Green house

A new baby can cause a spike in our use of home energy but, as Lucy Taylor discovers, changing our behaviour can reduce usage by 15% or more.

STARTING a family is an exciting time in any couple’s life, and often the last thing on your mind when you are thinking about your baby’s arrival will be energy consumption. However, not long after you bring your bundle of joy home, you’ll notice a spike in energy bills.

Tom Halpin, Head of Sustainable Energy Deployment at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), says energy consumption increases at this time due to “heating being on for longer during the day; a greater demand for hot water and for washing/drying appliances and additional food cooking requirements. Any increased energy usage which is derived from fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal, peat, LPG) will in turn increase the couple’s carbon footprint.”

The good news is that there are simple ways to get started on energy efficiency without having to spend lots of money.

“The main thing s changing our personal behaviour in how we use energy,” says Mr Halpin. “Thinking and acting in an energy-efficient way in the home can reduce energy use by 15% or more and, by focusing on the main energy-using areas, like space and water heating, there’s even greater potential for saving money.”

Green architect Mike Haslam, his wife Simona and their two-year-old daughter Zoe live in an early 20th-century house in Dublin’s north inner city. After they moved in, they made some energy-saving improvements such as thermo hemp insulation in the attic, dry lining on the external wall at the front of the house, draft strips on the front door and letterbox and air balloons in chimneys — “but we didn’t have the money to put in double glazing”, says Mike.

“We try to live as green as we can in the city. We don’t have a bath, so just have showers. We have a tiny yard where we grow vegetables, a PIG compost, are members of the local community garden and Dublin Food Co-op on Newmarket and have joined the Gocar car-pool club. Other than this, our transport is covered by cycling and walking. When our daughter was born, we tried washable nappies, but ended up using eco-nappies.”

Ireland’s only eco-village is in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary and was set up by a group of people who formed an educational charity, Sustainable Projects Ireland (SPI) in 1999. Thirty-eight households are currently occupied, with plans for 130 in total.

Deirdre O’Brolchain used to be IT manager at Jurys Hotel Group in Dublin and lived in the city with her husband Eoin and sons Ruairi and Senan, now eight and six.

Four years ago, they started looking into a different kind of lifestyle, eventually renting out their house in Dublin and moving into their new home in Cloughjordan eco-village in August 2010. Eoin still works in Dublin two or three days a week, staying with family Deirdre does a lot of voluntary work for the eco-village.

“The council don’t manage our 67 acre estate — we do it ourselves. It’s a learning process for all of us,” she says. “We

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