How smart devices can increase your energy bills – and what you can do about it

smart home

Studies suggest that 50% of us will own a smart TV by 2019. Smart TVs and other smart devices must be plugged in and kept on standby at all times – making them more expensive to run than their traditional counterparts. Here’s what you can do to keep your energy costs down.

From TVs to fridges, security systems to coffee makers, fitness trackers to speakers – more and more of our appliances are using an internet connection to become ‘smart’.

The downside to all of this smart technology is the fact that smart devices have to be kept on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week – slowly sucking up extra electricity and pushing up your electricity bill. A smart TV for example uses 10 times more electricity than a standard television set!

Energy efficiency company GreenMatch have created a guide to reducing so-called ‘vampire energy’ without ruining the fun of living in a smart home. It starts with getting a smart meter installed if you don’t already have one.

Scroll down to find out more:

standby power infographic

How to save water around the home

saving water

Did you know that the average household in England & Wales spends almost £400 a year on water bills? Or that around 15% of a typical household energy bill goes towards heating water? There are significant savings to be made if you can control your water use – read on to find out how…

Reducing water use

Use a water efficient showerhead

‘Low flow’ showerheads can make it feel like water is coming out faster and with more power than it really is. This will reduce the amount of water used per shower, saving you money on your water and energy bills.

Note that low flow showerheads shouldn’t be fitted on electric showers.

Buy water efficient appliances

Next time you’re shopping for a new washing machine or dishwasher, look out for the Water Efficient Product Label. Buying an efficient appliance model can lead to big savings.

unified water label
The new Unified Water Label. Image source: europeanwaterlabel.eu

Turn off the taps

A running tap goes through around 6 litres of water per minute! Don’t leave the tap running while brushing your teeth, shaving or washing the dishes.

Use a reduced capacity bath

Next time you remodel your bathroom, think about fitting a low-capacity bath. These specially designed bathtubs require less water to fill while still feeling just as comfortable.

It goes without saying that showers are much more water-efficient than baths, but if you are more of a bath person then a reduced capacity bath could be the way to go!

Fix that dripping tap

A dripping tap is more than just a nuisance – it can sneakily waste water and add to your energy bill.

Re-use water

Why use tap water to fill up your watering can, when you could use collected rainwater from a water butt instead?

Saving hot water

Insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes

If your home has a hot water cylinder (it may not if you have a combi-boiler), putting a well-fitting insulation jacket around it could save you around £20 a year – or even more if you have an expensive immersion heater. Insulating your pipes will also help save money & energy.

Use your heating controls

Don’t waste money heating water when you don’t need it. Instead, take the time to familiarise yourself with your heating controls and timers.

Upgrade your boiler

If you have an older gas boiler, it may be time to upgrade it to a modern, energy efficient model. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that you could save anywhere from £55-£200 per year by upgrading.

New boilers aren’t cheap, but there may be government schemes & grants available in your area.

 

That’s our list of water saving tips. If you have any more ideas, let us know in the comments section!

 

Sources

Halogen light bulb ban – what you need to know

halogen bulbs

Halogen light bulbs are to be phased out from the beginning of September 2018, in Britain and across the EU, with consumers being encouraged to switch to more efficient LED bulbs instead. What does this this mean for you and your household? Read on as we answer your questions…

Why the change?

Halogen bulbs are less energy-efficient than LEDs. It is hoped that the change will reduce energy use and cut carbon emissions across Europe. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a typical halogen bulb costs around £11 per year to run, whereas an equivalent LED bulb would cost just £2 – making it over 5 times more efficient. Halogen bulbs also tend to fail after around 2 years; LEDs on the other hand can last for up to 20 years.

Old incandescent bulbs – which were even less efficient than halogens – were phased out back in 2009.

How will the ban come into effect?

Shops will no longer be able to order new halogen bulbs after 1st September. They will however be permitted to sell their current stock, so you might still see them on the shelves for some time afterwards.

