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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.