at home too!
at home too!
If we’re to reduce our energy consumption, everyone has to adapt: not only companies and local authorities, but also individuals. So what are the best energy efficiency practices? And how can you cut your energy bills? Here’s our overview...
As most of Europe is plunged into an unprecedented energy crisis, governments are calling on citizens to take personal responsibility for reducing overall energy consumption.
And it all starts here... in the home!
In reality, our homes function as genuinely ‘living organisms’, and just like humans, they need to be healthy and stay healthy if they are to live a long life! An aging structure, defective ventilation system, energy-intensive heating system or poor insulation can all be seen as ‘traumas’ that have a negative impact on building energy efficiency.
But what precisely do we mean by energy efficiency? Well, it’s simply the ratio between the amount of energy consumed and the service delivered by an energy-driven system.
Let's take elite athletes as our example. For them, winning is impossible without regular training. And the same is true of our homes. It’s going to be impossible to cut our energy bills if our homes are in bad shape. So we need to ask ourselves questions: is the boiler working as it should? Are the windows efficient? Is the building well insulated and airtight? All of these are analogous to the ‘vital organs’ that keep our homes in optimal working condition. Regular checkups are therefore essential.
Think insulation and ventilation
The first thing to check is the quality of the insulation. In an uninsulated or poorly insulated house, the roof can be responsible for 25-30% of the energy loss from the home, the exterior walls for between 20-25%, ventilation and air infiltration for 20-25%, doors and windows for 10-15%, and any underfloor space for 7-10%.
So as you can see, insulation is THE key to good energy efficiency.
Constantly subject to the vagaries of the weather, roof spaces are the largest culprits. As the weakest link in any building, it’s really important to insulate them properly to maintain consistent temperature levels. Among the solutions now available in the market, the Isoconfort range from ISOVER [LdB1] provides guaranteed thermal and acoustic performance levels that can deliver real savings on energy bills. In terms of walls, consider external insulation. Originating in northern Europe, this technique involves applying insulation to the outside of external walls, and protecting it with render or cladding. Lastly, check the thermal performance of door and window glazing (opt for double or triple glazing) and the condition of draftproofing seals, and replace them if necessary to minimize heat loss.
One of the most common mistakes is to overlook the importance of ventilation when focusing on insulation and draftproofing. So remember the analogy of the house as a living organism governed by a constant exchange of air flows. Airtightness and ventilation are two sides of the same coin. An efficient Controlled Mechanical Ventilation (CMV) system will renew the air, at the same time as limiting energy consumption and eliminating humidity and/or pollutants from the air inside the home. Blocking these small air inlets during the winter months to limit drafts is a mistake. In reality, the systems are designed to guarantee a high level of thermal comfort by enabling optimal management of incoming and outgoing air flows.
A maximum bedroom temperature of 17°C / 62°F!
Once the home has been adequately insulated, you can move on to another crucial issue: heating, which consumes the great majority of household energy. Worn out boiler? Wrongly sized for the house? Using too much energy? Energy bills are going up all the time... But fortunately, some governments - including those of France, Germany and Belgium - offer financial incentives and subsidies for replacing old boilers with high-efficiency systems. Condensing boilers, heat pumps, wood-fired boilers, boilers coupled with solar water heating... In just a few decades, space and water heating systems have made excellent use of new technologies to deliver comfortable living environments alongside energy efficiency.
Combined with good practices, this development makes it much easier to achieve substantial energy savings. The first mantra to remember is: don't overheat your home. The maximum temperature for living rooms should be set to 20°C / 68°F (17-19°C / 62-66°F when unoccupied), and 17°C / 62°F for bedrooms, but definitely no higher!
Remember that every extra degree raises energy consumption by 7%. To help you control your energy consumption and budget, home automation systems are now accessible from your cell phone. Smart thermostats and connected radiators give you access to a wide range of functions (heating controls, remote activation, system shutdown, etc.) designed to help you avoid excessive consumption and program different temperature settings for different times of day. Another great idea for avoiding any wastage of energy is to close the doors of rooms with little heat input, and turn the heating to frost mode when you’re going to be away from home for long periods.
Electricity: watt else?
Having looked at the most important basic issues around insulation and heating, let's tackle electricity consumption, which is Number 1 in terms of energy consumption, and therefore cost. In 2019, the annual electricity consumption per head in Europe was 6,107 kWh; a figure 87% higher than the worldwide level. So as energy prices soar, it’s pretty clear that we urgently need to adopt good practices that reduce consumption. But where do we start? The simplest starting point is to check appliance energy efficiency labels. Prominently displayed in stores, these criteria let you to compare appliances and estimate their energy consumption. The new European energy label (with ratings from A to G) makes it easier to identify the most energy-efficient products. For example, an A-rated 250-300 liter fridge will consume 108 kWh per year, while a G-rated alternative will use more than 315 kWh per year. The calculation doesn’t take long!
While some areas of energy wastage seem obvious, others are much less easy to spot. Did you know, for example, that a TV in standby mode or unused toaster continues to consume energy? The same goes for phone chargers permanently plugged into a power outlet... This ‘phantom energy load’ has a significant cost, which can be easily controlled by using switched power strips. It also makes common sense to turn off lights when leaving a room, and to replace halogen or incandescent bulbs with LEDs, which consume 15 times less electricity.
When you put them all together, these eco-actions reduce energy consumption by effectively eliminating unnecessary waste and/or lack of maintenance. Combined with efficient materials, these good practices can make a very real difference in terms of reducing energy bills this winter...
Credit : Shutterstock/Ground Picture