There are many benefits to careful energy usage and with just a few simple changes, it’s possible to be more efficient. Find out more here.
With its impact on the environment and our bank balances, the amount of energy we use, or potentially waste, energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important. With just a few simple changes to our home and lifestyle, we can be more economical and efficient with our energy usage - saving money and helping us do our bit for the environment. But what does energy efficiency really mean? And why is it so important?
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What is energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency means cutting down the amount of energy required to perform an action like switching on a light, opening a fridge or heating water. For example, every time you flick on a light switch, you’re using energy to light the room.
But if you change from using an old style lightbulb, known as an incandescent lightbulb, to a more efficient fluorescent bulb - you’ll be producing the same amount of light, but will be using less energy in the process. That’s energy efficiency in a nutshell.
There’s now a huge variety of products, services and designs that can help improve energy efficiency. Running older appliances, like washing machines, tumble dryers or fridge-freezers can account for a huge percentage of your energy bill, so it makes sense to ensure these are as economical as possible.
However, it’s the little adjustments that are often the easiest for reducing your energy usage. These small changes may not seem like much, but every little does really help when it comes to saving energy.
If you’re looking to make changes around your home, why not check out our energy saving tips for more ideas on what you can do.
Why is energy efficiency important?
There are three main reasons to be more energy efficient:
1 1. The environment
If you’re making better use of the energy you’re using, then less energy will need to be created. As a result, the power plants that make this energy will burn fewer natural fossil fuels, these limited natural resources will last longer and we’re less likely to impact the earth by sourcing them through mining, logging or extractions.
Also, by reducing energy usage, the power plants will create fewer emissions of greenhouse gasses such as sulphur dioxide or carbon dioxide - which absorb the sun’s heat and trap it in our atmosphere. So, less energy and less fuel means less damage to the natural world.
2 2. Your bank balance
This is a no-brainer, the less energy you use to light and heat your home, the lower the cost of your energy bills. Any steps you make will have an impact, although choosing energy efficient products and appliances is a great way to cut down your usage without having to make drastic changes that effect your daily routines.
3 3. The global economy
Dwindling natural resources can have an impact on the global economy. As oil, coal and natural gasses are depleting, they’re becoming more expensive, meaning more strain on the societies that rely on them. Becoming more efficient means we waste fewer of these precious resources. Plus, as we become more efficient in our energy use at home, we’re also more likely to be efficient across other kinds of industries, for example, businesses, agencies and schools. This means these areas can spend less on energy and more on goods, services, education and products.
How can I be more energy efficient?
With a few simple upgrades you could potentially save yourself hundreds of pounds in energy costs a year. Some of these will mean an initial investment, but will result in greater savings in the long run.
We have plenty of advice on our energy saving tips page, but to give you an idea of how easy it can be, here’s three of our favourite ways to increase the energy efficiency of your home:
1 1. Insulation
Around a quarter of the heat generated in your home could be lost through the roof or walls if you fail to insulate effectively. Making sure these areas are properly padded with decent insulation is a simple and cost-effective way to protect your home from the cold -saving energy and money on heating bills. You could even be eligible for free insulation through the Energy Companies Obligation – we can help you find out more.
2 2. Upgrade lightbulbs
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) can cost a bit more than the old style lightbulbs, but they burn up to 75% less energy and can last up to 12 times longer. In fact, the average lifetime of an old style bulb is less than a year, while a CFL is likely to last more like 8 to 10 years - now how’s that for a saving!
3 3. Look for energy efficient appliances
If you’re looking to buy new home appliances, check the energy ratings – this should be clearly labelled. The Energy Saving Trust has some great advice on the different ratings used for each type of appliance, and the best types to look out for to make sure it’s as energy efficient as possible, whether you’re after a microwave, television or fridge-freezer.
Like all energy cpompanies, we measure how much energy you've used in kilowatt hours (kWh). When you use 1000 watts of energy for 1 hour, that a kilowatt-hour. To make life easier, we've worked out the kWh measurements for some everyday examples so you can see how much energy you're using.
9 uses of a kettle
4 hours watching TV
24 hours gaming
286 hours phone charging
27 minutes ironing
31 hours on a laptop
1-2 cycles in a washing machine
80 minutes using a microwave
… so, choose your appliances carefully.
Some appliances use more energy in an hour than others. The more energy they use, the more they cost to run.
Tests by Which? – the consumer group – in October 2013 showed that the fridge freezer using the fewest kWh costs just £14 per year to run. But other freezers could cost up to £102 per year to run. Even models with the same energy-efficiency rating can have very different annual running costs. Their tests found two A++ rated washing machines with difference over 30% - that’s £130 – over a five year period. For further information on how energy efficient appliances can help you save money in the long-run. (Source: Which?, October 2013).
*Please note: npower is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Energy efficiency vs energy conservation
Whilst energy efficiency and energy conservation both have a very similar goal, they are two different ways of approaching the saving of electricity and gas. Read on to find out more about the differences between them and their benefits.
- Tends to apply to physical upgrades, rather than major lifestyle changes
- Uses technology which requires less energy to perform a certain function
- Can be more costly initially, but requires less effort in the long term
- Examples include: replacing old style lightbulbs with CFLs, adding insulation, upgrading appliances
- Involves a change in behaviour to use less energy
- Has the potential to save more energy, although requires a greater commitment
- Means saving energy without having to pay for new appliances or services
- Examples include: turning off electronics overnight, turning down the thermostat, leaving lights off longer
How can we help?
Keen to find out more? Well, we’re here to help.
Energy Efficiency Helpline
We have a dedicated Energy Efficiency Helpline who are here to help you understand how to make your home more energy efficient, potentially reducing your energy use and carbon footprint.
Our Energy Efficiency Helpline:
- Are qualified to give you free impartial, and personalised energy efficiency advice. This could range from what to look for when buying a new appliance, to providing a full home survey that will calculate the energy rating, running costs and carbon footprint for your home. We can then make recommendations on how you can improve your energy efficiency in the future.
- Can make you aware of energy efficiency measures and offers that could save you money. We can advise on any free energy efficiency upgrades or grants to improve your home.
- Will help you if you’re moving home or looking at buying a new house. We can give you the information you need to work out how much your new running costs might be. We can suggest improvements you might want to make before you move to minimise the stress once you’ve just arrived and to make sure you’re saving money straight away. We’ll even put this all in an easy to read pack for you to keep and carry.