Energy Efficiency: How Can You Help?
Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Energy is produced by the combustion of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas which release carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Despite uncertainties, the general scientific consensus is that increased levels of greenhouse gases as a result of man's activities are enhancing the Earth's natural greenhouse effect and inducing climate change. Energy use is responsible for about 75% of man-made CO2 emissions. Therefore, it is important to try and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce energy consumption. For the individual, there are 3 main areas where action can be taken: energy use in the home; domestic waste production; and private transport.
Energy Use in the Home
The individual has little influence on how his/her energy is produced, e.g. by coal or gas fired power stations, or alternatively by wind or solar power. However, the individual has control on how s/he uses that available energy. Through the implementation of simple measures the individual can effectively bring about a reduction in his/her energy consumption, thereby reducing the need for energy production and consequently reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Using less energy also means savings on fuel bills.
Heating (space and water) accounts for approximately 25% of UK energy use. On average 55% of fuel bills are spent on space heating, but in an un-insulated house about half of this heat escapes through the walls! Water heating can account for up to 20% of the average fuel bill but we are often wasteful of this resource. Energy use in these two areas can be cut whilst still providing the heating that you require. Energy saving light bulbs are now widely available in supermarkets and electrical stores. The initial cost of energy saving light bulbs are relatively high at about £2 - £10 each, but the lower running costs and longer lifetimes mean that the initial cost can be recouped within a couple of years. The energy use and efficiency of household appliances, such as fridges, freezers, cookers, washing machines and televisions depends on the age, model and manufacturer. In the UK 20% of electricity is used by domestic appliances. Under an EC Directive, retailers are required to label all new fridges and freezers with an eco-label.
Energy saving ideas
Draught proofing door and seals at an approximate cost of £45-£60, annual fuel bill saving of £10 - £20.
Insulating your loft to a depth of 6 inches, at an approximate cost of £110 - £160, annual fuel bill saving of £60 - £70. 20% of your energy bill can be saved by effective loft insulation.
External wall insulation. Effective wall insulation can reduce heat loss by up to two thirds.
Fitting secondary glazing / double glazing windows, saving approximately £15 - £25 on the annual fuel bill.
Fitting a hot water jacket to the water tank, cost £5 - £10, annual saving of £10 - £15.
Fitting a programmer to the central heating system will ensure heating is only produced when needed.
Turning the central heating thermostat down by just 1°C can save on average 10% on heating bills.
A shower uses only two-fifths of the hot water needed to run a bath.
A wash cycle run at 40°C will cost one quarter of the amount of the hottest cycle on your washing machine.
Ensure the rubber door seals on fridges and freezers fit properly.
If your washing machine has a half load, and or, an economy wash option use these when appropriate.
If space permits do not place the fridge / freezer next to the cooker.
At present, households in the UK annually produce 28.4 million tonnes of domestic rubbish; about 500 kilograms for every person in the country. Currently 90% of household waste collected by councils is dumped into landfill sites. Landfilled waste produces the second most important greenhouse gas: methane.
Paper recycling can reduce water use by about 60% and energy consumption by 40%. It is one of the easiest products to recycle with paperbanks in most towns throughout the UK. Paper recycling is the most popular of all waste product recycling, with over a third of all paper and board going to the recycle banks.
Every 10% increase in the recycling of crushed glass reduces the energy consumption in glass making by 2%. In the UK glass recycling has increased in popularity over the past 15 years. The number of collection sites increased ten-fold between 1984 to 1998. There are now over 20,000 council collection sites in the UK, and up to 22% of glass is being recycled.
An average family throws away over 100 kilograms of plastics and textiles each year. Currently, only 3% palstics are being recycled. When plastics are landfilled a potential source of energy is lost. Food and drink packaging, such as tins and cans, contribute about 8% to the average family's household waste. Collection points for these materials are widespread throughout the UK with aluminium can banks being the most popular. Recycling rate of cans is now 36%.
The potential to reduce the amount of raw materials and energy used in the manufacturing of packaging does exist. The individual can aid this process by adopting the reduce, re-use and recycle attitude wherever feasible. Recycling reduces the need to mine for raw materials, it saves energy (thereby reducing emissions of CO2) and it reduces the amount of waste buried in landfill sites (reducing the potential for methane emissions).
Ideas for recycling
Make use of the paper and glass recycling sites in your area. Separate the coloured glass and deposit the glass at the collection point, but try and avoid making a special car journey.
Reuse glass bottles and tins wherever suitable.
Ask your local council where the nearest plastic collection point is and try and use these if possible.
If there is no suitable collection point try and buy products which have different packaging such as glass.
At the supermarket reuse plastic carrier bags or use a basket instead.
Transport is the fastest growing energy-consumption sector in the UK and the number of cars on the road is projected to increase by 17% by 2010. In 1990 it was accountable for 23% of CO2 emissions in 1990. This has risen to 26% by 1998. The average car user is responsible for approximately 5.8 tonnes of CO2 annually. There are many simple measures which the individual can adopt to reduce his/her car emissions and thus emissions of CO2.
Ideas to reduce CO2 emissions from private transport
As an alternative to driving the car, walk, cycle or use public transport where it is suitable and safe for you to do so, particularly for short trips where using the car is not really necessary and an alternative exists. Even when only a quarter full, a bus is more than twice as fuel efficient as a family car.
If you and your friends drive to work consider the option of car sharing. If just two of you decide to do this it will effectively reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by half and save you money as well.
Adopting a calmer driving style will also result in a reduction of car emissions. A car travelling at 70mph can consume 30% more fuel than a car travelling at 50mph.
Ensuring your car is serviced regularly and maintaining the correct tyre pressure improves fuel efficiency.
Everyone contributes to national and global emissions of greenhouse gases, but it is not only governments which can take action to reduce the threat of global warming. For their policies to work effectively and for their targets to be achieved, the actions of the individual are required. The cumulative energy reductions by individuals would reduce the need for energy consumption, conserve stocks of raw materials such as coal, oil and gas, and bring about a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In this way the actions of the individual can help to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the threat of global warming.