Do I have to replace my old bulbs right now?

Don’t worry – you can keep using your old bulbs until they burn out, then replace them with LEDs as and when you need to. The ban prevents shops from ordering & selling new halogen bulbs, but it doesn’t stop you from using the ones you already own.

Which LED bulbs should I buy?

The brightness of LED lights is described in ‘lumens’ – which may take some getting used to if you’ve grown up thinking of bulbs in terms of watts. The chart below compares the wattage of traditional bulbs to the lumen level of their energy-efficient counterparts:

light bulb comparison
The wattage of traditional light bulbs compared to energy efficient versions.

As you can see, an old-style 60W bulb is the equivalent of around 700-900 lumens. Most bulb packaging includes a ‘traditional’ wattage for easy comparison.

How much do LED lights cost?

There’s no getting around it – LED bulbs are expensive. But bear in mind that after the initial purchase, they cost less to run and they will last much longer.

Are LEDs compatible with my current light fittings?

Generally speaking, yes. LED bulbs are available with ‘bayonet’ and ‘screw’ caps, just like traditional halogen and incandescent bulbs. In most cases you can just take out the old bulb and pop in an LED without any issues – however we have heard reports of problems with ceiling lights flickering when the bulbs are replaced with LEDs. You should consult an electrician if you need advice.

Will this be affected by Brexit?

At the moment, the UK is still part of the European Union and therefore the EU rules on light bulbs still apply. And it’s unlikely that manufacturers will make special bulbs just for the UK once we have left the EU.

How to keep cool and save energy this summer

summer energy efficiency

As temperatures continue to soar to record highs across the UK this week, we take a look at some easy ways to cool your home and save energy in the process.

Along with many other parts of the world, the UK is experiencing a major heatwave which shows few signs of stopping anytime soon, with temperatures consistently passing the 30°C mark for several days in a row.

That means it’s more important than ever to make your home as energy-efficient as possible as you battle the blistering heat! Remember, keeping the heat out of your home in the summer is just as important as keeping it in during the winter!

The blogging team at Alliance to Save Energy, a US energy saving organisation, has created this handy graphic explaining 8 quick & easy tips for keeping your home cool during the summer months – and how to keep your energy bills under control as you do so!

You can check out the guide below (click or tap on the image to view it in full-size).

summer energy efficiency infographic

Our favourite eco-friendly homes from TV’s Grand Designs

Eco-friendly homes from Grand Designs

Grand Designs is a BAFTA-winning architecture show on Channel 4, following the lives of couples or families as they embark on building an elaborate dream home – often running well over schedule and over budget in the process.

Over the show’s 18 series, one recurring theme has been the desire to build a home that is as energy-efficient and eco-friendly as possible. People don’t just want a home that looks great – they’re also keenly aware of their carbon footprint and the impact on the environment. Responsibly-sourced materials, energy efficient insulation and sustainable architecture are all phrases you’ll hear thrown around in most episodes.

We’ve trawled through the show’s archives to find some of the most ambitious eco-projects. You can take a look at some of our favourites below:

 

Hand-built eco-home in Pembrokeshire

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Built by: Simon and Jasmine Dale
Location: Pembrokeshire, West Wales

Forming part of a larger eco-village deep in the Welsh countryside, this hand built home takes the concept of ‘low-impact’ to the extreme. It was built from trees felled from its own plot, it’s entirely off-grid and creates virtually no waste.

Starting with a budget of just £500, Simon and Jasmine Dale used their experience from building similar (but temporary) dwellings to create a more permanent, long-term home for themselves and their two children. Although the project wasn’t quite completed during filming, it only cost an estimated £27,000 over two years.

In exchange for planning permission, the Welsh Assembly laid down some strict guidelines – all homes in the eco village were given five years to demonstrate that 75% of their everyday basic needs could be met from the land. This included things like producing their own firewood, generating their own energy and managing their own waste – as well as running a small business.

