Over the years, we’ve become accustomed to the more obvious ways of saving energy. We’re turning off our lights, taking shorter showers, and keeping a watchful eye on the heating during those grueling winter months – but are there any unusual energy saving techniques that we’re not aware of?
We’re not the only ones asking ourselves this question – politicians are also taking it upon themselves to come up with unusual ways to reduce the UK’s energy consumption. Recently, prime minister Boris Johnson even put forward the London Underground energy saving scheme – a plan to take all that uncomfortable body heat created by bustling commuters riding the tube, and use it to heat homes in Islington.
But as we wait for our leaders to think of more original ways to save energy, how can we do our bit? Read on to delve deeper into the world of weird and wonderful ways to save energy at home.
1. Get yourself some coffee logs
Need your morning coffee fix before heading off to work? You’re not alone – coffee is actually the second most widely traded commodity in the world, trailing closely behind oil. As such, it’ll be no surprise to hear that it is also one of the biggest culprits contributing to the ecological crisis.
But how is this relevant to saving energy at home? Well, companies around the world have recognised the impact that coffee is having on the environment, and have developed a way we can utilise it instead of wasting the leftovers. Companies such as Bio Bean are using wasted coffee beans as a way to fuel homes in a more eco friendly way, one bean at a time.
They have done this by creating coffee logs, which are compact coffee grounds shaped into logs that can be used to heat your home. So why are they grabbing people’s attention? Well, coffee logs generate a massive 80% fewer carbon emissions than if the coffee were thrown into a landfill. As well as easing your carbon conscience, they burn up to 20% longer than normal logs, saving you money on your heating.
2. Discover micro hydropower generators
Firstly, let’s clarify that ‘micro hydropower’ is just a fancy word for ‘water generator’. On a large scale, these generators have been around for decades – but as helpful home appliances, their potential remains untapped.
Hydropower is created by placing a generator system in running water, such as a river or stream, and using the energy to fuel your appliances. Hydropower can even convert 90% of the kinetic energy of the water into electrical power for homes, making it the most efficient source of renewable energy. Here in the UK, we have an abundance of rivers and streams – and with the lovely British weather, we’re sure there won’t be a shortage of water any time soon.
Although hydropower is currently only making a small contribution towards renewable energy in the UK, it’s hoped that by 2023, it could eventually provide up to 10% of the UK’s total electricity.
Keen to get involved, and shrink your carbon footprint? You can buy one of these generators for between £1,000 – £10,000 from Suneco Hydro Turbines. We hate to point out the obvious, but make sure you live within close proximity to a stream or river, otherwise this product might not be for you.
3. Be blown away by domestic wind turbines
Picture those giant fan-looking things that tower over the English coast, but much smaller. In the UK, we like to complain about the weather, but actually, the wind is on our side. It is the most used form of renewable energy in the UK, and yet, the majority of people are unaware of these handy domesticated turbines.
For you that don’t know, there are two types of domestic-sized wind turbines available:
• Pole-mounted turbines – These are free standing and are placed in an exposed position, with generation capacity of about 5 to 6 kilowatts (kW)
• Building-mounted turbines – These can be installed on the roof of a home, where there is a suitable wind resource. Often these are around 1kW to 2kW in size
Installing either of these turbines can be costly, but if you live in a relatively breezy area, you’re likely to save a lot of money on your bills throughout the year. As well as energy benefits, this renewable energy source will do wonders for your carbon footprint – according to Go Compare, by using wind as an energy source, you can save around 4.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year. We can already see your carbon footprint shrinking!
4. Download eco-friendly and user-friendly apps
It’s the 21st century, so what better way to save energy than at the touch of a button?
Energy providers such as British Gas, E.ON, and nPower have launched their own apps that allow customers to track how much energy they are consuming at home. This simple tool educates you on how and when you are using your energy at home – and more importantly, how you can do better.
But it’s not just energy providers that are jumping on this bandwagon. As more and more people have become energy-conscious, a handful of energy efficiency apps have really taken off. See our top energy efficiency apps below:
• Joulebug – this app helps you track how much energy you’re using, and how you’re using it. Got a competitive side? You can also challenge your friends to join in the fun!
• My Earth – rather than focusing solely on energy consumption, My Earth offers guidance on all things eco. The app’s level of personalisation helps it stand out from the crowd. As the user works through these activities, they collect carbon units, which act as visual motivation for users — the more carbon units collects, the bigger the iceberg on the app grows.
