By Frank Conway
It is estimated that Irish people spend on average between €1,500 – €2,000 to heat their homes and cover the cost of electricity annually. And because such a large part of the overall cost of fuel and electricity goes into lighting and heating those homes, it is little wonder why so many are eager to find ways to reduce the overall cost.
In this article, we look at some practical tips to reducing waste. Plus, we also explore some more significant investments that can provide long-term savings opportunities.
The easy wins
Where they are used, turn your thermostat setting for your living areas down to 20°C. The temperature in hallways and bedrooms should be cooler, ideally between 15-18°C. You can reduce your heating bill by 10% by lowering your room temperature by just one degree.
Replace Damaged Window Seals
If you have older windows, the seals on them can become dried out and damaged over time; it could really pay off to check them. You can usually tell they are no longer fit-for-purpose if they are broken or cracking. Many good hardware shops sell replacement parts. Sealing gaps and cracks is an easy and inexpensive way to lower energy costs. In some situations, MoneyWhizz seminar attendees estimated a 10% savings on annual fuel bills.
Replace Incandescent Bulbs
Since the average home uses many light bulbs, switching over to greener bulbs is a great way to save on your electricity bill… and the environment. Halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs offer longer lasting light and are more energy-efficient than your old incandescent bulbs.
Limit Using Heaters
Although electric and gas heaters can make a room nice and toasty, they are not always the most efficient way to heat your home… or a room. Many space heaters use inefficient heating watts of energy to run and are considered to be a costly way to drain your energy bill. If a room is slow to heat, make sure any window seals and cracks are fixed. If there is a little-used chimney, consider placing an old pillow in the flue to prevent heat loss. If you are considering buying a space heater, make sure the model is an energy-efficient one. But before you invest in a new room heater, maybe adding an extra layer of clothing might do the trick.
Bleed your Radiators
Sometimes a room can be slow to heat up where the radiator is malfunctioning. A common problem is the radiator can become air-locked. This is a simple problem to fix, provided you have the right tool. In this case, you’ll need a “radiator key” which is designed to allow you to loosen the radiator valve which in turn allows the trapped air to escape; this is called “bleeding”. There are many online video tutorials that demonstrate how this can be done. If you do take on the “bleeding” of the radiator yourself, remember to have a piece of cloth on hand to capture any excess moisture that accumulates as the air is escaping.
Start a Compost Pile
You don’t need a lot of space in your garden to start a compost pile. Compost is the result of organic waste that’s kept in a pile or container that decomposes over time. Your fruit and vegetable waste not only become valuable compost, it also reduces the amount of household waste you produce on a daily basis which can help reduce your household waste costs.
Most of the energy used by a dishwasher and washing machine is for water heating. Run them on a lower temperature setting and save on your energy costs. Wash clothes at 30°C if they aren’t particularly dirty. Some recent research also suggests that so-called delicate wash cycles release more micro-plastic fibres into the environment so it might be worth considering the environmental impact of certain wash cycles.
Unplug Unused Chargers
Mobile phone and battery chargers that are plugged in but not in use are often referred to as energy gluttons. While they may not be actually charging a device, they still consume small amounts of energy. One charger may not make a lot of difference but in today’s world of multiple electronic devices and chargers, it all adds up. So, unplug your chargers when not in use if you are keen to make a difference to your wallet… and the environment.
Use solar sensors lights
Outdoor lights can be fitted with sensors and timers to reduce operating times. Plus, there are many solar powered lighting options that come with motion detection features which use no electricity but provide environmentally-friendly, free lighting for many external areas.
Oh, yeah, turn off the lights
Remember to turn off the lights when you are leaving a room or where you do not need them. If you need to have some on for during the night, install some light and motion sensor ones.
Add Insulation to Your Attic
According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), a home can lose up to 30% of its heat through a poorly insulated attic. Putting extra insulation to your attic can help seal air leaks and improve your home’s energy efficiency. The amount of insulation needed to cover your attic depends on your home’s size and style (detached or semi-detached). Reducing heat loss through your attic will reduce energy consumption which will ultimately cut down on your greenhouse gas emissions. Attic insulation can attract grants of up to €400.
Cavity Wall Insulation
The other major source of heat loss in Irish homes is through walls and here, the SEAI estimates that between 20-30% of heat loss takes place. Cavity wall insulation can attract grants of up to €400.
Install a Heat-Pump System
Heat pumps are electricity-driven devices that convert energy from the air outside a home into useful heat for inside the home. In well-insulated homes, they can be very economical to run and can be an extremely efficient alternative to oil, gas and solid fuel. There are a range of grants of between €600 – €3,500 provided for under SEAI grant programmes.
Install Solar Panels
Installing solar panels aren’t cheap but they are becoming a popular way to heat hot water and generate electricity for homes. Solar panels have many benefits! They help you save money on energy bills in the long run and promote lower fossil fuel usage. Typically, they are installed on your roof and cut your electricity costs by generating energy independently. Grants for solar panels of up to €3,800 are available in Ireland. The grant is to help towards the cost of buying and installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and battery energy storage systems. This pilot grant scheme will run until the end of 2020. It is estimated that on average, a solar PV system can reduce a domestic electricity bill by between €200 – €300 per year.
Perform a Building Energy Rating (BER) Audit
Consider having a Building Energy Rating carried out on your home, it could save you a lot on wasted energy in the long-run. Depending on the size and style of home you live in, a BER audit will cost between €120 – €150. A certified and trained auditor will inspect in and around your home to pinpoint savings opportunities and identify areas that need improvements.