Saving energy by trimming your toe nails? It just doesn't make sense

Electricity pylons maybe everywhere but gas is a bigger problem

Looking at the energy saving product market it would be easy to think that electricity consumption is the big problem we need to tackle. There are dozens of ways to reduce and monitor your household energy consumption.

Given this, you would think that investing in electricity saving measures would be a good way to reduce your overall energy bill and lead a greener, more eco friendly life.

In reality, reducing electricity is the just low hanging fruit of the energy world. It is very easy to control and monitor and so it is easy to make products that help you use less of it. Lets look at the numbers for a second and you’ll see that reducing your gas consumption is far more important.

The average UK household uses 19,800 kWh worth of energy each year. This is broken down, roughly, into 83% gas and 17% electricity. Now, 17% of 19,800 kWh is still a sizeable amount, however it is dwarfed by the amount of gas we use to heat our water and run our central heating systems.

Adding some hamsters

kWhs is a nasty unit, let's change it to something else, like hamsters. With our new unit each home uses 19,800 hamsters (running in wheels 24 hours a day) worth of energy each year. So that’s 16,500 hamsters running your gas and 3,300 hamsters running your electricity. It would be great if we could set some of those hamsters free, and that is essentially what energy saving products do, free your hamsters.

If I told you that one product could reduce your gas consumption by 10%, or your electricity consumption by 10%, which one would you choose? In real terms that means you can set 1,650 gas hamsters free or 330 electricity hamsters free.

I know which ones I’d free, gas hamsters! That one gas saving product can set free 8.3% of my total hamsters free compared to only 1.7% if I went for the electricity saving product.

A lot of a little makes ... a little, sadly

Much of the energy saving advice focusses on simple quick wins.

  1. Turn off your mobile phone charger when you’re not using it
  2. Don’t leave your TV on standby
  3. Turn off unused lights

These are held up as quick wins in the fight against growing energy consumption, and that if we all did them we would help save a lot of energy.

This not the case.

Yes, these are things we should all do, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this will help very much toward reducing our overall energy consumption. Let's take the example of the phone charger left plugged in without a phone attached.

A phone charger left plugged in like this uses less than 0.3W (it’s literally the law). So, if that charger is left plugged in all year round it will use just 2.6kWh, or 2.6 hamsters. Out of 19,800 hamsters that works out to be a reduction of just 0.0001% and is about the same amount of energy that your car uses in 1.3 miles. Just think how many miles you do in a year!

In reality this is like trying to loose weight by trimming your finger and toe nails. Technically, you are lighter … but not by a noticeable amount!

Make sure your energy saving efforts are being focussed in the best places and look to reduce your gas, as well as your electricity consumption.

  Simon Barker

  efficiency, Energy Saving, house and home

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