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Power Down: Increased Savings Through Decreased Energy Consumption

Having recently moved house it’s our expectation that the current UTMT residence will remain just that for at least the next 20 years or so, hopefully a lot longer. Given the place needs a fair bit of work doing to it we’ll be looking to make the place as energy efficient as possible during some of the refurbishments that lie ahead.

Before we get stuck into any major projects we’ve started picking off the easy ways to reduce our future energy bills. Our first focus has been on electricity.

With our heating being provided by oil central heating, our main types of electrical consumption will come form the following:

  • Lighting
  • Cooking
  • Gadgets (Music, TV, Chargers etc)

Let There Be Light

Straight after moving in I installed 10watt led light bulbs in most of our light fittings around the new house, replacing the old power hungry 100 watt incandescent bulbs left in place by the previous owner. The light they kick out is in my opinion just as good if not better than their energy hungry predecessors.

LED light bulbs have in my opinion finally reached their full potential. While early LEDs produced a narrow beam of cold white light newer versions are available in 2700k ‘warm’ light, beaming around 240 degrees that replicates a standard incandescent light bulb. Another string to their bow is that LEDs don’t mind being cycled on/off regularly unlike their energy saving predecessors Compact Fluorescents (CFLs).

There’s something hugely satisfying about instantly making a 90% future cost saving on something. Replacing a 100 watt bulb with a 10 watt LED cost me approximately £3.20 per unit and the difference in the quality of light is virtually unchanged.

LED Light Bulb

While the initial outlay on LED bulbs can seem high, with an expected lifespan of 50,000 hours, combined with the fact that we’re unlikely to move house anytime in the next 20-30 years, the long term payback should be significant.

When we moved in there were 24 bulbs in various shapes, sizes and wattages throughput the house which if they were all turned on would be chewing through just shy of 2,070 watts of power which on our current tariff would cost roughly 27p/hour. After replacing them all for LEDs this was reduced to approximately 190 watts consumption and 2.5p/hour, a saving of circa 24.5p / hour.

Of course the lights aren’t all at the same time 24/7 so to get the real projected saving I needed to work out the average usage of each light per day. After some quick calculations I worked out we are likely to achieve an average daily saving of £0.80 per day. The overall cost of updating the bulbs was £89.60 meaning that it’ll be 112 days until I break even on the initial investment.

Run the same savings (£0.245/hour) over the expected lifespan of the bulbs (50,000 hours) and the projected saving is £12,250 should the bulbs last as long as the manufacturer claims. Thats worth having, even if the bulbs only last half the projected 50,000 hours.

Naturally the more you use your lights, the higher the savings you’ll see are. In our household there’s almost always a couple of people in (family on childcare duty, one of us working from home, family visiting/staying etc) so our usage is relatively high compared to a household where everyone is out working or at school 5 days a week.

Smart Meters

The seemingly profligate approach to energy consumption of the previous owner of the house is surprising given they had a Smart Meter fitted.

These devices are being rolled out by all energy companies. The sales pitch seems to be that they save us time by beaming meter readings back to Energy Supplier HQ automatically removing the need for making manual readings. Of course the cynics say they’re a way for energy companies to track hour by hour usage better such that they can charge more during peak load times.

Smart Meter Reading

Anyway a nice benefit of Smart Meters for the likes of UTMT is that you get a small display that can track your the current/past consumption either in watts or £/hour. This is incredibly powerful as it gives you realtime feedback on how much energy you’re using.

Once you can see your usage you can eliminate wastage and improve your efficiency with immediate tangible effect.

I love this stuff

The parallels to shaving a few basis points off your investment fund costs are high. While saving a few watts here and there may seem insignificant, looking over a multi year/decade timeframe can show some serious £ savings are there for the taking. As stated above there’s £12k at stake over the lifetime of the bulbs i’ve installed.

It’s not so much the £ saving that I like about an activity like this but more about the process. I find it incredibly cathartic to measure, identify and eliminate inefficiency. The fact that it leads to long term wealth creation is an added bonus. Whether it is decommissioning a koi pond or squeezing the cheese on your pension fund i’m not fussy. It all gives me a warm glow inside by making things work a little more efficiently.

