Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Bills category.

Every Little Helps – October 2011

Every Little HelpsOctober already (note to self: time to look out the thermal underwear for cycling) and the evenings are drawing in. A natural reaction is to turn on more lights and crank up the faithful old boiler thingy, trying to pretend it’s not happening (autumn that is).

On a trip to Rye recently, I was delighted to see the wind farm waving its arms at us as we struggled against the (admittedly warm) ocean breeze. Also delighted to see quite a collection of both domestic solar thermal and solar electrical (PV) installations making the most of the intermittent sunlight: maybe the councillors (and neighbours) there are a bit more tolerant or – dare I say it? – switched on to the idea of renewable energy.

I was also delighted to read the Archer article about local PV and to hear a work friend say how cheap it was to get her loft insulated. There’s more of it going on than we know, perhaps, but always room for more.

It’s well worth considering early insulation of loft and windows as I’ve mentioned before. It’s also worth considering getting to grips with reducing usage of some things which might seem trivial but overall make a real difference: the lights you switch off in your workplace overnight; the charger you unplug when it’s not in use; the clever extension cable that switches off all the computer bits when you shut down; the TV switched off not on standby; the shower you take instead of a bath – it all adds up.

I’m going to have a “Dad Day” every week, where I’ll promise not to nag everyone about turning off lights etc … provided they do it themselves! Next time, I’ll (finally) be writing about electric cars and bikes … watch this space.


Every Little Helps – March 2011

Every Little HelpsMad March, with everything in the garden springing up, clocks springing forward and fuel prices climbing skywards: how to keep those bills down?

It always takes me a couple of days to re-adjust to the new time: the last clocks I do are the central heating and the car clock.

Adjusting central heating timers to when we’re actually in the house (and lowering the thermostat of course) make significant savings on heating bills.With care, we can dry laundry outside for the first time in ages, saving on tumble dryer costs (and electricity consumption and CO2). By April we might not need heating at all, most days.

We don’t use the car every day, so I usually get two shocks in March: I’m often an hour late for an appointment and filling the car up costs loads more than last time. I’m afraid our car is too old to be fuel efficient and too young for the scrappage scheme, so I need to be careful when I use it. I’ve started putting in a fixed quantity of fuel, which – as the cost goes up and up – makes me fill up more often, highlighting my fuel use. I’m also learning to drive to save – easy on the throttle and anticipate to reduce braking. I’m cycling to work again, so that helps too.

Some cars can convert to “green” fuel but I’m pretty sure bio-ethanol is going to be a long-term problem because of the water-to-grain-to ethanol issue. A quarter of the annual 400 million tonnes of grain from the US already goes on bio-fuel, so it’s not really sustainable. Electric cars might help – I’m looking into that.

As for spring itself, it’s a great time for gardens and this year we’ve got some plants from last year’s seeds coming up. Seed swaps are fun and excess seeds get used locally, where they’re likely to survive. I’ve been working with a group making a “forest garden” over the winter – more on that in a future article. For now, I’m watching my willow “fedge” sprouting and looking forward to foraging fun in summer.

Every Little Helps – November 2010

Every Little Helps

It’s the time of year when the boiler needs it’s annual service (just before it packs up), baths seem much more attractive than showers and you can almost see the quarterly energy bills doubling. It’s supposed to be cold: I just don’t like my feet freezing to the kitchen tiles in the morning, so I do what comes naturally … turn up the heating! Maybe not.

Now, we’re not “fuel poor” any more (I remember putting my last 50p piece into the meter as I contemplated 2ft of snow outside my student flat last century), since less than 10% of our income goes on gas+electricity. I’m just dismayed how much fuel (with consequent CO2 creation) we “normally” use and fear the likely rise in fuel costs in future. Monitoring our fuel bills online really makes it stand out.

Reducing home fuel use is a matter of managing what goes in and out the edges of our living space: 60% is for space heating, 23% for water heating. Big CO2 savings (and average £70 saving per year) come from turning the home thermostat down just by a degree or two. This only works for me once I’m insulated.

Poorly insulated walls and roofs lose 60% of this heat, the remainder going through draughty doors, single-glazed windows and floors. I’ve paid for that heat so I’d rather keep it.

Inexpensive draught-proofing on exterior doors and windows stops a lot of heat leakage. We can’t easily insulate our solid exterior walls but we can put heat-reflective sheeting behind radiators, so more heat stays in the room. We insulated our roof when it was replaced (and DIY loft insulation can make a noticeable difference). Floorboards can be insulated underneath and any gaps sealed or covered. I’m investigating secondary glazing, almost as good as double-glazing and much cheaper.

The biggest cost saving (average of £150 per year) comes from limiting shower running times to 4mins (I saw the letter on this last month). More ideas on saving energy in another article or check out my blog. Meanwhile, looks like the bath is out, at least until I can explore solar thermal water heating.

Energy Conservation in the Home (PDF) – Energy Saving Tips

Every Little Helps – September 2010

There’s been a lot said about cutting back recently – cutting costs, cutting waste, cutting grass. I’m trying to reduce the amount of the stuff we use every day: energy, fuel and water.

Our baseline assessment of CO2 usage, from the Muswell Hill Sustainability Group, showed lots of potential for energy, fuel and water savings. Trouble is, getting the family to cut down is hard so I’ve had to “nudge” them on many fronts.

We got a free electricity energy monitor from British Gas, which shows electricity use minute by minute, week by week. Bit scared to install a water meter – maybe next year.

At this time of year (and given we don’t have air conditioning) we don’t heat much except water – but that is a lot of water heating for the four of us. I’ve turned the (fully lagged) tank thermostats down by 2 degrees and cut the boiler “on” time to 45 minutes, which should save around 10% of that energy. We got a “single cup” water heater for tea and coffee (amazing what a full kettle uses).

I’ll be draught-proofing our doors and windows this autumn too – that and keeping the central heating thermostat under lock and key (why not wear a jumper indoors?) could save 10% off gas bills over the winter. That’s provided I can persuade my family not to leave windows and doors open.

Our washing machine and dishwasher both have “eco” and half-load modes (less electricity and less water I hope), so we will try those.

With a bit of luck, we might even cut our costs.

As for fuel, cycling is fun and I hope to have a try of the StreetCar car club – there’s one in Twyford Avenue now.

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