We use energy to heat and light our homes and to run our appliances, TVs and computers. Householders are one of Ireland’s largest energy consumers, accounting for almost 25% of our national energy use. We also use energy to run our cars, and personal mobility is a central part of modern life. Here in Ireland, emissions from transport are growing at a faster rate than any other sector. Some energy usage is essential in the modern world, but hopefully the information in this section will advise you about the many practical ways each of us can save energy, and in doing so reduce household running costs while conserving natural resources.
You can make your home more comfortable with the minimum amount of heat, by using the heating systems and the controls that you have, e.g., programmers, timers, thermostats, and radiator valves. Experiment with the following tips and mix and match to see what works for you.
- Switch the heating system on later in the morning and off earlier in the evening. The best way to find the right balance for your house is to experiment a little, first of all try turning on the central heating 30 minutes before you get up and off 1 hour earlier in the evening.
- Turn the heating in living areas down to 20°C – this could save you 10% off your heating bill. The temperature in hallways and bedrooms should be cooler – ideally 15-18°C. Use temperature cards (available from SEAI) in a number of rooms, to prevent overheating and familiarise yourself with what different temperatures feel like.
- Regular maintenance of your heating system can reduce fuel consumption e.g. maintain the boiler casing and burner, and check for corrosion and airlocks in the radiators.
Prevent heat from escaping
- Close doors to rooms that are not used very ofter and turn radiators down or off so you only heat the area you are using.
- Find the source of cold draughts and plug the gaps. Windows and doors are good places to start. Use draught excluders to eliminate draughts around doors, windows and skirting boards.
- Never block wall ventilators as they are essential for good air quality in your home.
Grants may be available if you are upgrading your boiler or heating controls. For more information visit the SEAI Homeowners Grants Section.
You can minimise unnecessary heating of hot water that you use in your sinks, showers, baths and appliances by considering the amount of hot water needed and when it is required and by determining the most efficient use of your central heating systems and immersion heaters.
Evaluate your routine of hot-water demand, i.e., when you need hot water and how much you need, and adjust the timer settings. If you use an immersion heater or central heating to heat your water, adjust the length of time they are used per day, i.e., 1 hour in the morning and 2 hours in the evening, depending on your needs.
- If your hot water is being heated by the central-heating boiler and your hot-water cylinder has a thermostat, you should set the thermostat to 65 °C.
- Make sure your immersion thermostat is working correctly. (Have an electrician check this for you.)
- Prioritise use of the shower over a bath. A typical shower uses only 20% of the energy of a full bath.
- Never leave a hot tap running unnecessarily.
- Ensure your hot-water cylinder is properly lagged. A lagging jacket will keep the water hotter for longer.
- Insulate hot water pipes with foam tubing especially in unheated areas, for example the attic. This will reduce needless heat loss and help protect your pipes from freezing in winter.
Washing Machines and Dryers
- The cycle selected on a washing machine or dishwasher should have the lowest water temperature required for the items being washed.
- A full load in the washing machine or dishwasher is more energy efficient than two half loads.
- If your washing machine, dishwasher or dryer has an economy button/reduced time–temperature, then use it whenever appropriate.
- Minimise use of the dryer, dry heavy articles separately from light articles.
- Dry clothes outdoors when possible and make use of a clothes horse indoor.
Fridges and freezers
- Evaluate and adjust fridge temperature settings, keep the fridge temperature between 3–5°C and the freezer at -15°C to -18°C. Refer to your user manual for details.
- It is best to always keep the fridge and freezer as full as is reasonably possible.
- Don’t let frost build up in the freezer as this increases energy consumption. Defrost the inside of your fridge and freezer at least every 6 months.
- Don’t put warm or hot food straight into the fridge or freezer, let it cool down first.
- Don't leave the fridge door open for too long while getting food. For every 20 seconds the door is open it takes 45 minutes for the fridge to cool down to its original temperature.
Home entertainment and electronic equipment
- Appliances on standby can use up to 20% of the energy that they would use if on, so make sure they are fully switched off, e.g., TVs, PCs, DVDs, VCRs, printers, games consoles, satellite boxes/players/recorders and kitchen appliances etc.
- Use one large power strip for your computer, broadband modem, scanner, printer, monitor, and speakers as they can be switched on and off easily at once.
- Configure your PC/laptop, printer and scanner to ‘energy saving’ mode in which they will automatically change to the state of low energy consumption when not in use.
- You should turn off your PC/laptop whenever you are not going to use it for more than an hour.
- Unplug chargers and surge protectors when not in use — monitor when phones/rechargeable batteries are fully recharged.
- Switch off all unnecessary electrical equipment and appliances at night.
Maximise natural daylight
- Maximise use of daylight, e.g., hold off switching on lights in the evening until necessary.
- Rooms should be furnished to allow daylight in and activities for which daylight or sunlight is essential should be positioned near windows, e.g. reading.
- Furniture and other obstacles should not obstruct daylight penetration of the room. Net curtains and blinds will reduce daylight penetration of a room.
- Dirt on windows can reduce performance by 10% and even more if the dirt is allowed to build up on skylights.
