Energy is ever more expensive, and its use has become a hot topic politically. Here are various ways DIYers can save energy.
Draughtproofing is an easy minimum cost way to save energy in old houses. Self adhesive foam strip, profiled rubber strip and brush strip are all effective. Low cost self adhesive foams tend to have short life, but still save money. Draughtproof all 4 edges of doors & windows, and don't forget the letterbox.
The gaps in suspended timber ground floors in old properties often produce draughts. See further down for solutions.
Cavity wall insulation
Make sure you've got it, if you have cavity walls of a suitable type (rattrap bond and rubble walls should not be cavity filled.) Grants are widely available. The increased cost to heat a house for several years without insulation is greater than the cost of the insulation.
Lots of it. Loft insulation is an especially effective way to achieve payback.
Where goods are stored in the loft, boxed items trap air and thus have some insulating value.
Solid wall insulation
Non-cavity walls can have insulation applied to the inner or outer surface. The cost and work involved are of course greater than cavity fill.
There are 3 ways to fit interior insulation.
- Timber battens, insulation between, plasterboard, skim with plaster
- Solid sheet insulation, plasterboard, skim
- Solid sheet insulation with a hard cement front surface, skim
Its possible to just add a cavity, which provides significant insulation, using battens and plasterboard only. But the cost versus benefit of insulation means it should be included if at all possible.
Exterior insulation usually consists of solid sheet insulation, with EML screwed in place over it, then rendered with cement mortar. Insulating render is an alternative option with lower insulation levels.
For the financially troubled, its possible to insulate walls for £2 where appearance doesn't matter. Scrap paper products are brushed with borax solution and fixed with wallpaper adhesive.
- Cardboard can be applied in layers to the required depth.
- or a single layer of narrow card boxes, 1"-2" deep, creates an insulating cavity
- Its possible to fit foil backed plasterboard over it later.
- Paper products are not suitable where risk of damp exists
Some people retrofit insulation under suspended timber floors and concrete floors. Both usually involve taking the whole floor up, so are only occasionally practical. The saving can be significant over time, if the floor had to come up anyway. If not, there's a lot of input to pay back.
Occasionally there's a crawl space to enable fitting without disturbing the floor.
Less effective but still useful methods for draught prone ground floor floorboards are
- sheet hardwood laid over the floor to block draughts
- carpeting underlay to both draughtproof and insulate.
- filling floorboard gaps is partially effective, some of the filler tends to fall out with movement
Retrofitting double glazing usually fails to pay its costs back. Also it incurs the additional cost and energy use of replacing failed sealed glazing units.
However when windows must be replaced for other reasons, choosing double glazing usually makes sense.
- can pay back
- can cause condensation & rot of timber windows
- can be applied as opening sheets or non-opening.
- is easily made removable
- Acrylic secondary glazing eventually deteriorates, unlike glass, but it can last decades.
- Secondary glazing starts at about £6 a window using a plastic film glazing kit. This lasts a couple of years if not abused, but its weak and easily damaged. Holes can be patched, and if necessary the panel can be retautened with a hair dryer.
- Polythene sheet costs less than £1 a window, but isn't fully clear and doesn't shrink flat with a hairdryer. It does not look good.
Sliding sash windows can be draughty. A few types of draughtproofing can be fitted.
A favoured method is to remove the sliding sash, route a groove around its perimeter and insert a thin brush strip. This works well and stops rattles too, though it does make the window slide less freely. One alternative product used in the same way is a simple flexible plastic strip.
The cheapest method is to apply sellotape all along the gap where sash meets frame. Don't forget the gap where the 2 sashes meet.
Lead is an excellant thermal conductor, leaded windows have lots of it, and the design of these windows often leads to them leaking air as well. Secondary glazing dramatically improves the performance of these windows.
Heavy curtains help reduce heat loss at night by slowing air circulation past the window. The benefit is not comparable with double or secondary glazing.
Roller blinds give the same air slowing effect as curtains. Minimising the gap between blind and window maximises this effect.
Slatted blinds let a lot more air through.
The steel frames conduct heat out of the building. Secondary glazing is beneficial.
If a steel window doesn't close properly, excess paint build up is often the cause. Crittall steel windows were only designed to tolerate upto 3 layers of paint, and most are now old enough to have a good deal more than that on them.
Damaged windows that don't align properly can be draughtproofed by applying silicone, placing polythene sheet over the silicone to prevent it sticking to the opening sash, and closing the window. The sealant is thus moulded in situ to block any gaps.