Lower Bills

We’re only 3 weeks in to the new pad and the projected electricity usage for the period is amazingly low compared to our previous home. Just before moving I was engaged in a dispute with our power company who wanted to  double our monthly direct debit from £80 to £160 per month despite us using nowhere near that amount of electricity.

It’s still early days but if these first 3 weeks are representative of the future then our monthly electricity costs should role in somewhere shy of £25/month which is incredibly low considering the low vacancy times of our house.

Everything Else

Our cooker is all electric so we also do all our cooking via electricity. Due to our work schedules there is someone in the house during the day on 6 days a week typically so our general electricity usage is pretty high.

As well as reducing our ongoing lighting costs to 10% of their former selves via LEDs there is also a number of other measures I’ve used to attack and minimise our electrical wastage:

  • Never use the clothes drier1
  • Avoid leaving electrical appliances on standby mode2
  • Switch lights off when not necessary
  • Switch off chargers at the wall when not in use
  • Ensure we’re on the cheapest electricity tariff
  • Look for energy efficiency when replacing old appliances
  • If using multi socket extension leads use ones with individual switched for each socket
  • Charge my phone/laptop at work or on the train rather than at home
  • Run the washing machine at 30 degrees celcius

Given this house is supposed to be a keeper I’d love to add a solar or wind turbine installation to improve efficiency. I’m aware that the Feed In Tariffs have been reducing in recent years making solar and wind less attractive from a ROI perspective. While install costs have also been falling, the reduced FITs and a low daily usage to offset mean that I suspect neither option makes sense.

Perhaps a smaller solar install to get the hot water going (saving on oil) and provide some free usage during the days might be the way to go at some point in the future as opposed to a full blown install connected to the grid. I’ll need to research further on the various options available.

1I wanted to leave the drier in the old house but Mrs UTMT insisted we bring it ‘just in case’. The reality is it’s not even plugged in. Even in our last place I reckon it got used maybe twice a year, if that.
2The main exception being our freeview box that tends to be set to record certain series so needs to be on standby 24/7.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • FIREin' London December 17, 2016, 9:41 am

    Hi UTMT,

    Welcome back and good work on looking for those energy efficiency savings! For what it’s worth – we looked at the electric generator solar panels, and decided for what it gave us with the new feed in tariffs it wasn’t worth the outlay. We do have the solar panels for the hotwater and that seems to do a great job of keeping the water hot – the only time we have run out was when there were 5 people all trying to have hot showers in the morning and also doing some washing up!

    Our neighbours are even better than we are – they dont use anything for hot water over the summer, but it depends how hot you like your shower / washing up water etc!

    • Under The Money Tree December 19, 2016, 7:00 am

      FIREin’ London,
      How many panels do you have if you don’t mind me asking? Were they expensive to integrate into your existing heating/hot water system?

      • FIREin' London December 20, 2016, 7:57 pm

        Hi UTMT,

        Not at all! We only have two large panels and they seem to do a lot of the heavy lifting of heating the cold water up to luke warm (up to about 65 degrees is supposed to be the most energy intensive part apparently!).

        I am afraid it was a little bit of a cheat – they came with the home (a new build) so it was all integrated as one. Basically the way they sit on the roof, pipes come in through the roof and down into the boiler area and then links into the hot water tank by some magic (I am not great on the old DIY front I am afraid!).

        Not the most helpful I appreciate!

  • The Rhino December 17, 2016, 10:19 am

    Hi UTMT

    Glad to hear your still alive

    I assume you’ve moved out into the sticks. Hope country life suits

    How painful is the oil heating? Ive heard its pricey and then someone comes round in the night and nicks it?

  • DM December 17, 2016, 11:31 am

    As you say, it’s always interesting to monitor consumption with a view to making improvements and reducing costs. I did a similar exercise in December 2013 which you can find on the blog, but even after identifying the high consumers and changing a few appliances we’re running at around 4,100 kWhr per year, so your excellent figure of £25 a month is way out of our league – we’re still paying over twice that amount …

    • Under The Money Tree December 19, 2016, 7:20 am

      It definitely enlightening to see where the consumption goes. I had a look at your post and there’s quite a few thing on your list that we don’t have: CCTV related units, satellite receiver, multiple fridge freezers (we have one tiny fridge currently)and we watch hardly any TV (only gets switched on maybe twice per week).

