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.