Life Tips Special: Green Your Gaff with Jon Cowdrill

In today’s column, let’s consider gadgets and appliances. Reducing our carbon emissions in NW5 and beyond can only be achieved …

In today’s column, let’s consider gadgets and appliances. Reducing our carbon emissions in NW5 and beyond can only be achieved by reducing our energy demand and increasing the proportion supplied by renewable sources.

Demand reduction will play a larger part than renewables, but it’s often overlooked. It might not capture the imagination like high-tech solar panels and wind turbines; it can even summon a feeling of lower standards of living and hairshirt lifestyles. This isn’t the case of course, but it’s hard to describe what reduced demand for energy in the home looks like. And that’s because there’s no such thing as an average person – indeed, some people’s energy behaviour appears, well, just a little bit odd.

The Energy Saving Trust’s recent report Powering the Nation sheds more light on this issue than any previous study in the UK. This work has surveyed the energy use of appliances in 250 households to give a picture of how we use electricity in the home.


Our individual electricity use, however, is a factor of how many appliances we own, how much power they consume and how often each is used. These 3 factors provide the key to how we might reduce our consumption.

One of the most revealing aspects of the study is just how many electrical appliances we own. Most energy demand studies have looked at the major ones – fridges and freezers, washing machines and dishwashers, TV and electronics, lighting and cooking. But Powering the Nation reveals we own a staggering 41 appliances on average, with 20% of homes owning more than 50. This all implies that owning less gadgets is one way to reduce demand. That’s not to say we all have to live like monks but making intelligent decisions based on what’s really important to you can save serious money and carbon.

The energy efficiency of appliances is in general a good news story with virtually all products consuming less power per delivered service than in previous years as technology improves. LED TVs use less electricity per square inch than CRT or plasma screens for example, and fridges use 33% of the energy compared to the mid-1990s.

However, this is offset somewhat by the fact the we are choosing bigger appliances – TV screens are getting larger and larger, as are fridges – meaning that energy demand itself doesn’t necessarily go down in absolute terms. Getting the size right for your kit is important, for example an oversized and underused fridge will waste a huge amount of energy.

The last aspect is how often we use appliances. Powering The Nation has shown that we watch TV more than was previously thought – an average of 6 hours per day, up from the previous estimate of 5 hours – and we run our washing machines an average of 5.5 times per week. It seems that some minor tweaks to lifestyle could change both these considerably. A further area where great savings could be made is for appliances on standby. Standby consumption is costing the average household between £50 and £86 per year, or some 9-16% of total bills.

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1. Size your gadgets and appliances appropriately. You can always trade in your fridge in the future. The best ‘A’ rated LED TVs can be more expensive than their energy-guzzling, older cousins so get a good deal on a display model.
2. Eliminate standby consumption from your house. Look at your watch or mobile. Is there value in a clock on your oven, microwave, DVD or set-top box? Invest in a handy ‘stand by buster’ – that will definitely save money and CO2.
3. 6 hours of TV a day? Go make some friends, take a walk on the heath, live a little!

Green Your Gaff is a series sponsored and produced by Joju Solar, who are based in North London (in fact just a yard or two from NW5).

Got a question for Jon? Fire away below.


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