It's getting to that time of year: the days are getting shorter and colder, heating systems across the country are whirring back into action and it's hard to avoid falling downstairs without flicking the lights on at 4pm.
So, other than switching everything off and wrapping up in woolly jumpers to read the latest from Bookseller Crow by candlelight, how can we reduce our energy usage at home? Here are some techniques you can try throughout the day. I would love to hear what everyone else’s tips are too, so please comment at the bottom.
10.30 Breakfast: before you fill that kettle to the top, think about how much you really need: if it's just for one cup, fill your mug with water and plonk that into the kettle so you only boil what’s necessary. Also, use the toaster instead of toasting bread under the grill.
12.00 Put a wash on: check you are washing at 30° - not only will it reduce your energy consumption but it will help keep colours brighter for longer.
12.30 Before lunch, check your fridge is running as efficiently as it should be. Do you need to defrost the freezer? This is as good a time as any to do it.
13.00 Wash up after lunch: a running tap uses 6 litres of water per minute so instead of rinsing everything under the tap, fill the bowl and use this. If like me you are terrified of putting your hands into dirty water, invest in some rubber gloves.
14.00 The after lunch lull: this is when I tend to spend a questionable amount of time stalking old friends on Facebook…I mean catching up on the news online… Anyway, whatever you're using your computer for, turn the screen brightness down a little. Not so much that you are straining to look at it, but a small change should improve its battery life and mean you get slightly longer out of a fully charged battery. This is also worth trying out on your mobile. If you can charge every other day instead of every day you will halve the amount of energy you are using for charging.
14.30 While relaxing online you may notice a slight breeze coming from the door. Popping a draft excluder down there, or even just a rolled up blanket, will make you feel less tempted to crank up the heating.
15.30 On these grey days, I find it starts to get harder to make out my other half’s features around 3.30pm. If you're popping a lamp on, double check you are using LED bulbs. While they cost a little more up front to buy, you will make your money back and more over the lifetime of the bulb. And as well as using less energy, they need to be replaced much less often so you will be reducing on waste too!
16.30 As the sun starts its descent, close your curtains. English Heritage discovered that curtains pulled on traditional sash window could reduce heat loss by over 40%. Even with double glazing, dropping the blinds can help keep your home warmer. But don’t drape curtains over radiators, as heat will be lost out of the window.
17.00 Time to check if you qualify for free cavity wall insulation and loft insulation. Your local council should be able to tell you what you are eligible for: Croydon; Lambeth; Bromley; Southwark
17.30 Feeling warmer? Try turning your thermostat down by 1°. If this feels fine, pop it down again until you work out the exact right temperature for you. You could also put some cardboard wrapped in tinfoil behind your radiators to bounce all the heat back into the room. If you want to try a more extreme energy-saving technique, turn it right down and put on a jumper, although you may find that friends avoid spending time at your place for the next few months.
19.00 Make dinner. Instead of having three hobs on the go for all your veg, why not try steaming them all over one pot? If you're only heating something small use a small pan on the small hob, rather than wasting energy heating a big pot. Also consider turning the oven off 5 minutes early. It will hold its heat and continue to cook your dinner, but you won’t be wasting precious energy.
20.00 You have two options. 1) Go to the pub. This is an excellent way to save energy as you can turn off all of your lights and use their heating to stay warm! 2) Stay home and watch TV. Do you need the big light on or will the screen and a side lamp light the room enough? Check that any chargers or devices plugged into the wall are switched off, and when you do get sick of guessing who will be next to get the finger from Lord Sugar, make sure you switch the TV off. According to the Energy Saving Trust we waste between £45 - £80 a year leaving appliances on standby. Think what you could be spending that on at the market!
22.00 Top energy saving tip: get an early night! Turn off all of your electrical items, hop into bed and have a cuddle. But make sure your other half gets in first to warm it up a bit.