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How to dial down your home energy consumption

As we move towards winter, a sleeping giant begins to stir, ready to dominate our energy consumption – our space heating. The nights draw in, the air gets chilly and we reach for the thermostat. Yet, as we do, we should stop and think – the thermostat temperature we choose directly affects our personal energy consumption and carbon footprint. Do we really need to turn that dial up or could we Dial It Down?

This is Week 10 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

This week, Ian Yenney, Sustainability Consultant from AECOM’s St Albans office, outlines the benefits of Dialing it down: choosing a lower temperature on your thermostat.

‘Dialing down’ your heating thermostat is one of the 16 steps that “Count Us In” recommend as the most impactful at reducing your CO2 emissions. There are many other simple energy saving measures we can all take to reduce our home energy usage and COemissions and which may also save you money.

What is dialing it down?

Dialing it down is lowering the temperature of your home heating. Count Us In suggests turning down your thermostat by 1°C, although the more you can turn it down the more savings can be made. 

“The thermostat temperature we choose directly affects our personal energy consumption and carbon footprint.”

Why should we dial it down?

We all have different temperature preferences in our homes but the higher that we set our thermostat, the more energy that we use for space heating. The Energy Saving Trust reports that turning your heating thermostat down by 1°C could save you save 0.3 Tonnes of CO2 and £60 per year. Not only will the heating come on later in the season and less overall, but when it is running it will use less energy. Dialing it down saves you money and lowers your carbon footprint.

Dialing down your thermostat is very easy if you have heating controls, but may require some adjustments

Photo by he gong on Unsplash

What temperature should I dial it down to?

Everyone has a different perception of comfort so dialing down the thermostat will mean different things for different people. Have a discussion with your household about this, and compromise where necessary.

Your preference may be affected by your age and activity level and how draughty your home is. The NHS recommends that the internal temperature is at least 18°C if you’re not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, but those not in this category could dial it down lower.

Wear warmer clothes indoors during winter: this should enable you to set your thermostat much lower and use less heating.  Wear slippers; keep a blanket or throw on the back of your sofa; have a hot drink even. It is not right to expect to wear only a short sleeved t-shirt in the house in January!

Aim for the lowest temperature at which you are still comfortable but do beware that at lower temperatures the relative humidity will increase, so you will need to ventilate your home to ensure you don’t end up with mould or damp issues. 

“Wear warmer clothes indoors during winter.”

Can I reduce my heating bills in any other ways?

As well as the temperature controls, also set the timing so that the heating is only on when and where you need it.

Having the heating on when it is not needed is a waste of energy. It is generally best to turn your heating off when there is no-one in your home for an extended period. Most people will not need to keep the heating on overnight; a warm duvet and / or extra blankets can help you stay warm through the night.

Zone your heating so that the temperature varies between different rooms and at different times depending on your needs. If you rarely use a room, dial down the heating in that room to low levels using your Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) or other controls.

If you work from home on your own, consider getting a small electric desk heater or room heater for the area you work in, and using this rather than heating the whole house. 

Photo: thermostatic radiator valve by Sustainable St Albans

What if I don’t have heating controls?

If you don’t have a thermostat, programmer and other heating controls, get them! The Energy Saving Trust suggests you can save £70 and 0.3 Tonnes of CO2 each year by installing and correctly using a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves. Ideally your heating controls should allow you to decide the temperature in different rooms at different times, so you don’t use heating energy that you don’t need. You may prefer to leave the management of your heating system to smart control systems which learn from your behaviour (e.g. Nest, Hive or various others available).

Dialing down your thermostat can play a key role in maximising the benefits of any renewable energy systems you have at home. When we use less energy at home, any renewable energy system that we install will supply a larger proportion of our energy usage. (Please note, however, that some low carbon heating systems such as heat pump may need you to keep the heating on for longer periods than you are used to with gas boilers so that they can work efficiently and effectively).

“Most people will not need to keep their heating on overnight.”

12 other home energy efficiency quick wins

  1. Limit window opening during winter to short times when necessary (e.g. after showering or when cooking). Remember, however, to ensure your home gets reasonable ventilation to remove humidity and odours. Window opening may not be needed at all during winter if you have sufficient ventilation from mechanical ventilation systems. 
  2. Reduce your hot water usage by having showers rather than baths and minimising your shower time. Reduce the shower time as far as you can whilst being comfortable and getting the job done. That way, you can save both water and also the energy needed to heat the water. Waterwise suggest using a shower timer or playing a short song so you can keep to the optimum shower time of 4 minutes.
  3. Update your hot water control settings if they need it; you may be able to reduce the amount of hot water generated by reducing the length of time it is set to come on, which may take some trial and error. 
  4. Turn off electrical devices and lights when not in use. Do so at the time e.g. when you stop using the device or when you leave a room. Standby modes still use electricity to keep devices running at low levels, which adds up when you leave all of your devices on. Why not put your main TV electricty plug on a timer switch?
  5. Run appliances with a full load, especially washing machines and dishwashers.
  6. Dry your clothes outside on a line rather than using a tumble dryer.
  7. Save water: fill your kettle or cooking pots and pans with the amount of water you need and no more.
  8. Use lids and turn down the hob heat when cooking using pots and pans.
  9. Consider using the microwave rather than the oven for cooking and reheating food when you can.
  10. Check energy efficient LED lightbulbs are installed in all your light fittings including lamps.
  11. Choose low energy appliances. When you are replacing your white goods (hopefully after the old ones have had a long life), check the energy label and buy the most efficient products of the type and size your need. There is a new A to G rating system which you can read about at Label 2020. The ratings are relative to the size of the unit, so a smaller unit with a lower rating may actually use less energy than a large unit with a higher rating.
  12. Read further guidance and tips for saving energy and water (which also has embedded energy) from Energy Saving Trust and Waterwise. Watch videos with energy saving tips published by the Telegraph featuring the Energy Saving Trust and B & Q.  
Photo by Nick Page on Unsplash
We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

Join in today and use Ian’s tips on cutting your home heating energy to choose the “Dial it Down” Step as your pledge.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog on Flying Less by James Blake.

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