General ramblings

They Think It's All Over…

April 6, 2014

Phew!
We’ve done it. The end of the B&Q Great Energy Race for this years Observer Ethical Awards.
Thankyou so much for all your brilliant, inspiring and helpful comments-they have helped to make the whole thing truly interactive. Hopefully through the (seemingly endless) blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates, and even the odd Radio appearance, everybody has picked up some ideas for easy ways to cut their home energy usage!

I thought is might be interesting (for us anyway…) to summarise the energy savings measures we have implemented over the course of the Great Energy Race. I will sit down over the next few days and try to come up with a rough idea of how much energy each action will save us over a 12 month period, but for now, here’s what we have done!

Cooking

  • We sat down and ‘did the Math’ and concluded that slow cooking is actually way more energy efficient that cooking in the oven, and I have since started using our slow cooker more-check out my slow cooker ‘roast’ chicken and then my thrifty risotto
  • We splashed out on a Wonderbag (enabling the lovely people at Wonderbag HQ to send another Wonderbag out to a family in need in Africa), and I have been having fun experimenting with ultra low energy cooking-we’ve had sausage casseroles, a veggy beany thing, and even a steamed pudding!
    There was much excitement...

    There was much excitement…

  • I have started ‘binge-baking’-trying to do all my baking for the week on just one day, in order to bake efficiently! It is quite a pleasant way to spend an afternoon-pottering around the kitchen, and I am enjoying the challenge of trying to ensure the oven is never on and empty whilst waiting for me to prep the next lot of things to cook
  • The oven is the least efficient of all the cooking appliances, so I have also been experimenting a bit with the microwave, and we had a microwave chocolate pudding one night, which was met with delight by the Smalls, and took less than 10 minutes to make!
  • On the hob, I have been using the steamer more, in an attempt to only have one gas ring at a time. Quite often this is really easy to achieve, and I think previously it has just need a lack of thought on my part that has meant I have had two or even three rings going at once
  • The great science experiment that was the kettle/thermos investigation proved that it uses less energy to boil more water than you need, and then store the excess in a thermos for later on

Washing clothes 
I think we all know these by now!

  • Washing at 30C-we were doing this anyway, but it bears repeating
  • Making sure we have a full load-this is not really an issue in our house-I rarely struggle to find things that need washing…!
  • Washing less! I had got into a habit of just mindlessly chucking the boy’s clothes in the laundry basket at the end of every day, having got so used to their clothes being covered in some kind of snot/dirt/ick. But actually, t-shirts are usually ok if they have been covered by jumpers all day, and just occasionally, the trousers live to fight another day too!
  • I can’t include not using the tumble dryer in here, as we have never had one. So it is not something we have just started doing, but we are still saving energy by line drying
    Line drying
  • Not ironing-this isn’t a new thing, I have never ironed. But I am pleased to learn that this is helping us to save energy too!

Washing people

  • We changed our shower head for an Eco-Pulse one, and proved beyond all doubt (with another wonderfully scientific experiment) that it does indeed use 50% less water
    Shower head21Lighting
  • Swapping the existing halogen bulbs for LEDs means that the light fittings are now using 13 times less energy 🙂
    An LED bulb. In case you were having trouble visualising one.

    An LED bulb. In case you were having trouble visualising one

  • Hubby took the light out the fridge to see what it was, and if we could get an LED replacement, and so far, we haven’t felt the need to replace it. The fridge is still light enough to see the food, although my mother in law is overcome with worry that we won’t know if the fridge stops working (I think the warm food might give it away though)
  • We have also taken the light out of the extractor fan
  • In our kitchen, we have main lights, and then fancy pants ones under the cupboard by the worktop. We have taken to just using the main ones as these are LEDs, and may well just remove the bulbs from the other ones

Keeping Warm 

  • We’ve invested in a Chop-Cloc, which promises to help us to cut our bills and energy using without even noticing it-we will have to wait until next Winter to try it out though as hubby has turned the heating off
  • Hubby spent an evening poking silver lining down behind the radiators-we will see if we notice an appreciable difference when the heating comes back on!
  • I made new removable linings for our unlined curtains, from some generously gifted old blankets
    Curtain linings4
  • Our loft is already pretty well insulated, so instead of adding to the existing insulation on the floor of the loft, we opted to add some reflective silver lining stuff to the eaves of the roof-the theory being that any heat is deflected back into the house. I am not sure we will see a huge difference, but every little helps!
  • Our fabulous quillow has been pressed into action to keep us warm on the sofa in the evenings, without firing up the heating!
  • Lovely hubby also cut up some insulating material to lag the hot water pipes in the airing cupboard

All Things Electric

  • I was beside myself with excitement when I found out that we could get an energy monitor from the library to use for three weeks. Energy monitors are supposed to be the key to cutting your energy usage. I guess the theory being that they scare the pants off you sitting there ticking away, and making you aware of every unit you are using. I was less excited when the one that we got proved to less than useful, and wouldn’t work for most of the time, and then when it did, it wasn’t really very accurate
  • So I then decided to try a different approach and after an appeal on Twitter, the fabulous people at Rugby Friends of the Earth super kindly lent me their monitor,
    Energy monitor1
    which allows you to plug appliances into it, and see how much energy they are using. I spent a very happy morning plugging in various different things, and exclaiming at how much (or little) energy they were using. We had some surprises and now as a result are making a concerted effort to unplug the printer, the computer and the TV when they are not in use. We may even try and get some smart switches, that allow us to do this with remotes, rather than grovelling around on the floor
  • To make sure that charging our phones is not costing more than it needs to, we invested in a Sava-Socket that cuts the supply off once the phone is charged
  • We are more aware of trying to ensure that we run the washing machine and dishwasher during daylight hours (and I try and do my batch baking in the daytime too) to make the most use of any free energy from our solar panels. This might not actually be reducing our energy consumption, but it is reducing the demand on the National Grid, and using good clean solar power instead of nasty old fossil fuels

So there it is then.
I don’t know if we have done enough to win-the other contestants all seemed to be doing marvellous things as well! It is often said, and I think in this case it is definitely true, that it is the taking part that counts. I thought we were already pretty energy savvy, but we have learned a lot over the last four weeks, so winners or not, it has been worth it. I hope you have all enjoyed it, and found some useful nuggets of energy saving info that you have been able to implement at home.

Thankyou again to everyone who left comments on the blog or Facebook page, and who tweeted with ideas-you are all wonderful!
If you want to help one last time, the B&Q Great Energy Race page is now live-you can check out the other contestants, and vote for me your favourite.
Finally, at the risk of this turning into an Oscar’s acceptance type speech, I also wanted to thank the following for all their help and advice and kindness:

 

 

 

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