The most effective energy saving device is also free

young boy turning off lightMy next door neighbour – let’s call him ‘Old Vic’ – has had his central heating on continuously since we moved into our house eight years ago. When we are having a barbecue in our back garden on the hottest day of the year, his heating is on, blowing out gas every 4 and a half minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You might think that is a bit mad, but it is not at all unusual.  I had breakfast recently at a very nice hotel in North Yorkshire. It was a very pleasant summer’s morning, and a warm, gentle breeze wafted in from the open window. But my legs were uncomfortably hot from the radiator that was belting out heat under the table, and the cold from the air con above my head was so intense, it nearly snowed. When I asked, the staff were unable to turn any of it off – although they did offer to close the window.

Whilst in a car workshop this summer getting a tow bar fitted, I was talking to the rather sweaty mechanic, and I leaned back on the radiator, and nearly burned my hands. It was on full pelt, and who knows how long for.

If you are a student living in accommodation with all bills paid, there might be an reason for opening the windows rather than turning off the heating when you’re too hot. You’re not paying, you probably hate your landlord and would be glad if he went bankrupt on the fuel bills. But when you are paying for your gas and electricity, it seems like madness. We know its costing us a fortune, and yet, we do it anyway. It is now possible to buy gadgets  like this one from British Gas for about £200. They allow you to control your heating remotely, and some can even send you a warning if you’ve left your heating on.

There is a cheaper solution though, in fact it is freely available: remember to turn the bloody heating off when you don’t need it. That way, you save £200 on the gadget, more on your heating bill, and you get to spend even more time looking at cats or whatever on your phone too. Result.

It’s not just the gas heating we all leave on, of course. In my job running my own business, I get all sorts of glamorous assignments, including running my own deliveries and delivering promotional leaflets door-to-door (I love it when new start up businesses put ‘Managing Director’ or similar on their cards, by the way, because I know they are doing exactly the same sort of uber low paid, low status jobs too. Well I hope they are.) Whilst doing a door to door campaign recently, I couldn’t help noticing how many hall or outside lights were left on in the middle of a bright sunny day, for no obvious purpose. I estimate that this applies to between 1 in 30 and 1 in 50 houses. Here is a little table with the daily costs and KwH this produces:

[one-third-first]Type of lightbulb[/one-third-first][one-third]cost per 24 hours[/one-third][one-third]CO2 per 24 hours[/one-third]

[one-third-first]Standard 100w [/one-third-first][one-third]£0.34[/one-third][one-third]2.4KwH[/one-third]

[one-third-first]Low energy light bulb (100w equivalent)[/one-third-first][one-third]£0.07[/one-third][one-third]0.02KwH[/one-third]

[one-third-first]Low energy External Light [/one-third-first][one-third]£0.10[/one-third][one-third]0.72 KwH[/one-third]

[one-third-first]150w High Energy External Light [/one-third-first][one-third]£0.50[/one-third][one-third]3.6KwH[/one-third]

 

So if you leave one old style, high energy external light on, it will cost you around £0.50 a day, or £15.50 a month, or £186 a year on your bill. Ouch.

Leave a low energy lightbulb on for just one day a year, the cost is much lower, at a mere 7 pence per day. Leave it on for a month, and the cost is £2 extra, or if you are extremely careless and leave it on for a year will set you back £24.  “Meh”, I hear you say. “I don’t leave my lights on that much, and I’ve got nearly all low energy lightbulbs. You aren’t saving me much here.” But wait. This is just one light. And you just fell into the big hole that is the grand-sounding Khazaam-Brookes Postulate. Also known as ‘The Rebound Effect’ to its friends, this is the economic theory that states that if we make something more efficient and cheaper, we tend to just use more of it, so it ends up costing the same. Or more. So, you feel good, because you have just put in super low energy light bulbs at home. And because you know they are super, low energy, you don’t tend to worry about switching them off so much. And you leave the plasma/laptop/radio on standby pretty much all of the time too. So when the leccy bill arrives, it turns out you have spent a small fortune, and you wonder how on earth that happened.

This may not be you of course. But the point is that if you get into the simple habit of turning off everything you don’t need, you will save yourself a fortune. No need to shell out on fancy gismos, or insulation technology developed by NASA for space missions. If you don’t need it, and you turn it off, you are pretty much certain to save some cash.

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