      Maybe you should look to see if your energy supplier will give you a smart meter? It would enable you to reassess your consumption much more easily.

      • DM December 19, 2016, 7:57 pm

        To be honest, I know we’re not on the best electricity tariff because I generally don’t like direct debits and I still prefer to pay the bill three months in arrears, as I’ve done all my life. And I’m also now a lot more relaxed about our finances than just a few years ago, when I was in save-every-penny mode.

        I’d be surprised if you didn’t have extensive external lighting on all night yourselves if you’re now living out in the sticks – there’s a lot of toerags out there prowling around and thieving stuff from farms etc during the dark nights, and if you’re living next door….

  • cerridwen59 December 17, 2016, 12:02 pm

    Great stuff – saving money now and investing in the future health of the planet 🙂 (Good to hear from you btw )

    • Under The Money Tree December 19, 2016, 6:56 am

      Thanks! It’s a win win situation.

  • H_Jones December 21, 2016, 12:09 pm

    You should absolutely look into a possible solar kick to your hot water. Increasing a few degrees in your water tank will make a major impact to your oil usage in bringing it up to temperature if you’re not fussed about FITs or daily electricity savings.

    Even better, look at also storing overnight the electricity you’re not using up and dumping it into your water temp in early in the morning before the daily shower/bath routine. I’ve got a 4kw setup – use it mostly to substitute usage from the grid by next summer will be storing in one or two tesla powerwalls.

    • Under The Money Tree January 21, 2017, 12:40 pm


      I must admit the Tesla Powerwalls doo look like a nice product. Admittedly only a battery but I can see them being very popular and becoming more and more affordable. Any idea what bits of kit i’d need in addition to the panel to give the hot water a boost as you mention?

  • Ray December 30, 2016, 9:11 am

    I’m glad you are back! Interesting post and you may just be the man to answer this question regarding smart meters. Is your utility consumption and cost more or less after installing a smart meter compared to before it?

    I recently got a smart meter installed and we seem to be using more energy and subsequently having to pay more with a smart meter than we had to before installing one. I know that increase can be down to a number of things such as using more energy, being a colder month, digital equipment are also more sensitive and more likely to give accurate measures which may lead to an increase in cost, but also lead to a decrease in cost.

    Unfortunately I did not keep detailed logs (which I don’t think are possible anyway). Energy usage is also hard to measure and compare – within a household environment, you can compare time frames but within that specified time frame you cannot control specific energy use which in turn voids the comparison. But looking at just the payments we’ve definitely seen an increase in bills since installing a smart meter. Speaking to friends most have seen an increase but put it down to them just using more. Browsing a few forums online, there seem to be plenty of people accusing energy companies in the UK and US of calibrating smart meters to show slightly more use than normal. Now these are unfounded given the above difficulty of proving energy use or lack of. But it’s not as if we’ve never had a major company falsify emission readings…

    It would be interesting to know if you notice anything similar.

    • Under The Money Tree January 21, 2017, 1:02 pm

      Unfortunately I can’t answer your question as the smart meter was in the new house we’ve just moved in to. As a result I can’t really compare the usage between the two properties (with/without a smart meter) fairly.

      What I can say is that the smart meter has made me ultra conscious of our usage. Without it I have no doubt our behaviours wouldn’t have changed so much and our usage would be a lot higher.

  • Achievingcontentment December 31, 2016, 8:24 am

    I do not leave the appliances on standby mode. A habit from going up in a third world country (power surges damaging the appliance). Still doing it as I moved to the UK

    • Under The Money Tree January 21, 2017, 12:44 pm

      With a couple of exceptions I always avoid standby if at all possible.

  • Aron January 4, 2017, 8:33 pm

    Just a note on smart meters, at the moment there is no standardisation for them so when you come to switch supplier you’ll more than likely lose most if not all ‘smart’ functionality of them with the new suppler. We keep getting blasted with marketing from SSE about their offerings but I just don’t see the benefit at the moment, especially when it’s so easy to submit a monthly reading online.

    • Under The Money Tree January 21, 2017, 12:55 pm

      Yes, i read that a change of suppliers can render a lot of the functionality useless. Ours was in the house when we moved in. If nothing else it’s a good tool to help you track usage. Just by paying more attention to the usage you’ll become more aware and will naturally reduce wastage.

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