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Guest Blog – The most effective energy saving device is also free – David Sorsby, LiveLight

Sunday, November 9, 2014

David Sorsby

David is the founder of LiveLight.org.uk.  LiveLight offers tools, support, money-saving deals, and recommendations to get debt free and fight climate change.

Are we crazy?

My next door neighbour – let’s call him ‘Old Vic’ – has had his central heating on continuously since we moved into our house eight years ago. When we are having a barbecue in our back garden on the hottest day of the year, his heating is on, blowing out gas every 4 and a half minutes. It does that for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You might think that is a bit mad, but it is not at all unusual.  I had breakfast recently at a very nice hotel in North Yorkshire. It was a very pleasant summer’s morning, and a warm, gentle breeze wafted in from the open window. But my legs were uncomfortably hot from the radiator that was belting out heat under the table, and the cold from the air con unit above my head was so intense, it nearly snowed. When I asked, the staff were unable to turn any of it off, although they did offer to close the window.

Whilst in a car workshop over the summer getting a tow bar fitted, I was talking to the rather sweaty mechanic, and I leaned back on the radiator, and nearly burned my hands. It was on full pelt, and who knows how long for.

If you are a student living in accommodation with all bills paid, there might be a reason for opening the windows rather than turning off the heating when you’re too hot. You’re not paying, you probably hate your landlord and would be glad if he went bankrupt on the fuel bills. But when you are paying for your gas and electricity, it seems like madness. We know it’s costing us, and yet, we do it anyway.

Gadgets and gizmos…

It is now possible to buy gadgets like this one from British Gas for about £200. They allow you to control your heating remotely, and some can even send you a warning if you’ve left your heating on. There is a cheaper solution though, in fact it is freely available: remember to turn the bloody heating off when you don’t need it. That way, you save £200 on the gadget, more on your heating bill, and you get to spend even more time looking at cats doing funny stuff or whatever on your phone too. Result.

It’s not just the gas heating we all leave on, of course. In the course of duty running my own business, I get all sorts of glamorous assignments, including running my own food deliveries and putting promotional leaflets through letterboxes. Whilst doing a door-to-door campaign recently, I couldn’t help noticing how many hall or outside lights were left on in the middle of a bright sunny day, for no obvious purpose. I observed that this applied to around 1 in 30 of the houses I visited over a three day period. Here is a little table with the daily costs and KwH this produces:

Type of light bulb Cost per 24 hrs kWh per 24 hrs
Standard 100W light bulb £0.34 2.4kWh
Low energy light (100W equivalent) £0.07 0.02kWh
Low energy external light £0.10 0.72kWh
High energy 150W external light £0.50 3.6kWh

So if you leave one old style, high energy external 150W light on, it will cost you around £0.50 a day, or £15.50 a month, or £186 for a full year on your bill. Ouch.

FullSizeRender

It all adds up

Leave a low energy light bulb on for a month at a time, the cost is much lower, at about £2 extra a month, or £24 a year.  “Meh”, I hear you say. “I don’t leave my lights on that much, and I’ve got nearly all low energy light bulbs. You aren’t saving me much here.” But wait. This is just one light. And you just fell into the big hole that is the grand-sounding Khazaam-Brookes Postulate. Also known as ‘The Rebound Effect’ to its friends, this is the economic theory that states that if we make something more efficient and cheaper, we tend to just use more of it, so it ends up costing the same. Or more. So, you feel good, because you have just put in super low energy light bulbs at home. And because you know they are super, low energy, you don’t tend to worry about switching them off so much. And you leave the plasma/laptop/radio on standby pretty much all of the time too. So when the ‘leccy’ bill arrives, it turns out you have spent a small fortune, and you wonder how on earth that happened.

This may not be you of course. But the point is that behaviour change is the key for all of us. If we get into the simple habit of turning off everything we don’t need, as often as possible, we will save a fortune. No need to shell out on fancy gizmos, or insulation technology developed by NASA for space missions. If you don’t need it, and you turn it off, you are pretty much certain to save some cash.

Find out more

To find out more about LiveLight check out their website.

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