Energy efficiency

The main source of energy in our homes is fossil fuels. Burning them releases carbon dioxide which is the primary cause of the "greenhouse effect", and believed to be accelerating climate change. Emissions also contain other chemicals which cause acid rain, damage animal and plant life across Europe and North America and affect human health.

What's the solution? Research into alternative, renewable sources of energy and development of technologies to increase the energy efficiency of appliances has been underway for some time. In the meantime, wasting less energy helps save our limited resources, safeguards the living standards of future generations and allows time for the development of alternative sources of energy - all of this without any real detrimental effect on your present life style but with a very real chance of saving money!

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Heating

Whatever type of heating your home uses, turning the thermostat down to between 18 and 21 C will save significant energy, and in turn reduce your gas or electricity bills. When purchasing a new heating system or boiler, look to buy the most energy efficient one. Even if it is more expensive, the payback time is very quick through reduced energy bills.

If you are considering replacing your current boiler, you can trade it in for a new condensing boiler and save up to 37% on your heating bills (depending on your previous model). Woking Borough residents can receive a discount of at least 100 on a new condensing boiler through a joint scheme between the Council and British Gas. Simply telephone 0845 6 09 08 09, quoting the code TW006L when you call.

Lighting

Energy efficient light bulbs are able to produce light using a fraction of the electricity usually needed by standard bulbs - energy bills can be cut by up to 10 a year per bulb. They also help the environment by demanding less energy from the power stations that pump damaging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Try to install energy efficient light bulbs at least in those areas where lights are on for long periods of time. In most homes, lighting accounts for around 10 - 15 per cent of the electricity bill. So it's worth your while switching lights off when you leave the room. Adjust your curtains or blinds to let in as much light as possible during the day.

Appliances

If you're running old appliances in the kitchen, you'll probably be paying way over the odds when it comes to energy bills. Energy efficient models use less power and cost less to run. Although some of these energy efficient appliances cost a little more than their inefficient alternatives, they'll save you money on your energy bills, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Look for this logo when shopping for new energy efficient household appliances.

Energy Efficiency Recommended is an Energy Saving Trust initiative backed by the Government. The logo is only found on products that have been carefully selected for their energy efficiency. Buy where you see the sign and help save energy money and the environment.

Also look out for the EU Energy Label for details of exactly how energy efficient an appliance is:

Insulation

Just by insulating walls and loft spaces you could reduce heat loss by over 50% and prevent wasted energy. There are lots of different ways you can insulate your home some, such as draught proofing cost as little as 5. Although heat rises, in the majority of homes the largest percentage of wastage goes through the walls and not the roof. For this reason, wall insulation is often the most cost-efficient way to cut heat loss. Insulating tanks and pipes is another highly effective way of reducing heat loss, and subsequent energy consumption. Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows.

Double glazing

Your home could be losing up to 20 per cent of its heat through single glazed and poorly insulated window frames. With double glazing you can cut these losses by over a half. If you use low emissivity glass, then this will reflect heat back into the room rather than out of the house

Eliminate draughts and wasted heat

Use an easy-to-fix brush or PVC seal on your exterior doors. Stop draughts and heat escaping through floorboards and skirting boards by filling gaps with newspaper, beading or sealant. Make sure your windows are draught proofed. A low cost, short-term alternative to double glazing is to tape polythene across window frames. Nylon brush seals or a spring flap for the letterbox can help, as can a cover on the keyhole.

Hot water

Of course it should be hot, but it doesn't need to be scalding. For most people, setting the cylinder thermostat at 60C/140F is fine for bathing and washing. Saving: up to 10 per year. Always put the plug in your basin or sink. Leaving hot water taps running with it removed is simply washing money down the plughole.

Televisions, DVD players, videos, stereos, computers, cordless phones

To cut down on wasted energy, avoid leaving appliances on standby and remember not to leave them on charge unnecessarily.

  • Turning your DVD off at the power source every night would save enough energy to light your home for six hours.
  • A computer monitor left on standby can cost 30 per year.

Fridges

Don't leave the door open for longer than necessary, as cold air will escape. Avoid putting hot or warm food straight into the fridge; allow it to cool down first. Defrost your fridge regularly to keep it running efficiently and cheaply. If it tends to frost up quickly, check the door seal. If you absolutely have to site your fridge next to a cooker or boiler, leave a good gap between them.

Washing machines and tumble dryers

Always wash a full load and if you can't, use a half-load or economy programme if your machine has one. Always use the low temperature programme bearing in mind that modern washing powders will be just as effective at lower temperatures. Don't put really wet clothes into a tumble dryer; wring them out or spin-dry them first. It's much faster and it will save you money. If it is a fine day, why not dry your clothes outside? If you have a dishwasher, try and use the low temperature programme, and ensure you wash a full load.

Pots and pans

Choose the right size pan for the food and cooker (the base should just cover the cooking ring) and keep lids on when cooking. With gas, the flames only need to heat the bottom of the pan. If they lick up the side then you're wasting heat. Don't use more water than you need because it doesn't only waste energy, but it spoils food and saps vitamins from vegetables.

Kettles

Heat the amount of water you really need and if you're using an electric kettle, make sure you cover the elements. Jug-type kettles need less water as they have smaller elements.

Taps

In just one day, a dripping hot water tap can waste enough water to fill a bath. Make sure they're off. An ordinary shower uses only two-fifths of the water needed for a bath. If you don't have a shower why not buy special attachments for your bath taps? They're widely available.

Contacts

Actio2n Surrey provides free energy efficiency advice. Please call 0800 783 2503, email info@actionsurrey.info or visit www.actionsurrey.org