Monday, 11 March 2013

Seven Fuel Saving Tips from "Down Under" and "Back Then"

Not only did we make an error reading our electricity meter last Autumn, which has resulted in our monthly direct debit payments increasing by £70 (a situation we are still trying to unravel), but we have since come to the end of our 12-month deal with First Utility and have therefore been transferred to their standard (eye-watering) tariff for dual fuel. 

Since we are in the midst of untangling the "No We Don't Really Use That Much Electricity Per Month, We Misread the Meter" situation, it is not an ideal time to shop around. 

Reducing our electricity and gas consumption is an obvious thing to do, but for frugal homesteaders like us, it's hard to find tips that we aren't already doing. Magazine articles advise households to "turn the thermostat down" and "put on an extra jumper"; these are things we have been doing for the last decade. 

Could I learn anything from people on the other side of the world, or people generations ago, I wondered? Could I ever!

Tips from Down Under (that's what we Brits call Australia) (
1. Earth Hour
Kate Mclean says: "We have made Earth Hour a weekly event in our house, to help both the environment and our power bill. One night a week we turn off all the lights and use candles and an oil lamp. The children think it's great fun, and we like the way we have a candle lit dinner every week!"

2. Lights Out
And from Tamara Bellingham: "I made a simple rule in my house. As myself and my children get up between 6.30am and 7.00am, the sun is already in the sky, so we are not allowed to use lights. I make a game of it to see who can open the most blinds and race my little girl! There is sufficient light in the house so that we don't need the lights on. Again at night the lights cannot be turned on until 6pm at the very earliest, obviously depending on the night as some are quite dull. Another rule is that when the lights need turning on, all the blinds must be closed."

3. Solar Water
Another one from the Simple Savings Vault of Hint and Tips (The Vault is the paid members’ area and has always been the jewel in the crown of the Simple Savings site): "Our kitchen sink is a long way from the gas water heater so it always takes a long time, and a lot of water, before the water that runs out of the hot tap gets hot." says Elspeth Gonzalez. "To save water and gas, I now reserve the water that would otherwise go down the drain in plastic milk jugs that I have painted black. I simply leave the jugs in a sunny spot in the garden and by the end of the day the water is piping hot.

I use this water (around seven litres a day) to wash all the day's dishes, then use this grey water to water the garden."

4. Gadget Ban
Sharee Breed says: "I have saved on electricity and restored some balance in our house by banning the electrical gadgets! The habitual scene in our house when the kids came home from school was becoming a concern to us. As soon as they'd dropped their school bags the kids plugged themselves into the TV, computer, stereo or ipods, conversation died and activity was nil! 

So I took control back and put a ban on anything electrical being turned on within 15 minutes of returning from school. Wow! By the time 15 minutes was up, they were reading books, outside playing or helping me in the kitchen and had all but forgotten about the electrical items. I am not sure exactly how much we have saved, but the kids have definitely benefited from this. Being outside running around, sharing books or playing games together has made for a much, happier household and conversation is back! I look forward to seeing our next electricity bill because I know, even if it is just a little bit smaller, we are all richer."

Tips from "Back Then" (The Austerity Bookcompiled by Jaqueline Mitchell, published by Osprey) 

5. Fire Bricks
"Put fire bricks at the sides and back of all coal fires. This effects a great saving of fuel without seriously reducing the room temperature. Keep the fire small. Don't put on another lump after 8pm. Go easy with the poker!"

6. Washing Up
"Use a small bowl for washing up. Heat the water in the oven, while the oven is cooling." (You can also use the top of your woodburner for this). Do the whole day's dishes at one time and scrap all the plates and dishes before you start. 

7. While the iron's hot
Don't iron clothes unless really necessary. "To heat up an electric iron for one or two small articles is a most expensive habit. 'Iron a lot while the iron's hot' is the rule". 

Cash spent today: £43 (inc delivery) grocery shop at Asda online, £6 on pair of kitchen curtains and two short-sleeved shirts from the local charity shop, £4.50 (inc postage) on one kilo of Borax.  
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