- Paint the surfaces of rooms, including ceilings, with colours of high reflectance to maximise the daylighting opportunities. Light colours reflect 80% of light while dark colours reflect less than 10%.
Tips for artificial lighting
- Switch off lights when rooms are not in use.
- Make use of task lighting wherever possible, e.g., lamps rather than whole room lighting when a small amount of light is required.
- Regularly clean light fittings, reflectors and lampshades.
- Use dimmer switches and multiple light switches effectively and only light the area of the room you are using rather than the whole room.
- Switch off all possible lights at night (if needed select one as a nightlight to be kept on — remember to switch it off during the day) Replace failed light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diode (LEDs) when appropriate and take account of things such as shape, size, colour and natural light in a room, before deciding what wattage lamps the rooms in your house require.
Energy saving tips for cooking
- Aim for one cooking time for everyone’s main meal.
- Evaluate/explore cooking enough for more than one meal at once, then storing and reheating.
- The oven is expensive to use, try to use it sparingly and as efficiently as possible. Where possible use it for more than one item at a time and remember you can cook at a higher temperature at the top of the oven, and at the same time at a lower temperature at the bottom.
- Do not open the oven door to check cooking too often; every time you do so, you lose 20% of the accumulated heat.
- Put lids on pots and turn down the heat when the water starts to boil. The lid not only keeps in the heat but also reduces condensation in the kitchen
- Use pots and pans that cover the whole of the cooker ring.
- At a certain point in cooking, turn off the rings and use their residual heat to finish cooking.
If you would like more information, please check out the SEAI website.
Insulate your attic well and save up to 20% on your home heating bill. If your attic insulation is currently less than 200 mm, then you should add further layers. There are a variety of suitable materials including mineral wool, rock wool, sheeps wool, polystyrene, cellulose fibre and multi-layered foil.
Wall insulation can be increased in a number of ways. The pay-back period is dependent on a number of factors including type, thickness and quality of existing insulation. The most popular types of insulation systems are:
- insulated dry lining,
- blown mineral or cellulose fibre or polystyrene beads into the cavity, or
- rigid external insulation with render or brick finish.
Choose high performance double or triple glazed units when replacing windows. Much of the heat loss from a house occurs through the windows particularly if they are single glazed. Significant energy savings can be achieved if the replacement windows has Argon fill and low-emissivity glass.
If replacing the hot water cylinder, a cylinder with factory applied insulation should be considered. Such insulation is more effective at retaining heat than a lagging jacket, is less easily damaged and cannot be pulled out of place.
A lagging jacket on your hot water cylinder will keep water hotter for longer and pay for itself in 2-3 months.
Grants may be available if you are upgrading your insulation. For more information visit the SEAI Homeowners Grants Section.
Building Energy Rating
A Building Energy Rating (BER) Certificate is an energy label with accompanying advisory report for homes. The rating is a simple A to G scale. A-rated homes are the most energy efficient and will tend to have the lowest energy bills.
A BER is compulsory for all homes offered for sale or rent. A BER is also required before a new home is occupied for the first time. A BER makes the energy performance of a home visible to prospective buyers and tenants allowing them to take energy performance into consideration in their purchase or rental decision. The advisory report identifies potential energy performance improvements that could lead to better comfort levels, reduced energy use and cost.
BER assessments are completed by registered BER Assessors who have been trained under the National Framework of Qualifications, passed the SEAI BER Assessor exam and have registered with SEAI.
A BER is valid for up to 10 years provided that there is no material change to the home that could affect the energy performance. A provisional BER, derived from the plans for an as yet unbuilt home, has a maximum validity of two years.
For more information and to find a registered BER Assessor please visit our SEAI website.
Better Energy Homes and Warmer Homes Schemes
Better Energy Homes is a Government scheme which gives fixed cash grants for insulation and heating system upgrades, helping to make your home more comfortable and cheaper to run. It is available to all owners of homes built before 2006. In March 2015 higher grant values and bonus payments were introduced and the scheme is now available for previous applicants to get additional works completed.
All applicants must carry out a Building Energy Rating (BER) on completion of works. *A BER grant is only payable once as part of a works grant.
How to apply?
Grant approval must be in place before any works commence. To apply via the SEAI website you will need to have the following information
- Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) which you will find on your electricity bill
- Bank details
- E-mail address
- Chosen registered contractor from the SEAI Registered Contractor List
If you would like more details about the grant amounts, general information or apply on line for this scheme visit the SEAI website. Alternatively contact the SEAI at the following telephone number 1850 927000.
Better Energy Warmer Homes
You or a family member could be eligible for this scheme which provides free energy upgrades in vulnerable homes built before 2006 to make them more comfortable, healthier and cheaper to run.
The upgrades are free to eligible homeowners in receipt of certain benefits including:
- Fuel Allowance as part of the National Fuel Scheme
- Job Seekers Allowance for over six months and with children under 7 years of age
- Working Family Payment
- One-Parent Family Payment
- Domiciliary Care Allowance
- Carers Allowance and live with the person you are caring for
For more information call SEAI on 1800 250 204 or visit SEAI website.