Expert tells RTE's Claire Byrne that Irish homes could drastically cut energy bills with this key advice

By Sara Rountree

With energy prices being hiked up by providers and the threat of an “energy blackout” this winter, Irish households are worried as to how to manage their electricity and gas usage coming into the winter

Dr Tara Shine, the director of Change by Degrees has said that we can all take steps to change how we rely on our household energy and use our appliances differently to save on costs, and to help the planet.

The environmental scientist told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne that Irish households could drastically cut their energy bill simply by following her tips for using household appliances.

Here are Dr Shine’s tips on how to use your appliances in the best way for both planet and your pocket:

Pilot lights

That little red light that comes on your telly after you switch it off still manages to rack up a bill on your energy costs.

Leaving things like the TV on standby still uses a significant amount of energy. Dr Shine explained that it comes to about 11% of household energy use in the EU.

Shockingly, “eleven percent of every bill is things being on standby,” she said.

The solution is to simply unplug and totally turn off things like printers, coffee machines, desktop monitors and television.

“Argue that out in your own house and see which things you can manage to take off standby.”

Central Heating

Data from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland suggests that turning down your central heating by just one degree can lower your energy bill by 10%.

And if you cannot handle a one degree change, “put a jumper on,” said Dr Shine.

Turning down your central heating by just one degree can lower your energy bill by 10% (diephosi via gettyimages)

Tumble Dryer

The tumble dryer can be expensive to run, especially for those of us who rely on an older, lower energy rated dryer in our laundry routines.

Dr Shine shared the stark fact that “if every home… dried just one load per week on the line per week instead of the drier it would save 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year."

That’s enough electricity to power 170,000 homes per year.

Coming into the winter months it can be harder to find the perfect time to stick clothes on the line, but Dr Shine explained that even popping your clothes onto the line for a few hours while it is dry and then transferring your laundry onto an airer inside overnight is much more sustainable than relying on electricity.

Kettles

All of us are guilty of sticking on the kettle for a cuppa and then forgetting about it, and ending up boiling it again and again throughout the day.

“We are quite impatient, we want our cup of tea quickly so they put a lot of energy into warming the water fast for us,” she said. The energy used by a kettle is enormous.

In fact, 85% of the carbon footprint produced by making a cuppa is from the boiling of the kettle alone.

Dr Shine suggests only boiling the water you need, don’t fill it up to the top every time. And don’t be a “serial re-boiler.” Boil it once and make your cup of tea or coffee.

Be sure also to look after your kettle and other appliances. Descale your kettle regularly so you don’t end up having to keep buying new ones. “Look after the things you have, it’s one of the most important things you can do if you want to be more sustainable.”

For more drastic energy-saving, Dr Shine also commended one listener on using a “pump-pot” flask to keep water at boiling point all day long and minimise the need to reboil the kettle over and over.

Hoovers

“Who ever thinks about their vacuum cleaner and what it’s doing to the environment?,” asked Dr Shine.

“But actually they really, really add up.”

There are 200 million hoovers in the European Union and together they use 0.6% of the electricity in the EU.

That’s equivalent to 5 electricity plants a year.

Dr Shine urged hoover-users to be more mindful of their carbon footprint when vacuuming.

“Don’t leave it running to move the furniture or answer the door or have a chat on the phone or whatever.

"And when it comes time to replace your hoover you’ll be able to get one that is much more efficient… there are new EU regulations around eco-design.”

A 2020 hoover uses 20-57% less energy than older models.

But don’t run out and buy a new hoover either, she said: “The most sustainable thing is the thing you already own.”

Timing your appliance use

Dr Shine said that “we all tend to do the same things at the same time.”

Between 7am and 9am and between 5pm and 7pm are the peak times for energy use. She said: “Our grid is under intense pressure to be able to fulfil all of our demands.”

She said that it’s best to use bigger appliances like the washing machine and the dishwasher outside those times.

Dr Shine suggests setting your big appliances on a delayed cycle, a feature that some newer models offer.

She said that in her own home she sets her washers to go on at night “when there’s less demand on the grid and when you’re more likely to be getting renewable energy from the wind turbines that we see around the countryside.

“If I set my machines to work at night it actually saves me money too because I pay a lower rate per unit of electricity at night.”

Maximise your appliance use

“Get in a good routine,” said Dr Shine.

Make sure not to run your dishwasher if it’s not full, and simply “fill it before you put it on.”

She also suggests using the “eco-cycles” that many machines offer.

“If you do have to put in a half load of laundry then use the cycle that’s designed for that.”

And to further reiterate her point of not rushing out and buying newer, modern “energy-efficient” machines she said to hang on to all your old appliances until it dies and “use it as little as you can."


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