Gadgets and Appliances
Reducing our carbon emissions as a nation will only be achieved by reducing our energy demand and increasing the proportion that is supplied by renewable sources. In practice demand reduction will play a larger part than renewables but it is often overlooked. Demand reduction doesn't capture the imagination like high-tech solar panels and wind turbines and it can summon a feeling of lower standards of living and hairshirt lifestyles. This isn't the case of course, but those of us looking at demand reduction often find it hard to describe what reduced demand for energy in the home looks like. And that's because there's no such thing as an average person - indeed, some people's energy behaviour appears, well, just a little bit odd.
The Energy saving Trust's recent report "Powering the Nation" sheds more light on this issue than any previous study in the UK. This work has surveyed the energy use of appliances in 250 households in minute detail to give a picture of how we really use electricity in the home. Our individual electricity use, however, is a factor of how many appliances we own, how much power they consume and how often each is used. These 3 factors provide the key to how we might reduce our consumption.
One of the most revealing aspects of the study is just how many electrical appliances we own. Most energy demand studies have looked at the major ones - fridges and freezers, washing machines and dishwashers, TV and electronics, lighting and cooking. But Powering the Nation reveals we own a staggering 41 appliances on average, with 20% of homes owning more than 50. This all implies that owning less gadgets is one way to reduce demand. That's not to say we all have to live like monks in an empty house but making intelligent decisions based on what's really important to you can save serious money and carbon.
The energy efficiency of appliances is in general a good news story with virtually all products consuming less power per delivered service than in previous years as technology improves. LED TVs use less electricity per square inch than CRT or plasma screens for example, and fridges use 33% of the energy compared to the mid-1990s. However, this is offset somewhat by the fact the we are choosing bigger appliances - TV screens are getting larger and larger, as are fridges - meaning that energy demand itself doesn't necessarily go down in absolute terms. Getting the size right for your kit is important, for example an oversized and underused fridge will waste a huge amount of energy.
The last aspect is how often we use appliances. Powering The Nation has shown that we watch TV more than was previously thought - an average of 6 hours per day, up from the previous estimate of 5 hours - and we run our washing machines an average of 5.5 times per week. It seems that some minor tweaks to lifestyle could change both these considerably. A further area where great savings could be made is for appliances on standby. Standby consumption is costing the average household between £50 and £86 per year, or some 9-16% of total bills.
Green your Gaff Tips:
1) Try to size your gadgets and appliances appropriately. The fridge is an easy and important one, you could always trade in your fridge in the future if your circumstances change. Ok, if you want a huge flat screen TV I'm not going to be able to stop you. The best 'A' rated LED TVs can be a little more expensive than their energy guzzling, older cousins however you can sometimes get a good deal on a display model.
2) See if you can eliminate standby consumption from your house. If you want to tell the time, look at your watch or mobile. Is there much value in a little clock on your oven, microwave, video, DVD, stereo, radio or set-top box? If turning all this off individually seems like a bit of a chore, you could consider investing in a handy 'stand by buster' (there are plenty available on the web). This is one gadget that will definitely save money and CO2.
3) 6 hours of TV a day? Go outside, read a book, live a little!
Follow Jon Cowdrill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joncowdrill