• Smappee – this app requires you to connect a clip-on sensor to your fuse box, which allows the app to detect all of the electrical devices in your house. It can also deliver real-time readings of energy use from each device. Smappee also lets you control each device from the app – an added bonus for people with busy lives.
• Energy Cost Calculator – this app gives you a detailed overview of how you’re using energy in your home each day, week, or month. Although this sounds simplistic, its user-friendly site gives it that extra edge.
5. Consider landscaping your garden
Not only do trees serve as the lungs of our planet, but they can also help you save energy at home. What most people don’t know is that just three trees, properly placed around a house, can reduce energy use by up to 30%.
But how? Well, during those sticky summer months, trees can shade your house from the sun’s glaring beams – in fact, if you plant trees at the east, west, and northwest sides of your home, this can create shade from the hot summer sun and reduce air conditioning costs by up to 35%. As well as this, having a wildlife-friendly garden, full of trees and shrubbery, can shade the ground and pavement around your house, which reduces heat radiation and cools the air before it reaches your home’s walls and windows.
Cooling down isn’t really our biggest priority here in Britain, since the UK only has to deal with heat waves for a brief part of the year, but landscaping can also help during the colder months. When the weather is a bit chillier, any trees and shrubbery around your house can create a natural insulation, helping that extra bit to keep your energy bills down, and the temperature in your house up.
6. Try greywater recycling
Using too much water in your home can result in hefty energy bills, and an even heftier carbon footprint. Alas, water consumption is not something we can just cut out of our lifestyle – so what can we do?
Some people are taking it upon themselves to recycle more than just their cardboard, glass, and tins. Greywater recycling is the process of reusing water from your taps, washing machines, showers and sinks – basically any water appliance apart from your toilet.
Although its name doesn’t do it justice, greywater recycling allows you to reuse clean water for washing your clothes, cleaning your car, and watering your garden. It is, however, strongly advised that you don’t drink this water… for obvious reasons.
If used properly, greywater recycling can save approximately 70 litres of water per person per day at home. Sounds pretty grey-t to us.
7. Harvest some rainwater
Fed up of watching your water bills rise? Water harvesting is a technique that can stop your bills from causing any more water works. Whether you’re after a quick win or a long-term investment, water harvesting may offer a solution:
1. The simple option – simply attach a water butt to your drains, so the rainwater can be stored somewhere, and use it for tasks such as watering your garden and washing your car.
The more complex option – The other end of the scale involves installing a water system that catches rain water, then passes it through filters and a purifying system. This water can then be used for showers, taps, toilets, and other essential uses in your house. These systems can range from £300 to £3,000, depending on what you’ll be using yours for.
With the right system in place, you can look forward to saving up to 40-50% on water bills. So, no more complaining about the drizzling British weather!
8. Swap that BBQ for a solar oven
Solar panels are some of the most efficient and established sources of renewable energy, but one of the latest solar devices may leave you a little dumbfounded. Similar to solar panels, solar ovens work by using the sun’s UV rays to create energy that we can then use to power our appliances – or in this case, cook our food.
Due to lack of awareness, there hasn’t been much development in the field of solar ovens, meaning some models aren’t the prettiest things in the world to look at. But let’s not judge a book by its cover – despite their appearance, solar ovens allow you to cook your food purely from the energy created by the sun. The science behind it isn’t complicated, either:
• The sunlight enters the oven
• The dark interior, pots and lids absorb the light, transforming the sun’s energy into heat
• The heat is trapped inside, and starts to heat up the food
You can even buy an efficient, modern-looking cooker for roughly £127 on Amazon. So, next summer, try swapping your BBQ for some solar-powered grub.
9. Make the ultimate choice: Android or iPhone?
There has been a huge spike in energy consumption from our use of technology in the past few years. You might be shocked to know that on average, people are spending 24 hours a week online. In a time where we spend so much of our lives using technology, how can we reduce the amount of energy we’re consuming?
Firstly, the way we charge our devices is usually highly inefficient. According to the Department of Energy, the average charger consumes 0.26 watts of energy when not in use, and 2.24 watts even when a fully charged device is connected to it. With this in mind, make sure to unplug your chargers when you’re not using them, and avoid over-charging appliances.