Simon, a former photographer, and Jasmine, who’s background is in environmental education, were the first to build on the plot and used the opportunity to educate others in sustainable building & living.

 

Timber-clad hillside house in Worcestershire

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Built by: Jon and Gill Flewers
Location: Malvern, Worcestershire

In classic Grand Designs style, this low-energy home was riddled with delays, re-designs and setbacks. Jon and Gill Flewers returned to the UK from living in New Zealand in 2013 with dreams of building their own home. Their original plan was to excavate a large chunk of the sloping site and build a four-storey house that was partially embedded in the hillside. Technical hurdles however forced the architects to re-design the house, bringing it six metres out of the hillside and rearranging the layout onto three storeys instead of four.

The finished home makes use of photovoltaic solar panels, energy-efficient Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF) and the natural insulation provided by being built into the hillside.

 

The Farmhouse in Devon

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Built by: Mark and Candida Diacono
Location: Honiton, Devon

Mark and Candida Diacono built the Farmhouse on an unused plot of land that came with their end-terrace house in rural Devon. After toying with the idea of building a new home and an adjacent cookery school for several years, they finally took the plunge and started construction in 2015.

The family home features a stunning, curved sedum roof – designed to look almost as if somebody had peeled up a large chunk of turf, revealing a house hidden underneath. The cookery school also has an identical roof. The inspiration for the curved shape came from a farmer’s plough.

The family home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms, with open-plan living areas downstairs. Next door, the cookery school features a working kitchen, teaching space, offices and a substantial cellar where the family can store their produce.

Both buildings were designed to make a minimal impact on the local environment – in terms of visuals as much as energy use. Both make use of timber cladding, sedum roofs, shredded paper insulation, triple glazing, rainwater collection systems and thermodynamic heating and water systems.

 

The upside-down cedar clad house in Norfolk

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Built by: Natasha Cargill
Location: Norfolk

For Natasha Cargill’s newbuild home, eco-credentials weren’t just a nice bonus – they had to be engrained into the very heart and soul of the building. The plot of land she bought was subject to Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework, meaning the house had to meet exacting standards of energy efficiency and architectural innovation. The house would have to satisfy the extremely strict Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6. If it didn’t, Natasha simply wouldn’t be allowed to move in.

It was a big risk to take, but Natasha couldn’t find a house that suited her needs and decided that self-building was the only way to go.

As you can imagine, the house has a long list of eco-friendly materials and features, including:

  • Eco-concrete which can absorb and release heat, reducing the cost of heating & cooling the building
  • Carbon-neutral insulation
  • Large, strategically placed windows to maximise natural light
  • A 6kW solar panel array
  • Sedum roofing
  • Various locally and sustainably sourced materials

The home uses an ‘upside-down’ layout, with the bedrooms downstairs and the kitchen and living areas upstairs, giving Natasha and her son Lucas stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

 

Zero-carbon newbuild in Blackheath, London

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Built by: Caroline and Philip Cooper
Location: Blackheath, London

After their children had all grown up and left the nest, the Coopers were left in a house that was too big for just the two of them and too expensive to run and maintain. It was obvious that they needed to downsize and decided they wanted to build their own home, combining Caroline’s interior design background with Phillip’s experience in the construction industry.

After struggling to find a suitable plot to build their ideal home, they had the brainwave of building at the bottom of their own garden.

With the help of their architect son Sam, they managed to get planning permission and create their ideal eco-home. The low-lying, L-shaped home was designed to meet the exacting standards of Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Eco features include rainwater harvesting systems, A-rated taps & appliances, computer-controlled lighting & windows and highly efficient insulation.

 

All images from Grand Designs Magazine.

5 celebrities with seriously eco-friendly homes

Celebrities

Hollywood stars are known for living it up in lavish mansions or luxury penthouse apartments. But more and more celebrities are using their wealth and influence to push for more sustainable living.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 5 famous celebrities who’s homes have some serious eco-credentials!

