\’s also worth noting that there comes a time when you have to consider whether you can really use less gas and electricity and the only thing left to consider is whether you are paying the best possible tariff in the best possible and most cost effective way. But you should take notice that Age Concern said on its website that it has had many complaints from pensioners about the Warm Zone scheme. Obviously the work isn\’t always up to standard and the grants don\’t cover all the work needed.

  14. Peter says:

    Does it really matter if one replaces normal bulbs for energy ones. Does it matter if one has solar panels installed.
    What about cavity wall and draught proofing?
    After all, if everyone does spend money to save money, the utility company loses out.
    What do they do? Put the price up of course.
    Their overall basics is to maintain their profit margins at whatever cost for the benefit of their investers, not their customers.
    Why should people who use less electricity or gas subsidise the heavy users.
    What I mean is that the first number of units, be it 200, 1000 or whatever, is always more expensive than higher figures. 
    Can this be right? 
    I have just installed solar panels and this quarter I am down in gas usage by 75% but the cost of that gas has risen by 29%

  15. jon says:

    I would have thought most people have had reasonable insulation by now & it\’s mostly private landlord\’s who are not up to date but even if a property has good insulation it can still be like a fridge , these being well insulated to ! . Looking ahead new build\’s & refurb\’s will have to have micro gerneration befor conexion to the main\’s system\’s & the introdution of smart metering will allow for retrospective penalisation for using to much . to my mind solar voltaic & heat pump\’s are the way forward as more of a fit & forget them . The government & the power companie\’s are not informing the public properly . When you add up cost\’s of any of above it\’s a cost to be born by us again ! grant\’s are poor & not easy to obtain , the truth is we have forgotten service\’s are a luxury & that\’s how it\’s being priced . But if enough of us opt for micro generation we can cut dependence on the utilitie\’s our forfather\’s managed to survive ok . Being frugal must be the way & cut the profit\’s of utilitie\’s planner\’s must embrace solar as not many can have a wind turbine of size necessary , indeed most of us will require mutiple panel\’s as most inverter\’s are 1kv upward so let\’s demand the grant\’s base on the returns government got from north sea gas !

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