The brands you’re using can also affect your electricity bills. Have you noticed yourself having to constantly carry your iPhone charger around wherever you go? If so, it might be worth switching to an Android (the horror) and saving yourself a few pennies on the electricity bills.
A lot of Androids have adopted something called an AMOLED feature, which means that when you have your screen on a black background, your phone is actually saving energy – unlike the more popular iPhone.
Androids 1, iPhone 0.
10. Buy smart switches and plugs
We all get a bit lazy from time to time – and when you’re all tucked up in bed, the last thing you want to be doing is plodding downstairs to turn off all the lights. Thankfully, scientists around the world have put their heads together to help us lazy people out.
Electronics, lighting, and other household appliances consume roughly 30% of the energy we use at home. And if you’ve already bought energy-saving light bulbs, you may be thinking – what else can I do?
Well, it’s time to go one step further and invest in smart plugs and smart switches. These are essentially the same as the regular plugs and switches we have in our not-so-smart homes, but with the added bonus of only using a third of the energy.
Smart plugs and switches also allow you to connect the brand’s app, Google Home, or Alexa to let you control your appliances from the next room. This means that if you’re in a hurry leaving the house, or simply don’t want to get up off the sofa, all you have to say is ‘Hey Google, turn off all the lights’. Life has never been easier.
11. Be cautious with your kettle
Us Brits love a cuppa – perhaps a little too much. Altogether, we drink approximately 100 million cups a day – that’s almost 36 billion per year. Impressive, or worrying? That’s for you to decide.
But how much is this costing us? Well, if you’re one of those people with a habit of overfilling your kettle, this can cost you £58.40 per year. Whereas, if you were to only fill the kettle for two cups each time, it would only cost you £11.68 a year.
Moral of the story? Filling up your kettle is not a necessi-tea.
12. Give your walls a lick of paint
It’s common knowledge that if you’re wearing a white shirt on a sunny day, you’re going to be cooler than if you wear a black top – and your house behaves in the same way. That’s right – by just adding a lick of white paint to your home, you can keep your property cool in those sticky summer months.
If a house has a white roof, it means that 85% of the sunlight that hits it will be reflected, rather than being absorbed. Even more interestingly, if you have solar panels on your white roof, they can produce almost 7% more electricity than those installed on a more conventional roof.
White paint can benefit the interior of your house, too. Painting your walls white is likely to push down your electricity bills, as natural light will reflect off the walls, making rooms seem more luminous than if the walls were a darker shade. This simple trick will reduce the need for electric light that tiny bit more. Who knew saving energy could be so simple?
13. Turn your food waste into energy
We’ve all heard of composting, and although this is a great way to deal with food waste, it won’t affect your energy bills – unless you go one step further. Home biogas is essentially composting on steroids – imagine a composting container, with a few extra parts added to it, that can fuel your home.
This system works by extracting gas from the old, decomposing waste, and turning it into energy that you can use to cook with! The circle of life. The Homebiogas system starts off at roughly £555.68, – which might sound quite pricey for something you could perceive as a glorified compost heap – but once you’ve bought it, your leftover food will have a new lease on life!
14. De-clutter that inbox
Emailing is much more eco-friendly than using paper to send letters, right? Well, unfortunately, all those emails that we hoard in our inboxes are not only cluttering up our minds, but increasing our energy consumption, too – not to mention increasing our energy consumption.
What’s the logic behind this? Well, emails need to be stored, and this storage rests on servers or data centres – all of which are powered by huge amounts of electricity. This might seem like we’re clutching at straws here, but according to telecoms company Orange, ‘If every single person in France deleted 50 emails, the energy savings would be equivalent to turning the Eiffel Tower’s lights off for 42 years’.
It’s time to unsubscribe to all that junk mail (as if you needed an excuse).
15. Ration your toilet usage
We’ve talked about how using too much water in your home can ramp up your bills, and the toilet is one of the main culprits. Each flush of your toilet can use up to two gallons of water — to put this into perspective, if you flush your toilet ten times a day that would mount up to 3,650 gallons of water in a year. That is a monstrous amount of water for a toilet to use – and if you have a house full of people, the numbers will be greater still.
This is why a surprising number of families are abiding by a reduced flushing rule: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” Gross, we know, but effective.