Julia Roberts

Julia Robert's House

Julia Roberts

The star and her husband reportedly spent over $20 million to reduce the carbon footprint of their 6,000 square foot California home, where they live with their three children.

Green features include a rooftop solar array, responsibly-sourced timber, recycled tiles and various other sustainable materials. The sunny location means they’re bound to get plenty of use from those solar panels!

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp Private Islands

Johnny Depp

Appropriately enough, the star of the Pirates of the Caribbean series owns a chain of private islands in the Bahamas. Depp has worked with Mike Strizki, founder of the Hydrogen House Project, to make the 35-acre island fully self-sufficient, getting all of its power from hydrogen solar cells.

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom house

Orlando Bloom

Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean co-star had his London home designed & built from scratch to be as energy-efficient as possible.

He said: “It’s as green as I can make it. It’s got solar panels on the roof, energy efficient light bulbs – newer technology basically that is environmentally friendly. It might not be possible for everyone to live a completely green lifestyle, but we can do little things to help slow global warming.”

Alicia Silverstone

Alicia Silverstone House

Alicia Silverstone

Perhaps best known for her role in 1995’s Clueless, Alicia Silverstone is passionate about animal rights and environmental activism. Her Los Angeles home which she shares with her husband makes use of rooftop solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, recycled materials throughout and a highly efficient heating & cooling system.

As she puts it in an interview with InStyle magazine: “everything we’ve brought into this house is environmentally sound”.

Rachel McAdams

Rachel McAdams Hhuse

Rachel McAdams

This unassuming (by celebrity standards) Ontario home belongs to Rachel McAdams, know for films including Mean Girls, The Notebook and Doctor Strange. She’s also a strong advocate of environmental issues – the house is powered by 100% renewable energy and McAdams is often spotted driving an electric car or cycling around town on an electrical bicycle.

Ten of the World’s Greenest Football Stadiums

Green football stadiums

The 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia later this month, so what better time to take a look at some of the most eco-friendly, energy efficient football stadiums in the world.

Stadium owners around the globe have been making big steps to cut the environmental impact of these huge energy-hungry buildings, from covering roofs in solar panels to recovering & recycling rainwater. And it’s not just national stadiums and top-flight clubs that are going green – one non-league English team features on our list, with one of the most eco-friendly football grounds in the world!

You can check out the full list in the infographic below. If you would like to re-publish it on your own website or blog, we have included some easy embed codes at the bottom.

(Click or tap on the image for a better view).

Green Football Stadiums - Infographic by Eversmart Energy

Use this infographic on your own website

Simply copy & paste the below code into your website editor.

<img src="https://www.eversmartenergy.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/green-stadiums-infographic.jpg" alt="Green Football Stadiums - Infographic by Eversmart Energy" width="800" height="7779" /> <p>Infographic by <a href="https://www.eversmartenergy.co.uk/">Eversmart Energy</a></p>

How to save energy when you drive

energy saving driving

The home isn’t the only place where you can save energy. According to a study by the AA, you can save as much as 33% on fuel just by making a few changes to your driving habits.

Check your tyres

As well as being dangerous, worn or under-inflated tyres can reduce fuel efficiency. Check your tyre pressure regularly – especially before a long journey.

Check your oil

Make sure you have the right amount of oil in your engine (especially if you own an older vehicle) and be sure to use the correct type of oil. Check your manufacturer’s handbook if you are unsure which specification you should be using.

Get your car serviced regularly

Most manufacturers recommend getting your car serviced every twelve months or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Lose weight

The more weight your car is carrying, the more fuel you will use. If an item doesn’t need to be in your car, leave it at home.

Your car doesn’t need to warm up

This is an old practice that belongs in the past. Experts say that modern engines need no more than 30 seconds to warm up, and that your car will warm up more quickly when it’s moving anyway. There’s no need to start the car several minutes before travelling – doing so will simply waste fuel.

