Energy efficiency in the home and office

Better energy efficiency may well be the most rapid way to reduce CO2 emissions – and will also save you money!
Energy efficiency simply means using the least possible energy to get a job done. Be that heating your home or office, powering electrical items, or driving your car.

Pull the plug

One very easy thing you can do is to turn off TVs, computers, and other electronics when they're not in use.
TVs, DVD players, stereos and computers still use 10-60% of power even when on ‘stand by’. And some some appliances, like digital set top boxes, cost nearly as much to run in stand-by mode as when they are switched on!

  • Use a power strip for your home cinema and office equipment to easily turn multiple devices on and off at the wall, all at once.
  • Turn off your computer at night –  at home and at work.
  • Unplug chargers for mobile phones and other mobile devices when you’re not using them.
 / ©: Istockphoto.com / WWF-Canada
Stand-by power consumption accounts for up to 13% of residential electricity use in the OECD.

Up to 50% of the energy used by a mobile phone comes from chargers left plugged in when not in use.

Switch your lighting

Did you know lighting accounts for up to 15% of your electricity bill?
You can reduce the amount of energy to light your home and office by:
  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs. A variety of options is available, including compact fluorescent lamps and LED lamps.
  • Make light work for you. Clever use of reflectors and directional lamps to get the light where you need it can save another 50% in energy costs and improve the overall lighting of your home or office.
  • Switch lights off! Like all electrical items, switch off the lights when they're not in use.
 / ©: Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK
Compact fluorescent lamps use only around 25% of the electricity as traditional light bulbs to provide the same light. And, they can save up to 80% on your next electric bill and last up to 8 times longer.

Only use what you really need

Most of us, especially in the developed world, take energy for granted – so we don't tend to take much notice of what we might be using unnecessarily.
In addition to switching off lights and electrical appliances when they're not in use, you can also save energy by:
  • Turn it down in winter. Do you really need to be walking around in a T-shirt all year round? Set the temperature on your heating system a little lower to save energy. Sometimes putting on an extra sweater is more effective and it saves you money on heating bills.
  • Turn it up in summer. By the same token, set your air conditioner a little higher in summer.  
  • Use water wisely. Public water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to households – so saving water can lower greenhouse gas emissions. Also make sure the water thermostat isn’t set above 60°C (140°F), and take a short shower instead of a bath to minimize the amount of energy you use to heat water.
  • Love laptops. Get a laptop instead of a desktop – it consumes five times less electricity. If you must have a desktop, make sure you get an LCD screen instead of an outdated CRT screen. And enable the power management function on your computer: contrary to popular belief, screen savers do not save energy. 
  • Wash economically. Use your washing machine or dishwasher only when you have a full load, and select economy programmes and/or the lowest possible temperature.  
  • Hang it out to dry. Traditional clothes dryers are energy intensive – and so-called “condensation” models (dryers without an exhaust tube) use even more energy. Drying your clothes on a clothes line, either inside or outside, uses no energy at all! If this is not an option, make sure your washing machine is spinning your clothes properly, reducing drying time. 
  • Keep your fridge cool. Keep your fridge at the right temperature and defrost regularly to keep it working efficiently. Don’t leave the doors open for longer than necessary, and make sure too that the door seals are airtight. You can test this by closing the door over a piece of paper so it is half in and half out: if you can pull the paper out easily, the hinge may need adjustment or the seal may need replacing.
  • Bring just enough to boil. When using a kettle, only boil as much water as you need. It will save electricity and boil the water more quickly.
 / ©: Istockphoto.com / WWF-Canada
Turning down the thermostat by just 1°C in winter can save up to 10% per year on heating bills.

Washing clothes at 30°C (86°F) rather than 40°C (104°F) reduces electricity consumption by around 40% on average.

Drying clothes by spinning is 20 times less energy intensive than drying them with heat in a clothes dryer.

Buy efficient appliances and electronics

If you plan on buying a new washing machine, printer, mobile phone, or other electrical item, choose the most energy-efficient model you can afford.
  • Visit www.topten.info for the best energy-efficient products in different countries

Weatherize your home or office

Buildings can leak enormous amounts of energy, through heated air escaping in the winter and cooled air escaping in the summer.
  • Get your home or office audited. Ask your local electric or gas supplier to perform an energy audit of your house, apartment, or office building  – and then put the recommendations into practice! If they don’t currently offer such a service, ask them to introduce it.
  • Insulate doorways, windows, walls and ceilings. Up to a third of household heat will escape through an uninsulated loft. Draughts also get in through gaps in floorboards and skirting boards, allowing both warm and cool air to escape. Stop this energy loss by filling these gaps with newspaper, beading or sealant. Double glazing will halve heat loss through windows – and remember to close the curtains at night. 
  • Turn off bathroom ventilating fans when leaving the room. These fans can blow out a house full of heated air if left on.
  • Insulate your hot water tank. An insulated jacket cover costs a only small amount of money and, with all the heat it traps in, it pays for itself within months.
  • Keep up the maintenance. Keeping heating and air conditioning systems well maintained helps them be more efficient while reducing fuel costs. Clean or replace dirty air conditioner filters as recommended.

Building or renovating?

Today, the most energy-efficient buildings use 75% less energy than the average home or office, saving you a considerable amount of money. Remember, it is always easier to factor in efficiency at the beginning of construction than to add it later.
  • Choose an architect who has experience designing green buildings.
  • Look for relevant building standards and best practice in environmental building, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

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