16. Avoid overusing your oven
Although there are alternatives to cooking in the oven, we appreciate this is a tricky thing to avoid – but if you use your oven for just one hour a day, this could cost you approximately £109.50 a year. Here are a few simple ways you can reduce the amount of energy your cooker is churning out:
• Match pots and pans with stove plates — small pots on large plates waste electricity
• Switch off the stove plates or oven before food is fully cooked. This allows you to finish your cooking without using energy
• Try to avoid opening the oven door to check on the food – this releases heat, meaning your oven needs to use more energy
• Don’t preheat the oven – this can waste a lot of unused energy (just make sure your chicken is actually cooked once you’re done)
• Make use of the oven’s leftover heat. Your oven retains heat for 15 to 30 minutes after it is turned off
• Use ceramic pans, as they retain heat better than metal ones
• Don’t leave any metal pans in your oven, as they will absorb all that precious heat
• It is more economical to boil water in a kettle rather than in a pot on the stove
• Use a slow cooker as an alternative – some models typically use the same amount of energy as a lightbulb
Hopefully these tips will save you having to reduce your cooking and baking time – after all, no one wants to be rushed in the kitchen.
17. Try indoor motion sensors
Outdoor motion sensors have been saving people money for decades now, but using this lighting system indoors could save you even more energy.
Of course, these are more commonly found in large office-scale buildings, but they’re just as effective for domestic use. Most households tend to pop indoor motion sensors in the hallways, bathrooms, and garages — basically anywhere that won’t sense movement while you’re watching a film or sleeping.
18. Stop restricting your radiators
So you’re doing everything you can to keep those energy bills down in the colder months, right? Well, a lot of people don’t know that they’re actually depriving themselves of their well-earnt heat.
There are a number of ways that households are preventing themselves from reaping the rewards of their radiators. Check out our three top tips for how to get the most out of your radiators below:
• Fit reflector panels behind your radiator. This can reflect 95% of the heat energy radiated from the rear of your radiator back into the room
• Don’t leave clothes on your radiators. By doing this, you’re restricting how far the precious heat can travel, meaning you risk losing out
• Move your furniture around. If you have a sofa or table blocking your radiator, you won’t be feeling the full potential that you radiator has to offer
19. Don’t doubt the draughts
If you’re letting draughts blow throughout your cosy home, it could be costing you up to £50 on energy bills each year. The most important thing to remember when trying to save energy in your home is that everything adds up.
Although draughts may seem like a more obvious cause of energy loss, there are some unexpected culprits that might be letting out your precious heat. Make sure to keep an eye on:
• The letter box
• The chimney
• Extractor fans
20. Try out these simple fridge tips
There are some surprising things you might not know about your fridge that are allowing it to eat away at your energy bills.
For starters, the location of your fridge can contribute a hefty amount to your energy bill. If your fridge is located near a window, or near the oven, chances are that it’s absorbing a lot of heat, and will have to put in some extra elbow grease to keep your food cool.
Good news for all the foodies, though: the more food you have in your fridge, the cooler it will stay. Having more items in your fridge basically means each item’s temperature bounces off each other, causing a domino effect. To add to this domino effect, if you’re defrosting any food, give your fridge a break and chuck it in there, instead of on the kitchen side. It will cool down the rest of the food in your fridge much faster.
By contrast, the biggest way you might be wasting energy with your fridge is by putting warm leftovers inside it, causing it to churn out more energy than it needs to.
21. Shop around 2019’s most crafty creations for energy saving
As we move forward in the world of sustainability, more and more quirky gadgets are helping us become more energy efficient. Some are more helpful than others, but here are just a few ideas we think might save you a penny or two:
• Eco shower head – controls the flow and spray pattern of the water, which can directly reduce how much of it you’re using
• Boiler jacket – using a hot water cylinder jacket could save you around £20 per year through insulation
• Eco kettle – you can fill the kettle to the brim, and simply press the central button in the lid to release a specific amount of water (1-8 cups worth) into the boiling chamber
• “Chimney sheep” – this fluffy tool can be installed in your chimney as and when you please in order to block that winter chill
• AeroTherm – an alternative to internal wall insulation, AeroTherm paste helps trap heat which would otherwise escape. Just 1mm applied to walls can save up to 35% of the heat energy lost from your home
Ready to save some energy? Whether you decide to invest in something more adventurous, like solar panels, or whether you’d like a quicker fix with some white paint, now is the time. The UK’s renewable energy capacity is expected to grow from about 29% of electricity generation in 2017 to 75% by 2030 – come join the team and play your part!