"Turn off the light when you leave the room!" Your mom was right, it's pretty sound advice. Cutting down on your energy use at home doesn't just save money, it also contributes to the fight against climate change. We've put together some tips on how to back up your green conscience with small, practical, everyday actions.
The energy consumption of our homes is highly influenced by our own behaviour. Every little thing counts: whenever we turn on the lights, the heating, turn on the kettle or watch a movie, we use electricity and energy. Since most electricity is still generated from fossil fuels such as coal, or from nuclear power plants, our electricity consumption contributes to the release of carbon dioxide. (You can read more about that in our article Renewable Energy – Environmentally Friendly and Low Cost Energy from Inexhaustible Sources.)
But there are several things you can do to save electricity at home AND help protect the climate in the process:
1. Pull the plug!
Did you know that keeping your device on a stand-by mode can cost you a lot in a year? In money terms, as well as energy? The total standby energy use of all households in the EU countries adds up to approximately 43 TWh and it is responsible for about 19 million tonnes of CO2 every year. By unplugging your device, you can save up to 305 kWh of electricity consumption in your household per year.
So unplug your devices when you're not using them, or use a power strip with a switch, so you can turn several devices off at the touch of a button. You should also shut down your computer whenever you can too, as that too keeps on using energy even when you put it into sleep mode.
2. Size and Position Matter (When Buying a Fridge)
When buying a new fridge, pay attention to the power consumption and the energy label: it should be at least A++ or A+++. Only buy one that's as big as you really need, and consider whether you need a freezer or not, and you'll end up saving both energy and money. Position is also important: place the fridge in a cold place away from heat sources and don't set the temperature lower than necessary. For every degree lower you set it, it uses four per cent more electricity. And remember, when you go on holiday, always defrost it and switch it off.
3. Cook with Gas
A gas stove consumes only about half the primary energy of an electric stove - because it can generate heat instantly. An electric stove produces an average of 253 grams of CO2 per use, while a gas stove has significantly lower emissions - just 166 grams of CO2.
4. Run the Heater Low and Shut the Door
Before the winter starts, make sure to bleed your radiators - air in the system results in wasted energy. It makes sense to set the temperature individually for each room too. Reducing a room's temperature by just one degree saves about six per cent of heating energy. You can use these numbers as a guide (in Celsius): bedrooms 16º to 18º, kitchen 18º to 20º, children's room 20º, living room 20º to 22º, bathroom 23º. And when you want to air out the room, then do it properly: it's better to open the windows wide for 5-10 minutes at a time, then shut them again, than keep the windows tilted open all day long.
5. Turn Off the (Right) Light
The rule of thumb is of course to turn off all the unnecessary lights, but the kind of lamps you use also influences the energy consumption. Compared with conventional lightbulbs, not only do energy-saving lamps save 70 per cent on electricity and operating costs, but their production also produces 80 per cent fewer CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, energy-saving lamps contain toxic mercury and are therefore hazardous waste. LED lamps are a better alternative here. Although they come with a higher price tag, their low energy consumption means they will soon pay for themslves.
6. Choose the Right Kitchen Appliances
You don't have to use the stove for everything. Kettles, egg boilers and coffee machines consume around 40 per cent less energy than using an electric stove. When using a kettle, be careful not to fill it with more water than necessary, otherwise the energy consumption and CO2 emissions will increase unnecessarily. In regard to the life cycle assessment, you should try and avoid espresso machines that use aluminum capsules; a lot of energy is used to produce them, and they have a huge negative environmental impact.
7. Say No to Plastic Bags
The production of plastic bags, as well as their disposal, requires significant amount of energy and produces CO2 emissions. Bring your own shopping bag and buy products that are not triple-packed. If you really have to, use the plastic bag several times and make sure it's recycled properly. You can find more alternatives to plastic in our article 7 Quick and Easy Ways to Cut Down on Plastic.
8. Save on Laundry
You don’t normally need to prewash your laundry and running an economy program is usually enough to clean your dirty clothes. If you also lower the water temperature from 60º to 30º, you can save two thirds of the electricity. And of course, it's always better to wait until the machine is full before starting the wash.
9. Reduce Water Consumption
By using a water-saving shower head, you can save water and energy costs by reducing your water consumption up to half without even noticing it (and using less water doesn't necessarily mean being less clean!). An economy cistern or dual flush helps you to reduce the water consumption per toilet flush from 9 to 6 litres. Use the economy button and it will further reduce the water consumption to 3 litres. It might be a nuisance in winter, but you can save more water and energy by washing your hands with cold water and turning off the tap while cleaning, washing up or brushing your teeth. You can read more about indirect water consumption in our article on how to reduce your water footprint.
10. Switch Over to Green Electricity
Easy and impactful: by switching to a green electricity provider, an average three-person household with a consumption of 2,900 kWh can cut down on 820 kg CO2 emissions per year. Switching is uncomplicated and free of charge, and green energy tariffs are now often even lower than those of conventional providers. Switch to 100% green electricity now!
11. Save Energy With Digital Helpers
How do you know how much you can save if you don't even know your own energy consumption? Fortunately, there are now a variety of tools, apps, and websites that show you how much you consume and/or help you to digitally control it.
- The Amphiro device displays your water and energy consumption directly in the shower. This allows you to build an awareness of energy, determine your energy needs and become more motivated to save it.
- With the help of Greenpocket's software solutions, which visualize your consumption data clearly and transparently, you can improve your environmental balance and reduce your energy costs.
- Shopping for a new refrigerator? Being overwhelmed by the endless options of appliances to buy is something that happens even to the best of us. The Ecogator app advises you on the purchase of energy-saving devices. The energy label scanner allows you to compare the energy costs and consumption of different products directly in the shop.
- The Tadoº heating app, works simultaneously with a smart thermostat, detects where you are and controls the heating temperature according to the time of day and amount of sun.
Translated and edited by Media Romadona / RESET Editorial (December 2018)