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Independent

Tips to reduce energy use

With the cost of energy rising rapidly, we need to do everything we can to make sure we're wasting none of it, writes Charlie Weston

CHARLIE WESTON – 14 NOVEMBER 2013

Investing in a building energy rating may prove to be a really good investment and may highlight some remedies to make the house more energy efficient

SHOPPING around for the best value between the different energy suppliers is always important but all providers appear to be on the same track. When one announces a price rise, others usually follow in short order. So, getting the best deal is not always as straightforward as it might be, according to Frank Conway of the Irish Financial Review.

Some providers advertise discounts over competitors, but often those can be down to "paperless billing" and direct debit payments.

This is not an ideal way of keeping an eye on how much you are actually spending on energy use.

For all families, knowing the detail of how much they spend on energy is a really important step to keeping costs down. So, too, is how energy efficient their home is.

Is their home an energy-miser or energy-monster?

Mr Conway here outlines 12 practical steps designed as a quick-check guide to ensuring a home is as energy efficient as it can be in preparation for the months ahead.

USE LED BULBS

These bulbs use less electricity and with rising electricity costs, less for the electricity supplier really does mean more money for you.

DON'T BLOCK A NATURAL HEATER

Maximise the amount of daylight your rooms get – curtains can block natural sunlight.

So where possible, ensure that on clear days, you leave as much sunlight into a home as it will provide a good amount of natural heating.

POSITION FURNITURE TO MINIMISE HEAT DISTRIBUTION

Couches positioned near radiators can absorb a lot of heat and prevent it from reaching the rest of a room.

USE PAINT AS A FRIEND

Highly reflective paint (light colours) will maximise the day lighting.

This is one way of reducing the amount of electricity needed to light up a room.

AVOID DIRT BUILD-UP ON WINDOWS

Some estimates say that dirt build-up can reduce natural light performance by 10pc. A thorough cleaning once a year will help avoid this, as well as help you hold on to a little more of that hard-earned cash.

KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR THERMOSTAT.

If it's above 20ºC then you may want to turn it down. According to leading research, lowering your thermostat by just 1ºC can knock up to 10pc off your home heating bill.

PREVENT HEAT LOSS AT WINDOWS

Much of the heat loss from a house occurs through the windows. Keep your curtains closed at night and make sure they don't block the radiators as they will simply send heat away from the room and towards the widows. It may also be a good idea to check, and replace where necessary, old and broken window seals as this will significantly reduce heat loss.

CLOSE ROOM DOORS

Heat just the rooms you are using. There is no point wasting hard-earned money heating rooms you (or others) will not be using. You can do this by simply adjusting the dial on your radiators settings.

SWITCH APPLIANCES OFF AT NIGHT

Do this at the switch and don't leave them on standby. Some estimates say this will save you up to 20pc of your appliances' energy use.

MAKE BETTER USE OF THE TIMERS

This is particularly important for your immersion or boiler so you can control when the heating comes on and goes off. This means you have heating and hot water when and where you want it.

GET A BUILDING ENERGY RATING OR BER ON YOUR HOME

This is probably one of the best investments any homeowner can make these days. A full registry of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland approved BER (building energy rating) providers are listed on the SEAI.ie website.

USE COMPARISON SITES

A number of sites provide ready access to a range of gas and electricity sellers. These include cheapestoil.ie (for home heating oil) and Bonkers.ie for piped gas and electricity.

KNOWING THE DETAIL

In more recent times, a concept of prepaid power devices that have come onto the Irish market promise greater control over electricity use.

SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD IDEA RIGHT?

For families considering such devices, it is really important that they are fully aware of how these prepaid devices work and the cost implications of them.

The companies selling such devices advertise a significant daily-use charge which will end up increasing the overall cost of electricity, unless there is a big reduction in actual usage.

The Irish Financial Review has done some figures on these new devices and estimates that the cost to consumers using prepaid electricity devices will add between 13pc and 19pc on to the average annual electricity cost.

This means a prepaid device may not represent the best money deal in the market, unless users reduce usage significantly.

Knowing the detail of how we spend our hard-earned money is critical to our long-term financial well-being, Mr Conway said.

Shopping around is important but so too is knowing whether our homes are energy-gluttons or energy-misers. Is it efficient or inefficient when it comes to heating?

Investing in a Building Energy Rating or BER may prove to be a really good investment if the house is a little bit older as this may highlight some simple remedies to making the house more energy efficient.

A list of certified BER agents can be accessed through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland or through their website www.seai.ie.

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