Sweater, not heaters – the frugal guide to energy effiency this winter

When winter comes, energy bills skyrocket.  Gas usage increases as heating works harder and stays on longer.  Similarly, lighting during the hours of darkness consumes more and more electricity.  Finding ways to improve energy efficiency around the home can make a big difference for energy tariffs – as bills have increased in the UK an average of 9% in the Autumn of 2013 alone, according to The Guardian.  Additionally, using less energy also cuts down on your household’s carbon footprint, reducing your contribution to global climate change.

Temperature Control
Adjusting your thermostat could be one of the most important steps you’ll take to save energy this winter.  According to the Energy Saving Trust, turning your house’s temperature down just one degree could save up to 10% on your heating costs.  Surely that’s worth putting on a jumper for.  In most cases, the slight change in temperature will be barely noticeable.

Improving Insulation
Large-scale changes to insulation, such as insulating a loft or adding insulation to walls, can be costly.  Even so, these measures can pay off in reduced energy costs.  If you can’t afford to make large-scale improvements now, or can’t make changes to a rented property, there are still several things you can do to help cut down your heat loss to the outdoors.  Close your curtains when night falls to stop heat escaping.  Fix gaps and cracks where draughts get in using draught tape, foam sealant or draught excluders.  These small gaps in your home’s heat seal can be an especially bad problem in older buildings.

Use the Right Amount
Be sure to use the amount of energy you need.  Don’t boil an entire kettle of water if you’re only going to make one cup of tea.  Similarly, don’t run the hot water tap while doing dishes or leave the refrigerator door open while taking something out for a short time.  Each of these individual actions uses only a small amount of energy, but the combined reduction over the long term can be significant.

James from UKh2o says “reducing the water you use is crucial to saving money and can easily be done by fitting a number of different devices”.

Replace Small Parts
Larger expenditures like replacing a boiler, installing insulation or even mounting solar panels require a little planning.  There are some small changes, however, that are well within the frugal energy saver’s budget.  Replacing incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs is one of them.  Although they are slightly more expensive than their incandescent counterparts, these bulbs cost much less to run and have a much longer life, making them more efficient not only in energy terms but in replacement costs.  In some cases, such as for outdoor or closet lighting, light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and more convenient than CFLs.

Whether you install CFL bulbs or LEDs, be sure never to leave your lights on when you leave a room.

Switch It Off
Electrical appliances such as televisions, DVD players, stereos and games consoles are never really off unless they’re manually switched off.  Most have a “standby” mode, in which they shut off most functions but still consume a small amount of electricity.  Shutting these devices off manually or at the walls cuts down on their energy consumption without making and difference to performance.  Even if you don’t switch them off every time they’re not in use, you should definitely switch televisions and similar appliances off every time you go away for an extended period – if you’re away over Christmas, for instance.

These changes are all small in themselves, but making them can make a surprising difference to your energy consumption this winter.  Adopting a more energy-aware attitude can both save you money and help reduce your carbon footprint.

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