Simple ways to save energy at home

10th March 2014
Simple ways to save energy at home

Whenever the concept of saving energy at home is mentioned, images of sitting in a cold, dark room lit up only by candles can spring to mind, as if you're living in a perpetual power cut. 

However, it doesn't have to be like this. Here are a number of simple tips that you can easily make part of your daily routine that will save you energy – and money – effectively. 

Think before you cook

The most energy-efficient appliance in the kitchen is the microwave, so whenever you have the option of using it instead of the oven, do!

Using a hob is the next best way, but ensure that you always use the right-sized pan on the correct ring so you're not using unnecessary energy. Make sure you're also keeping the rings clean, otherwise burnt food will absorb heat, meaning cooking time is less efficient. Where possible, use lids to retain the heat, which will save you both time and money

Boil water in the kettle – not on the stove – and take care to not fill it with more than you'll actually need. Regularly descale your kettle as well to keep it in top condition. 

Defrosting food is another way you can reduce your energy expenditure. Plan ahead and defrost meat in the fridge overnight, as this means you won't have to use the microwave or cook it for longer, as it will already be chilled. 

Oven usage

Obviously it's very difficult to stop using your oven altogether, so when you do use it to cook, bear these tips in mind to make your food preparation as environmentally-friendly as possible.

Make food in batches to make the most of the oven being on. This is easy to do if you're organised and put a bit of thought into what you want to cook for the week before you go shopping. 

Taking a bit of extra time to do a load of food preparation can free up more of your time later in the week. If you work late one or two nights of the week or need a quick dinner before an evening engagement, the food is ready to be reheated in the microwave. 

When you pre-heat the oven, set a timer on your phone so you only let it heat for the time it needs. It's easy to temporarily forget about it and use needless energy. Get to know how long it takes to get to the correct temperature and always turn it off as soon as you've finished using it. 

Leave the oven door open when you've finished using it so that any excess heat can go towards warming up your kitchen, which could mean you can delay when you put your central heating on. 

It's always tempting to open the oven and see how your food is coming along, but every time you do this it loses heat and needs more energy to get back up to the right temperature. Resist the temptation to do this by ensuring your oven door is cleaned regularly, so you can see what the food looks like without letting the heat escape.

Re-think how you wash

If you have a dishwasher, ensure you only put it on when it's full. Don't use unnecessary hot water to rinse the plates before you load them – instead, scrape any uneaten food off with a knife and put dishes straight in. If it has an eco-friendly setting, get acquainted with using it. 

You also don't have to stop washing your clothes in a bid to slash your bills. 

The vast majority (90 per cent) of a washing machine's expenditure is spent heating the water. So, the temperature at which you set the appliance is crucial to reducing energy costs.

As modern washing powders and detergents work well at lower temperatures, always use 30 or 40 degrees C – but preferably 30. 

Plan your washing cycle to ensure you have enough clothes to fill the machine. Two half washes use more energy than a complete one. Use the highest spin cycle on your machine as this removes more water, enabling your clothes to dry quicker on the line.

After you've worn an outfit, make sure you hang it up to air it. This enables you to get the maximum usage before having to wash it again. 

If you have a tumble dryer, consider whether or not you actually need to use it. Instead, find a warm or windy place for you to hang your clothes on an airer and enjoy the smell of freshly-washed clothes radiate around your house. 

When you do have to use the machine, clean it regularly as any fluff will hinder its ability to work effectively. Check the labels on clothes to make sure you're not accidentally drying outfits that aren't meant to be treated in this way. 

Switch off appliances when you're done

Many products are frequently left on overnight when they're not designed to be. These include televisions and computers and can account for as much as ten per cent of your energy bill. 

Some of the appliances we've already discussed, such as microwaves and tumble dryers, could actually pose a fire risk if not turned off after usage, as can mobile phone chargers. With appliances you use frequently, this can be difficult to remember at first.  

So, make a note of what electronic items you leave on overnight and add them to your to-do list before you go to bed. If need be, put post-it notes on the appliances as a visual reminder throughout the day. 

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