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ENERGY MONITORS

Five households in Keswick, who took part in Suskes’s Carbon Footprint project, were able to reduce the amount of electricity they used in Winter by almost 20%.  By using feedback from electricity energy monitors, generously funded by Cumbria Action for Sustainability, the participants were able to see from minute to minute just how much electricity they were using, how much it was costing and how much carbon was being produced.  This constant feedback enabled people to see which of their appliances used the most electricity – the tumble dryer was the biggest culprit and householders reported now using this only rarely.  Everyone said that  the monitor made them aware of just how much they used simply by leaving lights on.

The project has lasted for one year, with 5 households using monitors in the first few months to check how much electricity they were using and where savings could be made.  The households involved included semi-detached, terrace and detached houses.  The difference in electricity use was calculated by comparing last year’s winter quarter bill, Dec to March, with the same period in 2007/8.  It wasn’t only in the winter that savings were made: across the whole year, each household reduced consumption by an average of 450 kilowat hours(kWh).  One participant’s consumption was very low, being half that of the highest consumer in the group.  This householder's advice for reducing consumption was to turn off  lights, switch off the television at the plug and always be “conscious of the need to reduce consumption”.   

The number of people in each household did not affect consumption. The 2 families involved both used less than the one and two person households.  One of the families had a new baby during the year and still decreased their consumption by 20% - their message for saving electricity was “small things make a difference, energy saving bulbs are now cheaper and available in more sizes.  Don't leave things on standby. Educate the children. Think before turning on a light”.  The other family had teenage children and they added “having shorter showers, turning the microwave off at the wall, as even on standby it uses a lot of energy, but most important of all – get yourself and your children into the habit of switching things off”.

The monitors brought home to all just how much energy they were using and how much money they were wasting.  Everyone had examples of how to save energy – only using the dishwasher when it is full, cook several cakes, dishes etc together to save on oven heat, only boil as much water as you need, use lower temperature washing programmes. But energy monitors also had another effect: people started thinking about other sorts of fuel and whether that could be reduced too. One household, concerned about the use of gas, increased the depth of insulation to 300mm, slightly above the government’s recommended level of 270mm.  Another advised “turning heating off or down when you know you are going to be out for the evening”

You may be thinking that you’ve heard this advice before.  Well, that’s because it's good advice and really does save energy and reduce carbon emissions as well as saving you money – if these five households can save 20% of their electricity, think how much would be saved if every one of the 2000 households in Keswick did the same thing!

If you want to borrow an energy monitor to have a go yourself, contact Patricia Howell on 73801 or email p.howell@seendcleeve.plus.com

energymonitor