It’s been a shock to the system to return to dark nights and low temperatures in recent weeks and those of us who pay the bills suspect we face an equally unpleasant surprise when the next round of utility bills come in.
It has been a year of price hikes, with the majority of energy suppliers announcing price increases, in some cases more than one. “Depending on the supplier, the recent energy price increases over the past few months have added up to €255 to the average customer’s annual gas and electricity bill, which is huge,” Daragh Cassidy, Head of Communications at price comparison and switching website bonkers.ie said.
I have written about the benefits of switching before and consumers can check if they're on the best deal at sites such as bonkers.ie and switcher.ie. But today I am focusing on the second option, using less energy. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is encouraging households to make one particular swap that can help reduce electricity bills instantly - a switch to energy efficient LEDs. The SEAI estimates that switching a single 42-watt halogen light bulb to an energy efficient 9-watt LED will save about €7 per year.
LEDs are often only a little more expensive than their halogen counterpart, so can save you money in the long-term. Repeat the switch across every light fitting in your home and the savings will add up. There are other benefits to LED bulbs. “Halogen bulbs typically dim over time and fail after about two years,” an SEAI spokesperson said.
LED bulbs are now available for almost any purpose. In addition to regular bulbs and spotlight-style bulbs; chandelier-shaped bulbs, three-way bulbs and even Christmas lights are on the market. Newer LED bulbs are branded as “soft white” or “warm white” that glow just like an old-fashioned incandescent. Some LEDs are also dimmable and can change colour and most fit existing light sockets, just make sure you match the fitting to the one you are buying. The best way to do this is to take the old bulb along with you.
Lighting is only one part of energy usage in your home. Home heating typically accounts for about two thirds of annual household energy bills, with most of the costs occurring during the winter months. The SEAI has a range of tips on how to keep those costs down, with the most important principle being to only heat what you need when you need it.
Use the 30 minute rule in cold weather, setting heating to come on 30 minutes before you wake up and go off 30 minutes before you leave and following a similar pattern in the evening. If only one room needs heating, they recommend using a space or portable heater instead of the central heating.
Similarly, don’t overheat unused rooms, turn down the thermostat or radiator valve but keep a small trickle of heating going to reduce the risk of condensation. Insulating attic and walls could save up to 40% on your home heating bill and grants are available, find out more at seai.ie. You can also download a booklet with tips for saving energy in each room in the house from the same website. The booklet includes details on how long various household appliances take to use one unit of electricity, which and it was a real eye opener.
As a devoted tea drinker, I was perturbed to see that a kettle is as heavy on energy usage as a tumble dryer. Both take 20-40 minutes to use up a unit. While Irish mammies have long warned of the cost of relying on a dryer, most of us don’t think twice about flipping on the kettle countless times over the course of the day.
Top of the list for energy usage are electric showers and immersion water heater, both of which will get through a unit of electricity in 7-10 minutes.
One large ring of a cooker will be roughly on a par with the kettle, at 20-40 minutes, while a washing machine will take 70-100 minutes to use up a single unit.