There are some heating systems around with no room thermostat! if you can't find a room stat, you need one. TRVs are only partially thermostatic, and can not replace the function of the room stat.
Some old boilers used cast iron heat exchangers. These exchangers are horribly inefficient and such boilers should be replaced.
The cost versus saving case is less clear cut for the more common old boilers with pressed metal exchangers. Modern boilers often have much shorter lives and higher repair costs, offsetting quite a lot of fuel saving.
Boiler efficiency and maximum heating system output both depend on the temperature of the primary heating water circuit, which is usually controlled by a thermostat on the boiler. Reducing this temperature reduces max system heat output, but improves efficiency to some extent. The gain is greater with condensing boilers. The thermostat on the boiler can be turned down in milder weather, and up again in cold times. Weather compensation does this automatically, but is not usually found on domestic heating.
Programmable room stat
These save money if you use them to heat the house to a lower temp for part of the day. If you don't, they won't save a thing.
TRVs improve the room by room thermal control, shaving costs. Despite the name they are only partially thermostatic, and offer improvement rather than complete control. Heating systems should have a TRV on all radiators except one.
Turn radiators off
Turn off radiators in spare rooms etc
Room programmers & thermostats
Controlling the timing of heating or the temperature individually for each room trims waste further. However its not trivial to fit such control systems, and not many DIYers do so.
This costs much more than mains gas to run.
With electric heating there is a big saving to be had by heating 1 or 2 rooms only. With gas central heating on the other hand, heating 1 or 2 rooms electrically may save nothing due to the higher cost of electric heat.
Wearing clothes saves energy. Wearing additional clothes saves more energy. It seems obvious, but is sometimes overlooked.
Replacing filament with CFL saves money - not everyone likes them though. The claimed power equivalents on the packet are misleading comparisons with softone lamps, not the popular GLS filament lamps. 4x is a more realistic rule of thumb, with 3x for reflector types, and down to 2x for very compact reflector types where the majority of the reflector is blocked by the tube.
Where appearance doesn't matter, eg for garages, linear fluorescent is the most energy efficient of all domestic lighting types. The longer the tubes, the more efficient.
Halogen downlighting is a particularly energy hungry type of domestic lighting. Energy use can be cut by a fator of 10x by changing to CFL lights, and not using them as downlighting.
A lot of 500w halogen outdoor lighting can have the bulbs replaced with 150w ones.
A switchbank can much reduce lighting cost in many cases.
Dimmers only work with filament lamps, and produce little saving compared to full brightness, and waste energy compared to switching less total bulb power on.
Packing the machine full before use reduces frequency of run and total energy use. Its quite common to see machines run when they could have twice as much in them and still clean everything. A full machine costs half as much per week to run, and the machine lasts much longer.
If you use a high temperature wash, a lower temp wash program saves energy.
40C washes use less energy than hotter programs, but machines do need at least an occasional hot wash to clean the machine. Pongs result otherwise.
Washing below 40 isn't recommended, muck builds up and pong eventually takes over. Some people do this, but buying a new machine because you used cool washes is not energy efficiency.
An occasional boil wash with citric acid helps keep the machine clean, prolonging is useful life. For maximum effectiveness, when the water in the tub has reached close to boiling, switch machine off and leave overnight. Complete the wash program in the morning.
Users of economy 7 type schemes may find the washing machine too noisy to run at night on half price leccy. This is often solvable by fitting noise reduction to the machine.
Most of the energy use of tumble driers can be avoided with this Clothes Dryer
Drying clothes on a line outdoors costs nothing in summer.
Put foods to be cooked in without preheating the oven. The food's ready a couple of minutes sooner, and you lose 5 minutes of on-time. This works with all foods, but with fast cooking items it alters the cooking times a little.
Use lids on pans, turning the gas down very low. Once water is at boiling point, its impossible to make foods cook any faster. Its common to see people using over 10x as much gas as is needed to cook the food.
Note that all the food must be covered by water or some won't cook so quickly. Cooking on high heat causes the water level in the pan to fall, resulting in slowed cooking if anything less than high heat is used to maintain steam above the water. This leads some to mistakenly think if they reduce the heat their food won't cook as quickly.
On high setting, a lot of the flame's heat passes right past the pan. On a low setting, heat transfer is efficient.
Glass plates can be used on pans that don't have glass lids. They make the food visible, and are the right shape to return the steam condensate back to the food. Glass pans make it easier to see that the food is still boiling, but not too vigorously, and glass behaves very well with low power cooking.
Sometimes 2 foods can be cooked in the one pan together.
Pressure cookers also cook many foods faster than boiling. These work by cooking at above boiling point.
