Earth Notes: Saving The Planet @Home
Want to do your bit at home to improve your quality of life, save money, cut down on waste and carbon pollution, and get the planet back how it used to be?
Did you know that "the majority of your neighbours are undertaking energy saving actions every day" and that's also one of the most powerful messages to get people to save?
This site is not about selling you 'hell' or 'hell-avoidance', but rather all about practical things that I have done or thought about to make my own life (and that of my family) a little better and lower-carbon without wearing a hair-shirt. Many of them are things that you could do too...
On Earth Notes
Things That We've Done
We've crunched our carbon footprint, we've become a SuperHome, pondered other things that we might do, but most of all there's been quite a lot of fun learning. Maybe it's my engineering mindset, but I've made a hobby out of conservation and meter watching, and had fun out of 'tuning' life a little, and the rest of my family humours me!
See a full list of articles in the site guide, but here's some things to start with that we did...
- made my home study/office carbon-neutral including reducing energy consumption from my Internet-facing servers at home from over 600W to about 2W
- switched our electricity supply to a "100% green" tariff with Ecotricity so that what we do consume is as green as possible
- cut our electricity consumption and added grid-tied solar PV microgeneration to the point where we are net exporters to the grid
- weatherproofed/weatherised our home amongst our other conservation measures such as using (OpenTRV) thermostatic radiator values and aerogel insulation and upgrading to energy-efficient appliances
- built a little off-grid solar system that provides lighting and mobile phone charging and power for my Internet servers consolidated onto a single Raspberry Pi
- toyed with wind power (turbines) and found that wind doesn't really work for most of us urbanites
- built a compost heap or three and we grow a tiny amount of veg in our postage-stamp garden...
Things That You Can Do
Effective changes that can be made at home are based on lowering energy/resource demand...
- Lighting: low-energy light bulbs (eg CFL / compact fluorescent and LED preferably at 60 lumens per Watt (60lm/W) efficiency or better). If rewiring, then look at 12V light circuits connecting to PV/battery systems.
- High-efficiency white goods (eg fridges) and other electrical goods at home and at work; look at energy consumption in use, eg per wash or while on, and in 'standby' mode if you won't be turning them off at the wall.
- For cooking: investigate CO2 savings with induction cookers and microwave ovens.
- Clothes washing: alternate ideas with drying (eg on a line), and low-temperature (cold/30°C/40°C) washing and do full loads. Also, simple changes in habits and textiles (wool is brilliant compared to cotton for whole-life costing as well as washing/drying/ironing). Re-use fashions!
- Low water-use toilets, showers.
- Insulation and thermal mass (over-cladding buildings).
- Close curtains at dusk to retain heat (and on hot sunny days to keep the sun/heat out).
- Turn down your heating thermostat 1°C for up to 10% saving; 18°C to 21°C is about right during the day (and hypothermia is only really a risk when temperatures at home are as low as 5°C, but spending more than two hours at 12°C raises blood pressure), and nearer 14°C at night when sleeping. Only heat rooms that you are using. Use a timer (or something smarter) to avoid heating when no one is home! Wearing the right clothing helps keep you comfortable at lower temperatures.
- Don't have your hot water thermostat set higher than 60°C/140°F, and 'instant' water heaters avoid losses from a tank for new systems.
- Don't leave gadgets and appliances on standby/charging, turn them off (maybe with a smart power-strip or trailing adaptor) or unplug them; you might trim as much as 30% off your electricity bill.
- Check your mains electricity use at home with tools such as the Kill-a-Watt meter, or just read your supply meter daily or weekly. Gas too.
- Minimise the electricity you use at times of peak grid load (eg 4pm to 9pm in the autumn/winter in the UK) since more carbon-intensive and expensive fuels may be burnt in 'peaking' plants, and the grid is under most strain too. Intensity at peak time circa 2009 was ~0.6kgCO2/kWh, as much as 50% over typical levels.
- Reduce, re-use, recycle.
- See some thoughtful tips at MoneySavingExpert.com.
Every kWh of electricity saved avoids production of ~0.43kg of CO2 in the UK.