Four ways to reduce energy use in your home – proven by research | Whuff News

A very cold September gave us a glimpse of the coming winter. The cold will bite hard for the 13% of households in England already in fuel poverty. As the energy crisis worsens, this is expected to increase further.

So European leaders rushed to implement measures to protect homes. The UK Energy Price Guarantee sets the unit price of electricity and gas at 34p and 10p respectively. While this will ease concerns about rising electricity bills, many households will still have to pay for heating their homes in the coming months.

Here are four ways research shows that homes can reduce energy use during the winter – and save money in the process.

1. Air dry clothes

Washing and drying clothes is responsible for around 12% of household electricity use in the UK.

Frequent hand washing is recommended as an energy-saving alternative to machine washing.

A man bent over a bucket of soapy water washing his clothes.
Hand washing clothes is often touted as an energy-saving alternative to machine washing.

However, modern washing machines are very efficient, typically using 0.5 kilowatt hours to wash 9kg. This is significantly less than the 0.82 kilowatt hours used on average for hand washing. Even automatic washing machines tend to use less energy than hand washing as less hot water is needed.

Instead, by limiting the use of the dryer, a significant reduction in energy consumption can be achieved. Tumble dryers use a lot of energy, with one cycle using up to 4.5 kilowatt hours. This will cost £1.50 per round over the cap.

By air-drying laundry instead, I calculated that the average household could save over £130 a year.

2. Use less hot water

To deal with a critical gas shortage, the German city of Hanover turned off hot water in bathrooms in all public buildings earlier this year.

While drastic energy saving measures are not possible, hot water production in the UK is a major user of energy, accounting for around a quarter of domestic energy use. There are many ways that households can reduce their hot water consumption.

Another way is to reduce the time spent in the shower. A high pressure shower that lasts nine minutes uses about 4.3 kilowatt hours of gas. In nominal terms, this would cost households 44p per shower. By reducing the time spent in the shower to six minutes, households can save 15p on heating water for each shower.

If you have a hot water tank, making sure it is properly covered can save money. This will keep the water hotter for longer and reduce heating costs.

Another option is to install a low-flow shower head. This prevents water flow while maintaining the feeling of a high pressure shower. With lower flow rates, the shower will use less hot water. For households with an average of nine minute showers a day, this could save over £100 a year.

However, a low shower head will only work well in areas where the water pressure is already high enough. Reducing an already low pressure shower can turn the shower into a dribble.

3. Make better use of heaters

As the energy crisis increases, it is important to ensure that heating is not wasted unnecessarily. Research shows that energy use can be reduced by up to 30% by reducing heating when occupants are asleep or away.

This can be done by manually turning the thermostat down or by turning the heater off completely. For those who often forget to turn down the heat, a smart thermostat can prove a worthwhile investment. These can be controlled remotely via your mobile phone, or automatically by using presence sensors and allow the heating to be turned down when the home is unoccupied.

Human hands adjusting a thermostatic radiator valve on a green wall.
Homes with heating controls use significantly less energy than homes without.
Robert Bodnar T/Shutterstock

Energy is also wasted heating unused rooms. Thermostatic radiator valves are one way to control the temperature in different rooms. They control the flow of hot water to the radiators and can be programmed to adjust the temperature of each room.

Thermostatic radiator valves can deliver significant energy savings. Some studies have found that they result in 10%-18% lower energy consumption compared to homes without heating controls. However, it is important that the doors between the rooms are kept closed to prevent energy dissipation.

4. Increase coverage

Although we could make better use of heaters, British homes are not very energy efficient. Its housing stock is one of the smallest protected areas in Europe.

Increasing your insulation is one way to reduce your energy consumption. Double glazing in the form of window shutters can reduce the amount of heat lost by half of a single glazed window. I calculated that this could save the average UK household over £50 a year in heating costs.

But window shutters don’t always show an immediate energy-saving plan. Shutter installation can be expensive and if installed outside the building may require planning permission.

Closing curtains or blinds at night and during cold weather instead represents a cost-effective way to conserve heat. Research shows that blinds can reduce heat loss through windows by up to 38%.

A change in habits and a small investment can significantly reduce energy consumption. If implemented widely, they can reduce the energy crisis. While the Energy Price Guarantee will provide temporary relief for many, investment in energy saving methods such as insulation must be prioritized to reduce our energy burden in the long term.

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