How to… power down your home while you're away
3rd May, 2012
If you want to return from holiday to a low electricity bill and a guilt-free conscience, power down your home before you go. Not sure how? Rachael Stubbins has more
In a world where energy prices are steadily increasing and annual household energy bills top £1,300, finding ways to reduce energy consumption makes sense both from an environmental and financial viewpoint. But despite the outlay, far too few of us think to switch things off when we go away. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) estimates that the average UK household spends £35 a year powering appliances in standby mode, producing around 120kg of carbon dioxide in the process. According to Cornwall Switch, £230 million a year could be saved if everyone turned off gadgets such as TVs, computers and phone chargers, when they’re on their holidays. ‘There is lots you can do around the house to be more energy efficient,’ says Rosalyn Foreman, Energy Doctor at the EST. ‘The smallest behaviour changes such as switching off appliances at the wall when they are not being used can collectively save you a fair amount money on your yearly energy bills.’
In the light of the announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in their annual energy statement in November, which revealed that electricity costs will rise by 27 per cent by 2020, saving energy should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. If you think that the only preparation needed for a weekend away is packing, locking up the house and giving the neighbour a spare key, then think again. Not only will your bank balance benefit from turning off all your electrical appliances, but also your environmental impact will be reduced. The EST estimates that the amount of carbon dioxide saved by turning off unused gadgets would be equal to taking 660,000 cars off the UK’s roads. Many people think that switching appliances to standby or even turning them off means that no energy is being used. However, if you want to ensure minimal wastage, switch appliances off at the wall. Not only will you save energy, it has the added benefit of reducing the risk of fire.
It’s difficult to know which appliances are the biggest energy consumers when not in use, so limit the amount of energy that is needlessly used while you are away by following these simple steps. First, make a systematic sweep of the house, switching off all appliances at the wall. In the kitchen, the most obvious targets are the kettle, toaster, coffee machine and microwave. After emptying the fridge and freezer, you can switch off these appliances, too. The oven, dishwasher and washing machine can also be unplugged but may require a little more effort: in most kitchens, these appliances have to be pulled away from the fixtures to reach the plug. In the bedroom, you only really need to consider the side lamps and alarm clock, and in the bathroom unplug the electric toothbrush and shaver.
Depending on how gadget-savvy you are, the living room and study will contain the worst energy offenders. Consider the cable box. Sky has made significant progress towards becoming more energy efficient since 2008 by cutting the total energy consumption of its Sky+HD boxes by 30 per cent and by prompting inactive boxes to go into standby mode during the day as well as overnight. However, cable boxes are notorious for being energy gluttons – a US report by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that they operate at near full power when not in use.
TV manufacturers have done a great job at improving energy efficiency over the past five years and a recent report by Sust-it showed that they are on average 60 per cent more efficient today than they used to be. However, many households have increased the number of TVs that they own, installing them in the majority of rooms. As the report pointed out, ‘TVs account for around six to eight per cent of the global domestic electricity usage’ so it is definitely worth switching them off at the plug. Don’t forget to turn off printers, shredders and multimedia devices such as DVD players, VCRs and games consoles. Lastly, if you have an outside burglar prevention light that turns on at a certain time, make sure you turn it off or at least put it on a motion sensor setting to reduce electricity wastage.
Hopefully, seeing the financial impact of these energy-saving measures on return will encourage more people to make these small changes every day. By taking action on an individual scale, we are more likely to meet the government’s 2020 carbon emission reduction targets and save the planet in the process.
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