Household energy conservation made easy
Many people want to reduce energy consumption at home to protect the environment and save some money while they’re at it. But how exactly should they go about it? It's simple, says Grandma Trude, and she’s got a whole bunch of useful energy-saving life hacks to share with us.
By Granny Trude
After some invigorating walks in the woods to recharge my batteries, I’m ready and raring to take another plunge into energy conservation and share some hacks I hope you’ll find useful – especially nowadays.
Coronavirus = more energy consumptionI heard on the news the other day that electricity consumption has gone up during the pandemic. No wonder, what with so many people locked down at home and not going out, and kids attending school online. My daughter Silke and her husband Olli can tell you a thing or two about that. They often cook two meals a day, their kids, Arthur and Emiliana, spend their time in virtual classrooms or "gaming" on their computers, the lights are on all day long in the parents’ home offices, and in the evening they’ve often got several films running at the same time in different rooms. Plus the electric kettle and coffee machine are in constant use. The end result? The family have been consuming more power than ever.
Facts and figuresI’ve kept my electricity consumption consistently low for years now – and my electricity bills, too, which have remained pretty much unchanged. Among other things, instead of a refrigerator, I’ve got a large cool pantry. But consumption in a four-person household like Silke's in Hamburg can easily add up to four or five thousand kilowatt hours a year, even without a pandemic. An average four-person household in Germany spend between €90 and €130 a month on electricity – depending on whether or not the water is electrically heated.
Electricity costs in private households may be increasing now by as much as €150 a year on account of the pandemic. It’s true we’re spending less money these days because the beer gardens, theatres and cinemas are all closed – unfortunately! But money’s not the only issue. We want to save energy to protect the environment. Even electricity generated by hydro, wind, solar, biomass or geothermal pollutes too.
My hacks for youIt’s easier than you think to save power in the home. I realized that whilst researching the figures for this list of life hacks. If your electricity bill turns out to be lower at the end of the year than it was before the pandemic, that means you've been doing everything right. And even if you follow only one of my tips, that will already be a small victory for the environment.
Generally speaking, we can save energy by using more energy-efficient devices –and in more energy-efficient ways.
- Using an A+++ household appliance, i.e. with the highest energy efficiency rating, can apparently save up to €70 a year. They tend to be more expensive, but you’ll recoup the extra cost compared to a cheaper appliance within about two years. Extra efficient appliances are marked with a special label so make sure to check before you buy!
- Unplug as many appliances and electronic devices as possible whenever you go away, even if it's just for the weekend.
- Pour your coffee into a thermos instead of leaving the coffee maker hot plate on to keep the coffee warm.
- All appliances consume a lot of electricity in standby mode, apparently up to 10% of your total electricity bill. So switch your coffee machine off after making an espresso and start it up again later for your next coffee break.
- Use fresh instead of frozen food for cooking – that saves a lot of energy that would otherwise be used to process, transport and store the food at the supermarket and at home.
- Be careful where you put your refrigerator. Beside a heat source like a stove or radiator, it will consume more power because it will have to cool itself off more. And follow the recommended settings: a fridge should be set to 7 degrees Celsius, a freezer to minus 18 degrees.
- A gas or induction cooker saves energy.
- Use your oven’s convection or fan-assisted function, which saves on preheating and usually allows you to set the baking temperature 20 to 30 degrees lower. You can also switch the oven off a few minutes earlier and make use of the residual heat. You’ve probably already heard you can save energy by removing any baking trays you’re not using whilst baking.
- To heat water, use an electric kettle and only as much water as you actually need.
- Descale your kettle with vinegar essence or citric acid on a regular basis. The more limescale build-up inside, the more slowly it will heat up.
- Run your dishwasher only when it’s really full and opt for the energy-save programme, which uses less power because it runs at a lower temperature.
- It’s always best to run the washing machine when it’s filled to capacity – but not stuffed to the point where you can’t stick your hand upright into the drum. You can save up to a third of the electricity it consumes by choosing the lowest possible temperature.
- Clothes dryers are a modern-day luxury. If you have one, use it only for items you really want to keep soft and fluffy. By the way, the wetter the clothes, the longer the dryer will take. You can save around 300 kilowatt hours a year, or roughly €100, by not using a dryer at all.
- Investing in LED lamps will pay for itself within about a year and a half and you’ll spend five to eight times less on lighting right away. LED fairy lights should also be your first choice for Christmas.
- An average laptop uses only one-third as much electricity as a standard desktop computer. Working on a laptop at home, for example, you’ll spend €2 on powering the computer for six weeks, as against €6 for a desktop computer.
- It’s worth it to use your computer in power-save mode and without a screen saver.
- You won’t need to charge your mobile phone as often if you deactivate the GPS – which eats up a lot of power even if it’s only running in the background.
- You can save a lot of electricity by unplugging your TV, receiver, computer, monitor and printer at night. Over the course of a single year, that’ll save you up to 400 kilowatt hours.
- Switching off Wi-Fi receivers such as your PC, mobile phone and smart TV at night will reduce the amount of electricity used by your router, which is a little power hog. You can also turn off your Wi-Fi repeater, if you have one, at night.
- Many plugged-in devices still draw power when switched off, so I now use multi-socket power strips that you can switch off. They’re mighty practical and make for a volt-free bedroom.