Scrape ice in the winter

Using a scraper or a de-icer spray is better than leaving the car idling and waiting for the ice to melt.

Plan ahead

Getting lost and/or stuck in slow moving traffic wastes fuel. Plan your route and check the traffic news before setting off on a long journey.

Smoothly does it

Rapid starting and stopping eats up a lot of fuel. Pull away gently, look ahead and anticipate hazards to avoid harsh braking. Try to avoid coming to a complete stop by approaching junctions slowly and looking ahead.

Change gear early

The AA recommends changing gear when your revs reach around 2,000 rpm (in a diesel car) or 2,500 (petrol).

Be careful with the air con

Turning on the air conditioning causes your car to use more fuel. At low speeds, it may be better to just open a window instead. Save the air con for higher speeds, where opening a window would create extra drag and hamper your fuel efficiency.

Turn off unnecessary electrics

Your car’s electrical systems draw power from the battery, which in turn is charged-up by using fuel. Turn off things like lights, window heaters and de-misters if you don’t need them.

Things you shouldn’t do:

Coasting – Some people believe that rolling along out of gear will save fuel. According to the AA, the fuel savings are negligible (especially in modern cars) and it’s dangerous, as you don’t have full control of the vehicle.

Turning off your engine instead of idling – This is only advisable if you expect to be stopped for over 3 minutes (for example at a level crossing or in heavily gridlocked traffic), your engine is warm, and you have a good battery. Otherwise, the extra fuel needed to start your engine again will negate any fuel saved by switching it off. It’s also not kind to your battery.

Over to you!

Do you have any eco-driving tips of your own? Let us know in the comments section.

10 simple ways to save energy around the home

energy saving tip

Saving energy doesn’t have to be difficult – following these 10 simple tips will help you cut your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint!

Switch to energy saving light bulbs

They may be a little more expensive, but energy saving bulbs last much longer and will save you money in the long-run. Replacing all of the traditional light bulbs in your home with LED lamps of the same brightness will save you around £35 per year!

Turn off the lights when you leave the room

Lights are responsible for around 7% of the total electricity used in the average home. If you can get into the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room, you can really take a bite out of your energy bill!

Use a washing up bowl

It sounds incredibly simple, but using a bowl when you do the dishes (instead of keeping the hot tap running) can knock around £25 off your annual gas bill and £30 off your water bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Wait until it’s full

Don’t turn on your washing machine or dishwasher until they are nice and full. Doing so will significantly reduce your electricity and water bills.

Turn appliances off at the wall

Putting your electrical appliances on standby mode isn’t the same as turning them off at the wall. Even though they look like they are off, TVs, computers, games consoles etc. will continue draining power in when left on standby. Make a habit of flicking the switch on the socket.

Don’t overfill the kettle

The UK has a nasty habit of boiling too much water when making a cuppa, resulting in £68 million of wasted energy each year. Next time you make a brew, only heat the amount of water you need – or better yet, get a smaller kettle.

Set your fridge to the right temperature

Most fridges have a thermostat – find out where it is and set it to the right temperature. Your fridge should be between 3 and 5°C, and your freezer should be around -18 °C.

Take it easy with the oven

Pre-heating your oven doesn’t take as long as some people think – around 10-15 minutes is just fine. Turning it on earlier just wastes energy. You can also turn the oven off a few minutes before the end of your cooking time (especially if it’s electric).

Take a shower

Showers are far more efficient than baths, in terms of water and gas usage. If everybody in a family of four replaced one bath a week with a quick shower, you could save up to £20 a year on gas bills and £20 on water.

Get a Smart Meter

A smart meter gives you a near real-time view of your energy usage and will help you identify & cut out energy waste. You can get a free smart meter fitted by a trained engineer when you switch to Eversmart – find out more here.

 

Sources

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/lighting
http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/saving-water
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23175220