Energy Efficiency for the Morally Ambivalent

I am pretty well known among my friends, family and peers as being quite selfish -self-absorbed maybe- and on the surface this is a fair approximation of my character. At this point in my life I feel that I need to be quite selfish to get myself to a point where I can effectively become the Thomas-and-Martha-Wayne-style philanthropist I aim to be; charity begins at home, as they say.

In short, I aim to change the world, but cannot do so until I have secured mine (and my family’s) own future.

It is pretty obvious that we all need to give serious consideration to our energy usage; whether it be to save the world or to save money; this is nothing new and what I am about to write will come as no surprise to most but will hopefully help others save themselves money and as an additional bonus, help towards saving the world.

Every Little Helps

As Tesco will tell you, every little really does help. If you think about it, every unit or kW/hour of energy you use (whether it be gas, electricity, water or other) costs you money and damages the earth so it stands to reason that every unit or kW/hour you save will save you money and the planet. With a little effort, you can save these few pennies to be spent in other places; with a little extra planning and forethought this effort will be next to none, but the savings very real. For example:

Switch off your standby items

It’s a well documented fact that electrical products use a fair amount of electricity when in “standby mode” – the [British] government estimated in 2006 that up to 8% of each household’s usage was wasted [Source: Wikipedia]; if you look at your average monthly electricity bill (mine was around £30) and remove that 8% you begin to see a very real saving.

Before I began this mission of energy efficiency, I thought “But I like the convenience of just being able to hit the button on the remote” which got me to thinking “There must be a way to reduce the wasted energy, but still have the always-on convenience.”

Well the answer to this particular problem was very simple indeed. Timer Switches!

I purchased a set of three electronic timer switches for around £15 and set them up in the most power-hungry areas of my apartment; the office, the home entertainment system and finally my eight year old son’s part-time bedroom. The switches I bought have a two-week programmable cycle so I have them configured thus:

  1. Home Office
    Monday to Thursday: On at 07:30 (the additional benefit of this is that when my printer fires up in the morning it’s like an alarm clock!) and off at 00:00; this covers me if I have any overtime requirements but saves me 7 1/2 hours of electricity
    Friday to Sunday: On at 07:30 and off at 01:00
  2. Entertainment System
    Monday to Thursday: On at 07:30 (meaning I can sit and watch the news in the morning if I’m up in time!) and off at 00:00 (stops me playing PS3 until all hours of the morning!)
    Friday and Saturday: On at 08:00 and off at 02:00
    Sunday: On at 08:00 and off at 00:00
  3. Brandon’s Bedroom
    Brandon is with me every other weekend, and so I do not need to power his bedroom very much at all. With the alternate week programming I can power his bedroom from Friday afternoon to Sunday night every other week. He has a PC, lamp, PS2 and television in his room; powering those for 11 days that they are not needed is obviously a huge waste of electricity.

One downside I discovered to powering down everything on a nightly basis was that a few of my electrical items would lose settings – for example, my BT Vision digital box would need to go through it’s setup routine every morning and would often need to be re-scanned before I could use it (I’m no longer using BT Vision, for what it’s worth) but more importantly, my radio would lose all it’s stations each time it was powered down at the socket – this was unacceptable.

I managed to get round this with a little extra thought; I now have a “four-gang” extension lead plugged directly into the wall socket with the three items I need to keep power to, in the fourth socket is the timer switch and into that another four-gang powering the television, PS3 and iPod dock/charger.

In my office I have a similar arrangement; none of my computers or peripherals need to be left switched on over night so the only item not going through the timer switch is my DECT desk-phone/answer-phone.

Obviously, in Brandon’s room, nothing is required when he’s not here so everything goes through the timer.

In addition to all of this, I have installed energy saving lightbulbs in every room (except the kitchen); I have never bought ONE of these bulbs. In the two and a half years I’ve lived in the apartment I have received as many as 15 free lightbulbs from various electricity companies trying to sell me their energy. As we all know, these bulbs last for a considerable amount of time longer than “normal” bulbs and so far (touch wood!) haven’t had one die on me – meaning I still have six or seven bulbs in the cupboard!


It doesn’t sound like much when quantified like this, but by my estimates I am now saving around £5 per month on my monthly electricity bill; that’s almost two whole Jack n’ Coke’s a month I wouldn’t have had! Of course if you then times that out by the length of time you save that money, the savings become very much more real. For example, that’s £60 I’ve saved in the year I’ve been more careful – and that’s just on the electricity itself; if you include the money I’ve saved on replacement light bulbs it goes up even further.

So coming back to my original point… every little does really help.

(Oh yes, and I’m doing a good thing for the planet/environment too!)

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