Hello! Welcome to my first blog on the million £ question – what can you in your day-to-day life to cut your carbon footprint?
Not the tiny things like using less drinks stirrers, but the changes that make a big impact and ensure future generations have a safe, stable and unpolluted Planet Earth.
To keep things simple – and short – I’ve grouped our activities into three buckets, each one representing a large amount of fossil fuel usage:
- Home energy
So, here goes with the first set of tips to help reduce your carbon emissions…
One of the largest sources of CO2 emissions is your home, so I’ll take a look at the big areas of electricity, heating and renewables, which will make all the difference as we strive to tackle climate change one house at a time!
Electricity consumption requires power from the grid, and even with the rapid rise of renewables, over half of our electricity is still generated from fossil fuel power stations. So, here are the largest parts of our power usage and what you can do to reduce them:
- Lighting – an easy win is to replace any of your older lightbulbs with LED lighting – it’s just as good and uses only a fifth of the energy compared with traditional halogen bulbs
- White goods – a fridge, washing machine, tumble drier and dishwasher are the ‘big 4’ items you are likely to have at home which use a lot of your power; every year the models available get more energy efficient, so when they get towards the end of their natural life, choose an energy efficient replacement with an A or (even better) an A+++ rating
- Hobs and ovens – these are the other common items which consume a lot of power; again, you can choose energy efficient models, but simple things like not opening the door to an oven during cooking can save a lot of energy; also, using a microwave is more efficient than an oven or hob
- Personal electronics – the Energy Savings Trust estimates that turning off your computer, TV, games console and other items (rather than leaving them on standby) saves the average British household £68 per year
I haven’t listed air conditioning as it’s not that common in the UK, but needless to say, it is very energy intensive and best avoided if possible!
In addition to cutting your electricity usage, you can further cut your carbon footprint by switching to a renewable energy tariff. Lots of the UK energy suppliers offer these and they are often better value than the standard variable rate which so many households are on.
Heating is about half of the overall energy usage in your home.
Most houses in the UK use gas for central heating and hot water, managed via your boiler. As such, the quickest way to reduce your carbon emissions from burning gas it to upgrade your boiler to a more energy efficient one. The average one lasts 15 years, but as having an older or less efficient one can cost you hundreds of £s extra in additional energy bills, it may work out cheaper to upgrade early. Which have a boiler article which is well worth a read (yes, really...).
Another brilliant thing to do is ensure your house is well insulated, so that less heating is needed in the first place. The Government has recently announced grants of £5,000 to £10,000 for home insulation, so it's now very inexpensive to insulate walls and lofts and greatly reduce your carbon footprint.
Renewable energy systems have never been cheaper and easier to add to your home, cutting your electricity and gas bills, while significantly cutting your carbon footprint.
Solar panels for renewable power
You don’t need planning permission to have solar power panels installed on your roof (unless you live in a conservation area), so if you have a roof which faces south – or thereabouts – then this is a simple thing to do. A typical set of a dozen panels will cost you about £5,000 and the pay-back will be around 10 years.
This is one of the biggest individual steps you can take to reduce your carbon emissions.
Less well known than solar panels, but with usage rapidly increasing, a ground source heat pump or air source heat pump will extract the air from the soil or air and use it to heat you home. As such, it is a renewable replacement of the gas used for central heating, reducing your carbon footprint sharply.
Ground source pumps require a sizeable garden to place the pipes under, so if that isn’t available, you can install an air source pump to the same effect (it looks like an air conditioning unit). The cost of a heat pump varies greatly depending on your property size, but the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive ensures that most of the cost is repaid over the first 7 years of ownership, with reduced energy bills usually meaning the rest of the cost will also be paid back over a similar timescale. After that, it’s all profit as your bills remain low forever!
The 5 most significant changes you can make to reduce your home energy consumption are:
- Buy the most energy efficient models when replacing your fridge, washing machine, oven, etc
- Only use LED light bulbs
- Insulate your walls and roof
- Upgrade your gas boiler, or get a heat pump
- Install solar panels.
I’m gradually working through the list myself and once complete my home carbon footprint will be down to a quarter of what it used to be.
Go for it people!