By Duncan Cox

As I embarked on the Cundall Diploma, the second module asked us to look at making an energy plan for our home. My first blog explains the beginning of this journey and here I delve into my plan!

Step 1 was to get my bills. My current supplier is dual fuel and provided the house consumption for the last 12 months. Converting the units takes some thought. It is worth noting that the kWh to kg of CO2 is different for gas and electricity (approx. 0.2 and 0.6), due to the need for a power station to make the electricity.

There are loads of comparison tools out there, some sponsored “change your supplier” type but quite a few UK government data sources as well. Incidentally, we also took the opportunity to start the ball rolling on moving supplier – pleasantly surprised at the first steps being easy but that may all change in the coming weeks!

Having looked back over last year’s consumption, I was initially surprised and disappointed that our annual consumption, 3531kWh of electricity, was in the medium to high usage category. As I embarked on the Cundall Diploma, the module on sustainability encouraged us to examine why these differences might exist.

As I researched further, the relevant values vary for each type of house considering the number of bedrooms, occupancy etc. In terms of our house, our usage was about 10% lower than the UK average for a three bed. Ours is a four bed but with two teenagers and with the fourth room only a guest room it doesn’t get much use. If you look up the National Energy Efficiency Data framework you can check things out for your own home.

On the gas side of things, we replaced the boiler when we extended four years ago, to a Worcester Greenstar. Despite protestations, the family are now used to having a jumper on in the house so was more relieved that the gas consumption was 14295kWh. Again, for an average four bed, 18000kWh is the norm – for the three bed we’d be over as the average value is 12962kWh. As I wrote this, I wondered if we had turned the radiator down in our guest bedroom since the last time we had guests and, sadly the room was still warm and toasty with the radiator maxed out. At least I have turned it down now.

It’s an interesting observation how we turn things up but often aren’t in the habit of turning them off or down again……one to keep an eye on.

Having gone through the various steps, we were then encouraged to look at energy saving options–by thinking through lighting, building fabric, behavioural change, equipment’s used and heating so I came back to where I started with the thermal imaging camera photos.  Also useful was the UK Government act on energy website if you fancy some good ideas.

The Cundall Diploma module challenges you to estimate energy savings and then use these to calculate potential payback periods as we would realistically in the construction industry.  So my five were:

Thermal curtain linings Not for me to advertise but a certain Swedish superstore sells these that you can hang off your existing curtain hooks (apparently) – Payback was around five years depending on how good my guess was on the energy saved but I think it’s worth a try to see what improvements I can get.
LED / Energy saving bulbs I mentioned that I’d done most but there were some awkward bulb types that weren’t made as LEDs when I originally did this and so were missed.  This really does seem to be a no-brainer as the payback periods are very short given the prices but I was warned about other possible issues in terms of having minimum voltages in the circuit so I need to be careful before I blanket replace everything. Look out for a Cundall Conversation on the benefits of LEDs.
Shower times I was shocked by the energy consumption of a shower – check it out yourself – particularly if you enjoy a 20 minute power shower to wake you up in the morning!  What I was pleased to find though was that Northumbrian Water have a “Water Saving Kit” you can get for free which includes a little shower timer. Decided something more fancy might be required to persuade the kids but the principle is the same!  Ordered mine a while ago and took ages to come but was helpful….
Switch off when not in use According to my son there’s a QI fact that the average microwave consumes more energy to keep its digital clock running than it does cooking! I suppose it depends if you can cope with the time not always being right but the principle seemed a good one. I have become a nag in our house again about lights and the computer but I was reminded by this process and again no payback period!  All good!
Insulation Upgrades We’ve already got loft insulation and having gone through the process I must admit the hassle of trying to get this done is pretty daunting.  The payback periods also don’t really make this worthwhile so think I might be shelving this particular option if I’m honest.
PV installations (Solar Panels) This wasn’t on the list but was chatting to our neighbours who nearly got this done before the tariffs came down. Now that panel costs are improving I think it could also be worth a look in to.

The only other one thing I’m intrigued to investigate is the issue of smart metering. It’s been well publicised but there seems to be some concern over privacy which I read an interesting blog about. I can see how this might be great but I might just look at the meter every morning and evening for a week or two before I make a decision.

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Duncan Cox, Sustainability, Sustainable Cundall

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