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SUSTAINABILITY Save money on your energy bills

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Snuggle up to lower bills



Andy Wilson

There are lots of good reasons to reduce energy use in the home, not least of which is the possibility of saving money. The potential energy savings vary widely from household to household, but a 50 percent reduction in electricity use and a 30 percent reduction in total energy costs are frequently achievable.
As many households spend in excess of €2,000 a year on heating and electricity combined, the amount of money saved can be considerable, and may allow for more money to be spent on other essentials items or help cut borrowings. Furthermore, as many domestic energy-saving measures involve reducing heat losses, this leads to more heat staying where it is wanted and consequently greater levels of comfort in the home.
Many significant energy savings can be achieved very cheaply and without having to carry out difficult remedial work. Some of these reductions can be realised through minor lifestyle changes, such as closing internal doors (preventing heat escaping from warm areas of the home to colder areas), drawing curtains at night (to reduce heat losses through window panes) and turning off lights and other appliances when not in use.

Bright lights of boom
These potential reductions require no spending – only a change in attitude! A few years ago, such a change in attitude might have been harder to achieve: According to one study, some householders deliberately kept lights on in every room just to give the impression of affluence! Perhaps even worse were those batteries of outside floodlights that were a symbol of the so-called boom years.
These days, many people are becoming increasingly energy aware, because they see the size of their energy bills and wonder how they might pay them at a time when household income is falling. According to reports in the national media, in the last 12 months tens of thousands of households in Ireland have had their electricity or gas supplies cut off as a result of unpaid bills. This must be causing massive hardship, not to mention associated health risks, to the families affected.

Through the cracks
Over the next few weeks I will be looking at simple, low-cost, measures that households can take to reduce energy but more importantly to make their homes more energy efficient and comfortable to live in. The emphasis will be on things the household can do themselves, without need for fancy appliances or high-tech products. For example, I plan to look at draught-proofing. On average, over one fifth of all heat losses from the home are from unnecessary air leakage. In very draughty homes, this proportion can rise to 50 percent. In order to begin to address these heat losses, it is first necessary to locate them.
The next windy day, carry out an air leakage audit of your home. Go round the entire home carefully and hold a wet hand close to all suspect areas to feel for draughts. Suspect places include around doors and windows (not just between the opening part and the frame but also between frame and wall), along skirting boards, next to pipe-work where it comes through walls,  around meter and fuse boards, loft hatches, hatches into crawl spaces, the back of cupboards, along floor boards and any other timber boards on walls or ceilings. The bigger the draught, the worse the heat loss.
In the next article we will look at how to address these problems. Happily, most of them can be sorted for less than €100.

Andy Wilson is a founding member of Westport Sustainability Group. He can be contacted at 087 6714075 or andy@sustainability.ie.