Vegetables can be microwaved instead of boiled, giving less loss of flavour & nutrients, quicker cooking and much less energy use. One way is to add 1tb of butter & water to the veg, cover, shake to mix, and nuke.
Soups that were traditionally cooked for an hour plus can usually be cooked much quicker in the microwave, with better flavour. Also many soups only need some of the ingredients cooking, and the others (eg tinned ingredients) can be added after the cooking.
A microwave & convection combi cooker can cook with both methods at once. This can produce oven like results with a fraction of the cooking time and energy use.
Kitchen extractor fans can throw a fair bit of heat away. They reduce the sticky grease that's caused by boiling food on the hob - so there's no point using them in winter when only the oven's on. Use the minimum fan speed required to remove most of the steam.
Using low hob power with lids eliminates most of the kitchen grease formation.
Old non-jug kettles waste energy by often boiling more water than is needed.
Boiling the exact amount of water needed reduces energy use. This is hard to judge but easy to measure. A kettle uses around half as much energy as a microwave if the exact amount of water is boiled.
If keen to save energy, cooking lots of servings at once and freezing uses less energy per meal.
Low energy cooking
A few methods can be used by people really determined to save energy.
There are many hot dishes that require little or no cooking. The art of creating good quality dishes very quickly is called short order cooking.
Haybox cookery produces slow cooked meals using only enough power to heat them up. The food is brought to boiling, then buried under hay. This keeps it hot, like a slow cooker.
Thermos cooking is the modern version of the haybox. Soups can be put in a thermos boiling hot but uncooked, and be ready by lunch time. The small capacity of these vacuum flasks is a major limitation though.
Slow cookers can save energy only if they're well insulated.
Steamers avoid heating up a large amount of water.
On some freezers a non-obvious fault makes the compressor run continuously. This increases electricity consumption to in the region of £50-£70 a year, or upto £200 a year for freezers decades old. At £500-£2000 per decade its cheaper to buy a new one than to use the old one. This fault is caused by partial loss of coolant, and can happen at any time to any freezer. Although the coolant can be topped up, if it leaked once it will again.
Occasionally people have stuck polystyrene foam insulation over the outside of their freezer to cut energy consumption even further. This does work, and is sometimes considered by people running a very small offgrid power system.
Old freezers from the 1970s consume enough extra power to cost more than a new freezer, even if they were free.
A power monitoring meter makes people aware of what is using how much, and this usually results in painless energy reductions. There are 2 types of meter. One indicates total house power consumption. The other monitors the power use over time of one appliance or one lead. Savings usually pay for the meter cost.
A desktop PC may use 70w and its monitor 30-70w, versus a laptop's 20w (approx & variable figures). If a machine's in use 24/7, the difference between the 2 is around £50 per year. Whether its worth moving over to a laptop depends on the laptop cost and hours of use, but usually its not, for cost saving alone.
Most desktop computer power supplies have an efficiency percentage in the 70s due to cost cutting. More effieicnt power supplies in the 80s or 90s percent are available for desktop machines.
TV & Monitor
LCD monitors often use less power than CRTs, but this isn't always so. Its not enough saving to offset the cost of replacing them however, or the embodied energy.
Plasma TVs are much more power hungry than LCD.
Much political mileage has been made of appliances consuming power while on standby. All consume some, but the quantity and cost of this power is in most cases tiny. There are occasional exceptions, and if found such items can be switched fully off when not in use.
Ensure your cylinder has either a foam coating or a fitted jacket. With jackets, check for any gaps.
Check for dripping or dribbling taps.
Hot water cylinders are usually fitted in restricted spaces, creating a space around the cylinder where more insulation can be added at no cost. Packaging peanuts, bubble wrap, jiffy bags, polystyrene foam, and even screwed up paper all trap air and provide insulation. Ensure you don't cover the electrical lead to an immersion heater.
See also Category:Domestic Hot Water
Use a lower water flow. Turn off booster pumps. If necessary, turn water off while soaping.
link to [how to stop teenagers taking forever in the shower]
4-6" of water was standard war time practice, and it does the job.
Batteries are highly inefficient ways to store energy.
Using rechargeable batteries gives a good saving on a lot of battery appliances. A £10 set of NiMH batteries with charger can achieve 500-1000 charge cycles, replacing anything up to 1000 batteries. That's a cost equivalent to 1p per dry battery.
Rechargeables aren't well suited to all tasks, as they tend to self discharge when sitting unused.
Running battery items from a wallwart wipes out almost all the run cost of batteries.
Finally, check you're getting the best deal on power.